ALONSO AND MICHELIN COMPLETE THEIR HAT TRICK Fernando Alonso (Renault/Michelin) extended his world championship advantage with a thrilling victory in the fourth race of the season at Imola, San Marino. The Spaniard started second and inherited...
ALONSO AND MICHELIN COMPLETE THEIR HAT TRICK
Fernando Alonso (Renault/Michelin) extended his world championship advantage with a thrilling victory in the fourth race of the season at Imola, San Marino. The Spaniard started second and inherited the lead when early pace-setter and pole position qualifier Kimi Räikkönen (Team McLaren Mercedes/Michelin) dropped out early on with a broken driveshaft.
After shrugging off the threat of Jenson Button (B*A*R-Honda/Michelin), Alonso emerged ahead after the final round of pit stops and fended off the growing threat of defending champion Michael Schumacher (Ferrari). For Michelin, the result marked the 79th victory of the companys F1 career and its fifth in succession.
Michaël Schumacher recovered from 13th on the grid after running off the track during qualifying to slice past Button and launch a late bid for victory. He shadowed Alonsos every move for the final 12 laps and was never more than 0.3 seconds from his prey. The Spaniard didnt put a foot wrong, however, and held on to win by just 0.215s. It was his third consecutive F1 success and the fourth of his career.
It was fantastic to witness such an exciting race. It was a great thrill to contribute this extraordinary battle, which will have focused the eyes of the world on F1. Our partners did a great job, too. Michelins tyres stood up extremely well, given the fierce pressure that Fernando was under. said Patrick Faure, Chairman and CEO, Mild Seven Renault F1 Team.
Button (B*A*R-Honda) was third and his first podium finish of the season ended a points drought stretching back to Japan last October. Todays result finally opens the teams points accounts in both Constructors and drivers Championships and is a fitting tribute to a colossal effort by everyone.
An excellent team performance which rewards a huge amount of work by B-A-R-Honda and Michelin since the last race. explained Nick Fry, Chief executive Officer. Standing in for the injured Juan Pablo Montoya, Alexander Wurz (Team McLaren Mercedes) finished fourth in his first grand prix start since Malaysia 2000. He finished well clear of Takuma Sato (B*A*R-Honda) and Jacques Villeneuve (Sauber-Petronas), whose sixth place marked his first points finish since he returned to F1.
Toyota team-mates Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher initially completed the points finishers, but Schumacher was given a 25-second penalty for a pit stop infringement. He retains his eighth place, however, pending an appeal. Trulli ran as high as fourth in the early stages, but he lost ground during each of his scheduled pit stops and slipped down the order.
Of the other Michelin drivers, Williams-BMW team-mates Nick Heidfeld and Mark Webber were ninth and 10th. Webber shadowed Trulli in the early stages, but he, too, lost time during the pit stops and a trip across the kerbs further hampered his cause. Newcomer Vitantonio Liuzzi (Red Bull Racing) had an encouraging maiden grand prix. The Italian finished 11th, almost half a minute clear of team-mate David Coulthard, and set seventh fastest lap.
Felipe Massa (Sauber-Petronas/Michelin) split the two Red Bulls at the end. The Brazilian originally qualified eighth, but lost 10 places on the grid for an unscheduled engine change and was left lagging at the start because his car was still in neutral. He clashed twice with Coulthard during his recovery drive and one incident forced him to bring forward one of his scheduled stops, in order to fit a replacement front wing.
Schumacher was the only non-Michelin runner in the top eight. Räikkönen and Giancarlo Fisichella (Renault) were the only Michelin drivers not to finish. The Italian retired after sliding off the road on lap six.
Pierre Dupasquier, Michelin motorsport director
I would like to congratulate Fernando Alonso on his sterling defence in the face of intense pressure and Renault for maintaining Michelins unbeaten start to the season.
It is clear, though, that the opposition has upped its game. We anticipated a close battle this weekend and that is exactly what we got. Although the first part of the race ran pretty much to our expectations, it is clear that we lost a bit of pace during the second and third stints."
"We havent yet established a definite reason, although it is clear that Imola which has several fierce braking zones and lots of hard acceleration places a greater load on the current-specification rear tyres than any of the three circuits on which we have previously competed this season. The rate of wear was slightly higher than expected.
It is a pity that Kimi Räikkönen, who was not using the same tyre specification as Fernando, was forced to retire after his sparkling start. It would have been fascinating to monitor his progress.
Pat Symonds, executive director of engineering, Mild Seven Renault F1 Team:
Michelin gave us well-balanced car performance in both qualifying and the race. It is clear that we face a very strong challenge in future grands prix, but Michelin has done an excellent job so far this year and Im looking forward to an equally challenging race in Spain.