Alonso takes convincing win at Sepang


Michael Schumacher has won in Sepang on 4 occasions, however, barring a miracle, it's unlikely that he'll take win number 4 today. The German is starting from the seventh row of the grid, alongside Felipe Massa, and behind Montoya and Barrichello.

It was clear, following the first qualifying session, the Schumacher, along with a few others, was struggling, however, what remains to be seen is whether the Italians have a strategic trick up their sleeves.

Up front, Fernando Alonso starts from pole, and rightly so, thus far this weekend, as in Melbourne, he has been magnificent.

Also up front we have Jarno Trulli, however as in Australia it's likely that the Italian will be making an early pit stop.

Therefore it will be worth keeping an eye on Melbourne winner Giancarlo Fisichella, Mark Webber and Kimi Raikkonen. The Australian was a little disappointing in Melbourne, with many race fans wondering why the WilliamsF1 driver couldn't nail David Coulthard in the Red Bull. Starting from fourth today, the former Jaguar star has an opportunity to prove himself.

Talking of DC, he starts from the fourth row, where he is alongside teammate Christian Klien.

However, the real excitement, certainly in the first few laps - and more importantly on the run to the first corner - will be in the midfield pack, which comprises Button, Heidfeld, Montoya, Barrichello and Massa, Not forgetting Sato stand-in Anthony Davidson and Jacques Villeneuve.

As the cars line up on the grid, the air temperature is 37 degrees C, while the track temperature is a muggy 52 degrees. The entire track is shrouded in a misty, heat haze.

This will be a race of attrition… 56 laps of torture for man and machine.

The cars head off on the warm up lap, led by Alonso, who starts from pole for the fourth time in his incredibly short career.

Alonso leads the field into the first corner, as Barrichello is nearly forced into the pit wall, they're four abreast in the first corner. Montoya gets past Barrichello as Klien loses two places.

At the end of the first lap it's Alonso, Trulli, Fisichella, Webber, Ralf and Raikkonen. Button is all over Raikkonen, as Klien puts pressure on DC. Montoya is eleventh ahead of Barrichello, Massa, Michael and Villeneuve. Davidson is sixteenth, running behind Villeneuve.

By the end of lap 2, Alonso leads by 1.2s as Button spins. There's smoke pouring out of the BAR, it looks as though he has an engine problem. A disaster for BAR, and Honda, as Davidson pulls off track, flames pouring from the back of the 007. Both BARs are out after just 2 laps.

Lap 3 and Alonso leads by 2.1s, both Red Bulls are hot on the heels of Heidfeld, while Massa is all over Barrichello. Patrick Friesacher is the third retirement of the afternoon, the Austrian spinning off on oil deposited by Jenson Button.

Michael is now 1.5s behind Massa, with Jacques Villeneuve a further 1.5s down the road.

With 4 laps completed, Ralf is closing in on Webber, as Massa continues to hound Barrichello, as Alonso stretches his lead to 2.7s.

With 6 laps completed, the order is already settling down, Alonso leads Trulli by 3.9s, with Fisichella a further 1.5s behind. Webber is fourth ahead of Ralf, Raikkonen, Heidfeld, Coulthard, Klien and Montoya.

As Massa continues to shadow Barrichello, Michael Schumacher has fallen 2.6s behind the Sauber driver.

Alonso appears to be out for a (winning) Sunday afternoon drive, as he extends his lead to 4.7s. Meanwhile, Heidfeld is putting Raikkonen under pressure.

At the back of the field, Albers and Monteiro are enjoying a great scrap for sixteenth.

Alonso posts a new fastest lap (1:36.458) as he extends his lead over to Trulli to 6.3s.

Trulli, Webber, Ralf and Heidfeld all post personal best times, but there is no change in the running order, and Alonso continues to run away with the race.

Michael Schumacher is now running 35s behind Alonso, who posts another fastest lap (1:36.396).

Meanwhile, Jenson Button admits to being frustrated, and somewhat angry, at his team's performance, feeling that its going backwards. "We've got to sort it out," he says.

