McLaren close championship gap

Click to follow
The Independent Online

It all went pear-shaped when the Colombian lapped Jordan driver Tiago Monteiro on lap 56, and as the Portuguese driver had to lock up his front wheels trying to avoid the McLaren he inadvertently punted it into a spin. Montoya recovered but one lap later ran wide in the supremely challenging turn eight, as damage to his car's aerodynamic diffuser compromised its grip, and a beaten Fernando Alonso sped through to snatch second place for Renault.

The Turks loved it all. There were marksmen on the roofs to guard against a possible terrorist threat as the Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan joined Bernie Ecclestone and boxing legend "Iron" Mike Tyson on the grid.

For the most part it was a quiet race until Montoya's adventures. Raikkonen had grabbed the lead back from the fast-starting Giancarlo Fisichella on the opening lap, and was thereafter never headed.

Montoya eventually fought his way past Fisichella and Alonso as their differing fuel strategies came into play. Not even an incident in his first stop on lap 21 when he ran over a crewman as the refuelling equipment's nozzle stuck momentarily could hold the Colombian back. The McLaren racers' second pit stops went like clockwork, and Renault were beaten until Montoya made his move on Monteiro.

"I think he must have locked up and gone into the back of me," Montoya said. Monteiro was unimpressed, believing Montoya had left things too late and taken the room he needed to make the corner. "He shut the door in the braking zone," he said. "I could not avoid touching him as I lost all the downforce. I'm really sorry for him but we have talked a lot during the driver briefings that we should not move positions in braking areas."

That subject was also raised by Mark Webber, who had earlier spun Michael Schumacher in the same corner. The Australian was trying to unlap himself after losing time with the first of two right rear tyre failures on his BMW-Williams.

That was the prelude to Schumacher's demise; after a delay pitting for a new left rear tyre the champion's dismal day ended not long after a lengthy stop for power steering repairs to his Ferrari.

"I saw him closing on me and he moved to the right," Schumacher said. "As I began to brake I could no longer see him and, when I was in mid-corner, I felt a bang at the back as he hit me with his nose. He was one lap down, so I don't understand why he tried this move."

The normally placid Webber took a different view: "I was much quicker than him. I thought it was strange that he was moving around the braking area as all the drivers agree not to do this. Michael seemed quite keen to do it so I didn't show much respect in the end when I went round the corner. We then made contact. I'm 100 per cent sure we'll be talking [about] his actions at the next drivers' meeting."

Those incidents saved the race. Behind the McLarens, Alonso did what he could to stay in touch before profiting at the end. Fisichella dropped away after his early spurt, and then lost another 10 seconds during his first pit stop when the refuelling rig malfunctioned, and was under pressure from Jenson Button by the end.

The Englishman made a poor start from 13th place, but then got his head down and diligently began picking off rivals. First Schumacher, then Rubens Barrichello, then David Coulthard and Christian Klien in their Red Bulls. That brought him up to Alonso, who had refuelled on the 13th lap. Button squeaked ahead of the Renault before making his own first stop on lap 21, and thereafter Jarno Trulli became his target. This was a long haul, but he passed the Toyota during their second stops and set after Fisichella. "I really enjoyed the race," he said. "I had a terrible start, but to work my way through the pack was fantastic. For me, it was one of the most exciting races this year. "

Raikkonen's second consecutive victory was almost a formality. "I was pushing as hard as I could," the Finn said, his decision to ignore team principal Ron Dennis's exhortations to hone his skills in the team's Woking-based simulator - and instead, allegedly, to enjoy other pleasures during the summer break - was vindicated. "We knew our strategy would work, so after the first pit stop I was safe. I had a few scary moments with traffic, but there is no doubt that the car is really quick."

That it is. Renault have a big upgrade coming for Brazil in September, and on yesterday's form it cannot come soon enough. Raikkonen is still 24 points behind Alonso, but McLaren are only nine adrift of Renault. And had Montoya held on to second, that gap would have been only five.

ISTANBUL PARK (58 laps):

1 K Raikkonen (Fin) McLaren-Mercedes 1hr 24mins 34.454secs

2 F Alonso (Sp) Renault 1:24:52.460;

3 J Montoya (Col) McLaren 1:24:53.460;

4 G Fisichella (It) Renault 1:25:11.463;

5 J Button (GB) BAR-Honda 1:25:12.466;

6 J Trulli (It) Toyota 1:25:28.467;

7 D Coulthard (GB) Red Bull 1:25:41.475;

8 C Klien (Aut) Red Bull 1:25:43.478;

9 T Sato (Japan) BAR 1:26:21.481; 10 R Barrichello (Br) Ferrari +1 lap; 11 J Villeneuve (Can) Sauber +1; 12 R Schumacher (Ger) Toyota +1; 13 R Doornbos (Neth) Minardi +3; 14 N Karthikeyan (India) Jordan +3; 15 T Monteiro (Por) Jordan +3; 16 C Albers (Neth) Minardi +10; 17 M Schumacher (Ger) Ferrari +26; 18 N Heidfeld (Ger) Williams-BMW +29; 19 F Massa (Br) Sauber +30; 20 M Webber (Aus) Williams +38.

Drivers' championship: 1 Alonso (Sp) 95pts; 2 Raikkonen (Fin) 71; 3 M Schumacher (Ger) 55; 4 Montoya (Col) 40; 5 Trulli (It) 39; 6 Fisichella (It) 35; 7 R Schumacher (Ger) 32; 8 Barrichello (Br) 31; 9 Heidfeld (Ger) 28; 10 Webber (Aus) 24; 11 Button (GB) 23; 12 Coulthard (GB) 21; 13 Massa (Bra) 8; 14 Monteiro (Por) 6; 15 Villeneuve (Can) 6; 16 Wurz (Aut) 6; 17 Klien (Aut) 5; 18 Karthikeyan (India) 5; 19 Albers (Neth) 4; 20 De la Rosa (Sp) 4; 21 Freisacher (Aut) 3; 22 Sato (Japan) 1; 23 Liuzzi (It) 1.

Constructors' championship: 1 Renault 130pts; 2 McLaren 121; 3 Ferrari 86; 4 Toyota 71; 5 Williams 52; 6 Red Bull 27; 7 BAR 24; 8 Sauber 14; 9 Jordan 11; 10 Minardi 7.