Montoya Wins, Alonso Closes In on Title

Juan Pablo Montoya eased to a lights-to-flag victory in Sunday's Italian Grand Prix but his teammate Kimi Raikkonen's hopes of winning the title dissolved to almost nothing in a disastrous race for the Finn.

Montoya's calm victory, his second of the season, kept championship leader Fernando Alonso off the top of the podium but the Spanish Renault driver's second-place finish strengthened his grip on the title.

Raikkonen, starting from 11th after an engine change in practice, needed to win and hope that Alonso struggled in the heat at Monza to have any chance of closing the 24-point pre-race championship gap.

But instead a tough time in traffic early in the race followed by a tyre problem, which required an emergency pit-stop, and then a spin left him in a disappointing fourth place and saw the title gap extended by three points.

It was a tough day for the Tifosi fans too as Ferrari World Champion Michael Schumacher lost all mathematical chance of retaining his crown when he finished out of the points to leave Alonso and Raikkonen the only men who can win title.

Alonso's teammate Giancarlo Fisichella ensured Renault lost little in their fight for the constructors' championship with a third-place finish, netting them a total of 14 points compared to McLaren's 15.

The Toyota pair of Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher finished fifth and sixth with Nick Heidfeld's replacement Antonio Pizzonia equalling his best ever finish with seventh for Williams.

Jenson Button came home in eighth to secure the final point for BAR-Honda after shaking off the pressure of Michael Schumacher, who went off track late in the race and ended up down in tenth place.

Montoya made a strong get-away and was clear into the first corner with Alonso claiming second ahead of Button, whose teammate Takuma Sato was forced to give up fourth to Trulli.

Raikkonen threaded a cautious path around the first corner and stayed out of trouble, remaining in 11th place, while there were problems at the back with four cars involved in damaging incidents.

Red Bull Racing driver David Coulthard and Williams driver Mark Webber both had to change their front wings while Minardi driver Christijan Albers and Jordan's Narain Karthikeyan were also both forced to pit because of the clashes.

Sato passed Trulli on the outside of the Parabolica before the end of the first lap and the Italian dropped back, being overtaken by Rubens Barrichello and then Michael Schumacher, who cut across the chicane to make the pass.

With five laps completed Montoya had a 2.5-second lead over Alonso with Button 4.2 seconds further back in third, Sato fourth, Barrichello fifth and Trulli, having re-passed Schumacher, in sixth.

The two Ferraris pitted early along with Sauber's Jacques Villeneuve and Coulthard and Sato stopped on lap 16 with Button pitting one lap later but Sato was forced to stop again after the pump failed on his first visit.

Alonso pitted on lap 19 but it was a slow stop and he came out right in front of his title rival Raikkonen, splitting him and Ralf Schumacher, who had been holding up the McLaren driver.

Montoya pitted from the lead while Raikkonen tried to get around Alonso, weaving all over the back of the heavier Renault, and after a tussle at the first chicane Raikkonen finally eased past at the second chicane on lap 21.

Raikkonen, the last of the field to pit, was left in the clear when Ralf Schumacher stopped for fuel and the Finn pushed hard, setting the fastest lap of the race, as he tried to gain time before his stop.

He finally pitted on lap 25 for a long stop, around 11 seconds, and he came out just behind fourth-placed Trulli, with Montoya still leading and the Renaults of Alonso and Fisichella in second and third.

Raikkonen was hit by bad luck once again when he was forced to pit for a second time on lap 28 for a replacement tyre after his left rear was apparently punctured and he came out in 12th place, right behind Villeneuve.

Montoya remained cool up front, maintaining around an eight-second advantage over second-placed Alonso, with Fisichella third, Trulli up to fourth and Button fifth but under pressure from sixth-placed Ralf Schumacher.

Albers was handed a drive-through penalty for ignoring blue flags then Button pitted for a second stop on lap 36, one lap before Schumacher with Barrichello coming in one lap later.

Barrichello came out just in front of Button then Alonso made his second stop from second on lap 40 then Montoya stopped from the lead with Fisichella and Trulli stopping one lap later.

Barrichello was forced to stop for a replacement tyre after his left rear appeared to suffer a problem on lap 43 then Sato and Webber had a side-by-side race out of the pits with the Williams driver making it out ahead.

Raikkonen was up to fourth having passed Trulli through the second set of pit stops while Montoya was still leading second-placed Alonso with Fisichella holding onto third.

But Raikkonen spun on lap 45 at the second chicane and was fortunate not to beach his car in the gravel trap, losing fourth position to Trulli but taking it back aggressively soon after and going on a chase of Fisichella.

With just four laps left to go disaster struck leader Montoya, who suffered a similar problem with his tyre to that of Raikkonen's, but the team left him out and he eased to the finish to claim a crucial win.

PROVISIONAL RACE RESULTS The Italian Grand Prix Autodromo di Monza, Italy; 53 laps; 306.720km; Weather: Sunny. Classified: Pos Driver Team Time  1. Montoya McLaren-Mercedes (M) 1h14:28.659 2. Alonso Renault (M) + 2.479 3. Fisichella Renault (M) + 17.975 4. Raikkonen McLaren-Mercedes (M) + 22.775 5. Trulli Toyota (M) + 33.786 6. R.Schumacher Toyota (M) + 43.925 7. Pizzonia Williams-BMW (M) + 44.643 8. Button BAR-Honda (M) + 1:03.635 9. Massa Sauber-Petronas (M) + 1:15.413 10. M.Schumacher Ferrari (B) + 1:36.070 11. Villeneuve Sauber-Petronas (M) + 1 lap 12. Barrichello Ferrari (B) + 1 lap 13. Klien Red Bull-Cosworth(M) + 1 lap 14. Webber Williams-BMW (M) + 1 lap 15. Coulthard Red Bull-Cosworth(M) + 1 lap 16. Sato BAR-Honda (M) + 1 lap 17. Monteiro Jordan-Toyota (B) + 2 laps 18. Doornbos Minardi-Cosworth (B) + 2 laps 19. Albers Minardi-Cosworth (B) + 2 laps 20. Karthikeyan Jordan-Toyota (B) + 3 laps Fastest Lap: Raikkonen, 1:21.504 Not Classified/Retirements: Driver Team On Lap World Championship Standing, Round 15: Drivers: Constructors:  1. Alonso 103 1. Renault 144 2. Raikkonen 76 2. McLaren-Mercedes 136 3. M.Schumacher 55 3. Ferrari 86 4. Montoya 50 4. Toyota 78 5. Trulli 43 5. Williams-BMW 54 6. Fisichella 41 6. Red Bull-Cosworth 27 7. R.Schumacher 35 7. BAR-Honda 25 8. Barrichello 31 8. Sauber-Petronas 14 9. Heidfeld 28 9. Jordan-Toyota 11 10. Button 24 10. Minardi-Cosworth 7 11. Webber 24 12. Coulthard 21 13. Massa 8 14. Villeneuve 6 15. Wurz 6 16. Monteiro 6 17. Klien 5 18. Karthikeyan 5 19. de la Rosa 4 20. Albers 4 21. Friesacher 3 22. Pizzonia 2 23. Sato 1 24. Liuzzi 1 All timing unofficial 
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Series Formula 1
Drivers Fernando Alonso
Author Will Gray
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