Sunday, March 12, 2006

Alonso wins with champion performance 

Fernando Alonso did what he was used to in the last year by winning after an intense fight. Michael Schumacher and Ferrari seem to be back in the front while Raikkonen completes the podium with a blistering peformance, starting from the very back of the grid. The second Renault somewhat surprising failed to finish the Grand Prix.
When the lights went green Schumacher powered towards the first corner in first place while Button made a bad start and immediately lost third place to Alonso. The Spaniard also overtook Massa two corners later. Soon both Honda cars were in a close battle with each other, overtaking one another several times at the end of the finishline straight. Button finally took charge and was able to close into 4th placed Montoya.

Meanwhile, Yuji Ide was fined with a drive through penalty for irregulaties. 8 laps into the race, Massa missed his braking point while chasing 2nd placed Alonso and slipped off the track, flatspotting every of its 4 tyres. One lap later he would come in for a pitstop that took the Ferrari engineers 47s as they could not find he right tyres for the 248F1. Massa rejoined the track in 20th position. Fisichella who suffered engine problems during qualifying apparently still had problems wih his engine as top speed at the end of the straight was visibly lacking. While Alonso's Renault is good for 305km/h, that of Fisichella only topped 295km/h. The Roman was unable to keep up with the pace of Alonso and was even passed by Webber after 10 laps when the Renault driver made a small error. At the same lap, Button overtook Montoya a an exciting but clean fight.

As expected by the fuel levels from the top ten cars, Schumacher was the first to enter and did so in lap 15. He rejoined the track just in front of the Honda of Barrichello. As Alonso was handed the front of the race because of Schumacher's pitstop, Kimi Raikkonen passed Villeneuve to get just behind the underpowered Fisichella. The latter came in for a pitstop in lap 20, only to retire with a hydraulics problem few laps later.

In the front also Alonso pitted and joined the track 5s behind Schumacher handing the lead over to Montoya. The Columbian and his teammate were on very late first stops which enabled Raikkonen to be within seven seconds from Alonso, who on his behalf quickly closed in on Michael Schumacher. After 25 laps, Montoya had also pitted - and rejoined just in front of Button in 4th place - while Alonso was only 0.8s behind the leading Ferrari.

In the middle of the pack, Nico Rosberg set the fastest lap in his Williams Cosworth. Both BMW Sauber cars were also performing well, with Villeneuve in 9th place. Barrichello in the second Honda had difficulties with the setup of his car and struggled in 13th place.

30 laps into the race, that same well performing Jacques Villeneuve saw his BMW engine blow to pieces. Kimi Raikkonen also pitted and looks set to go for a single stop strategy.

21 laps from the end it is again Schumacher who pits first and embarques a fight on distance between the two leaders. While Alonso was stuck in the traffic, he made several gestures towards slower cars in order to let him pass more quickly, as the Spaniard knows the victory is being played. Alonso had enough fuel to profit from an extra lap of free track, and together with a quick pitstop it was just enough to get the lead as they entered the first corner side to side. As a result, wih 15 laps to go, the top drivers are Alonso, Schumacher, Montoya, Raikkonen, Button, Webber and Rosberg.

While Alonso is in front, he is unable to pull away from Schumacher and after a slight mistake he has to hold off a German attack 5 laps from the end. After that, Fernando was able to pull away 2 seconds in the next five laps. 2 laps from the end Rosberg overtook Klien with an extremely good Williams at the end of the race.

Final results are as follows:
1 F. Alonso Renault 1:29:46.206 10
2 M. Schumacher Ferrari + 1.246 8
3 K. Räikkönen McLaren + 19.360 6
4 J. Button Honda + 19.992 5
5 JP. Montoya McLaren + 37.048 4
6 M. Webber Williams + 41.932 3
7 N. Rosberg Williams + 1:03.043 2
8 C. Klien Red Bull + 1:06.771 1
9 F. Massa Ferrari + 1:09.907
10 D. Coulthard Red Bull + 1:15.541
11 V. Liuzzi Scuderia Toro Rosso + 1:25.997
12 N. Heidfeld BMW + 1 laps
13 S. Speed Scuderia Toro Rosso + 1 laps
14 R. Schumacher Toyota + 1 laps
15 R. Barrichello Honda + 1 laps
16 J. Trulli Toyota + 1 laps
17 T. Monteiro Midland F1 + 2 laps
18 T. Sato Super Aguri + 4 laps
Did not finish
19 Y. Ide Super Aguri + 20 laps
20 J. Villeneuve BMW + 28 laps
21 G. Fisichella Renault + 36 laps
22 C. Albers Midland F1 + 57 laps

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