Another fastest lap for Alonso (1:36.026), as the Spaniard really turns on the pressure. The only hint of a dog-fight is that for seventh between Raikkonen and Heidfeld.

Another fastest lap from the Renault driver who posts a 1:36.000 dead, extending his lead over Trulli to 7.3s. Fisichella is a further 5.2s down the road, which at this point makes a 1-2 seem unlikely.

Webber loses time as a Jordan (Monteiro) gets in the way whilst being lapped, this allows Ralf Schumacher to close the gap.

Christian Klien makes the first pit stop of the afternoon, as Jarno Trulli posts a new fastest lap (1:35.816). Christijan Albers has also pitted.

Ralf is all over the back of Webber now, as Heidfeld continues to hassle Raikkonen.

At the end of lap 20, Ralf pits, as do Heidfeld, Coulthard and Monteiro.

Meanwhile, Fisichella has upped his pace, going quickest in the first sector.

Next time around its Alonso that pits, as does Trulli, which promotes Fisichella into the lead. Karthikeyan is another driver to stop for fuel, as is Massa.

Fisichella leads but he really needs to be pushing harder. At the end of lap 22 he pits, as does Webber. As a result, Kimi Raikkonen is now leading the Malaysian GP, from Alonso and Trulli.

The Finn posts a new fastest lap (1:35.483), where on earth did that come from? Meanwhile his teammate pits, as does Villeneuve.

Meanwhile, Barrichello is all over Webber, the Australian under intense pressure, with a heavy fuel load.

At the end of lap 24, Raikkonen pits, rejoining behind Fisichella and ahead of Webber. Michael Schumacher (eighth) also pits.

The Finn has a problem, he has a massive puncture, the tyre is coming off the rim, and consequently spins. He makes his way back to the pits but loses positions, to, amongst others, teammate Montoya.

Barrichello pits at the end of lap 25, as Raikkonen loses the carcass of his tyre. Trouble is, has be damaged the car? He rejoins in fourteenth.

As the dust settles - literally - Alonso is back in the lead, with Trulli 12s behind. Fisichella is third ahead of Webber, Ralf, Heidfeld, Montoya, Barrichello, Coulthard and Klien. Michael is eleventh ahead of Massa, Villeneuve and Raikkonen.

Game over for Jacques Villeneuve, who spins off. He's stuck in the gravel, which brings out the yellow flags. This is not the result he was looking for.

Fisichella appears to have a problem, he's running almost 2s a lap slower than his teammate.

The main action now involves the Red Bulls which are running right behind Barrichello, the Brazilian under intense pressure. Meanwhile, Webber has closed to within 0.6s of Fisichella.

Fisichella is in danger of becoming a mobile chicane, Webber has closed right up, as has Ralf Schumacher. The Italian is complaining of massive understeer.

There's a moment between Webber and Ralf Schumacher, they touch, which allows Heidfeld to take advantage. The three cars enjoy a tremendous scrap, which eventually sees Ralf lose out, and deservedly so, a couple of his moves were wildly ambitious.

Therefore, Webber is now 2.5s behind Fisichella - which gives the Italian some much needed breathing space - with Heidfeld in fifth ahead of Ralf and Montoya.

Coulthard finally gets past Barrichello as teammate Klien sets about the Ferrari. How the mighty are fallen. The end result in inevitable, the Austrian finally gets past the Brazilian, who makes a futile attempt to fight back.

At the end of lap 36, Barrichello makes his second stop, the mechanics take the opportunity to change the settings of the front wing.

Meanwhile, Alonso leads Trulli by 15.2s, with Fisichella third, a further 22s behind. Webber is fourth ahead of Heidfeld, Ralf, Montoya, Coulthard, Klien and Michael.

Webber makes a move on Fisichella and it ends in tears, they collide. At first it looked as though they'd got away with it, but seemingly not. The incident seemed very similar to what we saw a few laps ago when Ralf Schumacher pulled a similar move.

This of course promoted Nick Heidfeld to third, and puts Michael Schumacher (comfortably) into the points zone.

