ALONSO MAINTAINS MICHELIN& ...
ALONSO MAINTAINS MICHELINS WINNING RUN
Fernando Alonso dominated the Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang to maintain a perfect start to the season for the Renault F1 Team and Michelin. The Spaniard led away from pole position and maintained a relentless pace to take the second win of his F1 career.
Jarno Trulli (Panasonic Toyota Racing/Michelin) shadowed the Spaniard in the early stages, but after a handful of laps Alonso began to extend his advantage and thereafter his lead was never seriously in doubt.
The 56-lap race took place in baking-hot conditions but Michelins tyres lasted the full distance without any dramas, despite track temperatures approaching 50 degrees.
This was a fantastic result for me. Everything went well from start to finish: the car, the engine and the Michelin tyres. A big thank you to the whole team: they did a fantastic job this winter in Enstone, Viry and Clermont Ferrand at Michelin. Alonso said.
I need to maintain this level of performance. Winning the world championship is my dream, whenever that might happen, and the way our season has started suggests that I can fight for the title this year.
Having finished third in the season-opening Australian GP two weeks beforehand, the 23- year-old has taken the world championship lead for the first time in his career.
Renaults Managing Director Flavio Briatore added: This was a great success for the whole team, and for Renault. We must thank Michelin for extremely good tyres and all the partners who contribute to our success.
Trulli went on to take second place to give the Toyota/Michelin team its first podium finish since it entered grand prix racing in 2002. The Italian ran ahead of compatriot and pre-race points leader Giancarlo Fisichella in the opening stages, but eventually pulled comfortably clear.
Williams-BMW star Mark Webber ran fourth initially but was caught just after half- distance by team-mate Nick Heidfeld, who had made strong progress through the field. Having got the better of a highly-entertaining battle with Ralf Schumacher (Toyota), who had followed Webber from the start, the Williams twins began catching Fisichella.
As the three cars came through Turn 14 on lap 37, Webber launched an attack on the Italian but the two cars collided at the next left-hander and were forced to retire with suspension damage.
Heidfeld swept through to take third place his first podium finish since Brazil 2001 from McLaren driver Juan Pablo Montoya, Schumacher (who lost a place to the Colombian during the final round of stops) and David Coulthard (Red Bull Racing).
Kimi Räikkönen (Team McLaren Mercedes) was another Michelin podium contender, but the Finns McLaren suffered a deflated right rear tyre after a valve broke. The Finn eventually finished ninth and had the consolation of setting fastest lap.
Felipe Massa (Sauber) was the only other Michelin driver to finish, in 10th place. B*A*R-Honda team-mates Jenson Button and Anthony Davidson retired on lap three with engine failures. Jacques Villeneuve (Sauber) spun into retirement at the start of the 27th lap.
Pierre Dupasquier, Michelin motorsport director:
The combination of fierce heat and a punishing track will almost certainly make this the most challenging race of the year for tyre manufacturers and Michelin passed with flying colours. That bodes well for the rest of the season."
"We have shown that we can produce a full-race tyre for such extreme conditions. Now we can go away and do a little fine-tuning for the forthcoming circuits, which are a little less demanding but remain challenging nonetheless.
We had no concerns at all about any of our partners cars running into tyre difficulties. The rate of wear was higher than we experienced in Australia two weeks ago, but all the Michelin cars finished the race with usable tyre life to spare. Although Kimi Räikkönens McLaren suffered tyre deflation, that was caused by a broken valve."
The Michelin tyre chosen for this race proved to be incredibly effective and, once again, allowed several of our partners to challenge at the front of the field. This was a very good race for us and clearly a very disappointing one for our rivals.
Pat Symonds, executive director of engineering, Renault F1 Team:
It is obvious that this race was significantly harder on tyres than anything else we have encountered this year. We did not have to push all that hard in the closing stages, but the tyres provided us with excellent first-lap performance and remarkable consistency under extremely arduous conditions.