McLaren's Juan Pablo Montoya took victory at the Brazilian Grand Prix after gaining the lead early in the race and holding it to the chequered flag. Kimi Raikkonen was second to give McLaren its first one-two finish for five years. However, the ...
McLaren's Juan Pablo Montoya took victory at the Brazilian Grand Prix after gaining the lead early in the race and holding it to the chequered flag. Kimi Raikkonen was second to give McLaren its first one-two finish for five years. However, the biggest result was that Renault's Fernando Alonso finished third to become the youngest ever Formula One world champion.
There was rain at Interlagos on Sunday morning but by the time for the race it was dry, although there were damp patches on the track and the weather was overcast. Sauber had made an alteration to Jacques Villeneuve's car, the roll bar, under parc ferm? conditions, which is not permitted, so Villeneuve had to start from the pit lane as a penalty.
Tiago Monteiro's Jordan pulled into the pit lane at the end of the formation lap with a clutch gremlin, which wasted his excellent qualifying result. At the start pole-sitter Alonso shot away in the lead and Raikkonen just flew off the line from fifth to attack the third placed Renault of Giancarlo Fisichella. He quickly got past, as did Ferrari's Michael Schumacher but behind them there was trouble.
In the midfield David Coulthard's Red Bull took on the Williams pair of Antonio Pizzonia and Mark Webber in front. They rapidly discovered that three cars into the space of one does not go; it was difficult to see exactly what happened but it appeared that Pizzonia and Coulthard touched first then Pizzonia hit Webber. All three spun off at the first corner, Pizzonia and Coulthard out while Webber managed to get back to the pits.
It was a lost cause for Webber as his car burst into flames at the rear, which was quickly extinguished by the pit crew. "I got a reasonable start," said Webber. "Down to the first corner David and Antonio touched and Antonio spun into me. I had bodywork damage but I didn't know if it could be repaired but then the car caught fire anyway." As it happened, Williams managed to repair the car and send Webber back out later.
Due to the incident the safety car was deployed for a couple of laps while the debris was cleared. Alonso was leading Montoya and Raikkonen but when the safety car went in Alonso had a wobble at the first corner and went a wide. He did pretty well to keep it on track but Montoya charged and got past for the lead. Raikkonen was then right behind Alonso and behind them Fisichella got back past Michael for fourth.
Jenson Button's BAR had dropped a couple of places at the start and was sixth, followed by Christian Klien's Red Bull and the Ferrari of Rubens Barrichello. Felipe Massa, who was eighth on the grid, also lost out and the Sauber was tenth behind the Toyota of Ralf Schumacher. Takuma Sato, who had started from the back, got his BAR up to 11th and Toyota's Jarno Trulli, who also started from near the back, was up to 13th.
After the exciting and confusing start, the race settled down and was less than spectacular for the remainder. Montoya, Alonso and Raikkonen were holding station at the front, Montoya four seconds ahead of the Renault. Massa was the first to pit on lap 18, followed by the Jordan of Narain Karthikeyan. Villeneuve was stuck behind the Minardi of Robert Doornbos in 13th but finally managed to get past.
Montoya and Alonso were trading fastest laps then Alonso pitted on lap 22. He rejoined sixth and Fisichella and Barrichello came in on the next lap. The rest cycled through at regular intervals, Michael getting back ahead of Fisichella, and Montoya came in on lap 28. He rejoined behind Raikkonen as Kimi was on a very long first stint. The Finn pitted on lap 31 and many thought that he was on a one-stopper, but it didn't appear that he was fuelled enough to get to the flag.
The top three retained formation, followed by Michael, Fisichella and Sato, who had yet to pit, then Button and Barrichello. Villeneuve finally took his first stop on lap 35 and Sato was the last to pit a couple of laps later. That allowed Klien to move back into the points in eighth. Doornbos pulled into the pits to retire with an oil leak and Barrichello was homing in on Button. He got past the BAR after a bit of a tussle through the first two corners.
The middle stint of the race was fairly sedate and Massa kicked off the second round of stops. Ralf jumped Klien's Red Bull to gain eighth but aside from that there were no changes. Monteiro, who was doing so well with his season of finishing every race, pulled his Jordan off track with a hydraulic problem. Raikkonen sped into the pits for a quick splash-and-dash second stop but it didn't gain him any ground. He came out alongside Montoya but Juan Pablo had the momentum and stayed ahead.
And that was pretty much it. There was no reason for Montoya to help Raikkonen as Alonso was running a solid third, which was what the Spaniard needed to secure the title. So the McLarens held formation and Montoya took the chequered flag to win his second consecutive Brazilian GP. With Raikkonen second, McLaren's one-two now puts the team two points ahead of Renault in the constructors' standings.
"That was a lot of fun," said Montoya. "I had a really good fight with Kimi and it was definitely not easy keeping him behind. He came especially close after the second pitstop but not close enough. It's great to win in Brazil for the second time in a row particularly as a lot of Colombian fans come here to support me. I think we definitely deserve the Constructors' Championship and I can't wait for the last two races. Also well done to Fernando."
Raikkonen, naturally, was disappointed but vows to fight on. "Congratulations to Fernando, but he better be prepared for me and the team to fight him hard for the rest of the season and next year. Today's race was quite difficult and my car was not easy to drive. I carried a bit more fuel than Juan Pablo, but I still was not able to get past him in the pitstops, and he drove a good race."
Of course, despite McLaren's well deserved result, Interlagos was all about Alonso. It had seemed inevitable for some time that Fernando would surely win the title and the 24 year-old Spaniard did what he had to do in Brazil to become the youngest ever world champion, beating a record set in 1972 by Emerson Fittipaldi. Alonso took off his helmet in parc ferm?, looking very calm and collected, paused, then let out a heartfelt scream of triumph. A deserved one at that.
"It is too early to realise what is happening to me, and I think I will only understand properly in the days to come," said the new champion. "So far, I have spoken to the King of Spain, the Prince and the Prime Minister -- it is impossible to really say anything about it now."
"I want to dedicate this championship to my family, and all my close friends who have supported me through my career. Spain is not a country with an F1 culture, and we had to fight alone, every step of the way, to make this happen. A huge thank you to the team as well: they are the best in Formula 1, and we have done this together."
Ferrari was a little more competitive, with Michael fourth and Barrichello sixth, although obviously it was a result below the Scuderia's aspirations. Fisichella came home fifth and Button's BAR just didn't have the straight line speed to keep him near the front and he finished seventh. Ralf took the final point in eighth. Klien's Red Bull didn't have the race pace after his exemplary qualifying performance and he finished ninth. Sato completed the top ten.
Massa and Villeneuve squabbled amongst themselves and were 11th and 12th respectively, while Trulli struggled home 13th. Christijan Albers was almost unseen and bought his Minardi across the line 14th, with Karthikeyan trailing behind in 15th to be the last finisher. After the first couple of laps of intrigue Brazil was not really a very exciting race as far as action was concerned, but a race that sees a new champion crowned for the first time in five years has an excitement of its own.
Alonso is a very deserving champion. Some may say that Fernando was lucky but that's an argument that does not hold up. A driver may win a race or two thanks to the misfortunes of rivals but a world championship is not won by luck. Congratulations to Fernando Alonso and to Renault for giving him the car to do it. Final top eight classification: Montoya, Raikkonen, Alonso, M. Schumacher, Fisichella, Barrichello, Button, R. Schumacher.