Both drivers walk back to the pits, neither acknowledging the other, where a warm welcome awaits them.

Rubens Barrichello suffers the indignity of being lapped by Jarno Trulli in the Toyota.

At the end of lap 40, Alonso makes his second stop, the Renault mechanics changing the settings on his front wing. Meanwhile, Nick Heidfeld goes quickest in the third sector. Klien and Massa both pit.

Jarno Trulli now leads from Alonso - who has made his final stop - with Heidfeld third ahead of Montoya, Ralf and Coulthard. However, the German and the Scot both pit, promoting Michael Schumacher to fifth.

At the end of lap 42, Trulli pits, as does Heidfeld.

Therefore, Alonso is back in the lead, ahead of Trulli and Montoya, who makes his second, and final, stop. The Colombian exits the pits ahead of his former teammate. Michael Schumacher is the only driver yet to make a second stop.

At the end of lap 44, the reigning world champion makes his second stop. He emerges behind Coulthard but ahead of Klien.

With 10 laps remaining, Alonso leads Trulli by 15.9s, with Heidfeld third followed by Montoya, Ralf, Coulthard, Michael, Klien, Raikkonen and Massa.

Although the drivers appear to have settled for position, there remains the question of tyre wear, will there be any surprises? Renault certainly appears to be concerned that Alonso could suffer problems in the run in to the flag.

If he does have a problem, the Spaniard doesn't appear to be aware of it, he is consistently lapping faster than his rivals.

At the end of lap 50, Rubens makes his third stop, indeed he drives straight into his garage, his race over.

Alonso extends his lead over Trulli to 19.3s, as Heidfeld remains 15s behind the Italian in third. Montoya is fourth ahead of Ralf, Coulthard, Michael, Klien, Raikkonen and Massa.

Giancarlo Fisichella refuses to apportion blame over his incident, other than to say it wasn't his fault, while Webber says that the Italian went straight into his side. Elsewhere, Barrichello reveals that he retired due to total lack of grip.

Christian Klien is hot on the heels of Michael Schumacher, with Kimi Raikkonen running right behind the Austrian. The German is 6.1s down on Coulthard.

Fernando takes the flag, the second win in what is sure to be a highly successful career. The youngster has given a superb, mature performance this weekend, that totally belies his youth. In the R25 he has the perfect machine with which to realize the dream, both his and Renault's.

That said, full credit to Toyota, for a quite magnificent performance. Pitpass, like many, has been dismissive of the Japanese team, and never expected to see Trulli finish amongst the leaders, far less in second. Ralf's fifth position simply underlines the tremendous leap forward that the team, under Mike Gascoyne, has made.

Praise too for Nick Heidfeld, who has proved the critics wrong, and his many fans right. It was always said the given the right car he could prove his worth, and though the FW27 isn't perfect, we have had the opportunity to see the German's talent.

For McLaren and Ferrari it was about damage limitation. Montoya takes fourth place though it was teammate Kimi Raikkonen who gave the more convincing performance. Michael Schumacher, a three-time winner here, will be keen to get back to Europe and begin development of the new car. Though it doesn't appear to be the chassis that is the problem for the Maranello outfit, rather the bits of rubber on each of its four corners.

Once again, Red Bull gets both drivers into the points, like Toyota the Milton Keynes outfit proving its critics wrong.

A much better race than we witnessed in Melbourne, though in all honesty other than the different faces we're seeing on the podium it is the incidents that are really grabbing the imagination.

It is often said, by those that clearly know best, that race fans delude themselves into thinking that in the past they have thrilled to races featuring masses of overtaking. Not so, what race fans, and we at Pitpass, thrill to is the possibility of overtaking. We don't mind watching a procession - our hearts could take the strain of lap after lap of dog-fights - all we want is to see drivers having a go, taking a risk, rather than settling for position.

Today has proved that where there's a will there's a way. Sometimes a move will stick, sometimes it will end in tears, but at the end of the day it is those moments that will have men down the pub talking excitedly and looking forward to the next round - no pun intended.

Article from Pitpass (

Published: 20/03/2005
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