Fernando Alonso summarised the greatest afternoon of his life with admirable aplomb here yesterday as he coolly shrugged off the fact that he had supplanted the late Bruce McLaren as the youngest winner of a grand prix, that he was the first Spaniard ever to achieve the feat, or even that Renault as a team had not won for 20 years. "It's too many things for one day." he said. "The weekend was fantastic; with pole position and now victory it's a dream come true. I'm 22 years old and now I have my first victory in the pocket. It's too much like a dream, still."
But he will not ever forget the thrill of lapping the world champion, Michael Schumacher, with eight laps of the Hungarian Grand Prix left to run, nor the worries that intruded as he headed for what will surely be the first of many triumphs. "In those last laps I heard noises from the engine and the gearbox, but it was all in my mind. The car was perfect."
This was not merely a young man fulfilling his destiny with a superb performance - as dominant and impressive as Juan Pablo Montoya's had been three weeks ago in Germany. There was something symbolic in Alonso lapping Schumacher, regardless of the embarrassingly clear discrepancy in their respective Michelin and Bridgestone tyre performance. The manner in which he laid yet another brick in the wall he has been building all season speaks of a man who in time will come to rival the greats who have gone before.
As yellow flags added confusion to the start, indicating that Cristiano da Matta's Toyota had stalled on the eighth row, Alonso blasted into the lead and received a massive slice of good fortune when Mark Webber accelerated his Jaguar from third place and the cleaner side of the grid into second place ahead of Kimi Raikkonen and Rubens Barrichello, as the Williams-BMWs of Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya, second and fourth in qualifying respectively, crept away from the dirty side.
While the impressive Webber held everyone else in check, Alonso bade adios. "For the first two or three laps Mark was in the mirror, then on the eighth or ninth I asked the team on the radio where the others were and they told me they were 15sec away," he laughed. "After qualifying on the pole I realised the podium was a good chance, and then in the first stint I started thinking of the victory when I was 20 seconds ahead. I started taking it easy with 50 laps to go."
His rivals had no such luxury. It took Raikkonen until lap14 to pass Webber, as the Jaguar driver made his first of three stops, and he fought all the way for his second place. Rubens Barrichello's chances weakened when he tried to pass Webber and overshot a chicane on the third lap, and later evaporated in spectacular style on the 20th lap when his Ferrari crashed heavily following rear suspension failure. That left the way clear for Montoya to speed through to third, though he nearly threw it away with a spin on the 62nd lap. He got going again, but had his team-mate, Ralf Schumacher, pushing him after the German had staged a strong recovery from a stupid spin on the opening lap.
"I lost a place to Michael at the start," Montoya said. "I couldn't believe it. It was like I was throwing an anchor out as everyone went past me. But clearly we had the fastest car again and I did the fastest lap. When I made my mistake later on, the car swapped ends [spun] as soon as I turned in, but I got full on the throttle so it wouldn't go into the gravel."
David Coulthard scored a well-deserved fifth place, staying ahead of the valiant Webber and a subdued Jarno Trulli, who at least kept Michael Schumacher behind him to the flag. Quite simply, the Hungarian Grand Prix was a disaster for Schumacher, Ferrari and Bridgestone, and at one stage an attempt to make up ground with a light fuel load almost backfired when the German only just sputtered into the pits to refuel.
The race completely changes the face of the championship fight. Ferrari have lost the lead in the constructors' championship to Williams-BMW, 129 points to 121, and Schumacher is clearly living on borrowed time, hanging on with 72 points, but with Montoya and Raikkonen upon him with 71 and 70 respectively, and his brother, Ralf, and Alonso still in with a chance on 58 and 54.
Montoya was not amused by Schumacher's aggression at the start. "He just threw his car at me, and I was quite surprised by that," he said. "But I guess that's racing." Raikkonen, meanwhile, said: "Now that it's closer, anything can happen."
Schumacher and Ferrari are on the ropes; and they can expect no mercy in the three remaining races.
1 F Alonso (Sp) Renault 1hr 39min 01sec
2 K Raikkonen (Fin) McLaren-Mercedes 1:39.18
3 J P Montoya (Col) Williams-BMW 1:39.36
4 R Schumacher (Ger) Williams-BMW 1:39.37
5 D Coulthard (GB) McLaren-Mercedes 1:39.58
6 M Webber (Aus) Jaguar 1:40.14
7 J Trulli (It) Renault 1 lap behind
8 M Schumacher (Ger) Ferrari 1 lap behind
9 N Heidfeld (Ger) Sauber-Petronas +1 lap; 10 J Button (GB) BAR-Honda +1 lap; 11 C da Matta (Brazil) Toyota +2 laps; 12 J Verstappen (Neth) Minardi-Ford +3 laps; 13 N Kiesa (Den) Minardi-Ford +4 laps; Not classified (did not finish): H-H Frentzen (Ger) Sauber-Petronas 47 laps completed; J Wilson (GB) Jaguar 42; Z Baumgartner (Hun) Jordan-Ford 34; O Panis (Fr) Toyota 33; G Fisichella (It) Jordan-Ford 28; R Barrichello (Br) Ferrari 19; J Villeneuve (Can) BAR-Honda 14.
Fastest lap: Montoya: 1min 22.095sec.
Constructors' standings: 1 Williams 129 points; 2 Ferrari 121; 3 McLaren 115; 4 Renault 78; 5 BAR 15; 6 Jaguar 15; 7 Toyota 14; 8 Jordan 11; 9 Sauber 9; 10 Minardi 0.Reuse content