Formula One enjoyed another spectacular afternoon today in Turkey, following on from the thrilling Hungarian Grand Prix three weeks ago. The sweeping Istanbul Park circuit was the stage for a dramatic head-to-head duel between the two contenders...
Formula One enjoyed another spectacular afternoon today in Turkey, following on from the thrilling Hungarian Grand Prix three weeks ago.
The sweeping Istanbul Park circuit was the stage for a dramatic head-to-head duel between the two contenders for the 2006 World Drivers' Championship. After fifteen intense laps in which Fernando Alonso held off the attacks of Michael Schumacher, the reigning world champion prevailed -- and extended his championship lead by two points, to a total of twelve with four races remaining.
The Renault F1 Team's Turkish Grand Prix revolved around two key moments: the run to the first corner, and the safety car period on lap thirteen. The first corner put paid to Giancarlo Fisichella's chances of a better result, when the Italian spun his R26 as he braked to avoid team-mate Fernando Alonso. After pitting for a nose change and converting to a one-stop strategy, the Italian began a dynamic climb back through the field to eventually finish sixth.
Fernando Alonso was running third, behind the two Ferraris, when Tonio Liuzzi's stranded Toro Rosso brought out the safety car. With the Ferrari team-mates obliged to queue in the pits, Massa pitting ahead of Schumacher, Fernando was able to emerge ahead of Michael Schumacher. He then diligently built a nine second gap, aided by a mistake from Schumacher, that meant he emerged from the second stop ahead of the German. After that, it was a race to the flag.
The Renault F1 Team retains leads in both world championships, with just four races remaining. Fernando Alonso leads the drivers' title by twelve points, while the Renault F1 Team now possesses a slender two point lead as they begin testing for the final races of the year this week in Monza.
Fernando Alonso: 2nd position
"We were a long way from Ferrari on Friday and during qualifying, but we were confident that it would improve -- and we showed that we were right to be confident. It was a normal race, pushing to the limit, until the third stint when it was all about track position, not just speed. I knew that Michael only had two chances to overtake, in turn 12 and turn 14. That meant I could use the engine to get a bigger gap at those places by turning it up to maximum revs on the straights before, and It was enough to keep second place."
"I think this afternoon also showed that we needed something more to fight with Ferrari for the win, but I am very optimistic for these last races. Monza will probably be the hardest one to win, looking at the characteristics of the Ferrari car. But everybody at Renault, and our partners at Michelin and Elf, is very focused on those four races -- and I am confident we can find what we need to win again. Today was a good step forward for my chances in the championship, and we are expecting more good days between now and the end of the season."
Giancarlo Fisichella: 6th position
"In the end, it was a good race for me and I showed today that I was quick, and the car was too. I got a good start and was close to the guys in front. Michael was weaving quite a lot on the track, and the other drivers were having to avoid him. I braked quite late, but there was the risk of a collision with Fernando, so I braked even harder which locked the rears and put me in a spin. After the pit-stop to replace the nose, it was a case of pushing hard and making up as many positions as I could."
"The safety car helped but I overtook a lot of people out there this afternoon. We did some very long stints on the tyres with a one-stop strategy, and they held up really well. Our performance was closer to Ferrari today than in qualifying, and I think we can be reasonably confident for the next races. Of course, the next Grand Prix is in Monza -- my home race, in the middle of a big battle with Ferrari. We are still leading the championships, and we need to build the gap in the coming weeks.
Flavio Briatore, Managing Director:
"This was a fantastic day for the team. We didn't have the performance to beat Ferrari in a straight fight, but the events of the race helped us -- and we seized every opportunity, with no mistakes. Fernando drove like a champion, soaking up the pressure and opening the gap in the championship again. Giancarlo put in a strong drive after a tough opening lap, and brought home valuable points. Overall, this has been a good day for the Renault team and we are still leading both championships. Now, we need to push hard in testing this week and race from the front in Monza."
Pat Symonds, Executive Director of Engineering:
"What a fabulous race. Fernando's result hinged on the first stop under the Safety Car, and the tyre behaviour in the second stint. We gained an advantage on both fronts, and we could see that Fernando would be able to keep the gap at the final stop -- but also that he would have to defend hard from that point on. He did the impeccable job we are used to, and this second place feels as good as a victory would at most races."
"We must not forget to congratulate Giancarlo today, who put in a fantastic drive. He put himself off at Turn 1 to ensure that he did not collide with Fernando, which was a very sporting move. After that, his drive from the back of the field on a one-stop strategy was a pleasure to watch. The race this afternoon severely tested the tyres, with a demanding circuit and track temperatures well into the 50s. The Michelins held up beautifully, allowing Fernando to hold off Michael and letting Fisi run a successful one-stop strategy."
"We are now emerging from the test ban, and we have plenty of new ideas to be tested at Monza next week -- both on the tyre front, and on the car as well. I expect the battle to go down to the wire, and we will be fighting hard to come out on top.