Alonso Cruises to Malaysian GP Win

Fernando Alonso cruised to his second career victory in the Malaysian Grand Prix as Renault secured their second lights-to-flag victory of the season in the seething heat of Sepang

Alonso Cruises to Malaysian GP Win

Alonso started from pole and eased his car through the race to put himself on top of the championship table while Jarno Trulli put in a strong performance to secure Toyota's first ever Formula One podium.

But behind the runaway lead pair the final podium place changed hands several times as Alonso's teammate Giancarlo Fisichella battled with Williams drivers Nick Heidfeld and Mark Webber and Toyota's Ralf Schumacher for third.

Heidfeld, who started in 10th, eventually claimed the place, his second career podium, after Webber collided with Fisichella during a tough fight midway through the race and Schumacher dropped away to finish fifth.

Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya drove a strategic race to climb to fourth from 11th while Scot David Coulthard and Austrian Christian Klien gave Red Bull Racing another double points finish with sixth and eighth respectively.

World Champion Michael Schumacher climbed from a mid-grid starting position to finish in seventh but his first points of the season will come as little satisfaction to the once dominant German.

Alonso made a typical fast start in his Renault to secure the lead into the first corner but his teammate Fisichella could not do anything about the Toyota ahead of him and had to slot into third.

The rest of the field jostled for position during the opening lap with Webber staying in fourth, Ralf Schumacher fifth while Briton Jenson Button started well to move up from ninth to seventh in his BAR-Honda.

But his good fortune would not last long and the Briton was out of his car after the next lap when his engine, which was changed after the season-opening race in Australia, expired in a plume of smoke.

The same thing happened to his teammate Anthony Davidson on the same lap to bring a premature end to the British test driver's race debut for the team after he was promoted as a replacement for ill Japanese driver Takuma Sato.

Minardi driver Patrick Friesacher ended his race early on the same lap when he spun his car on oil left by the expiring BAR-Honda cars and got stuck in the gravel trap to leave the field with 17 cars remaining.

With eleven laps completed Alonso had a 6.4-second lead over Trulli with Fisichella, still unable to pass the Toyota, settling for a slower pace and sitting a further 3.3 seconds behind.

Webber was still fourth, Ralf Schumacher fifth, Raikkonen sixth, Heidfeld seventh, the two Red Bulls of Coulthard and Klien eighth and ninth, having swapped positions at the start, and Montoya completing the top ten.

World Champions Ferrari continued to struggle with Rubens Barrichello their lead driver in a disappointing 11th place, more than half a minute off the lead, and Michael Schumacher two places further back in 13th.

Christian Klien was the first of the top ten drivers to stop when he pitted at the end of lap 18 and three cars came in at the end of lap 20 with Coulthard, Ralf Schumacher and Raikkonen all stopping for fuel.

Alonso had built a 7.7-second lead by the time he pitted on lap 21 to leave Fisichella with a clear track to try and catch up some of the 13-second deficit he had lost to his teammate.

But he stopped at the end of the next lap, the same lap as Webber, to leave Raikkonen out in front before he pitted on lap 24 and he was able to jump Webber in the process.

But it all went wrong for Raikkonen on his out lap when he picked up a puncture and had to cruise around the track with the tyre ripping to pieces before pitting to make a specially permitted tyre change.

By the end of the first set of stops Alonso was back in the lead, 12 seconds ahead of Trulli, who was still managing to stay on pace with the leaders, and Fisichella a further 6.7 seconds back.

Ralf Schumacher was fifth with Heidfeld, in the second Williams, in sixth, Montoya seventh in his McLaren and Barrichello up to eighth after getting past the two Red Bull Racing cars through the stops.

Former World Champion Jacques Villeneuve's troubles continued when he lost control of his car under braking for turn one on lap 29 and spun into the gravel trap and out of the race.

Fisichella, struggling with his car's handling, was quickly caught by Webber and Schumacher, who were running nose to tail, but they enjoyed a battle of their own before taking the charge to the Renault.

The pair clashed at the end of the 31st lap when Schumacher made a desperate lunge and Webber went wide and that allowed Webber's teammate Heidfeld to pass him into the first corner of the 32nd lap.

The three drivers jostled for position over the next half lap and Webber came out ahead with Heidfeld just behind him while Schumacher ended up the loser and he then dropped away.

Webber then made a challenge on Fisichella on lap 38 and made it past but the Renault driver tried to fight back in the final corner of the lap and the pair collided as Fisichella locked his brakes and slid into Webber.

Fisichella's car spun over the nose of Webber's Williams and the two drivers were out of the race, promoting Heidfeld into third, Ralf Schumacher back up to fourth and Michael Schumacher into the points in eighth.

Alonso pitted from the lead at the end of lap 40 and came out comfortably clear of Jarno Trulli, who then dropped down to second when he stopped at the end of lap 42, the same lap as third-placed Heidfeld.

Barrichello, who finished second in the first race of the season two weeks ago, ended a difficult race for him and Ferrari when he pulled into the pits to retire on lap 50 as the race came to a close.

PROVISIONAL RACE RESULTS

The Malaysian Grand Prix
Sepang, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia;
56 laps; 310.408km;
Weather: Sunny.

Classified:

Pos  Driver        Team-Engine           Time        
 1.  Alonso        Renault           (M)  1h31:33.736
 2.  Trulli        Toyota            (M)  +    24.327
 3.  Heidfeld      Williams-BMW      (M)  +    32.188
 4.  Montoya       McLaren-Mercedes  (M)  +    41.631
 5.  R.Schumacher  Toyota            (M)  +    51.854
 6.  Coulthard     Red Bull-Cosworth (M)  +  1:12.543
 7.  M.Schumacher  Ferrari           (B)  +  1:19.988
 8.  Klien         Red Bull-Cosworth (M)  +  1:20.835
 9.  Raikkonen     McLaren-Mercedes  (M)  +  1:21.580
10.  Massa         Sauber-Petronas   (M)  +    1 lap
11.  Karthikeyan   Jordan-Toyota     (B)  +    2 laps
12.  Monteiro      Jordan-Toyota     (B)  +    3 laps
13.  Albers        Minardi-Cosworth  (B)  +    4 laps

Fastest Lap: Raikkonen, 1:35.483

Not Classified/Retirements:

Driver        Team                  On Lap
Barrichello   Ferrari          (B)    49
Fisichella    Renault          (M)    36
Webber        Williams-BMW     (M)    36
Villeneuve    Sauber-Petronas  (M)    26
Button        BAR-Honda        (M)    2
Davidson      BAR-Honda        (M)    2
Friesacher    Minardi-Cosworth (B)    2


World Championship Standing, Round 2:                

Drivers:                    Constructors:             
 1.  Alonso        16        1.  Renault            26
 2.  Fisichella    10        2.  Toyota             12
 3.  Barrichello    8        3.  Red Bull-Cosworth  11
 4.  Coulthard      8        4.  Ferrari            10
 5.  Montoya        8        5.  Williams-BMW       10
 6.  Trulli         8        6.  McLaren-Mercedes    9
 7.  Heidfeld       6       
 8.  Webber         4       
 9.  R.Schumacher   4       
10.  Klien          3       
11.  M.Schumacher   2       
12.  Raikkonen      1       
       
All timing unofficial

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