Fisichella Takes Easy Win at Australian GP

Giancarlo Fisichella eased to his second career victory in dominant style as he handed his Renault team the season-opening advantage with a smooth performance in Sunday's Australian Grand Prix.

Fisichella Takes Easy Win at Australian GP

Giancarlo Fisichella eased to his second career victory in dominant style as he handed his Renault team the season-opening advantage with a smooth performance in Sunday's Australian Grand Prix.

World Champion Michael Schumacher, who won 12 of the first 13 races last year, failed to finish after crashing out and limping into the Ferrari pits in a sorry start to his 2005 campaign at Albert Park.

But Fisichella, who returned to Renault this season after two years in the midfield, controlled the race after starting from pole position and never looked like being beaten in the dry and warm conditions.

The Italian driver finished with a comfortable 5.5-second gap over Ferrari driver Rubens Barrichello, who managed to leap-frog his way into second place after a strong second stop from the World Champion team.

Spaniard Fernando Alonso made it a day of delight for Renault as he finished third to leave Scot David Coulthard bitter-sweet after he finished fourth for the new Red Bull Racing team but just missed out on a place on the podium.

Australian Mark Webber equalled his best ever finish as he claimed fifth place for Williams after starting from third on the grid while Juan Pablo Montoya scored his first points for McLaren with a solid sixth from ninth on the grid.

Austrian Christian Klien made it two Red Bull cars in the points with seventh place after holding off a spirited comeback charge from Finnish McLaren driver Kimi Raikkonen, who scored the final point in eighth.

Raikkonen, who lined up in the middle of the pack after losing out in the lottery of wet first qualifying, stalled on the grid and his car was pushed into the pits for attention.

A new regulation to prevent delays in such a situation meant the field simply ran a second installation lap to prepare for the second start while Finn Raikkonen was forced to start from the pitlane.

The lights went off at the second time of asking and Fisichella made a perfect start to storm into the lead at the first corner as Toyota driver Jarno Trulli held onto second and Coulthard shot up into third.

The field snaked through the opening few corners and Fisichella was immediately able to pull away as Trulli watched his back while Button dropped three places and Alonso climbed three.

Jacques Villeneuve lost out badly and dropped to ninth by the end of the opening lap while Raikkonen had a storming start and was hounding the rear of the 15th-placed Ferrari of Michael Schumacher.

Alonso was stuck in tenth and desperately trying to get past Sauber driver Villeneuve and he did so on lap six but was immediately taken back then went across the grass as he continued his efforts three laps later.

With ten laps completed Fisichella had a stable 2.1-second lead over Trulli with Coulthard 6.4 seconds further back while Schumacher and Raikkonen were more than half a minute down in 15th and 16th and both lapping two seconds per lap slower.

Coulthard clipped Minardi backmarker Patrick Friesacher as he went to pass him on lap 16 and he was forced to pushed Webber onto the grass as the Australian made a move for third place during the incident.

Alonso finally made it past Villeneuve to take ninth place on lap 18 and just seconds later Trulli peeled into the pits to become the first lead runner to make a stop for fuel with Webber pitting from third three laps later.

Coulthard continued to set fastest laps as he reeled in Fisichella before pitting on lap 21 to leave Montoya in second, 18 seconds behind, and Barrichello in third a further 1.2 seconds back.

Dutch Minardi driver Christijan Albers became the first retirement of the year after losing first and second gears while Ralf Schumacher appeared to be struggling with a loose seatbelt as he made two stops to fix the problem.

Michael Schumacher was the last but one man to pit when he made a quick stop on lap 27 and after the first round of stops Fisichella had a 12-second lead over Coulthard with Webber right behind the Scot in third.

The race remained relatively static over the next ten laps with the only real incident seeing Portuguese newcomer Tiago Monteiro spin his Jordan on lap 37 but he was able to return to the pits and continue.

Webber was the first of the leaders to make a second stop on lap 39 and was followed in by Raikkonen, who had some loose bodywork dealt with as his car was topped up with fuel.

The leading pair, Fisichella and Coulthard, both pitted on lap 41, as did Montoya and Michael Schumacher and the World Champion came out right in front of Nick Heidfeld's Williams at turn three.

The pair collided after Schumacher forced Heidfeld onto the grass and both ended up in the gravel trap. But Schumacher was pushed out of what was regarded as a dangerous position by the race stewards and was able to continue.

But Schumacher pulled into the Ferrari garage on the very next lap to post his first retirement since last year's Monaco Grand Prix and conclude a disappointing start to the year for the reigning champion.

It was not all doom and gloom for Ferrari, however, as Rubens Barrichello was able to jump up to second in the second round of pit stops with Alonso also gaining the advantage over Coulthard to slot into third.

With all stops completed and 11 laps left to run Fisichella had a comfortable 12.4-second advantage over Barrichello with Alonso just 1.7 seconds behind the Ferrari and Coulthard a further 2.1 seconds back.

PROVISIONAL RACE RESULTS The Australian Grand Prix Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia; 57 laps; 303.271km; Weather: Sunny. Classified: Pos Driver Team-Engine Time 1. Fisichella Renault (M) 1h24:17.366 2. Barrichello Ferrari (B) + 5.553 3. Alonso Renault (M) + 6.712 4. Coulthard Red Bull-Cosworth (M) + 16.131 5. Webber Williams-BMW (M) + 16.908 6. Montoya McLaren-Mercedes (M) + 35.033 7. Klien Red Bull-Cosworth (M) + 38.997 8. Raikkonen McLaren-Mercedes (M) + 39.633 9. Trulli Toyota (M) + 1:03.108 10. Massa Sauber-Petronas (M) + 1:04.393 11. Button BAR-Honda (M) + 1 lap 12. R.Schumacher Toyota (M) + 1 lap 13. Villeneuve Sauber-Petronas (M) + 1 lap 14. Sato BAR-Honda (M) + 2 laps 15. Karthikeyan Jordan-Toyota (B) + 2 laps 16. Monteiro Jordan-Toyota (B) + 2 laps 17. Friesacher Minardi-Cosworth (B) + 4 laps Fastest Lap: Alonso, 1:25.683 Not Classified/Retirements: Driver Team On Lap M.Schumacher Ferrari (B) 42 Heidfeld Williams-BMW (M) 42 Albers Minardi-Cosworth (B) 16 World Championship Standing, Round 1: Drivers: Constructors: 1. Fisichella 10 1. Renault 16 2. Barrichello 8 2. Ferrari 8 3. Alonso 6 3. Red Bull-Cosworth 7 4. Coulthard 5 4. Williams-BMW 4 5. Webber 4 5. McLaren-Mercedes 4 6. Montoya 3 7. Klien 2 8. Raikkonen 1 All timing unofficial

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