Fernando Alonso takes glory in Australian Grand Prix

Fernando Alonso takes glory in Australian Grand Prix  
Filed under:
Motorsport, Renault
on 04/02/2006

Source: Renault F1

Fernando Alonso has won a thrilling Australian Grand Prix from Kimi Raikkonen and Ralf Schumacher.

Fernando Alonso increased his lead in the drivers’ championship this afternoon with a dominant display of speed and determination. The Spaniard won the race by 1.8 seconds from the McLaren of Kimi Raikkonen with Ralf Schumacher bringing his Toyota home third. Giancarlo Fisichella brought the second Renault home in fifth place, after a problem at the first scheduled race start saw him relegated to the very back of the grid.

The first start was a bizarre affair as Juan Pablo Montoya spun his McLaren on the approach to the grid and then Giancarlo appeared to stall. As the drivers lined up for the second time, Montoya took his place on the third row of the grid but Giancarlo was right at the back and would have to fight from last place.

Fernando and pole-sitter Jenson Button had great starts when the lights went out and shadowed each other into the first turn. Fernando locked his brakes trying to get past the Briton but the Honda driver managed to keep his nose ahead. Further back, Christian Klien collided with Nico Rosberg, squeezing Felipe Massa into a spin in the process. Massa slammed heavily into the wall and out of the race as Rosberg pulled his Williams back to the pits to retire. Klien however was able to keep going.

Two laps were spent under the safety car as Massa’s Ferrari was recovered, and as the safety car peeled in, Fernando screamed past Button into the first corner on the restart. At the same time Mark Webber overtook Ralf Schumacher and was followed past the Toyota by Montoya. As Fernando pulled out almost three seconds a lap over Button, Raikkonen knew he needed to find a way past, and after a few frustrating laps he settled behind the Brit under the second safety car for Klien’s retirement. On the restart, Kimi took his chance into Turn 1. The Finn locked his brakes in spectacular fashion, but held his line to keep position from the Honda of Button.

On lap 8 a very quick looking Tonio Liuzzi slid up the inside of Michael Schumacher for eighth place. The German was having major difficulty keeping pace with the front runners, but as the pitstops began, Schumacher started to find some speed again.

Lap 18 saw Montoya come in for his first stop, followed by Button and Fisichella on the next lap. Button emerged ahead of Montoya, but into Turn 1 the Colombian squeezed his way through and past the pole-sitter. Lap 20 saw Fernando’s first stop, as Raikkonen pitted on lap 21. Mark Webber was now in the lead at his home Grand Prix, but bitter disappointment hit when his car ground to a halt on lap 23.

The second part of the race saw a status quo emerge, with Alonso at the head of the field, pulling out a substantial and apparently easy gap over the rest of the field. He was consistently around 2-3 seconds a lap quicker than anyone else. And from nowhere, Michael Schumacher had suddenly found some pace and was catching the Honda of Button, which had slipped down the order and out of podium contention.

Schumacher’s attempts to find the extra time however were starting to look ragged. He ran wide a number of times, and it came as only a slight surprise when he ran wide one final time in the final corner, and ended his race in the wall. His retirement brought the third safety car period of the day, during which almost everyone made their second and final stops. Raikkonen fitted a new front wing as Montoya waited patiently behind.

On the restart, Alonso headed the field followed by the two out of place Midlands, who caused a bit of a headache for the faster cars behind, as we were treated to the vision of cars running two and sometimes three abreast through corners and down the Albert Park straights. But the restart also saw the end of Tonio Liuzzi’s afternoon as the Toro Rosso driver slammed into the barriers having lost control while trying to pass Villeneuve. With yet more debris scattered across the track, the fourth and final safety car period was called.

From here it was a simple run in to the flag, although Fernando had seen a crushingly dominant lead cut down to just a matter of seconds by the end of the race thanks to the interjection of the safety cars. Juan Pablo Montoya’s afternoon came to a premature end when his McLaren seemed to be damaged during a similar off-track excursion to the one that had seen Schumacher’s race finish in the wall, but as no debris had been caused to fly off the McLaren in its incident, no safety car was called.

So Fernando took his second win of the season, followed in second place by Kimi Raikkonen, with Ralf Schumacher a fantastic third for Toyota after a quiet but solid drive. Nick Heidfeld finished a promising fourth for BMW, with Giancarlo fifth and Jacques Villeneuve sixth in the second BMW. Fifth place was set to belong to Jenson Button, but the Briton’s Honda engine expired in a plume of flames and smoke on the very final corner. Rubens Barrichello could consider seventh place a huge bonus after a torrid race, while Scott Speed picked up Toro Rosso’s first point in eighth position.

The F1 circus now heads for a three week break before we touch down in Imola for the San Marino Grand Prix, and the start of the European F1 season.

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