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F1 rediscovers the magic

NEWS STORY
24/04/2005

With ten minutes to go before the first race of the European F1 season, the air temperature is a cool 19 degrees C, while the track temperature is 28 degrees. It's overcast, but there is little chance of rain.

Hopefully we are in for a great race, with Raikkonen, Alonso, Button, Webber and Trulli starting from the front of the grid, and World Champion, Michael Schumacher, starting behind brother Ralf, Villeneuve and Fisichella, and ahead of the two Red Bulls.

As ever, strategy will be the key, who is opting for two stops and who is going for three, then again, who will be stopping first? Then of course there's the question mark regarding tyre wear, with Michael punishing his during this morning's qualifying session.

The field leaves the grid and begins the warm-up lap, Fisichella particularly slow in getting away.

Raikkonen takes his place on the grid and slowly the rest of the field slots into place.

After what seems like an eternity the lights go out and the race is on. Everyone gets away cleanly with Trulli and Sato both making up a place, as Raikkonen heads off into the distance. Webber however, soon reclaims fifth from Sato.

At the end of lap one it's Raikkonen, Alonso, Button, Trulli, Webber, and Michael Schumacher thirteenth. The Finn is already 2s ahead of Alonso.

At the end of lap 2, Raikkonen leads by 2.6s, with his pursuers running nose to tail. Michael Schumacher is running 0.5s behind his brother.

A fastest lap from Kimi (1:23.847) as he extends his lead to 2.7s, while Button has fallen 3s behind Alonso. Webber is all over Trulli as he attempts to grab back the position he lost at the start.

Raikkonen is running 1.6s faster than Button, with Alonso just 0.3s off the Finn's pace - the two race leaders are setting a scorching pace.

Michael Schumacher - still running thirteenth - is 2.7s ahead of Liuzzi, who leads Coulthard, Massa and Karthikeyan.

Meanwhile Fisichella has gone off, his race over, it appears that something broke on his Renault, another disastrous weekend for the Melbourne winner.

With 6 laps completed, Raikkonen leads Alonso by 3.2s with Button a further 7.1s down the road. Trulli is fourth ahead of Webber, Sato, Wurz, Villeneuve, Barrichello and Heidfeld.

Another fastest lap (1:23.296) for Raikkonen, whose pace is remorseless.

However, it's all over for the Finn, the McLaren slows to a halt, allowing Alonso to slip by.

As the Spaniard disappears into the distance, the silver car crawls slowly around the Imola Autodrome. Elsewhere, Friesacher also appears to have a problem with the brand new Minardi.

As Alonso leads Button by 7.9s, Raikkonen drives into his garage and retirement.

At the end of lap 11, Alonso leads Button by 8.4s, with Trulli a further 8.4s behind. Meanwhile, Webber is all over the Italian, but he too is under pressure from Sato.

Jacques Villeneuve is running seventh, running around a second behind Wurz. However, the Canadian is under pressure from Barrichello who is 2.2s ahead of Heidfeld.

With 14 laps completed, Alonso leads Button by 9.4s, as Webber and Sato line up behind Trulli. The Italian is clearly struggling, but he continues to hold station.

Button ups his pace and is continually posts times just 0.2s shy of the Spaniard.

At the end of lap 16, Massa pits, the Brazilian having damaged his front wing.

A lap later, Barrichello is the first driver to make a scheduled pit stop. The Brazilian had been running eighth. Meanwhile, teammate Michael Schumacher continues to run behind his brother.

There are now eight cars running behind Trulli's Toyota.

At the end of lap 18, Barrichello returns to the pits, and retires. Another disaster for Ferrari.

Out front, Button posts a new fastest lap (1:23.163) as he closes to within 8.5s of Alonso.

Another fastest lap for the Englishman (1:22.892) as Heidfeld and Ralf both pit, promoting Michael to eighth.

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