Alonso victory confirms Renault as constructors' champions at last

Fernando Alonso and Renault responded yesterday in the best possible way in China to McLaren-Mercedes' challenge for the world championship for constructors, as the Spaniard won a chaotic race and thus confirmed the French manufacturer as champion in its own right for the first time.

Alonso went straight into the lead, as his team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella managed his pace to contain the McLaren challenge from Raikkonen and Juan Pablo Montoya.

That order prevailed until lap 17, when Montoya ran over a dislodged drain cover in Turn 10. In June 2004 the Australian saloon car racer Mark Winterbottom had the bottom of his car torn out after a similar problem, so the Shanghai International Circuit owners clearly have some more work to do on their multi-million-pound facility.

The Colombian continued for another lap and a half before pitting for fuel and to investigate possible damage on lap 18, but he was back in a lap later for further attention as the safety car was deployed while the errant cover was retrieved and others were inspected. The deployment prompted a rash of pit stops, as Alonso, Fisichella, Raikkonen, Rubens Barrichello, Ralf Schumacher, Mark Webber, Felipe Massa, Antonio Pizzonia and Jacques Villeneuve took advantage and came in.

The safety car stayed out until lap 24, and when racing resumed on lap 25 Alonso was still in front. The period of slow running had wiped out his 17.5-second lead, but he was close to his refuelling window anyway and was able to maintain his lead over Fisichella and Raikkonen.

However, the stops had rejigged the order further back. Jenson Button, having pitted on lap 18, dropped from fifth to seventh, and David Coulthard also lost out as he dropped from sixth to eighth and had Massa and Christian Klien on his tail. McLaren's chances of the constructors' title were already looking weak.

Alonso quickly opened up a lead again over Fisichella, but Raikkonen was not yet able to challenge the second Renault. Further back, Barrichello came under attack from Ralf Schumacher, Webber, Button and Coulthard.

The next drama unfolded on lap 29 when Narain Karthikeyan crashed his Jordan heavily in Turn 13. Villeneuve had a lucky escape as he just avoided the wreckage, and there was so much debris on the track that another safety car period was inevitable. This time the field queued up behind it until lap 34. Crucially, Ralf Schumacher, Massa and Klien all stayed out as all of the other leading runners pitted again, so that when the race resumed on lap 35 they were running second, third and fourth behind Alonso.

Raikkonen overtook Fisichella during this round of pit stops, and the Italian's ploy of trying to hold everyone up as he came into the pits, as Raikkonen had done recently in Belgium, later earned him a drive-through penalty. Since that race the FIA had warned everyone that such tactics would not be accepted.

When Massa, Klien and the younger Schumacher pitted on laps 44, 45 and 47 respectively, Raikkonen finally had a clear road to Alonso. But by now the Spaniard was 13 seconds ahead and had detuned his Renault's engine.

Raikkonen set two fastest laps, but it was all too late. The disruptions of the safety car had worked against McLaren, and Alonso and Renault had things under control. The Spaniard's seventh victory of the year was a sweet success that evened the seasonal win tally with Raikkonen.

Ralf Schumacher scored a solid third after Fisichella dropped a place serving his drive-through penalty, Klien finished a strong fifth for Red Bull and Massa maintained sixth after a stern challenge from Webber. That earned him a race car of his own, as his departing team principal Peter Sauber promised him the reward as he crossed the finish line.

Button was an unhappy eighth. "The first safety car should have waved us past but it didn't," he said. "Montoya sat behind it and that was that. I lost about three places."

Michael Schumacher's appalling day ended in the gravel trap when he lost control of his Ferrari and slid off the road during the first safety car period. The former world champion blamed worn Bridgestone tyres for his second incident of the afternoon.

"This is a fantastic feeling," beamed Alonso as the champagne corks popped at Renault.

"I didn't think anything could equal winning the drivers' championship, but seeing our people celebrating, it's just as good. I am really so happy today and there are only two words to say to them: thank you.

"It was probably the easiest race of the year. We had a bit of oversteer and we dropped a bit of front wing at the first pit stop, but apart from that the car was perfect.

"We showed here if we want to take a little more risk, if we want to beat McLaren, we can do it."

Constructors' championship

1 Renault 191

2 McLaren-Mercedes 182

3 Ferrari 100

4 Toyota 88

5 Williams-BMW 66

6 BAR-Honda 38

7 Red Bull-Cosworth 34

8 Sauber-Petronas 20

9 Jordan-Toyota 12

10 Minardi-Cosworth 7

Arts and Entertainment
The teaser trailer has provoked more questions than answers
filmBut what is Bond's 'secret' that Moneypenny is talking about?
Sport
football This was Kane’s night, even if he played just a small part of it
Travel
travel Dreamland Margate, Britain’s oldest amusement park, is set to reopen
News
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Founders James Brown and Tim Southwell with a mock-up of the first ever ‘Loaded’ magazine in 1994
media
News
Threlfall says: 'I am a guardian of the reality keys. I think I drive directors nuts'
people
Voices
voices The group has just unveiled a billion dollar plan to help nurse the British countryside back to health
News
The Westgate, a gay pub in the centre of Gloucester which played host to drag queens, has closed
news
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss