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Sunday, April 02, 2006

A comfortable victory for Alonso at Melbourne

A comfortable victory for Alonso
Australian GP - Renault - Race

Fernando Alonso took his tenth career victory after starting from third position on the grid in an action-packed Australian Grand Prix which featured no fewer than four safety car periods.The Spaniard took the lead on lap four at the end of the first safety car period, in a perfectly-judged manoeuvre on Jenson Button’s Honda, and only relinquished it during the first round of pit-stops. Giancarlo Fisichella was forced to start from the pit-lane after his R26 stalled on the grid, but he worked his way back up the order to claim fifth position right on the line, overtaking Button’s stricken Honda on the finishing straight.The result leaves the team with a 19 point championship lead over its nearest rival, and Fernando Alonso and Giancarlo Fisichella lie first and second in the championship.Fernando Alonso"This was a very different race to the other two so far this season. In Bahrain, I was fighting with Michael all the way; in Malaysia, it was Jenson I was battling for second place. But today, it was quite comfortable. There were no fights, and I was very relaxed for a lot of the race. I had a good lead after the first pit-stops, but I lost it during the second safety car. However, I managed to get a good gap on each re-start, and that made life quite easy for me.""I was very happy with the balance all the way through the race, so I just needed to make sure I didn’t take any unnecessary risks and I am pleased we were able to save the engine performance for the next race.

So far, we have shown we are strong in all conditions on all tracks. But Imola is a very different challenge, and we must have a calm approach, because we know it will be more difficult than ever."Giancarlo Fisichella"After a race like that, I have really mixed feelings. You know, it’s great to go from the pit-lane and to finish fifth, especially in such an exciting way. But also, we saw today that I had the car to fight for the win with Fernando, so I am disappointed I couldn’t make use of it.""At the start, the engine stalled and I had to start from the pit-lane, then during most of the first stint I had no telemetry – so I was giving the engineers updates on my fuel load all the time, and telling them about the car while overtaking the people in front of me. That problem fixed itself, but the second stint was really hard because the car was understeering so much during that part of the race. The team were calling me to push harder, but I was on the limit all the way. Then after the final stop, the clutch failed, and we only managed to fix it a few laps from the end. As soon as we did, I set my fastest lap, showed what I could do and started to put pressure on Jenson."

"I could see his engine was failing in the final corners, then I was blinded by the oil and smoke during the final corner with big oversteer, and I got him as he moved over the track. It was an exciting afternoon, and it’s good to still score points after starting so far back. I am second in the championship going to Imola, and that’s a great feeling because I should have a new specification engine there as well."Flavio Briatore, Managing Director"This was a fantastic win for Fernando. He had a great car this afternoon, and he controlled the race from start to finish. There were a lot of complicated situations to deal with, and he did it brilliantly. I am sorry for Fisi, because he suffered with more problems. We only solved it right towards the end of the race, and then it was too late for him to get close to the podium. But he showed he had the performance at the end, and we still scored a lot more points than our rivals today. We are in a strong position, but we will keep on pushing."Pat Symonds, Executive Director of Engineering"This was a really hard weekend. We had rain, unusually cold temperatures, and a punctuated race. But the car showed great performance, so we are very, very pleased with our result. Fernando put in a faultless drive, and he was able to run at whatever pace was needed with ease. The safety car periods denied him the luxury of a big lead, but he was able to maximise his performance in the laps immediately afterwards, as his early overtaking manoeuvre on Jenson showed. He then built good leads after every other safety car period, and controlled the race.""Giancarlo was unfortunate at the start, when his anti-stall system triggered several times. He was unable to catch the last one, and this meant the safety systems shut the engine down. After starting from the pit-lane, he benefited from the first safety car to catch the field, and then drove very well. He had a lot of understeer during the middle part of the race, when we were encouraging him to push hard over the radio, and then the clutch failed after the final stop. That gave us some worries for a few laps, but once the problem had been solved, he started pushing Jenson very hard. This paid off handsomely to give Fisi a well-deserved fifth place after a fantastic race.""The team is in a very strong position now after three races, but there are still fifteen to go. We have some important test sessions coming up in the next fortnight, and we are still working hard to improve the performance of the car."E.A.Source Renault


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