Fortune favours Alonso after fiery Raikkonen attack goes up in smoke

Coming so soon after his emotional first triumph on his home ground, Fernando Alonso's first victory here yesterday afternoon must have seemed like another gift from the gods who keep smiling on him.

For 50 of the 78 laps he had no respite from the challenging McLaren of Kimi Raikkonen, after the Finn had thrust his way past Mark Webber as they climbed the hill to Casino Square on the second lap. That move, on the most curved section of the barrier-lined track, gave the lie to the belief that nobody overtakes in this race. The brave do.

For those 50 laps it seemed that Raikkonen's audacious pass might yet bear fruit. He and Alonso pitted almost together the first time, Raikkonen on lap 22, Alonso on lap 24. Later they did actually stop on the same lap, the 49th. Each time Alonso kept the advantage, but discounting the plentiful trains of lapped traffic that were such a feature of the race, this never amounted to much more than half a second.

"For sure, starting from pole things became little bit easier. Kimi was pushing quite hard," Alonso conceded, in the understated way that race drivers have, "but I knew it was impossible to overtake. It was not an easy race; you have to keep your concentration, not touch any barriers and push to the limits. The laps before and after the pit stops were the most important and I wanted to have the tyres in condition for those laps. When I saw it was impossible to open a gap over Kimi I just said, 'Okay, I will control the tyres and when it comes necessary to push I'll be ready.'"

While that strategy worked perfectly and allowed the Spaniard to open his world championship points lead to 21 over the disgraced Michael Schumacher, Raikkonen's plan exploded as a faulty heat shield ignited his Mercedes-Benz engine on the 51st lap.

Two laps earlier, just after he had led the race as Alonso and Raikkonen stopped, the unfortunate Webber pulled off in the last part of the lengthy pit lane exit, where it heads up to Casino Square. It seemed that his Williams-Cosworth engine had devoured itself, but an exhaust failure had fried the wiring loom. The safety car was deployed as the car was manhandled away, and it was while he was running slowly behind it that Raikkonen's problem occurred. "It's particularly hard to retire when you know you are in a good position to win," he said.

These two key misfortunes settled second place on Raikkonen's team-mate Juan Pablo Montoya, who had struggled with oversteer while trying to keep the three leaders honest. He finished 14.5sec adrift of Alonso, and well clear of the third-place finisher, who turned out to be Superman disguised as Red Bull Racing driver David Coulthard. He donned a red cape to visit the royal box, as the energy drink company had been promoting the new Superman Returns movie all weekend. Watched by his own Lois Lane, the television presenter Karen Minier, the Scot took the final podium place to give the emergent team its best-ever result, after Rubens Barrichello had been obliged to make a second pit stop to serve a drive-through penalty after speeding in the pit lane, and Jarno Trulli's Toyota expired from third place after 63 laps.

"I was carrying a lot of fuel for the last very long stint, and had to control the car on very worn tyres, but fortunately there were some drop-outs so this was a great reward for everyone in the team," he said. "This was a dream result, and Monaco is the sort of place where you can get one like that. I couldn't do much more than run around in formation and see whether a few other cars would have problems, but we were in the right place to benefit at the end. It's been a tough start to the season for Red Bull, so it's a good place to have a bit of a celebration." There were no celebrations for Jenson Button, who endured the worst race of his Formula One career in a troubled Honda and could do no better than 11th place.

"After qualifying where we did yesterday, this was always going to be a struggle for me," he admitted. "I lost rear tyre grip and had to stop a lot earlier than I wanted to because of that. At the stop we put scrubbed tyres on and took a lot of front wing off. After that the car was doing okay.

"All in all, this was definitely a race to forget for me but at least we are taking away a lot of information. Even though Rubens was fourth today we certainly didn't get the best out of the car this weekend and we still have a lot of work to do to catch up with the front-runners." It was not the Englishman's most convincing performance.

Schumacher, meanwhile, salvaged something from his awful weekend, after starting from the back where the stewards placed him after deciding that he had deliberately blocked the track at the Rascasse corner in qualifying to try to conserve his pole position. He benefited from the retirements, set the fastest lap after climbing up to challenge Barrichello in the closing stages for fourth place, and this time managed to negotiate Rascasse 78 times at high speed without once coming close to repeating his qualifying "error".

Monaco Grand Prix details

Monaco Grand Prix (Monte Carlo) 78 laps: 1 F Alonso (Sp) Renault 1hr 43min 43.116sec; 2 J P Montoya (Col) McLaren-Mercedes +00:14.567sec; 3 D Coulthard (GB) RedBull-Ferrari +00:25.598; 4 R Barrichello (Br) Honda +00:53.337; 5 M Schumacher (Ger) Ferrari 00:53.830; 6 G Fisichella (It) Renault +1min 02.072sec; 7 N Heidfeld (Ger) BMW-Sauber +1 lap; 8 R Schumacher (Ger) Toyota +1 lap; 9 F Massa (Br) Ferrari +1 lap; 10 V Liuzzi (It) Scuderia Toro Rosso-Cosworth +1 lap; 11 J Button (GB) Honda +1 lap; 12 C Albers (Neth) Midland-Toyota +1 lap; 13 S Speed (US) Scuderia Toro Rosso-Cosworth +1 lap; 14 J Villeneuve (Can) BMW-Sauber +1 lap; 15 T Monteiro (Por) Midland-Toyota +2 laps; 16 F Montagny (Fr) Super Aguri-Honda +3 laps; 17 J Trulli (It) Toyota +5 laps. Not classified: C Klien (Aut) RedBull-Ferrari 22 laps; N Rosberg (Ger) Williams-Cosworth 27 laps; K Raikkonen (Fin) McLaren-Mercedes 28 laps; M Webber (Aus) Williams-Cosworth 30 laps; T Sato (Japan) Super Aguri - Honda 32 laps.

Fastest lap: M Schumacher 1min 15.143sec (lap 74).

Leading Championship standings: Drivers: 1 Alonso 64pts; 2 M Schumacher; 3= Fisichella, Raikkonen 27; 5 Montoya 23; 6 Massa 20; 7 Button 16; 8 Barrichello 13; 9= Heidfeld, R Schumacher 8; 11 Coulthard 7; 12= Villeneuve, Webber 6; 14 Rosberg 4; 15 Klien 1.

Manufacturers: 1 Renault 91pts; 2 Ferrari 63; 3 McLaren 50; 4 Honda 29; 5 BMW Sauber 14; 6 Williams 10; 7= Red Bull, Toyota 8.

Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.
peopleThe idea has been greeted enthusiastically by the party's MPs
Michael Buerk in the I'm A Celebrity jungle 2014
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012
voicesAnd nobody from Ukip said babies born to migrants should be classed as migrants, says Nigel Farage
Arts and Entertainment
Avatar grossed $2.8bn at the box office after its release in 2009
filmJames Cameron is excited
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
Arts and Entertainment
Stella Gibson is getting closer to catching her killer
tvReview: It's gripping edge-of-the-seat drama, so a curveball can be forgiven at such a late stage
Brazilian football legend Pele pictured in 2011
peopleFans had feared the worst when it was announced the Brazil legand was in a 'special care' unit
i100(More than you think)
Brendan Rodgers seems more stressed than ever before as Liverpool manager
FOOTBALLI like Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
The Magna Carta
archaeologyContemporary account of historic signing discovered
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
Benjamin Stambouli celebrates his goal for Tottenham last night
Life and Style
Dishing it out: the head chef in ‘Ratatouille’
food + drinkShould UK restaurants follow suit?
peopleExclusive: Maryum and Hana Ali share their stories of the family man behind the boxing gloves
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game