Juan Pablo Montoya finally took his first win of the season at the British Grand Prix after snatching the lead from pole sitter Fernando Alonso at the start. Alonso followed the McLaren to the chequered flag and Renault was happy enough with...
Juan Pablo Montoya finally took his first win of the season at the British Grand Prix after snatching the lead from pole sitter Fernando Alonso at the start. Alonso followed the McLaren to the chequered flag and Renault was happy enough with second, while Kimi Raikkonen had another strong drive from the midfield to bring his McLaren home third.
Takuma Sato pressed a wrong button on the formation lap and the BAR ground to a halt just before the grid. At the start Montoya charged past Jenson Button's BAR and went side by side with Alonso through Maggots and Becketts and won the lead. Raikkonen also had a good start up got up to eighth and Rubens Barrichello's Ferrari gained two places to fourth.
Unfortunately the marshals had some difficulty moving Sato's car off the track and the safety car came out, which robbed the race of momentum and it was a fairly sedate event after that. Sato finally got going from the pit lane and the safety car ducked back in. The points running order was Montoya, Alonso, Button, Barrichello, Renault's Giancarlo Fisichella, Toyota's Jarno Trulli, the Ferrari of Michael Schumacher and Raikkonen.
The top eight pretty much stayed the same drivers throughout the race, although the positions changed save for Montoya and Alonso at the front. Christian Klien was another who made a good start, his Red Bull up to 12th from 15th but attacking Mark Webber's Williams Klien went wide onto the grass and the second Williams of Nick Heidfeld got past.
Raikkonen was close behind Michael but they were both losing time to the front runners, stuck behind Trulli. Jordan's Narain Karthikeyan was the first, and as it turned out the only, retirement when he pulled over onto the grass with an electrical problem. Klien was an early visitor to the pits on lap 12, struggling with the Red Bull after his off.
Alonso was keeping Montoya in touch and Barrichello, on a three stop strategy, was the first of front runners to pit on lap 18. Sauber's Jacques Villeneuve had a bit of drama in his first stop when he hit his refuelling man but it appeared no serious damage was done, although Villeneuve lost some time. Button and then Trulli pitted a couple of laps later, which freed up Michael and Raikkonen.
Montoya came in on lap 22 and Alonso pitted the next lap -- the Renault came out the pits side by side with the McLaren but Montoya had the momentum to get ahead. Fisichella was then the temporary leader, with Alonso harassing Montoya and Raikkonen was up to third, starting to put pressure on Fernando.
Meanwhile, Villeneuve had muscled his way past the Red Bull of David Coulthard through Club and Abbey but they were outside the top ten. Fisichella took his first stop and jumped Button's BAR to take third, then Raikkonen got past Alonso. Sensibly, Alonso didn't try and fight him as Raikkonen was due in the pits, which he did in due course.
He rejoined in sixth and shortly afterwards Barrichello was back in for his second stop. The order was then Montoya and Alonso from Fisichella and Button, followed by Raikkonen, Michael, Barrichello and Trulli. Raikkonen was closing on Button at the rate of a second a lap while teammate Montoya was struggling through the backmarkers.
Villeneuve was being hassled by Klien and the pair pitted together and maintained formation. Free of the tail enders, Montoya was trading fastest laps with Raikkonen, the McLarens really flying in the middle stint of the race. Alonso was still keeping Montoya in touch, the gap between them five seconds, and Raikkonen was by then right on Button's rear wing.
Fisichella was closing on Alonso quite rapidly and Button started the second round of pit stops. Montoya took his stop next, which should have been Alonso's chance to put the hammer down but he got badly held up in traffic and lost the chance. Trulli was in front of him but apparently there were no blue flags to tell him to move out the way.
Raikkonen pitted and got out in front of Button for fourth and when Fisichella came in he stalled it. He got away again but Raikkonen flew past into third. Coulthard and Villeneuve were arguing and Coulthard rejoined ahead of the Sauber when he came out of his second stop. Alonso had a quick splash-and-dash stop and rejoined second.
