Spanish youngster makes history at the Hungaroring
For Fernando Alonso it was the greatest afternoon of his life, yet the then 22 year-old celebrated with remarkable aplomb. It was his first victory in the big league, the first for a Spanish driver, the first for his Renault team in 20 years and he deposed New Zealander Bruce McLaren as the youngest-ever winner after a 44-year reign.
Its too many things for one day! he admitted. The weekend was fantastic. With pole position and now victory its a dream come true! Im 22 years old and now I have my first victory in the pocket. Its too much like a dream, still. The car was perfect.
With eight laps left hed also lapped Michael Schumacher.
The Hungarian Grand Prix, however, was not merely the story of an impressive young driver fulfilling his destiny with a performance that was just as dominant and impressive as Juan Pablo Montoyas had been in Germany three weeks earlier. It was symbolic that he lapped Schumacher, regardless of the embarrassingly clear discrepancy in the performance of their Michelin and Bridgestone tyres. Montoya and Raikkonen had won their first grands prix, and now the third young pretender had likewise confirmed his long-term potential. And he had done so in great style.
Cristiano da Matta stalled his Toyota on row eight, lending confusion to the start as yellow flags waved, but up front Alonso blasted straight into the lead. Behind him, Mark Webbers start for Jaguar was to play a crucial part in the eventual outcome. The Jaguar driver grabbed second place, having started third. Like Alonso, he was on the clean side of a dirty race track. On the dirty side, both Williams (Ralf Schumacher, second fastest, Juan Pablo Montoya, fourth) made poor getaways. Kimi Raikkonen and Rubens Barrichello sprinted ahead of them, and then to compound his gloom, Ralf spun in the second corner and condemned himself to an afternoon playing catch-up. Alonso checked out, as Webber, who was driving superbly, was holding everyone back. For the first two or three laps Mark was in the mirror, then on the eighth or ninth I asked the team on the radio where the others were and they told me they were 15 seconds away! laughed Alonso. I started thinking of the victory when I was 20 seconds ahead. I started taking it easy with 50 laps to go.
Raikkonen passed Webber when the Jaguar driver made the first of three stops on lap 14, but Barrichello marred his chances when an early move to pass Webber saw him overshoot a chicane on lap three. Seventeen laps later, rear suspension failure sent him headlong into the wall in Turn 1. Montoya was thus promoted to third, but nearly threw it away with a spin on the 62nd lap. He just recovered before team mate Schumacher came along. The latter had staged a remarkable recovery after his spin.
Behind them, David Coulthards fortunes improved again with a solid fifth place, the Scot beating the valiant Webber and Jarno Trulli, who kept Michael Schumacher behind him to the flag. In short, the Hungarian Grand Prix was a disaster for Schumacher, Ferrari and Bridgestone. At one stage an attempt to make up ground with a light fuel load almost backfired when he ran short and only just sputtered into the pits to refuel.
The race dramatically changed the face of the title fight. Ferrari lost its constructors championship lead to Williams, and Schumacher barely clung to his drivers points advantage.
It was the lowest point of the Scuderias season, and left Schumacher looking like a spent force. As events would later prove, however, appearances can be deceptive.