Tue, May 16, 2006 - Page 18 News List

Alonso rules track for Spanish king

FORMULA ONE RACING Fernando Alonso got his 11th career victory in only his third this season after winning the Spanish Grand Prix ahead of Michael Schumacher


King Juan Carlos, center, of Spain, congratulates Spanish Formula One driver Fernando Alonso, left, and Giancarlo Fisichella of Italy, both of the Renault F1 racing team, on the podium after the Grand Prix of Spain at Circuit de Catalunya in Montmelo, Spain, on Sunday. Fernando Alonso of Renault won ahead of Michael Schumacher and Fisichella.


Fernando Alonso gave King Juan Carlos a royal ride before becoming the first Spaniard to win the Spanish Grand Prix on Sunday.

Michael Schumacher was almost 20 seconds behind in second place, followed by Giancarlo Fisichella in third and Felipe Massa in fourth, as Renault then Ferrari alternated in the first four spots.

Alonso was never really challenged as he won in front of more than 131,000 fans and was handed the trophy by the King of Spain.

It was Alonso's 11th career victory and third this season after finishing second to Schumacher in the last two races.

"To race here and race in front of an all-blue grand stand -- it is different," Alonso said.

Blue and yellow are Renault's team colors, and light blue is in the flag of Oviedo in the Asturias region, where Alonso is from.

On his helmet, Alonso wears the region's yellow cross and thousands of fans arrived in buses to the track wearing light blue shirts and wrapped in light blue flags.

Alonso didn't disappoint them.

"It was fantastic, a day difficult to forget," Alonso said. "The thing to remember today is a little bit of everything. The lap I did with the king in the normal car [before the race] with all the people enjoying and see us together.

"Then the start, the first laps. Every time Michael was coming out of the pits behind me and the people realized I was still leading the race," Alonso added. "Everything blue in the grandstand, moving and jumping."

Alonso swerved down the final straightaway in celebration and waved both arms to the crowd after winning by 18.5 seconds.

"Thank you to everyone," Alonso said to his team over the on-board radio.

When he stopped, the Spaniard jumped on his car and did a dance.

Competing in his native Spain for the first time as Formula One's defending champion, Alonso took the lead on the first turn and started pulling away from Renault teammate Fisichella by clocking the fastest laps each time until the eighth lap.

By that time he had a 5.8-second lead over Fisichella with Schumacher and Massa trailing. It was the two Renaults followed by two Ferraris.

"We found the gap quickly. The Ferraris were not coming strongly," Alonso said. "It was just defending the gap."

Kimi Raikkonen, who won last year's race, was in fifth, where he later finished.

By 15 laps, the lead had increased to 9.4 seconds. The Renault-Ferrari foursome was pulling away from the rest of the field as Raikkonen fell 25 seconds behind in fifth.

The Renaults went in for fuel on the 17th and 18th laps, and Schumacher went in for fuel and tires at the end of lap 23 and came out ahead of Fisichella. That was important for Schumacher, but not enough to dent Alonso's lead.

Alonso was back in first by lap 24 but only 10 seconds ahead of Schumacher. Fisichella moved into third, followed by Massa.

The second round of pit stops began on lap 40 with Alonso leading Schumacher by 13.4 seconds.

Schumacher stayed out six laps longer but the lead was still 12 seconds on lap 47 when both had enough fuel to last until the end of the race. By that time, Schumacher, trailing by more than 10 seconds, knew he was beaten.

"I had to give it up after my last pit stop and drive it home from there," Schumacher said.

Alonso, meanwhile, was celebrating in his car.

"The last 5-6 laps I saw Michael slowing down, not pushing," Alonso said. "When you are leading over 10 seconds, you want to finish the race already."

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