The last stint was static, the order being Montoya, Alonso, Raikkonen, Fisichella, Button, Michael, Barrichello and Ralf Schumacher, who had replaced Toyota teammate Trulli in the points. Trulli was ninth and a quiet Felipe Massa had managed to get himself up to 10th, in front of Sauber teammate Villeneuve who had started six places ahead of him.
Alonso was still haring after Montoya, the gap down to one and a half seconds, but in the final laps Alonso backed down. A very happy Montoya took the chequered flag just under three seconds ahead; after his problematic season so far, Juan Pablo really deserved the win and did it in confident style.
"I had a good start," said Montoya. "I knew Fernando couldn't risk too much and I was willing to risk a bit more and it really paid off. I think that's where the race was won. In the first part of the race the car was really understeering so I couldn't push it too much."
"So I decided to look after the tyres more and I would wait for the start, because if you kill the tyres the race would over. The team did a great strategy, they called me (into the pits) a lap early and Fernando had some traffic as expected and it was just, but it was enough."
Alonso was equally happy with second as Renault had really only been expecting to do damage control this weekend, with McLaren looking so strong. "I tried after the second stop to push him (Montoya) a bit but it was really difficult to overtake," he said.
"I knew the pace of Juan Pablo and me was very similar because all the first stint I was with him, so the last three or four laps Kimi was quite far away so I just relaxed to get the second place. But for us it is a dream come true."
Raikkonen was disappointed not to have been challenging for the win and was frustrated to be held up by Trulli and Michael. "I was quite a bit quicker than they were but I got close at the end of the back straight but I was never able to follow close enough to the fast corners, so I knew it was difficult to get anywhere after that," he explained.
"But at least we have got a podium, it is good result for the team, it could have been better but that is what we got this time... In normal circumstances I think it would have been a bit different results, but, like I said, there is nothing more I can do, I can just try my best and hopefully the team will sort out the rest and move on."
Fisichella could have made it two Renaults on the podium rather than two McLarens if not for the stall in his last stop -- an almost carbon copy of what happened in France. Still, his fourth along with Alonso's second keeps Renault 13 points ahead of McLaren in the constructors' standings.
Button had not expected to win his home race, even with a front row start, but it was disappointing to miss out on a podium finish. BAR has pretty good pace but just isn't up to the speed of the Renaults and McLarens. However, Button was comfortably ahead of the Ferraris, which again finished over a minute down on the winner.
Toyota gained the last point with Ralf's eighth but the Cologne squad can't find the competitiveness of Trulli's podiums earlier in the season. Massa did fairly well to get up to tenth from 16th, his strategy more effective than Villeneuve's, who started 10th and finished 14th, but Sauber is not making any noticeable improvement.
Williams had another dismal weekend, Webber 11th and Heidfeld 12th, and Red Bull also had a tough time with Coulthard 13th and Klein 15th, which is where they started from. Sato grimly battled on despite the problems at the start and eventually came home 16th, while Tiago Monteiro kept up his impressive string of finishes for Jordan in 17th.
The Minardis had a quiet time but reached the chequered flag, Christijan Albers leading Patrick Friesacher in 18th and 19th, also where they started from. It was not an exciting race but nevertheless there were some good drives. Montoya and Alonso were pretty much faultless, while Raikkonen was once again stellar to get on the podium.
Fisichella was actually catching Alonso at a rate of about a second a lap before his pit stop stall and Button didn't do a bad job, the car just wasn't fast enough. There was a fair amount of scrapping going on in the midfield; Villeneuve and Coulthard had quite an adventurous race but it was all for no points in the end.
Alonso notched up another couple of points over Raikkonen in the drivers' standings at Silverstone but Kimi is not letting Fernando get too far ahead. If not for Raikkonen's grid demotions in the last two races he would surely be much closer but he has been sorely punished by his engine woes. The engine penalty is not very fair on the drivers and many would like to see it changed.
There's two weeks now until the next double header at Hockenheim and Hungary, where no doubt Renault and McLaren will continue to slug it out. Can anyone else take up the challenge? We'll have to wait and see. Final top eight classification: Montoya, Alonso, Raikkonen, Fisichella, Button, M. Schumacher, Barrichello, R. Schumacher.