Stylish win propels Raikkonen in title pursuit of Alonso

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The Independent Online

The world champion stormed into the lead from pole position, but soon Raikkonen had squirted past team-mate Juan Pablo Montoya to take second place. Most suspected that Schumacher's qualifying speed was the product of a low fuel load, but as he tried to sprint clear Raikkonen went with him and soon they were trading fastest laps. It was the Finn who was the first man to refuel, however, on 11. Schumacher pitted four laps later, confirming qualifying suspicions, whereupon Montoya inherited the lead. Schumacher rejoined still ahead of Raikkonen, so their absorbing duel continued.

Montoya refuelled on lap 22 and dropped back to third again and Raikkonen was less than a second adrift of the lead, so now it was a matter of who stopped first second time around. This time it was Schumacher, on lap 36. Raikkonen came in a lap later and got back out ahead of the red car.

Now McLaren speeded up, Raikkonen lapping in 1min 21secs compared to Schumacher's 1min 23secs. The explanation came on lap 48 when Raikkonen refuelled for the final time after only 11 laps, having made perfect use of his light load to build a lead of 24 seconds. He rejoined still five seconds ahead of Schumacher. The latter did not stop until lap 57, and by then McLaren's excellent strategy had put Raikkonen 30 seconds ahead.

Without question fate aided Schumacher's race, as it struck down Montoya. The McLaren MP4/20 was clearly the fastest car out there, but it remains fallible in the reliability stakes. Montoya had moved into second place during Schumacher's second stop, and then took the lead when his team-mate stopped again.

But on lap 40, as Raikkonen was closing in fast on his light fuel load, Montoya suddenly slowed before pitting with a broken driveshaft. At a stroke McLaren lost eight valuable points which would have brought them within four of series leader Renault.

"This is a great result for the entire team," Raikkonen said. "The car felt really good throughout and the tyres were perfect right up until the last lap."

Behind the two surviving stars, others had less enjoyable afternoons. Toyota make strong cars, which was just as well as both were involved in first-corner collisions. Ralf Schumacher squeezed Alonso up the inner kerb and broke the Renault driver's front wing, while Jarno Trulli was hit from behind by BAR-bound Rubens Barrichello. Schumacher Jnr and Trulli nevertheless kept going to finish third and fourth, Ralf pressuring his big brother in the closing stages.

In their wake, Jenson Button had an uneventful run through to fifth for BAR-Honda, but depending on how things turn out for next year it may be consolation to him that brilliant strategy helped BMW Williams to bring Nick Heidfeld home within striking distance of the BAR, with team-mate Mark Webber beating Button's partner Takuma Sato to seventh. For Alonso, 11th place was no consolation, but he still leads Raikkonen by 26 points.

There were other casualties of the first corner. Jacques Villeneuve got pushed wide and tapped Christian Klien into a barrel-roll, and the Red Bull team watched with incredulity as David Coulthard was wiped out on the same lap. Alonso's front wing parted company with his Renault on the approach to the top chicane and, as several drivers avoided it, the Scot was unsighted behind Mark Webber's Williams and hit it at full speed. He too made a spectacular departure.

But the success of McLaren was bitter-sweet. Raikkonen's much-needed win was countered by Montoya's retirement. Then there was Ron Dennis's successful meeting with Max Mosley in Cannes on Saturday on behalf of the Grand Prix Manufacturers' Association, when the FIA president agreed to all of the GPMA's proposals for future sporting and technical regulations for a new Concorde Agreement, thus holding out hope for long-term peace. But there was also the death of team chef Darren Hawker in a fall from his hotel balcony on Wednesday morning.

On the podium Raikkonen and Dennis, who received the winning constructors' trophy, were emotional for a myriad reasons as the National Anthem played. As the Schumacher brothers sprayed their victory champagne, Raikkonen and Dennis did not. Win and lose McLaren play as a team, and real racers do not forget their own.

Hungarian Grand Prix details

Hungaroring (70 laps)

1 K Raikkonen (Fin) McLaren-Mercedes

1hr 37min 25.232sec (117.376mph)

2 M Schumacher (Ger) Ferrari 1:38:00.237

3 R Schumacher (Ger) Toyota 1:38:00.242

4 J Trulli (It) Toyota 1:38:18.242

5 J Button (GB) BAR-Honda 1:38:24.384, +1 lap

6 N Heidfeld (Ger) Williams-BMW 1:38:33.927, +1

7 M Webber (Aus) Williams-BMW +1

8 T Sato (Japan) BAR-Honda +1

9 G Fisichella (It) Renault +1; 10 R Barrichello (Br) Ferrari +1; 11 F Alonso (Sp) Renault +1; 12 N Karthikeyan (Ind) Jordan-Toyota +3; 13 T Monteiro (Por) Jordan-Toyota +4; 14 F Massa (Br) Sauber-Petronas +7. Not classified: 15 C Albers (Neth) Minardi-Cosworth +11; 16 J Villeneuve (Can) Sauber-Petronas +14; 17 J P Montoya (Col) McLaren-Mercedes +29; 18 R Doornbos (Neth) Minardi-Cosworth +26; 19 D Coulthard (GB) Red Bull-Cosworth 0; 20 C Klien (Aut) Red Bull-Cosworth 0.

Drivers' Championship: 1 F Alonso (Sp) 87pts; 2 K Raikkonen (Fin) 61; 3 M Schumacher (Ger) 55; 4 J Trulli (It) 36; 5 J P Montoya (Col) 34; 6 R Schumacher (Ger) 32; 7 R Barrichello (Br) 31; 8 G Fisichella (It) 30; 9 N Heidfeld (Ger) 28; 10 M Webber (Aus) 24; 11 J Button (GB) 19; 12 D Coulthard (GB) 19; 13 F Massa (Br) 8; 14 T Monteiro (Por) 6; 15 J Villeneuve (Can) 6; 16 A Wurz (Aut) McLaren-Mercedes 6; 17 N Karthikeyan (Ind) 5; 18 C Albers (Neth) Minardi-Cosworth 4; 19 C Klien (Aut) 4; 20 P de la Rosa (Sp) McLaren-Mercedes 4; 21 P Freisacher (Aut) Minardi-Cosworth 3; 22 T Sato (Japan) 1; 23 V Liuzzi (It) Red Bull 1.

Constructors' Championship: 1 Renault 117pts; 2 McLaren 105; 3 Ferrari 86; 4 Toyota 68; 5 Williams 52; 6 Red Bull 24; 7 BAR 20; 8 Sauber 14; 9 Jordan 11; 10 Minardi 7.