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Malaysia Race notes - Michelin

NEWS STORY
20/03/2005

Fernando Alonso dominated the Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang to maintain a perfect start to the season for the Renault F1 Team – and Michelin. The Spaniard led away from pole position and maintained a relentless pace to take the second win of his F1 career. Jarno Trulli (Panasonic Toyota Racing/Michelin) shadowed the Spaniard in the early stages, but after a handful of laps Alonso began to extend his advantage and thereafter his lead was never seriously in doubt. Michelin drivers claimed the top six positions – and Coulthard's team-mate Christian Klien (Red Bull Racing) took the final point, right on the tail of world champion Michael Schumacher's Ferrari.

The 56-lap race took place in baking-hot conditions – but Michelin's tyres lasted the full distance without any dramas, despite track temperatures approaching 50 degrees. "This was a fantastic result for me. Everything went well from start to finish: the car, the engine and the Michelin tyres. A big thank you to the whole team: they did a fantastic job this winter in Enstone, Viry and Clermont Ferrand at Michelin." Alonso said, "and I need to maintain this level of performance. Winning the world championship is my dream, whenever that might happen, and the way our season has started suggests that I can fight for the title this year."

Having finished third in the season-opening Australian GP two weeks beforehand, the 23- year-old has taken the world championship lead for the first time in his career. Renault's Managing Director Flavio Briatore added: "This was a great success for the whole team, and for Renault. We must thank Michelin for extremely good tyres and all the partners who contribute to our success."

Trulli went on to take second place to give the Toyota/Michelin team its first podium finish since it entered grand prix racing in 2002. The Italian ran ahead of compatriot – and pre- race points leader – Giancarlo Fisichella in the opening stages, but eventually pulled comfortably clear.

Williams-BMW star Mark Webber ran fourth initially – but was caught just after half- distance by team-mate Nick Heidfeld, who had made strong progress through the field. Having got the better of a highly-entertaining battle with Ralf Schumacher (Toyota), who had followed Webber from the start, the Williams twins began catching Fisichella.

As the three cars came through Turn 14 on lap 37, Webber launched an attack on the Italian – but the two cars collided at the next left-hander and were forced to retire with suspension damage. Heidfeld swept through to take third place – his first podium finish since Brazil 2001 – from McLaren driver Juan Pablo Montoya, Schumacher (who lost a place to the Colombian during the final round of stops) and David Coulthard (Red Bull Racing).

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