Alonso Earns Renault's Praise

Renault technical director Mike Gascoyne said it is only a matter of time before Fernando Alonso steps up to the top of the podium, possibly as the youngest ever race winner, and praised his 'faultless performance' at today's Spanish Grand Prix.

Alonso Earns Renault's Praise

Renault technical director Mike Gascoyne said it is only a matter of time before Fernando Alonso steps up to the top of the podium, possibly as the youngest ever race winner, and praised his 'faultless performance' at today's Spanish Grand Prix.

"It was a great race," Gascoyne said. "I'm sure he'll say what pressure, it's easy. But he's got the ability, which makes it easy. We could have won here."

Alonso's reputation as a future champion burned brighter than ever after a stirring drive to second place in his home Grand Prix. The 21-year-old chased Ferrari's five-times World Champion Michael Schumacher, driving the new Ferrari F2003-GA, all the way to the flag on an unforgettable afternoon for his flag-waving fans and Renault team.

Not only was second place a career best for Alonso, he became the first Spaniard to score points at home and matched the country's best result, obtained by Alfonso de Portago at Silverstone in 1956. The eight points lifted Alonso to third in the Championship, just seven points off McLaren's leader Kimi Raikkonen and three behind Schumacher.

It was his fifth successive race in the points, after starting the season without one in 17 previous outings with tail-enders Minardi in 2001, and his third time on the podium. Best of all, he had led - briefly - before his home fans and savoured every second after the chequered flag as 'Alonsomania' broke out, his fists punching the air as he crossed the line.

"It was a very special lap to be in front of 96,000 people with the flags coming from all the parts of Spain and they were very happy, very excited about my position in the race," he said, finishing 5.716 seconds behind Schumacher.

"It's a special moment for me, I will never forget this day. I will try to repeat this every time I come here."

The Spaniard, already the youngest driver ever to start a race on pole with the fastest time in Malaysia, rocketed off the second row of the grid to forge past Brazilian Rubens Barrichello's Ferrari. He was then blocked by Schumacher and Barrichello pushed past again, almost banging wheels with the German as they went through the first corner, and only just managing to keep the Spaniard behind them.

Alonso had to wait until after his first pit stop to overtake Barrichello again, and then it was a game of cat-and-mouse as he tried to reel in Schumacher with a completely controlled performance.

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