Alonso wins dramatic Montreal race 25 Jun 2006
Fernando Alonso said he had the Canadian Grand Prix on his to do list at the beginning of the season, and he ticked it off in style in Montreal this afternoon. He should have won easily once Kimi Raikkonen suffered a clutch problem that made it difficult to change the rear wheels during the first round of pit stops, but a late crash by Jacques Villeneuve (on lap 59) nearly turned the race on its head as it threw a beaten Michael Schumacher and Ferrari a dramatic lifeline.
After his initial delay, Raikkonen held on to second place. For a while it seemed that Schumacher was on a single-stop strategy, and might well grab the position, but then the German pitted again on the 57th lap, restoring the status quo. By that stage Alonso was 20s ahead of Raikkonen (whose clutch problem delayed him further in his second stop when the engine stalled), with Schumacher another 18s further back.
Then came Villeneuves shunt, as the BMW Sauber plunged into the wall in Turn 7 after getting offline on a very dirty track and sliding off on the marbles. The French-Canadian had driven well to hound Felipe Massa for fifth place, but his demise brought out the safety car for four laps while his F1.06 was scraped up.
When the race restarted, Alonso had the lapped Jarno Trulli and Nick Heidfeld between him and Raikkonen. Raikkonen, meanwhile, had the lapped Jenson Button, David Coulthard and Christian Klien separating him from Michael. When the race went green again on lap 63, these positions didnt change much. Alonso was content to nurse his car, admitting that he was being careful on the treacherous surface. Then, with a lap to go, Raikkonen got on marbles in the hairpin, and suddenly Schumacher was past him and into second place.
Behind them, Giancarlo Fisichella scuppered his chances early on by jumping the start. He backed off immediately and actually fell to third behind Alonso and Raikkonen, but a drive-through penalty served on lap seven dropped him to fifth and ruined his chances. He was a distant fourth, while a single-stop strategy brought Massa a well-earned fifth. Jarno Trulli showed that Toyota had improved with a strong run to sixth, while Nick Heidfeld took two more points for BMW Sauber. The final point fell to David Coulthard who snatched his chance when he saw it after the second safety car to push ahead of Red Bull team mate Christian Klien and then Jenson Button, who had another unhappy day for Honda. He finished with Scott Speed and a recovering Klien right on his rear wing.
Williams ploy of putting Mark Webber on a light fuel load didnt pay off, and the Australian had an unhappy run to 12th ahead of Vitantonio Liuzzi, who made several pit stops in his Toro Rosso. Tiago Monteiro was 14th, after tangling with Midland team mate Christijan Albers in the hairpin on the opening lap. The Dutchman was unable to continue, while the Portuguese pilot had to make a pit stop for repairs. Takuma Sato was the final finisher, even though he banged his Super Aguri heavily into the wall on the final lap.
The first big name to retire was Nico Rosberg on lap 2, the German putting his Williams into the wall after making contact with Juan Pablo Montoyas McLaren as the pair tussled for position, the incident prompting the first of the afternoon's two safety-car periods.
Others on the retirements list included Franck Montagny with suspected engine failure after a lap, Rubens Barrichello in the other Honda, and Montoya who, having pitted for a new nose after the Rosberg incident, walloped the Turn 15 wall on the 14th lap and parked his McLaren by the pit lane exit. Ralf Schumacher didnt make it either, after a catalogue of spins and incidents in his Toyota.
Alonsos fourth consecutive victory - his sixth of the season - gave Michelin their 100th Grand Prix win and extended his championship lead over Schumacher to 25 points.
The race was quite difficult, he admitted. Offline there was a lot of dirt from the tyres, and you couldnt make any mistakes. If you got a little bit offline you could lose one or two seconds. It was not easy to concentrate while I was leading the race with our nice gap, but its great to win again. Its been perfect all weekend, and without the safety cars the gap was much bigger.