Alonso Wins for Renault in France

World Championship leader Fernando Alonso cruised to his fifth victory of the season in Magny-Cours on Sunday when he gave his Renault team their first home triumph in the French Grand Prix in 22 years.

Two weeks after the fiasco in the United States, which saw just six cars take the start, the Grand Prix grid was back on track but Alonso's dominance ensured there was only ever going to be one winner.

Spaniard Alonso started from his third pole position of the season and looked in control as soon as the lights went out as he lapped all but two of his rivals on his way to a fifth win of the year.

Kimi Raikkonen, the chasing challenger, did all he could to fight his way through the field but he could only claim second after an engine change in practice forced him to start from 13th on the grid.

Raikkonen's strong drive and McLaren's two-stop tactics ensured Alonso only extended his championship lead by two points but with more than half the season gone it was another opportunity lost for the Finn.

Michael Schumacher, who won the bizarre preceding race in the United States, claimed another podium finish, his fourth of the year, after benefiting from Juan Pablo Montoya's problems.

Unlucky McLaren driver Montoya looked set for a comfortable third place finish, his first podium for the team since he joined from Williams this year, but engine troubles forced him out of the race.

World Champion Schumacher's third consecutive top-three finish will keep him in the title hunt but Jenson Button, who finished third in the title race last year, was just happy to score some points.

Button claimed his first points of the season when he drove a steady race to finish fourth for BAR-Honda and, while the points were a start, they were not enough to pull the team up from the bottom of the table.

Jarno Trulli, who started from second on the grid in his Toyota, had to settle for fifth place after capitalising on Giancarlo Fisichella's mistake, which saw him drop down the field when he stalled in the pits.

Fisichella finished up sixth while Ralf Schumacher, who was injured in a crash at Indianapolis, claimed seventh in the second Toyota and Jacques Villeneuve scored a satisfying point in eighth for Sauber.

Williams had a disastrous race and finished outside the points after Nick Heidfeld pitted six times, claiming his car was impossible to drive, and Mark Webber suffered from a burning backside in the cockpit.

The race was run under blue skies in temperatures of 30 degrees, much hotter than earlier in the weekend, and it was a relief to see all the cars make a clean getaway from the grid.

Alonso immediately took the lead ahead of Trulli into the first corner as Barrichello moved past BAR-Honda driver Takuma Sato to slot into fourth behind third-placed teammate Schumacher.

Montoya passed eighth-placed Button to claim seventh while Raikkonen, starting 13th after an engine change during practice, made up just one place from the start.

Christian Klien was the first retirement of the race when he stopped his Red Bull Racing machine at the side of the circuit after just one complete lap when the car shut down.

Raikkonen was into the top ten by lap three while Alonso strode out in front, taking a 1.4-second advantage over Trulli on the first lap and increasing the lead to seven seconds after five laps.

By lap 10 the gap was 14.1, with Schumacher hounding the back of Trulli's Toyota at the lead of a train of cars that were all trying to find a way past.

Barrichello pitted on lap 17 then Trulli and Schumacher both made their first stops together at the end of lap 18 and Ferrari short-fuelled the German to get him out ahead.

Leader Alonso pitted on lap 20, one lap after the team had trouble with his teammate Fisichella's fuel rig, and he came out ahead of McLaren pair Montoya and Raikkonen, who had yet to pit.

Schumacher settled into fifth with Trulli sixth ahead of Barrichello and the BAR-Honda pair of Button and Sato in seventh and eighth respectively.

Montoya stopped at the end of lap 25 and came out ahead of Schumacher then Sato dropped to ninth when he slid wide at the hairpin on lap 27 after trying to pass Trulli.

Raikkonen set some stunning fast laps before pitting at the end of lap 28 and he came out ahead of Montoya to maintain second place and start the chase of leader Alonso, 29.4 seconds ahead.

Felipe Massa pitted with hydraulic problems on his Sauber, going back out but eventually retiring, then Schumacher made his second stop at the end of lap 34 and came out still ahead of Trulli.

