ALONSO, RENAULT AND MICHELIN STAY ON TOP IN TITLE CONTESTS Astute tactics helped Fernando Alonso (Renault/Michelin) to split Ferrari drivers Michael Schumacher and Felipe Massa in today's French Grand Prix. Starting third on the grid,...
ALONSO, RENAULT AND MICHELIN STAY ON TOP IN TITLE CONTESTS
Astute tactics helped Fernando Alonso (Renault/Michelin) to split Ferrari drivers Michael Schumacher and Felipe Massa in today's French Grand Prix. Starting third on the grid, the Spaniard tried to dive ahead of Massa at the first turn but the Brazilian held firm and Alonso was obliged to sit behind him throughout the race's opening stint.
While Schumacher established a secure lead, Renault opted to put Alonso on a two-stop strategy - rather than the Ferrari drivers' three - and the Spaniard finally claimed second place when Massa pitted for the final time. Alonso eventually finished 10.131s behind Schumacher - but he remains 17 points clear of the German in the title race. Alonso has only once finished outside the top two in this season's 11 races. In the championship for constructors, meanwhile, Renault remains 21 points clear of Ferrari.
The race passed off largely without incident. Ralf Schumacher (Toyota) recovered from a slow first pit stop to finish fourth, just ahead of Kimi Räikkönen (McLaren Mercedes/Michelin). The Finn managed to get of the German during the middle sector of the race, but they swapped places again after the final stops.
Giancarlo Fisichella (Renault, sixth), Pedro de la Rosa (McLaren Mercedes, seventh) and Nick Heidfeld (BMW Sauber F1 Team, eighth) also scored points on Michelin tyres. De la Rosa was making his first race start since the 2005 Bahraini GP: he has been recruited to replace Juan Pablo Montoya, who is currently on sabbatical after announcing that he was going to switch to the US-based NASCAR Nextel Cup in 2007.
All but two Michelin drivers lasted the distance. David Coulthard (Red Bull) just missed out on a third straight points finish. He finished ninth, 3.2s behind Heidfeld. Scott Speed (Toro Rosso) was 10th, one of the best F1 results of his fledgling career, while Jacques Villeneuve (BMW Sauber), Christian Klien (Red Bull) and Vitantonio Liuzzi (Toro Rosso) finished 11th, 12th and 13th. Liuzzi had to start the race from the back of the grid after making an unscheduled engine change.
Honda team-mates Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button were the only Michelin casualties. Both pulled off with engine-related problems.