Alonso reigns supreme in Spain 14 May 2006
Fernando Alonso, Renault and Michelin responded in the best possible way to Ferrari and Bridgestones recent run of success by handing out a crushing defeat to Michael Schumacher on the Spaniards home territory this afternoon.
Snatching the lead from pole position as team mate Giancarlo Fisichella slotted in behind him - crucially ahead of the Ferraris of Schumacher and Felipe Massa - Alonso led until his first pit stop on lap 17. That came early enough to prompt suggestions that the champion might be on a three-stop strategy. Fisichella stopped a lap later, handing the lead to Schumacher who did not refuel until lap 23.
Now it became a matter of waiting to see when Alonso stopped again. The window for a three-stop would be laps 30 to 36, but this time the Renault went until lap 40, right at the beginning of the two-stop window. Again, Fisichella stopped a lap later, but this time Schumacher was in on lap 46. It was not enough. Alonso regained the lead and maintained a comfortable 13-second cushion until the flag. As he approached the finish line he swerved happily from side to side, and later did his supposed Jim Carrey Grinch imitation as he climbed on to the scuttle of his R26. Schumacher had no answer, but had beaten the hapless Fisichella - who survived an trip through a gravel trap - to second place after those second stops.
It felt fantastic to take the flag, Alonso said, and for the last five or six laps I saw that Michael was slowing down as well, no longer pushing. To finish first in front of my supporters gave me my best feeling so far in a Formula One car. In some ways it was equal to the Grand Prix of Brazil when I finished third and won the world championship last year. But I didnt enjoy that race so much as I did todays, because it is a better feeling to cross the line and to win. And without worries about the title I was just free to drive and win the race.
Behind Fisichella, Massa drove an unremarkable race to fourth ahead of McLarens Kimi Raikkonen, who made a superb start to move from ninth on the grid to fifth on lap one. And in a race somewhat lacking in overtaking, Jenson Button soundly beat Honda team mate Rubens Barrichello to sixth place, while a good drive from Nick Heidfeld netted BMW Sauber the final point for eighth.
Mark Webber was only 1.3s behind the German after a fighting drive for Williams, leading home a battling Jarno Trulli and Nico Rosberg. One-stopping Jacques Villeneuve was 12th, ahead of Christian Klien and David Coulthard, who completed his 200th Grand Prix. Klien battled past Toro Rosso teamsters Scott Speed and Tonio Liuzzi, neither of whom was running at the end. Speed retired on lap 48, while Liuzzi pitted on lap 65 of the 66. He was classified 15th ahead of Tiago Monteiro and Takuma Sato, having run ahead of Coulthard all race despite a down-on-power V10.
Christijan Albers made four pit stops before retiring in the Midland garage on lap 54; Ralf Schumacher eventually did likewise after losing most of his front wing running into the back of his team mate on the 15th lap; Montoya spun and beached his McLaren on the 18th; and Franck Montagny failed to finish with drive-shaft failure on the 10th after running ahead of team mate Sato for several laps.
The result boosts Alonsos championship score to 54 points to Schumachers 39. This was a day when the blue cars had the legs on the reds. We just werent quick enough, Schumacher admitted. But sometimes were are better than them, and thats the way it will be this year. Theres still a long way to go.