But Alonso steals second to dampen McLaren's day
There was good and bad news for McLaren in Istanbul. Once more the Finnish national anthem rang out as Kimi Raikkonen stood on the top step of the podium after he had taken victory at the inaugural Turkish Grand Prix with another dominant performance.
Juan Pablo Montoya, meanwhile, set the fastest lap of the race, but that was the only satisfaction the Colombian could draw as his team mate pulverised him in a head-to-head battle, and he then lost an easy second place with an error just two laps from home.
Raikkonen had grabbed the lead back from fast-starting Giancarlo Fisichella on the opening lap and thereafter never surrendered it. Montoya, meanwhile, fought his way past the Renaults of Fisichella and Fernando Alonso after stopping later than them for his first slug of fuel on lap 21. But then he was delayed slightly as he ran over his refuellers legs when the nozzle proved reluctant to disengage. He still rejoined before Alonso appeared, however, and from that point on McLarens first 1-2 of the season - their first in five years - seemed set in stone.
Raikkonens stop on lap 22 went like clockwork, and their second stops - on lap 41 for Montoya and 45 for Raikkonen - were equally undramatic. But then came an incident on lap 55 when Montoya lapped Tiago Monteiro going into Turn 12. The Portuguese driver found his road suddenly full of hard-braking McLaren, and locked his front wheels in a vain effort to avoid contact. Montoya was tapped into a spin and his McLarens diffuser was damaged. Having been eight seconds clear of Alonso, the Colombian now found his advantage reduced to only 1.5s. As he pushed to maintain that in response to the Spaniards renewed challenge, the combination of that and the damaged diffuser saw him run wide in the notorious Turn 8, and suddenly Ron Dennis saw 18 points become only 16 as Alonso gratefully sped by into second place. Not surprisingly, there was an atmosphere later in the McLaren camp despite Raikkonens dominant success which left the score in the drivers championship battle as Alonso 95, Raikkonen 71 with five races left. In the constructors series, McLaren are nine points behind Renault, whereas they could have been within five.
Apart from these dramas, it was a relatively quiet race after the early skirmishes. The first of these accounted for Felipe Massa, who tried unsuccessfully to go down the inside of former team mate Nick Heidfeld and got his front wing chopped off for his troubles. As it tucked under the car the Sauber skated wide, delaying team mate Jacques Villeneuve and Toyotas Ralf Schumacher, damaging a turning vane on the C24.
Meanwhile, Jenson Button was busy working his way up from 13th place on the grid and a terrible start, passing both Ferraris between laps two and four, then displacing the two Red Bulls of, first, David Coulthard and then Christian Klien, by lap 10. That set him up for an eventually successful chase of Jarno Trulli, whom he overtook for fifth place after the Italians second stop on lap 43. By the flag Button was within striking distance of Fisichella, who had lost 10 seconds to Alonso during a delay with his fuel rig in his first pit stop on the 14th lap. Trulli clung on for sixth ahead of the Red Bulls, with Coulthard gaining the upper hand over his Austrian partner when they refuelled on the 23rd and 24th laps.
A spirited drive from a pit-road start to ninth marked Takuma Satos one-stop afternoon, while Rubens Barrichellos 10th place was the best Ferrari could muster. Michael Schumacher had an awful afternoon. The champion chased Barrichello until he stopped for the first time on lap 14. Then he was assaulted in Turn 12 a lap later by Mark Webber, whom he had just lapped. There was bad blood between both drivers as a result. The Ferrari spun and pitted again immediately for a fresh left rear tyre. Later he pitted again for the power steering to be replaced, rejoining on the 33rd lap so he could avoid being the first man out for qualifying at Monza.
Villeneuve survived for 11th, keeping Schumacher Jnr at bay, but Massas strong and competitive comeback drive ended with engine failure after 28 laps. Robert Doornbos was 13th for Minardi, ahead of the Jordans of Narain Karthikeyan and an unhappy Monteiro, but Christijan Albers PS05 failed to go the distance. So did the Williams, both of which suffered two right rear tyre failures, most likely because some part of the car touched the tyre during the loadings of over 4g in Turn 8.
After all the pre-race build-up the first Turkish Grand Prix did indeed prove a real test of man and machine. Kimi Raikkonen was in a class of his own, and whatever the Turks do they must leave Turn 8 exactly as it is, bumps and all. Jacques Villeneuve was right: Formula One racing has found itself another brilliant corner.