Alonso wins Canadian GP for fourth straight victory

This was the race Michael Schumacher was supposed to close the gap on Fernando Alonso in the chase for the Formula One championship.

After all, Schumacher had won the Canadian Grand Prix seven times. Alonso never had anything but trouble at the Circuit Gilles Villeneueve.

None of that mattered on Sunday — Alonso drove his Renault to an easy victory for his fourth consecutive win. The Spaniard has six victories this season and 15 straight top-three finishes.

”It is fantastic,” he said. ”All the victories are nice, but this one after the last two or three years having a chance to win and then mistakes or mechanical problems, this is one of the races we should have [won] in the previous years.”

Alonso had failed to finish the Canadian GP in three of his previous four races, including last year when he crashed while leading. This time, his only problem was staying focused despite leading by almost 25 seconds in the closing laps.

”It was not easy to keep the concentration while leading the race with such a large gap,” he said. ”You lose concentration or maybe you relax.”

The reigning world champion stretched his lead to 25 points over Schumacher, who passed Kimi Raikkonen with one lap to go to finish second. Raikkonen wound up third.

”It’s just a shame there wasn’t 10 more laps, it could have made it interesting,” Schumacher said. ”We kept the damage as little as possible.”

They now head to Indianapolis for the United States Grand Prix, which Schumacher won last season after Alonso and 13 other drivers boycotted because of concern over tyre safety. But Alonso has struggled during F1’s North American swing but hopes for better results next week.

”Indianapolis is another chance to win and increase the gap again,” he said.

Schumacher, the seven-time world champion, has been hesitant to put too much importance on this two-race stretch in regard to the overall title. That didn’t change even after Alonso picked up another two points.

”We’ll have to see how the rest of the season will go,” he said.

”Whether [Canada] was vital or not, we will know in the end. If the championship is decided by a point, then it was vital.”

Alonso, who started from the pole, had only a brief challenge from Raikkonen early in the race but held off the Finn’s attempt to pass him on the 12th lap.

Raikkonen had a horrible day in the pits, having trouble on a tire change during his first stop and stalling his McLaren on another, preventing him from challenging Alonso again. He was then passed by Schumacher with one lap to go.

But Schumacher also had a rough day and never tested Alonso. He drove his Ferrari off course once, brushed the wall and cut across the curve on the final turn several times to take him out of contention.

Even though he won the pole — his fifth in a row — he expected a challenge from Schumacher and Ferrari teammate Felipe Massa for the victory.

Giancarlo Fisichella, Alonso’s teammate at Renault, was fourth and Massa was fifth. Jarno Trulli scored his first points of the season with a sixth-place finish for Toyota.

Nick Heidfeld was seventh for Williams and David Coulthard came in eighth after starting last because he changed his engine before the race. Jenson Button was eighth in a Honda and American Scott Speed was 10th.

Jacques Villeneuve finished 16th on the track named for his late father. He was heading to at least seventh place when he crashed into the wall with 11 laps to go.

The drama began on the opening lap, when Raikkonen jumped past Fisichella to take away second place. Stewards investigated Fisichella for jumping the start and penalised him with a drive-through pass in the pits.

Right behind, Juan Pablo Montoya had his hands full with Schumacher and Nicco Rosberg. But as Montoya attempted to pass Rosberg the German made contact with Montoya, sending him into the wall and Montoya to the pits for repair work.

Montoya got back on the track but ended his day early when he brushed the wall coming out of a turn and left the race moments later.

Meanwhile, Midland teammates Tiago Monteiro and Christijan Albers crashed into each other for the second time in three races.

Monteiro continued but Albers was done.

Franck Montagny joined them in the pits when his engine blew on his Super Aguri. He was followed by Rubens Barrichello, who retired his Honda after 13 laps because of a mechanical problem. – Sapa-AP

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