Renaults looking like Ferraris

One team is dominating formula one. Only instead of Ferrari, it’s Renault.

Rather than the familar red racers out front, it’s the blue-and-yellow of Giancarlo Fisichella and world champion Fernando Alonso, who finished 1-2 and in the Malaysian Grand Prix made it look easy.

“These two have proved how quick Renault is,” said Jenson Button of Honda who was a distant third. “The pace of the Renaults is very good.
At the moment, it looks as though we are their closest rivals but we are not on their pace. Hopefully, we will not let them get away.”

A few years ago, people were saying the same thing about Ferrari.

From 2000 to 2004, Schumacher won the drivers’ title behind the wheel of his Ferrari, which won the constructors’ titles.

Now it looks like Renault could do the same if not better, while Ferrari struggles. On Sunday, they finished fifth and sixth, Felipe Massa beating Schumacher.

Fisichella and Alonso gave Renault only its second 1-2 finish ever, with the last coming 24 years ago, at the French Grand Prix in 1982.

There are more to come judging from Sunday’s race.

Fisichella was ahead of Alonso by 4,5 seconds at the finish but controlled the race throughout. Alonso easilly passed Button with another fast second pit stop and feels he could have won the race except for an error in qualifying.

With Alonso winning in Bahrain last week in the season opener, Renault has won the first two races and taken three of the top four spots.

And they could do more of the same in the next race in Australia on April 2.

Fisichella’s previous victory was in Australia in the 2005 opener.

Alonso wants to keep up his momentum. He has not been off the podium since the 2005 Hungarian GP in July—a series of eight straight races.

“For me to stay on the podium is the key to winning the championship,” Alonso said. “I will try to win in Melbourne and conclude the first part of the championship in the best way possible.”

After Australia, the Formula One circuit moves to Europe and the San Marino Grand Prix on April 23.

In Malaysia, Fisichella led until his first stop on the 17th lap when he was the first of the major contenders to pit. By the 25th lap, he was back in front with Button second and Alonso third.

The second set of stops for fuel and tyres started on the 38th lap, again with Fisichella and Button together in the pits.

Alonso stayed out five laps more. Less fuel and a lightning fast stop allowed the Spaniard to go past Button into second.

Fisichella led by almost 12 seconds at that point over Alonso.

The world champion whittled the gap to about eight seconds with 10 laps left until Fisichella slowed on the final lap.

Massa, Ferrari’s second driver, started on the back row—after another engine change—and finished less than a second ahead of Schumacher.

Engine changes plagued Ferrari as the team was unsure of the reliability of the new V8 engines. Between the two Ferraris there were three engine changes this week.

“We can accept the result considering everything that has happened over the weekend,” Schumacher said.

He was fourth fastest in qualifying but started 14th on the grid after dropping 10 places due to the engine change penalty.

Juan Pablo Montoya of McLaren-Mercedes finish fourth.

His teammate, Kimi Raikkonen, the 2003 Malaysian GP winner, had a race that lasted less than 30 seconds. He was hit from behind by Red Bull’s Christian Klein and broke his rear suspension.

“It was fairly obvious that Christian Klein made a pretty fundamental mistake and ran into the back of me,” Raikkonen said. - Sapa-AP

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