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Alonso Wins after Last Lap Drama

World Championship leader Fernando Alonso won a thrilling European Grand Prix on Sunday when leader Kimi Raikkonen crashed out on the final lap with a spectacular suspension failure on his McLaren

Both Alonso and Raikkonen made mistakes and ruined their tyres during the race and Raikkonen looked set for victory as he struggled with an ill-handling car that appeared to be vibrating on every corner.

But the Finn, who took the lead from pole man Nick Heidfeld at the start, suffered a disastrous blow to his championship hopes when the suspension collapsed and he crashed out with less than one lap to go.

Heidfeld came home second to post his third podium finish of the season while Rubens Barrichello showed some hope for Ferrari when he claimed the final podium place after starting seventh on the grid.

David Coulthard, who led the race at one point for Red Bull, finished fourth, just ahead of World Champion Michael Schumacher, who had a late trip over the gravel in his Ferrari.

Giancarlo Fisichella climbed through the field to claim sixth for Renault having stalled on the grid and started from the pitlane while Juan Pablo Montoya in seventh and Jarno Trulli in eighth secured the final points.

Raikkonen shot off the line to claim the lead at the start with Heidfeld tucking into second as Montoya and the Williams of Mark Webber crashed on the first corner.

Webber retired while Montoya spun in the middle of the pack, causing several other drivers to spin in avoidance, with Takuma Sato and Ralf Schumacher both forced into the pits for repairs after the first lap.

Alonso made it through the melee, despite being hit in the rear by Ralf, to claim fifth spot while Coulthard was the luckiest driver in the pack as he climbed from 12th on the grid into fourth.

Montoya returned to the track to begin his fightback as Raikkonen and Heidfeld traded fastest laps at the front to grow a 10-second advantage over third-placed Toyota driver Jarno Trulli by lap five.

By lap six Montoya was up to ninth, passing Button as he fought his way through the field, while Fisichella was also making progress and up to 12th after starting in the pitlane.

Trulli's good start was ruined when stewards handed him a drive-through penalty because his team were still on the grid 15 seconds before the start of the formation lap and he came in on lap eight.

That put Coulthard third, 17.4 seconds behind leader Raikkonen with Heidfeld hanging onto the McLaren with a gap of 2.2 seconds before he pitted for his first stop on lap 12, one after Barrichello.

Raikkonen stopped on lap 18 to hand Coulthard the lead, but the Scot pitted on lap 20 to hand Alonso the lead, who in turn handed it back to Raikkonen three laps later and dropped into third just behind second-placed Heidfeld.

Coulthard was handed a drive-through penalty for speeding in the pitlane, for the second time this weekend, and came in on the same lap as Alonso, lap 23, dropping down a place to fifth as Barrichello moved to fourth.

But the lead changed hands unexpectedly again on lap 30, when a lapse in concentration from Raikkonen saw him take to the grass and he was slowed enough to allow Heidfeld to slip by and take the top spot.

Heidfeld pitted one lap later, with Barrichello in for his second stop on lap 33, but Raikkonen locked his brakes heading into the hairpin to lap Jacques Villeneuve and went wide again but managed to hold his lead.

Ralf Schumacher's difficult day came to an end when he put a wheel on the grass at turn six and spun his Toyota into the gravel trap on lap 34 to post the second retirement of the race.

By lap 40 Raikkonen had a 14.9-second lead over Alonso with Heidfeld a further 14 seconds back in third, Barrichello another ten behind in fourth, Coulthard fifth, Massa sixth and Schumacher and Montoya scrapping for seventh.

Raikkonen stopped on lap 43 to hand Alonso the lead but the Spaniard made a big mistake when he locked up heading into turn seven on lap 46 and returned to the track after a trip across the grass and came in two laps later.

Heidfeld stopped again at the end of lap 50 and lost second to Alonso but came out just ahead of Barrichello to claim the final podium place with ten laps of the race left to run.

Massa's tyre broke apart with five laps to go and he was forced to change it for safety reasons while Raikkonen struggled on with his vibrating McLaren to hold station before the final failure.


The European Grand Prix
The Nurburgring, Europe;
60 laps; 308.863km;
Weather: Sunny.


Pos  Driver        Team                  Time        
 1.  Alonso        Renault           (M) 1h:31:46.648
 2.  Heidfeld      Williams-BMW      (M)  +    16.567
 3.  Barrichello   Ferrari           (B)  +    18.549
 4.  Coulthard     Red Bull-Cosworth (M)  +    31.588
 5.  M.Schumacher  Ferrari           (B)  +    50.445
 6.  Fisichella    Renault           (M)  +    51.932
 7.  Montoya       McLaren-Mercedes  (M)  +    58.173
 8.  Trulli        Toyota            (M)  +  1:11.091
 9.  Liuzzi        Red Bull-Cosworth (M)  +  1:11.500
10.  Button        BAR-Honda         (M)  +  1:25.700
11.  Raikkonen     McLaren-Mercedes  (M)  +     1 lap
12.  Sato          BAR-Honda         (M)  +     1 lap
13.  Villeneuve    Sauber-Petronas   (M)  +     1 lap
14.  Massa         Sauber-Petronas   (M)  +     1 lap
15.  Monteiro      Jordan-Toyota     (B)  +     1 lap
16.  Karthikeyan   Jordan-Toyota     (B)  +     1 lap
17.  Albers        Minardi-Cosworth  (B)  +    2 laps
18.  Friesacher    Minardi-Cosworth  (B)  +    3 laps

Fastest Lap: Alonso, 1:30.711

Not Classified/Retirements:

Driver        Team                  On Lap
R.Schumacher  Toyota           (M)    36
Webber        Williams-BMW     (M)    2

World Championship Standing, Round 7:                

Drivers:                    Constructors:             
 1.  Alonso        59        1.  Renault           76
 2.  Raikkonen     27        2.  McLaren-Mercedes  53
 3.  Trulli        27        3.  Toyota            44
 4.  Heidfeld      25        4.  Williams-BMW      43
 5.  Webber        18        5.  Ferrari           31
 6.  Fisichella    17        6.  Red Bull-Cosworth 19
 7.  R.Schumacher  17        7.  Sauber-Petronas    7
 8.  Montoya       16       
 9.  M.Schumacher  16       
10.  Barrichello   15       
11.  Coulthard     15       
12.  Wurz           6       
13.  Villeneuve     5       
14.  de la Rosa     4       
15.  Klien          3       
16.  Massa          2       
17.  Liuzzi         1       
All timing unofficial

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