25 June 2006
Canada 2006: Alonso opens Montreal account.
Having never stepped onto the podium in Montreal before, Fernando Alonso ensured his first visit was to the top step with a dominant victory in the Canadian Grand Prix.
The Renault driver was able to overcome the challenge of Kimi Raikkonen in the early stages of the race, and a late safety car period, to take the chequered flag for a fourth consecutive victory that allows him to extend his lead in the championship to 25 points over runner-up Michael Schumacher with half of the 18 races having now been run.
Having qualified on pole for the fifth consecutive race – and with clear daylight back to his main rivals – Alonso started the race as many peoples favourite and made a clean getaway when the lights went green to lead into the first corner. However behind the Spaniard, team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella was to make the mistake that would cost him all chance of fighting for victory himself, as he was a little too eager to try and gain an advantage and jumped the start – automatically setting himself up for a drive-through penalty later in the race.
An attempt to halt his creeping start allowed Kimi Raikkonen to move into second at the start, with Fisichella slotting into third while Jarno Trulli maintained his fourth place. Rather than attacking the Toyota man, Michael Schumacher found himself going backwards at the start as he lost out to both Nico Rosberg and Juan Pablo Montoya – although theirs was a battle that would soon end in tears.
On the run down to turn three at the start of the second lap, Montoya edged the nose of his McLaren up the inside of Rosberg, but the German youngster didn't the see his opponent coming and when he turned in, the resulting contact saw the Williams turned into the wall and retirement on the spot.
The safety car was deployed immediately, with Montoya making his way back to the pits for a new nose, which left Alonso leading from Raikkonen and Fisichella, with Trulli fourth and Schumacher now back into his starting position of fifth. The top ten was completed by a gaggle of drivers who had all made strong starts – with Jenson Button, Jacques Villeneuve, Felipe Massa, Nick Heidfeld and Mark Webber all having made up a number of places on the opening lap, Webber in particular blasting round the opening lap to make up six places.
Further back their were early problems for Midland as Tiago Monteiro and Christijan Albers tangled at the hairpin – with Albers forced to retire on the spot – while Frank Montangy wouldn't last as far as the restart as his Super Aguri gave up the ghost in smoky fashion just before the entry to the pitlane.
On the restart, Alonso maintained his lead from Raikkonen while Fisichella soon pitted to take his drive-through – with the pattern of the early stages soon becoming apparent. While Alonso and Raikkonen were trading fastest laps out front, Schumacher was finding his challenge slowed by Trulli, with the cars in third and fourth lapping up to two seconds a lap off the pace of the two leaders. Although Schumacher was all over the back of the Toyota he was unable to find a way past and with Fisichella having rejoined behind after his drive-through, there was no margin for error on the Ferrari driver's part as he was well aware of the challenger lurking behind.
Right at the front, Raikkonen was waiting to pounce on any uncharacteristic error from Alonso, but with the McLaren seeming to have the pace against the Renault, it looked like the Finn had every chance of taking the lead on pace alone – drawing alongside on the long run down to the final chicane on lap twelve although he was unable to make a move stick as Alonso held the racing line. With Trulli and Schumacher now over twelve seconds behind, the fight for victory appeared to be set as a two-horse race…
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