Patrick Friesacher posted the second retirement of the race when he steered his Minardi off the circuit on the leaders' 37th lap with a tyre problem.

Barrichello pitted from sixth at the end of lap 40, the same lap that Christijan Albers plunged straight into the barriers at high speed when he suffered a left rear tyre problem on his Minardi.

Race leader Alonso then pitted at the end of lap 41 and a smooth stop put him out clear in the lead but engine troubles hit the unlucky Montoya and he was forced to retire on lap 48.

Alonso lapped fourth-placed Barrichello on lap 49 as he continued his Sunday afternoon stroll with Raikkonen 12.9 seconds behind in second and Schumacher 47.6 seconds back in third.

Sato left the circuit again when he slid on some oil then Schumacher pitted at the end of lap 50 for his final stop, coming out in third to hold onto a potential podium finish.

Raikkonen pitted from second on lap 55 then Alonso made his final stop of the afternoon on lap 58, just as he closed in to lap teammate Fisichella, and he rejoined comfortably in the lead.

Fisichella then came in for his final stop at the end of lap 59 but he made a mistake and stalled his car, allowing Button up into fourth but 11 laps were not enough for him to chase down Schumacher for third.


The French Grand Prix
Magny Cours, France;
70 laps; 308.586km;
Weather: Sunny.


Pos  Driver        Team                  Time        
 1.  Alonso        Renault          (M)  1h31.22.233
 2.  Raikkonen     McLaren-Mercedes (M)  +    11.805
 3.  M.Schumacher  Ferrari          (B)  +  1:21.914
 4.  Button        BAR-Honda        (M)  +     1 lap
 5.  Trulli        Toyota           (M)  +     1 lap
 6.  Fisichella    Renault          (M)  +     1 lap
 7.  R.Schumacher  Toyota           (M)  +     1 lap
 8.  Villeneuve    Sauber-Petronas  (M)  +     1 lap
 9.  Barrichello   Ferrari          (B)  +     1 lap
10.  Coulthard     Red Bull-Cosworth(M)  +     1 lap
11.  Sato          BAR-Honda        (M)  +     1 lap
12.  Webber        Williams-BMW     (M)  +    2 laps
13.  Monteiro      Jordan-Toyota    (B)  +    3 laps
14.  Heidfeld      Williams-BMW     (M)  +    4 laps
15.  Karthikeyan   Jordan-Toyota    (B)  +    4 laps

Fastest Lap: Raikkonen, 1:16.423

Not Classified/Retirements:

Driver        Team                  On Lap
Montoya       McLaren-Mercedes (M)    45
Albers        Minardi-Cosworth (B)    38
Friesacher    Minardi-Cosworth (B)    34
Massa         Sauber-Petronas  (M)    31
Klien         Red Bull-Cosworth (M)    2

World Championship Standing, Round 10:                

Drivers:                    Constructors:             
 1.  Alonso        69        1.  Renault           89
 2.  Raikkonen     45        2.  McLaren-Mercedes  71
 3.  M.Schumacher  40        3.  Ferrari           69
 4.  Trulli        31        4.  Toyota            53
 5.  Barrichello   29        5.  Williams-BMW      47
 6.  Heidfeld      25        6.  Red Bull-Cosworth 22
 7.  Webber        22        7.  Sauber-Petronas   13
 8.  R.Schumacher  22        8.  Jordan-Toyota     11
 9.  Fisichella    20        9.  Minardi-Cosworth   7
10.  Coulthard     17       10.  BAR-Honda          5
11.  Montoya       16       
12.  Massa          7       
13.  Villeneuve     6       
14.  Wurz           6       
15.  Monteiro       6       
16.  Karthikeyan    5       
17.  Button         5       
18.  Albers         4       
19.  Klien          4       
20.  de la Rosa     4       
21.  Friesacher     3       
22.  Liuzzi         1       
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