The World Champion Renault F1 Team and Fernando Alonso started their title defence in the best possible way this afternoon at the 2006 Bahraini Grand Prix, with the Spaniard taking victory in a hard-fought battle with Michael Schumacher. However,...
The World Champion Renault F1 Team and Fernando Alonso started their title defence in the best possible way this afternoon at the 2006 Bahraini Grand Prix, with the Spaniard taking victory in a hard-fought battle with Michael Schumacher. However, there were also mixed feelings in the team, as Giancarlo Fisichella was forced to retire on lap 21 following an hydraulic failure on his R26.
Fernando Alonso's victory centred on three key moments: on lap 8, when he narrowly avoided an accident with Felipe Massa after the Brazilian spun behind him into turn 1; and then two moments around the second pit-stop, both in the laps before his stop when he was able to gain vital time on Michael Schumacher, and then exiting the pits, as he battled wheel to wheel with the German into turn 1, to secure the track position that gave him victory. After this moment, on lap 40, he controlled his performance and the gap to the Ferrari all the way to the flag.
Giancarlo Fisichella started the race from his original P9, after the team had changed a large number of peripheral components on the engine in order to try and resolve the power loss he had suffered in qualifying. Unfortunately the problem continued, leaving the Italian around fifty horsepower short of his potential maximum throughout the opening part of the race. He made his first pit-stop on lap 16, but was forced into retirement five laps later after an hydraulic leak.
Fernando Alonso, 1st:
"This was a good, fighting win and I want to dedicate it to the mechanics and the team, for some fantastic pit-stops and the right strategy. There was a funny incident in the early stages, and I came very close to going out when Massa spun past me in turn 1. After that though, things went smoothly, and I knew that the key time would be around the second stop."
"I looked after the tyres at the start of the stints, so that I had something left at the crucial moment, and I was very confident that we would be able to do it. After that, I managed the performance, the car was running beautifully and I just concentrated on making no mistakes. The backmarkers were very fair today as well. I think the competition is a little bit closer than we thought overall, but this is the perfect start for the season."
Giancarlo Fisichella, Retired Lap 21:
"I had the same problem as in qualifying, with a big loss of power on the engine. It was OK for the start of the race, but then I just lost power all the way through the rev range and the car was much slower on the straights. I was still able to fight with the cars around me, but I was a long way from the potential we could do with full power. Then I had an hydraulic problem which forced me to retire. The good thing is that we have another race in one week's time, and the car is clearly very quick. I want to bounce back strongly in Malaysia.
Flavio Briatore, Managing Director:
"Thank you to the entire team and our partners for this fantastic victory. Fernando did an incredible job, and managed his race perfectly to win. We can only apologise to Fisico, who had an engine problem all the way through the race and then was forced to retire. The team did an awesome job: the pit-stops were exceptional, and helped Fernando get back out in front of Michael at the end. This was an emotional race, and a fantastic show. We are all very happy.
Pat Symonds, Executive Director of Engineering:
"This was a great race for Renault. From the driver onwards, our team showed what it is made of today. It was obviously very, very close around the second stop between Fernando and Michael, and we had known from the start that the laps around the second stop would be crucial. Our best chance of victory this weekend came from running a bit longer on our stints, to exploit the performance we found on the Michelin tyres."
"It worked, but only just! Our apologies must go to Giancarlo. The engine problem he suffered in qualifying had not gone away as we hoped, and seriously compromised his performance. In the circumstances, he did an exceptional job. Ultimately, though, an hydraulic leak stopped the car and forced him to retire.