ALONSO'S GUTSY CHASE THRILLS THE FANS Michael Schumacher might have scored his second consecutive grand prix win, but the Barcelona crowd had eyes only for the man who had just scored the best result of his young F1 career: Fernando ...
ALONSO'S GUTSY CHASE THRILLS THE FANS
Michael Schumacher might have scored his second consecutive grand prix win, but the Barcelona crowd had eyes only for the man who had just scored the best result of his young F1 career: Fernando Alonso.
Michael Schumacher dramatically reduced his world championship deficit with a masterful drive to victory in the Spanish Grand Prix. The German led all the way on the new Ferrari F2003-GA's race debut -- but local favourite Fernando Alonso (Renault/Michelin) made him fight for every inch.
Alonso ran behind Schumacher's team-mate Rubens Barrichello during the race's opening stint, but he took second place after the first scheduled round of stops and kept the pressure on Schumacher to the flag. He was less than six seconds in arrears at the end and second place marked the best result of his career to date. It was his third podium finish of the season -- and the best F1 result for a Spanish driver since Alfonso de Portago finished second in the 1956 British GP at Silverstone.
Alonso was best placed of five Michelin drivers in the top eight. Juan Pablo Montoya struggled in qualifying, but he drove a forceful race to haul his Williams-BMW into fourth. He fared best of the drivers who opted to run a two-stop strategy at a track that traditionally punishes heavy fuel loads.
His team-mate Ralf Schumacher was fifth after fending off a fierce late-race challenge from Cristiano da Matta, who gave Michelin partner Toyota its first points of the campaign. They were also the first of his F1 career. Mark Webber was delayed in the first-lap traffic jam, but he ran strongly to finish seventh and open Jaguar's seasonal points account.
Michelin driver Kimi Räikkönen (West McLaren-Mercedes) continues to lead the championship, but his race lasted only a matter of seconds. Starting last, after failing to complete a qualifying lap yesterday, he ran straight into the back of Antonio Pizzonia after the Brazilian's Jaguar faltered on the grid. The Safety Car had to be deployed for several laps to allow debris to be cleared.
The remaining Michelin runners were out of luck, too. Points continue to elude Olivier Panis (Panasonic Toyota Racing), who qualified sixth but lost time at the first corner when Jarno Trulli (Mild Seven Renault F1/Michelin) and David Coulthard (West McLaren-Mercedes/Michelin) collided ahead of him. Panis later recovered and was running in the top ten when his car stopped suddenly shortly after he had made his second scheduled pit stop. Trulli went no further after tangling with Coulthard, but the Scot rejoined and was working his way up the field until Jenson Button (B*A*R Honda) rammed him off the road at Turn One.
Michelin's day: Pierre Dupasquier -- Michelin Motorsport Director
DID YOU HEAR THE BELLS, FERNANDO?
The biggest cheer at today's Spanish Grand Prix was reserved for the man who finished second -- local favourite Fernando Alonso. Running on a new Michelin tyre construction that had been developed especially for this track, the Renault driver took the fight to Ferrari and his third podium finish of the season equalled the best F1 result ever recorded by a Spanish driver[*]. Michelin motorsport director Pierre Dupasquier said: "Alonso's performance was brilliant -- particularly when you consider his relative inexperience and the calibre of the drivers he is up against. It was good to see that our tyres helped him to race so strongly today."
[*] Alfonso de Portago shared the second-placed Ferrari in the 1956 British GP at Silverstone
Michelin brought four different types of dry-weather tyre to Barcelona -- and its five partner teams used all of them. Although the circuit is notoriously fierce on tyres, the Michelins wore at an even rate front to rear. Pierre Dupasquier: "Some of the lessons we learned today provide us with the basis for some interesting developments in future. Our drivers were able to perform very consistently -- and a look at Fernando Alonso's performance will confirm that. Throughout the race he was able to lap in the low to mid 1m 21s -- and sometimes even a little bit faster."
ON TOP OF THE WORLD
Cars on Michelin tyres took five of the eight points-scoring positions in Spain. McLaren-Mercedes continues to lead the world championships for both drivers and constructors -- despite being the only one of Michelin's partner teams not to pick up any points today. Pierre Dupasquier: "West McLaren Mercedes was unlucky in this race and the title battles have tightened up. That adds a little extra spice to the next grand prix in Austria. The track conditions will be very different there -- the surface is much less abrasive than Spain, for instance -- and I am confident we will be able to maintain this weekend's excellent level of performance."