Montoya wins despite pressure

Juan Pablo Montoya soaked up the pressure of championship leader Fernando Alonso to secure victory in the British Grand Prix at Silverstone on Sunday and claim his first success for the McLaren team.

The McLaren driver, winning his fifth race in 75 starts, beat home series leader Alonso of Spain in a Renault, while Finn Kimi Raikkonen—also in a McLaren—was third.

Colombian Montoya, who joined McLaren from Williams last year, was determined to make the most of a strong grid position to bring an end to a disastrous run of luck that has seen his season marred by injuries and disqualifications.

And with the Silverstone circuit bathed in bright sunshine, the Colombian proved, as expected, that the McLaren cars were the ones to beat after he flew into the lead on the first lap and never looked back.

The three drivers chose not to perform the champagne celebrations as a mark of respect to those involved in the London bombings on Thursday, following a one-minute silence held before the race.

Montoya was subdued on the podium but was relieved by his win and said: “I know I can win races, but it has been such a frustrating season that when I crossed the line I was excited but it was more an ‘aaaaahh’ sort of thing.

“The last few races we have made a lot of progress and I am just so pleased. Yesterday [Saturday] in qualifying, being one of the first cars to run is very hard, but today the team did a great strategy and I think it is a great race.”

But Alonso, who started from pole, pushed hard and tailed his McLaren rival right to the line.

He did enough to extend his advantage by two points to 26 after closest rival Kimi Raikkonen failed to fight his way right through the field following a 10-grid position penalty for changing an engine during practice.

Alonso claimed the lack of blue flags, which are waved to warn backmarkers to move out the way of faster cars, had cost him the race victory after he missed the opportunity to pass Montoya through the second set of pit stops.

And he said: “It was very close between Juan Pablo and me and unfortunately I had some traffic and the blue flags didn’t work. I lost three seconds because there were no blue flags.

“I tried after the second stop to push him a bit, but it was really difficult to overtake and our performance was very similar, so the last three or four laps I just relaxed to get the second place.”

Raikkonen started from 12th on the grid and worked his way on to the podium in third, but his troubled times leave him with just eight more races to close the gap in what has become a duel for the championship crown.

But Raikkonen admitted: “The championship is getting difficult, race by race, with all the problems I have.
In normal circumstances, it would have been quite a bit different, but there is nothing I can do.

“I just try my best and hopefully the team will sort it out. But at least we have got a podium and, overall, it is good result for the team. That is what we got this time.”

Italian Giancarlo Fisichella secured fourth place for Renault, missing out on a podium once again because of a problem in the pits, but he still pushed home hero Jenson Button down to fifth in the BAR-Honda.

World champion Michael Schumacher had to settle for a sixth-place finish, just ahead of Ferrari teammate Rubens Barrichello, while his brother Ralf Schumacher secured the final point for Toyota by finishing eighth.

Ten minutes before the race, the 100 000 fans and the 20 drivers on the grand prix grid stood together for a one-minute silence to pay respects to the victims of Thursday’s London bombings.

When the race got under way, Montoya quickly took the lead after the McLaren driver flew out of his third-placed slot past second-placed Button and made a move around the outside of Alonso at the first corner.

But the safety car came out at the end of the first lap as Takuma Sato’s BAR-Honda, which had stalled on its way to the grid, was removed and returned to the pits before racing got under way again one lap later.

Montoya maintained his lead ahead of Alonso and Button, while Barrichello and Fisichella, who had both gained places at the start, sat in fourth and fifth with Toyota driver Jarno Trulli dropping from fourth on the grid to sixth.

Michael Schumacher made it up to seventh place, while Raikkonen soon moved in to the points and began attacking the world champion for eighth.

With Sato back out on the track the first and, ultimately, only retirement of the race was Indian Narain Karthikeyan, who stopped when his Jordan ground to a halt at the side of a track after just 11 laps.

The first round of pit stops began on lap 17, when Barrichello peeled into the pits. Montoya stopped on lap 22 and Alonso pitted one lap later, coming out alongside his rival but narrowly failing to make it past.

Raikkonen, having chosen a long stint strategy, was the last to stop on lap 26, by which time Montoya was back in the lead with Alonso second and Fisichella making it past Button through the stops to claim third.

Montoya set the fastest lap of the race on laps 40 and 41 before pitting at the end of lap 44.

Fisichella pitted on lap 46 and, in a repeat of his problems in France, his car stalled as he tried to exit his pit. The time lost in fixing the problem enabled Raikkonen to move up to third by the end of the pit stops.

Alonso completed his final stop on lap 49 and came out in a comfortable second with just a one-second gap to Montoya, but the Colombian coped with the pressure to hold off his Renault rival in the closing 11 laps.—Sapa-AFP

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