FOUR FOR ALONSO, SEVEN UP FOR UNBEATEN MICHELIN Fernando Alonso (Renault/Michelin) extended his Formula One world championship advantage with a dramatic last-gasp success in today& ...
FOUR FOR ALONSO, SEVEN UP FOR UNBEATEN MICHELIN
Fernando Alonso (Renault/Michelin) extended his Formula One world championship advantage with a dramatic last-gasp success in todays Grand Prix of Europe at the Nürburgring. The Spaniard swept into the lead when rival Kimi Räikkönen (Team McLaren Mercedes/Michelin) was forced to retire at the start of the final lap.
Alonso finished 16.5s clear of Nick Heidfeld (BMW WilliamsF1 Team/Michelin) as Michelin maintained its unbroken run of F1 success. The company remains unbeaten in 2005 after seven of the seasons 19 races and has won the last eight world championship grands prix. This was the 82nd victory in Michelins distinguished F1 career.
World championship leader Fernando Alonso (Renault/Michelin) scored his fourth Formula One win of the season in todays Grand Prix of Europe but only after race-long leader Kimi Räikkönen (Team McLaren Mercedes/Michelin) retired at the start of the 59th and final lap. The car was very good today, easy to drive, and the strategy was definitely perfect. I think today proved we are really going to fight for this title. said Fernando.
Flavio Briatore, Managing Director Mild Seven Renault F1 Team added: This was a fantastic victory for the whole team, and especially Fernando after a drive where he did not give up from start to finish. Michelin provided great tyres, and we used them in the right way to keep pressure on McLaren until the last laps and it paid off.
The Finn outdragged pole position qualifier Nick Heidfeld (BMW WilliamsF1 Team/Michelin) at the start and quickly opened up a comfortable lead. Chasing a third straight grand prix success, Räikkönen looked to have everything under control until the races final stages. On lap 34, he flat-spotted his front-right tyre while lapping Jacques Villeneuve (Sauber-Petronas) and this provoked a serious vibration that would have dramatic consequences as the race entered its final stages.
Alonso, who got ahead of Heidfeld as a consequence of making two scheduled refuelling stops to the Germans three, sliced into Räikkönens lead and was just 1.5s in arrears as they started their final lap. Under braking for the first corner, something in Räikkönens long-suffering suspension broke and he speared off the road.
Alonso swept through to take the fifth victory of his F1 career and extend his world championship lead to 32 points. Ferrari driver Rubens Barrichello the only driver apart from Heidfeld to stop three times took third. A first-corner pile-up shuffled the order in the early stages.
Third-fastest qualifier Mark Webber (BMW WilliamsF1 Team/Michelin) clipped Juan Pablo Montoya (Team McLaren Mercedes/Michelin) into a spin as the pack arrived and that set off a chain-reaction collision that delayed Barrichello and defending champion Michael Schumacher (Ferrari), while Ralf Schumacher (Toyota/Michelin) and Takuma Sato (B*A*R-Honda/Michelin) pitted at the end of the lap to repair consequential damage. Webber was the only driver to retire in the immediate aftermath.
When the dust settled, Jarno Trulli (Toyota/Michelin) held third from David Coulthard (Red Bull Racing/Michelin) but the Italian soon lost time with a drive-through penalty, imposed because members of his crew had not cleared the grid within the maximum time limit. Coulthard went on to take a strong fourth equalling his teams best result of the campaign while Trulli fought back to take the final point in eighth.
There were strong recoveries, too, by Giancarlo Fisichella (Renault/Michelin), who stalled at the start and charged through from last place to sixth, and Montoya, who took seventh. Of the remaining Michelin runners, Vitantonio Liuzzi (Red Bull Racing) was ninth in his final start before Christian Klien takes the reins of the teams second car in Canada. Liuzzi is expected to return to the frontline later in the year.
Jenson Button was 10th in B*A*R-Hondas comeback race and the unfortunate Räikkönen was classified 11th. Sato, Villeneuve and Massa took 12th to 14th places respectively, but Ralf Schumacher joined Webber as one of only two retirements when he spun off shortly after half-distance.
Pierre Dupasquier, Michelin motorsport director:
Another gruelling weekend has produced yet another Michelin F1 success and one or two talking points besides. Our partner teams were as dominant in the race as they have been throughout the weekend and, indeed, throughout the season. Looking at the overall picture, it is clear that our tyres provided their usual combination of speed and durability."
One has to feel sorry for Kimi Räikkönen, though. He flat-spotted his front-right tyre, which caused a serious vibration that clearly took its toll in the races closing stages. When he made his second scheduled stop on lap 43, we could see the problem very clearly."
"The trouble is, it becomes very easy to lock your brakes repeatedly once a tyre has been flat-spotted and that just amplifies the problem. We have seen cars locking up on many occasions throughout the weekend it seems to happen quite a lot here, because one or two corners encourage drivers to turn in while braking.
Nick Shorrock, director of Michelin F1 activities:
This was the first race to feature F1s revised qualifying system and we saw a range of different strategies employed. The final result reflects well on Michelin and its partners and Id like to compliment Renault and Fernando Alonso on the way they controlled the race throughout a tough grand prix in hot conditions.
Pat Symonds, executive director of engineering, Renault F1 Team:
Our car and tyres were very good today and Id like to congratulate Michelin on its seventh win of the season.