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Sunday, April 02, 2006

Domination from Fernando Alonso

Domination from Fernando Alonso
Australian GP - Race

The 57-lap Australian Grand Prix had it all. Incident, accident and drama and through it all came Fernando Alonso who dominated the third round of the championship to take his second win of the season and the tenth of his career. Kim Raikkonen chased Alonso hard to finish in second position in his McLaren Mercedes, but the Finn had no answer to the consistent and relentless pace from his championship rival. "The car was perfect," said Alonso. "At no time did I think I would lose the victory, I was very confident. The important thing was to save the engine to keep it fresh for the next race to do a good result there again, and we did it..."While the story of the Australian Grand Prix was the pace of Alonso, behind there was plenty of action in a race that saw just nine cars complete the full race distance and no less than four safety car periods. Starting from the third Pole Position of his career Jenson Button actually maintained the lead of the race from the traditionally fast-starting Alonso heading into the first turn. Behind chaos ensued as Felipe Massa clipped the back of Christian Klien into the first turn. The 248 F1 veered sharply to his right following the impact and wiped off the rear wing from the back of Rosberg’s Williams Cosworth. The safety car was deployed and Massa and Rosberg were both out of the race, while Klien survived the incident.

The restart on lap four saw Button passed with relative ease – a trend that would continue on cold tyres for much of the race. The Honda driver fought hard but was soon passed by Kimi Raikkonen and the race was on at the front. Alonso then put in a sequence of stunning laps and pulled clear of Raikkonen. The secret of his Australian victory was not his absolute speed over a single lap, but his ability to lap quicker on cold tyres than any of his rivals. Alonso dominated the event, pulling out over 25 seconds before the final safety car period and then taking the victory by two seconds from the hard charging Raikkonen who closed the gap dramatically in the final stages with a string of hot laps, the final of which was the fastest lap of the race. Raikkonen will be relatively happy with his runner up position after the failure to finish in Malaysia, but Alonso has pulled another two points out on the McLaren driver and enjoys a 14 point advantage after just three rounds. It was not such a good day for Giancarlo Fisichella and Juan Pablo Montoya in the second Renault and McLaren. Both had their own drama even before the race had got underway

Montoya, who qualified in fifth position, was busy warming up his brakes and tyres as he exited the final turn to approach the starting grid. The Colombian lost control of his MP4-21 and it seemed initially that he was in for a long day from the back of the pack. Fortunately for him Giancarlo Fisichella’s R26 stalled on the front row of the grid forcing another formation lap. Montoya was able to regain his position and Fisichella started the race from the pit lane.

Honda fails at the final turnMontoya would eventually retire from the race when looking all set to take the lower step of the podium. Exiting the final turn – again – he ran wide and on to the grass. As the McLaren bounced over the concrete rumble strip the car simply shut down – a safety feature - and Montoya was forced to pull to a halt. Fisichella’s race brought him a fifth position after he worked his way up through the field but he was unable to get close to the lap times set by team-mate and race winner Alonso. Ralf Schumacher drove a great race in his Toyota record the team’s first podium position of the season. The German fought back from a drive through penalty after speeding in the pits and while he undoubtedly gained position through attrition, the podium result was very much deserved. Team-mate Jarno Trulli was eliminated on lap one following contact with David Coulthard. Nick Heidfeld was another to put in a tremendous performance. The BMW Sauber driver ran as high as second on merit in the race and was unfortunate to lose position late in the race in the traffic. With Jacques Villeneuve also driving a strong race from the back of the field to finish in sixth, the team will leave Australia very happy with by far their strongest showing yet. Jenson Button’s day started brightly but ended in a huge cloud of smoke. The Honda racer simply could not lap as fast as his rivals on cold tyres and was unable to challenge either Alonso or Raikkonen for race pace. Button would look all set to finish in fifth position but as he exited the final turn his Honda V8 failed in dramatic style. They say life is cruel, but Button pulled the billowing RA106 to a halt just shy of the chequered flag and his fifth position turned into a tenth place classification. Rubens Barrichello showed little pace spending a good third of the race behind Takuma Sato in the Super Aguri Honda. Seventh place for Barrichello was fortunate as were the two points that go with it although he did manage to pick up his pace as the race progressed

Taking of speed, Scott Speed scored the first point for Scuderia Toro Rosso with a fine drive to eighth position. The American was able to hold off David Coulthard in the Red Bull Ferrari by the narrowest of margins to claim the valuable championship point and deny Coulthard his 500th. Christian Klien had a dramatic race in his RB2, surviving a first lap assault from Felipe Massa before crashing hard on lap seven and bringing out the safety car. With Coulthard ninth and out of the points and Button classified tenth a lap down, Christian Albers brought his MF1 Toyota home 11th ahead of the Super Aguri Hondas of Takuma Sato who finished two laps down and Yuji Ide who finished three laps down. For Sato, holding back both Barrichello and Coulthard until the first round of pits stops, it must have been especially sweet. It was another dismal day for Ferrari as Massa’s lap one exit left Michael Schumacher to carry the expectations of the team. Shadowing Button and looking set to pounce, Schumacher ran wide exiting the final turn and the Ferrari snapped to left into the unforgiving concrete retaining wall. A double non-finish for Ferrari as their bright start to the season begins to fade away. Mark Webber could well have finished on the podium in his Williams Cosworth had the FW28 gone the distance. Running fourth at mid-distance Webber pulled the Williams off track with either a hydraulics or gearbox failure. With Rosberg taken out by Massa on lap one, Williams has just five points from six starts. With three races complete, Fernando Alonso is stamping his authority on this championship season. The field packs up and heads off to test around Europe before reconvening at Imola, home of the San Marino Grand Prix.


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