Fernando Alonso drove a faultless 66 laps at the Spanish Grand Prix and led from pole to flag to deliver the victory the home crowds had been fervently wishing for. Alonso became the first Spaniard to win his home race and the roar of the ...
Fernando Alonso drove a faultless 66 laps at the Spanish Grand Prix and led from pole to flag to deliver the victory the home crowds had been fervently wishing for. Alonso became the first Spaniard to win his home race and the roar of the thrilled fans nearly drowned out the engines as he took the chequered flag.
Ferrari couldn't respond to Alonso's charge and Michael Schumacher had to settle for second, while Giancarlo Fisichella, who lost out to the German in the first round of pit stops, made it a double podium finish for Renault with third. It was not the most exciting of races as far as action was concerned but presumably the Spanish fans didn't mind.
It was fine and sunny for race day and off the line the first four held position, Alonso leading Fisichella and Michael ahead of Ferrari teammate Felipe Massa. McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen made a great start and moved up from ninth to fifth. By the end of the first lap Alonso was already two seconds ahead.
Other gainers on the first lap were Red Bull's David Coulthard, up to 17th from the back row, and the Toro Rosso of Scott Speed to 13th from 16th. McLaren's Juan Pablo Montoya and BMW Sauber's Jacques Villeneuve moved up one place each to 11th and 21st respectively. Red Bull's Christian Klien lost out and dropped two to 16th.
MF1's Tiago Monterio spun but recovered and Villeneuve was working his way up, past Monteiro's teammate Christijan Albers and the Super Aguri of Takuma Sato. Behind Raikkonen were the Hondas of Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button in sixth and seventh and Jarno Trulli got past Toyota teammate Ralf Schumacher for eighth.
Sato spun then visited the pits and teammate Franck Montagny came in quickly afterwards to retire with a driveshaft failure. Fisichella was in a position to defend Alonso if necessary but didn't really need to as Ferrari wasn't threatening. The Spaniard was lengthening his lead at nearly a second a lap.
Ralf was closing on Trulli and made a lunge at the first corner. It didn't work, as he hit the back of Trulli's car and lost half of his own front wing. He limped back to the pits for a change but Trulli seemed to escape any damage from the incident. A bit misjudged by Ralf but he and Trulli put it down to a racing incident.
"It was normal racing but we touched this time," Ralf said. "It wasn't a heavy impact but unfortunately I lost my front wing when I hit his tyres so I had to pit for a replacement. That left me well down the field and I then suffered an electronic problem which led to my retirement."
Alonso was the first of the front runners to pit, on lap 16, leaving Fisichella leading Michael -- how long could the Ferrari go before he needed to stop? Montoya was the next retiree when he spun through turns two and three and the back of the McLaren got beached on the kerb. The Colombian thought it was a glitch with the traction control.
"I made a dreadful start off the line and lost three or four places but managed to gain some ground again in the first corner to end up 11th," he commented. "Then I don't know quite what happened but I lost the car and got stuck on the kerb and that was it."
It was a pretty dangerous place for a car to be stranded, with its nose on the track, but race control decided yellow flags were enough to control the situation as the marshals cleared the McLaren. Meanwhile, Massa and Fisichella had been in for their first stops. Coulthard and Villenevue were still climbing, up to 15th and 16th.
Raikkonen took his first stop and came out behind Massa and Michael went in on lap 23. It wasn't enough to beat Alonso but he came back out just ahead of Fisichella at the pit exit. The Hondas were next to go in, while Fisichella had a random trip across the gravel but managed to keep going and didn't lose his position.
The top five were then Alonso, Michael, Fisichella, Massa and Raikkonen, with Heidfeld next but the BMW had yet to stop. Ralf retired to the pits with an electronic problem, possibly from damage in the Trulli incident, while Alonso was flying at the front and had lapped everyone up to, and including, seventh, which at the time was Barrichello.
Heidfeld was back in eighth and Trulli and the Williams of Mark Webber made up the top 10. Alonso made his second stop and Michael had a huge task if he was to rack up the quick laps before his stop and get out ahead of the Renault. Several other drivers made their second stops and Michael was in maybe half as dozen laps later.
It was obvious before he pitted that he wasn't going to snatch the lead from Alonso -- the Spaniard was only 10 seconds behind him by then. So the order was back to Alonso, Michael, Fisichella, Massa, followed by Raikkonen, Button, Barrichello and Heidfeld, which was how it held to the line. Albers retired to the pits with front wing issues.
There was a little excitement behind them as Williams' Nico Rosberg was attacking Trulli in the closing stages. He was very close and had one or two looks at the Toyota but time ran out. The crowds went wild as Alonso crossed the line and took his third win of the season and his first on home soil.
"I think it was the best feeling so far in Formula One, equal to the Grand Prix of Brazil, when I won the championship," Alonso described his emotions. "I finished third in that race with a lot of problems, defending the third place and I didn't enjoy it so much as I did today, when I was alone, leading the race."
"I think we did our maximum race performance today. The tyres performed really well throughout the race. We had some doubts before the start and everything went perfectly... This time Ferrari was not coming really strongly so I was just maintaining the gap and especially in the last stint, controlling the revs and trying to finish a race that was obviously very long for me today."
Michael gave it his best shot but Alonso was not going to be beaten today. Ferrari has the speed but Michael just couldn't get what he needed out of the car. Massa actually set the fastest lap of the race, 1:16.648, and was also the quickest man through the speed trap, 217.3mph. Alonso, Michael and Fisichella were the next in line.
"The race result was decided in the first stint, as Fernando was able to pull out quite a gap, because I simply did not have the pace to stay with him," Michael commented. "Eight points is still good and I could say that while I was disappointed to have only won two points last Sunday, here I can be happy to have only lost two."
Fisichella was happy enough with third. "My engineers called me to say something and I was in the middle of turn three, and I lost control of the car and I went onto the gravel and maybe I damaged the car," he explained of his off track excursion. "It wasn't bad, the car balance was OK but the grip wasn't great, but apart from that it's a great result for us and as we expected, it was a tough race between us and Ferrari."
Massa drove another good race and seems to have settled into his Ferrari seat a little more comfortably. You still half expect him to do something mad but he's starting to silence the critics. The Brazilian is up to fifth in the drivers' standings and there's 19 points between Renault and Ferrari in the constructors'.
Raikkonen didn't make much of an impression after his good start; he drove well enough but it's becoming a long wait for McLaren to get up to speed. He retains his third place in the standings behind Alonso and Michael but Fisichella and Massa are closing in. McLaren is starting to slip away slightly from Renault and Ferrari in the constructors'.
Button and Barrichello came home sixth and seventh so at least gained Honda some points, but the team still can't get it all together. Heidfeld picked up the last point in eighth and put in a solid afternoon's work for BMW. Villeneuve was 12th after his last place start, which was commendable but still a frustrating day for the Canadian.
Williams wasn't very noticeable, Webber ninth and Rosberg 11th, with the lone Toyota of Trulli between them. The Red Bulls both finished, Klien leading Coulthard in 13th and 14th, but its less than they had hoped for. Liuzzi was classed 15th, although he actually stopped on the last lap with a hydraulic failure, while Monteiro was 16th and Sato 17th.
Ferrari had no doubt planned on catching Alonso out in the pit stops as they had in Europe but the Spaniard was untouchable and it was a well deserved win. Now brush off your tuxedos and polish your tiaras because F1 heads to Monaco next. Final top eight classification: Alonso, M. Schumacher, Fisichella, Massa, Raikkonen, Button, Barrichello, Heidfeld.