Full report on a crushing home win for Renault
The man who signs the cheques was watching - Renaults new Chairman Carlos Ghosn - and he was rewarded with an absolutely dominant performance as Fernando Alonso led from his pole position to the chequered flag to take his fifth victory of the season. Nobody can doubt the strength of Renaults (and Michelin's) Championship challenge now - the question is whether any other team will be able to get on terms during the remainder of the season.
Not that the other teams are going to be giving up any time soon. Behind Alonso, Kimi Raikkonen and McLaren combined a near-perfect drive with brilliant strategy to put the Finn onto the second step of the podium, despite having started 13th after a ten position grid penalty was applied for an engine change. The moment his V10 gave up on Friday afternoon Raikkonen knew a top-three finish was the best he could hope for - the way he and the team delivered it was a masterclass in racing. Behind him, Michael Schumachers hopes of another victory to add to his win in the depleted race at Indianapolis were soon tempered by the searing pace of Renault and McLaren, but the Champion drove his usual strong, intelligent race to bring his Bridgestone-shod car home in third, albeit a long way behind. Such was the pace of the race that Schumacher only just managed to remain unlapped at the flag.
Initially, as Alonso sped into the distance at the rate of nearly 1.5s a lap, Schumacher was bottled up behind Jarno Trullis front-row Toyota. By the time he broke free when the Italian refuelled on lap 18, the game was effectively over. While Schumacher went on to take that final podium slot, Trulli went backwards. Jenson Button had a relatively quiet race and finally scored his and BAR's first points of the season with fourth place, after challenger Giancarlo Fisichella had stalled his Renault in the pits during his final stop on lap 58. The unlucky Italian dropped behind Trulli as a result but finished well clear of seventh-placed Ralf Schumacher in the other TF105. Jacques Villeneuve scored the final point for eighth, but had he not gone off the road on lap 50 when his Sauber C24 bottomed out in Turn 1 on its final fuel load (he had stopped two laps earlier) he would have beaten the German and might well have been in a position to take advantage of Fisichellas mishap.
Rubens Barrichello had an unhappy day in his Ferrari, mustering only ninth ahead of David Coulthard and Takuma Sato, who had two offroad adventures as enthusiasm got the better of him. The Japanese racer had run fifth initially after losing a place off the line to Barrichello, before visiting the gravel on the outside of the hairpin on lap 27 when a move on Trulli took him far too deep into the braking area. He dropped to the tail end of the Trulli-Barrichello-Button-Fisichella fight for fourth place as a result, and lost more time later on when he went off again.
Williams had a bitterly disappointing day as Mark Webber could only finish 12th, two laps down, and team mate Nick Heidfeld was beaten home by Tiago Monteiros Jordan and finished four laps down after making no fewer than six pit stops as the team investigated a handling problem on his FW27 that was caused by a faulty differential. At one stage the German had a great scrap with Narain Karthikeyan, before the Indian dropped back to finish 15th and last.
Juan Pablo Montoya was trapped in the midfield initially, but moved up to second place after running 25 laps before refuelling, but Raikkonen ran even longer at 28 laps and thus moved ahead. The two McLarens then ran second and third until the Colombians car began to lose pace and was finally overtaken by Schumacher before stopping for good on lap 47 with mechanical failure.
Christijan Albers crashed his Minardi quite heavily into the outer wall after spinning in Turn 2 after 37 laps, while Patrick Friesacher stopped on lap 34. Felipe Massa was a retirement from points-scoring contention on lap 36, having pitted on lap 28 to complain about loss of hydraulic pressure which affected his Saubers power steering and gear selection. After a lengthy stop the problem remained insoluble. Christian Klien was the only other runner not to get home, his Red Bull posting the first retirement on lap 2.
For Alonso it was a perfect day, his ten point haul extending his championship points lead to 24 over Raikkonen, and 29 over Schumacher. This was probably the least dramatic race of the season, but it gave the partisan crowd and Carlos Ghosn - exactly what they came for.