Win caps Fisichella's perfect weekend 19 Mar 2006
Giancarlo Fisichella made up for all his disappointments in 2005 with a smooth victory in Malaysia this afternoon. The Italian started from pole position, and though he ran with less fuel than Renault team mate Fernando Alonso, was able to manage his race to maintain sufficient pace to beat the Spaniard by 4.5 seconds.
Hondas Jenson Button began strongly and chased Fisichella hard for the first 17 laps. He then took the lead when Fisichella pitted, came in himself for the first time two laps later, and then resumed the chase in second place as Alonso refuelled on lap 26. After the second stops, which both he and Fisichella made on lap 38, Alonso was able to run long enough to grab second. Button had rejoined the race just behind Juan Pablo Montoyas McLaren and was not able to push really hard until the Colombian refuelled on lap 42. Alonso came in on lap 43, and Buttons delay gave him enough space to make up the place.
Montoya finished fourth after a quiet run, but McLaren lost Kimi Raikkonen on the first lap after a brush in Turn 5 from the Red Bull of Christian Klien sent him spinning into the wall and retirement.
In a reversal of fortune, Felipe Massa maximised his single-stop strategy to score his first points for Ferrari and to distinguish himself by holding off his illustrious two-stopping partner to the flag. Michael Schumacher finished right on his gearbox in sixth.
Seventh was the preserve of Jacques Villeneuve and BMW Sauber, with Ralf Schumachers Toyota there for close company in the closing stages after the failure of Nick Heidfelds V8 on lap 49 prompted BMW to ease back a little. The new BMW Sauber team thus scored their first points, while eighth at least gave Toyota one. Heidfeld was on target for fifth place when his failure occurred.
Jarno Trulli was ninth for Toyota, struggling for pace throughout the race after a first-corner nudge left his car with a broken diffuser. Behind him was the single-stopping Rubens Barrichello, who lost a load of time on that same strategy for Honda in the first part of the race, and all the potential benefit from it after getting a 10 second stop-and-go penalty for speeding in the pit lane. He was an unhappy 10th.
Tonio Liuzzi qualified his Toro Rosso on incorrect downforce settings and opted to stop for a front wing adjustment on the opening lap. He then fought his way up to an 11th place finish after entertaining scraps with Takuma Sato in the Super Aguri and Christijan Albers. The Dutchman brought his Midland home 12th ahead of team mate Tiago Monteiro, and Sato was the final finisher in 14th.
Besides Raikkonen and Heidfeld, David Coulthard and Klien were non-finishers in their Red Bulls, as were both Williams drivers, Yuji Ide and Scott Speed. Klien damaged his left front suspension in the brush with Raikkonen, and eventually stopped after rejoining the race with a new corner on his RB2. Nico Rosberg's engine blew spectacularly after only six laps when he was running sixth, while Mark Webber pressed Alonso's fuel-heavy Renault hard for third initially but dropped out with hydraulic failure on lap 16.
The result sees Alonsos lead at the head of the drivers championship increase to seven points over Michael Schumacher, while Renault now enjoys a 13 point margin over second-placed Ferrari in the constructors championship.