Alonso's home fire burns off Schumacher

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The Independent Online

He said the previous day that 66 laps were not going to be long enough to savour the feeling if he were to win his home grand prix for the first time, but when that dream finally came true for Fernando Alonso yesterday he admitted that he was glad when it was over.

Having rebutted Ferrari's recent challenge with a crushing 18.6sec win over his arch-rival, Michael Schumacher, Alonso said it was the best feeling he had ever had in a Formula One car. "To finish first in front of my supporters... In some ways it was equal to the Grand Prix of Brazil when I finished third and won the world championship last year," he said. "But I didn't enjoy that race so much as I did today's, because it is a better feeling to cross the line and to win. And without worries about the title I was just free to drive and win the race."

For Renault and Michelin it was the perfect response to the recent surge of Ferrari and Bridgestone. Alonso led from pole position - albeit only just beating his team-mate, Giancarlo Fisichella, to the first corner - and crucially the Italian slotted into second place ahead of the Ferraris of Schumacher and Felipe Massa.

Alonso led until his first pit stop on lap 17, which came early enough to prompt suggestions that the world champion might be on a three-stop strategy. He was not. Schumacher inherited the lead when Fisichella stopped on lap 18, and held it until his own stop on lap 23. But when he emerged from the pits ahead of Fisichella, but well behind Alonso, the German knew the game was up. Ferrari's pre-race confidence had proved to be misplaced.

"Giancarlo had pace at certain points that I couldn't even match," Schumacher said. "The weekend started well for us but as it developed it went away from us. We were not quick enough today. If you consider the amount of fuel we carried into the race, the same strategy that paid out for us at the Nürburgring would have worked out here if we had been quick enough, but we weren't and it didn't. I knew it would be very difficult when we hadn't made up enough ground by that first pit stop."

Discarding the option of a three-stop strategy, Alonso and Renault sped home after stopping only once more. The only fly in their balm was Fisichella's failure to go fast enough to keep ahead of Schumacher. He complained that a call from his engineers on lap 26 upset his rhythm and caused him to go off into the gravel, but, compared to Alonso and Schumacher, his was not a convincing performance. Massa, in fourth place, was also some way behind his team-mate but did have the consolation of fastest lap.

As his team partner, Juan Pablo Montoya, spun his McLaren-Mercedes ingloriously into retirement, Kimi Raikkonen was a frustrated fifth and now seems certain to join Ferrari next year. Jenson Button soundly beat his Honda team-mate, Rubens Barrichello, to take a distant sixth place.

With virtually no overtaking, the Spanish Grand Prix was a less than inspiring event unless you hailed from the land of bullfighting, but there was one momentous piece of news. In the morning, the "rebel" manufacturers - BMW, Honda, Mercedes-Benz, Renault and Toyota - signed a memorandum of understanding with Bernie Ecclestone's Formula One Administration company that finally eliminates the possibility of their attempting to form a breakaway championship.

Barcelona Grand Prix details

Spanish Grand Prix (Barcelona) 66 laps: 1 F Alonso (Sp) Renault 1hr 26min 21.759sec; 2 M Schumacher (Ger) Ferrari +00:18.502; 3 G Fisichella (It) Renault 00:23.951; 4 F Massa (Bra) Ferrari 00:29.859; 5 K Raikkonen (Fin) McLaren-Mercedes 00:56.875; 6 J Button (GB) Honda 00:58.347; 7 R Barrichello (Bra) Honda 1 lap; 8 N Heidfeld (Ger) Sauber-BMW 1 lap; 9 M Webber (Aus) Williams-Cosworth 1 lap; 10 J Trulli (It) Toyota 1 lap; 11 N Rosberg (Ger) Williams-Cosworth 1 lap; 12 J Villeneuve (Can) Sauber-BMW 1 lap; 13 C Klien (Aut) Red Bull Racing 1 lap; 14 D Coulthard (GB) Red Bull Racing 1 lap; 15 V Liuzzi (It) T Rosso-Cosworth 3 laps; 16 T Monteiro (Por) MF1-Toyota 3 laps; 17 T Sato (Japan) Super Aguri-Honda 4 laps. Retired: C Albers (Neth) MF1-Toyota 18 laps; S Speed (US) Toro Rosso-Cosworth 19 laps; R Schumacher (Ger) Toyota 35 laps; J P Montoya (Col) McLaren-Mercedes 49 laps; F Montagny (Fr) Super Aguri-Honda 56 laps.Fastest lap: Massa, 1:16.648, average speed 217.320kmh, lap 42.

Championship standings: Drivers: 1 Alonso 54pts; 2 M Schumacher 39; 3 Raikkonen 27; 4 Fisichella 24; 5 Massa 20; 6 Button 16; 7 Montoya 15; 8 Barrichello 8; 9 R Schumacher 7; 10= Heidfeld 6; 10= Webber 6; 10= Villeneuve 6; 13 Rosberg 4; 14= Coulthard 1; 14= Klien 1; 16= Trulli 0; 16= Speed 0; 16= Liuzzi 0; 16= Albers 0; 16= Monteiro 0;16= Sato 0; 16= Ide 0. Manufacturers: 1 Renault 78pts; 2 Ferrari 59; 3 McLaren-Mercedes 42; 4 Honda 24; 5 Sauber-BMW 12; 6 Williams-Cosworth 10; 7 Toyota 7; 8 Red Bull Racing 2; 9= Toro Rosso-Cosworth 0;9= MF1-Toyota 0;9= Super Aguri-Honda 0.

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