ALONSO AND MICHELIN BEGIN F1 TITLE DEFENCE ON WINNING NOTE Fernando Alonso's Formula One title defence began perfectly in the opening round of the 2006 world championship, the Bahraini Grand Prix at Sakhir. The Renault/Michelin driver made a ...
ALONSO AND MICHELIN BEGIN F1 TITLE DEFENCE ON WINNING NOTE
Fernando Alonso's Formula One title defence began perfectly in the opening round of the 2006 world championship, the Bahraini Grand Prix at Sakhir. The Renault/Michelin driver made a bright start from fourth on the grid to sweep past Jenson Button (Honda) and Felipe Massa (Ferrari) before the race was half a lap old.
The Spaniard then tracked Michael Schumacher (Ferrari) for the opening two stints of the race, before finally edging ahead after his second and final pit stop. Rejoining just ahead of his main rival, the Spaniard defended robustly and remained in front all the way to the end of a thrilling season- opener. Lapped traffic presented Schumacher with a late opportunity to challenge again, but Alonso was once more equal to the task.
It was Alonso's ninth F1 victory, Renault's 26th with a car wholly of its own manufacture and Michelin's 94th. Renault executive engineering director Pat Symonds said: "Our victory and tactics today had a lot to do with our ability to exploit Michelin's excellent tyre performance during our slightly longer race stints. Congratulations to all at Michelin - everybody has done a lot of hard work over the winter and the results speak for themselves."
Patrick Faure, President RenaultF1 Team, was really pleased with the result: ""That was a fantastic race with which to begin the season. We watched a great battle between two tyre companies - and the best one won: Michelin !"
The race marked the return of mid-race tyre stops - for the first time since 2004 - and Michelin's F1 director Nick Shorrock was pleased with the company's response. He said: "The latest rule changes were designed to make the racing more competitive. The desired result has been achieved and Michelin has risen to the challenge. I'm delighted with the way our products performed."
Alonso added: "I knew the race was mine if I got out in front of Michael at my second stop. In the end I had quite a nice gap - it was a really fun race."
After failing to set a qualifying time in the wake of a rear suspension failure, Kimi Räikkönen (McLaren Mercedes/Michelin) plumped for a one -stop strategy from the back of the grid and scythed through the field to finish third, little more than half a second clear of Jenson Button (Honda/Michelin). Button twice passed Räikkönen's team-mate Juan Pablo Montoya during the race - and the Colombian admitted he hadn't been truly happy with his chassis set-up all weekend.
Christian Klien (Red Bull-Ferrari/Michelin) finished eighth to take the final championship point - and his team-mate David Coulthard was classified 10th, although he pulled off with a technical problem on the slowing-down lap. The only V10-powered team in the field - Michelin-shod newcomer Scuderia Toro Rosso - achieved a double finish, with Vitantonio Liuzzi and American rookie Scott Speed taking 11th and 13th places. They sandwiched Nick Heidfeld (BMW Sauber/Michelin), who recovered well after being tipped into a spin on the opening lap.
The other two Michelin drivers failed to finish. Giancarlo Fisichella (Renault) ran strongly in the opening stages, but eventually succumbed to hydraulic problems, while Jacques Villeneuve (BMW Sauber) retired with a spectacular, fiery engine failure.
Teams now face a race against time to be ready for the Malaysian GP, which takes place at the Sepang circuit next weekend.
Nick Shorrock, Michelin Formula One director:
"It was always going to be important to wait until the first race of the season was over before we drew any firm conclusions about the latest F1 regulations or our own performance - and I'm delighted on both counts. Our partners have worked incredibly hard with us during the past few months and several of them reaped the rewards today. It was a very positive result for Renault, McLaren and Honda in particular."
Pat Symonds, executive engineering director, Renault F1 Team:
"Our victory and tactics today had a lot to do with our ability to exploit Michelin's excellent tyre performance during our slightly longer race stints. Congratulations to all at Michelin - everybody has done a lot of hard work over the winter and the results speak for themselves."