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28 May 2006 16:35
Defending world champion Fernando Alonso of Spain drove from pole position to a clear and consummate victory for Renault in Sunday’s controversy-hit Monaco Grand Prix.
His first win in the Principality, in the wake of Saturday’s extraordinary penalty that sent disgraced rival Michael Schumacher from pole to the back of the grid, enlarged his lead over the seven-times champion German to 21 points.
Schumacher, who started from the pit lane after his Ferrari team decided to change his engine overnight, drove immaculately and aggressively to sweep through the field and claim four points by finishing fifth.
Alonso, looking more and more like a mature and complete champion driver, now has 64 points to second placed Schumacher’s 43 at the head of the title race.
Schumacher had clocked the fastest time in Saturday’s qualifying session but was penalised for deliberately stopping on the circuit to prevent his rivals from improving their times.
In a race of little true incident, but much attrition, Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya in a McLaren came home second ahead of Briton David Coulthard, in a Red Bull, who was a surprise third.
Brazilian Rubens Barrichello, returning to form for Honda, finished fourth and held off Schumacher over the final laps after luckless Italian Jarno Trulli, in a Toyota, had pulled up and retired, while running third, with just three laps remaining.
Giancarlo Fisichella of Italy, in the second Renault, was sixth, Nick Heidfeld in a BMW Sauber was seventh and his fellow German Ralf Schumacher in a Toyota took one for eighth.
It was Alonso’s first victory in the glamorous showpiece race on the tight streets of the Mediterranean principality, his fourth in seven races this year and the 12th of his career.
The 24-year-old driver from Oviedo became the youngest champion in F1 history when he took the title last year.
The race was largely processional and broken up only by the pit-stops and the engine failures that removed Australian Mark Webber, in a Williams, and then Finn Kimi Raikkonen, in a McLaren-Mercedes, from the fray after 49 and 51 laps respectively.
Webber had led the 78-laps race briefly during the first round of pitstops and Raikkonen was running second at the time his engine blew at Portier. Webber’s expired at Ste Devote.
Raikkonen, living up to his reputation for enjoying life, was soon seen aboard a boat in the harbour in the company of some champagne-drinking friends.
Webber’s departure had required the Safety Car and it was while the field was following that vehicle, in temperatures of 27°C on the track, that Raikkonen’s engine gave up.
Schumacher meanwhile worked his way forward with patience and skill.
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