Fisichella wins in Melbourne as Schumacher crashes out

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The Independent Online

Giancarlo Fisichella claimed his second career victory as the 2005 season began in dramatic style in the Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park.

Giancarlo Fisichella claimed his second career victory as the 2005 season began in dramatic style in the Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park.

Renault driver Fisichella won by five-and-a-half seconds from pole position, to add to his debut win in fortunate circumstances in Brazil two years ago, but the action behind him helped erase memories of a tedious 2004.

World champion Michael Schumacher, who won the first five races last year on his way to a seventh title, struggled in the midfield before retiring after a clash with Nick Heidfeld.

David Coulthard enjoyed a dream debut for Red Bull, putting in a stunning race for the new team on his way to fourth after running second for long periods.

Ultimately, Rubens Barrichello took his Ferrari to second and Fernando Alonso gave Renault third to keep the Scotsman off the podium

Williams driver Mark Webber was also denied a podium despite a long run in third, although the home hero equalled his best-ever result by taking fifth ahead of McLaren's Juan Pablo Montoya in sixth.

Christian Klien gave Red Bull more points with seventh while Kimi Raikkonen took eighth for McLaren despite starting from the pit lane.

BAR endured a miserable race with Jenson Button floundering down in 11th, three places ahead of team-mate Takuma Sato.

At the start, pole-sitter Fisichella made a clean getaway as Coulthard rocketed from fifth to third by the first corner.

Toyota's Jarno Trulli gamely kept Fisichella within sight while Coulthard dropped time but held third by keeping Webber at bay.

Minardi's terrible pace caught out Coulthard who clipped the back of Patrick Friesacher whilst lapping the Austrian. That enabled Webber to make a brave move which failed only when Coulthard forced him on to the grass.

Trulli was the first of the leading runners to pit - for fuel only with tyre changes now banned.

Schumacher was yet to stop but even after several of his rivals had lost time getting fresh fuel, he was still 13th while one of the few cars behind him, Albers, became the first casualty of 2005 when his Minardi refused to start after a pit stop.

Coulthard, who had been running a stunning second, pitted on lap 21. Fisichella stayed out two laps longer and after the first round of stops he led from the Scot and Webber.

Coulthard had not seen off Webber though and the local hero stayed within a second of the Red Bull.

With his attention diverted by Webber's challenge, Coulthard could do little to erode Fisichella's lead and the Italian appeared to be easing to his second career win.

Trulli began the second round of pit stops on lap 36 as debutant Tiago Montiero spun whilst running 18th for Jordan.

Heidfeld tried to dive down the inside of Schumacher on lap 43 but his countryman forced the Williams driver on to the kerbs, where he lost grip and crashed into the Ferrari. Schumacher restarted but drove straight back to the pits to retire.

Barrichello and Alonso stayed out longer than their rivals on their second stint and that allowed the pair to leapfrog Coulthard in the pits.

Barrichello was on form and began reeling in Fisichella but it was too late to change the outcome and the Italian completed the job without further trouble

Fisichella said: "It's a great day for me. It's been a fantastic race. "I was quite conservative and never pushed the limit. Just at the end when Rubens was catching me I drove a little bit faster.

"The car was great. There was a very good balance. We are really in very good shape - it's the best start of my career. I am really, really happy."

Barrichello added: "I enjoyed every second. It proves Ferrari has no crisis. We are here, we are going to fight. The new car is going to come and give us even more pleasure."

Final Positions

(57 laps): 1 Giancarlo Fisichella (Ita) Renault 1hr 24mins 17.336secs, 2 Rubens Barrichello (Bra) Ferrari at 5.5secs, 3 Fernando Alonso (Spa) Renault at 6.7, 4 David Coulthard (Gbr) Red Bull at 16.1, 5 Mark Webber (Aus) Williams at 16.9, 6 Juan Pablo Montoya (Col) McLaren at 35.0, 7 Christian Klien (Aut) Red Bull at 38.9, 8 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) McLaren at 39.6, 9 Jarno Trulli (Ita) Toyota at 1min 03.1secs, 10 Felipe Massa (Bra) Sauber at 1:04.3, 11 Jenson Button (Gbr) BAR at one lap, 12 Ralf Schumacher (Ger) Toyota at one lap, 13 Jacques Villeneuve (Can) Sauber at one lap, 14 Takuma Sato (Jpn) BAR at two laps, 15 Narain Karthikeyan (Ind) Jordan at two laps, 16 Tiago Monteiro (Por) Jordan at two laps, 17 Patrick Freisacher (Aut) Minardi at four laps

Not classified: Michael Schumacher (Ger) Ferrari 42 Laps, Nick Heidfeld (Ger) Williams 42 Laps, Christijan Albers (Hol) Minardi 16 Laps

Leading Positions in the Drivers' Championship after 1st rd: Giancarlo Fisichella (Ita) 10 pts, Rubens Barrichello (Bra) 8, Fernando Alonso (Spa) 6, David Coulthard (Gbr) 5, Mark Webber (Aus) 4, Juan Pablo Montoya (Col) 3, Christian Klien (Aut) 2, Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) 1

Leading Positions in the Constructors' Championship after 1st rd: Renault 16pts, Ferrari 8, Red Bull 7, Williams 4, McLaren 4