Fernando Alonso scored Renault's only point at the weekend at Monza. A single eighth-place finish doesn't seem much to write home about on paper. But statistics never tell the full story.

At the end of lap 1, the race seemed to be run for the Renault F1 team. Jarno Trulli had mixed it with the leaders through the opening corners before a hydraulic failure sidelined him halfway around the lap.

As for Alonso, the m?l?e at the start caused by the stalled Jaguar of Justin Wilson had seen him pitched into the air, after hitting Jos Verstappen's Minardi when the Dutchman took avoiding action.

"I certainly thought the race was over at that point," commented technical director Mike Gascoyne. "Like many people, I was surprised to see him get the car back to the pits, but after the team had checked it over, we decided the damage was little enough to send him back out."

Crucially, Alonso was also switched on to a one-stop strategy. "That was when he went racing, Fernando-style." continued Gascoyne.

When he left the pits, the Spaniard had to get used to a very different car: the undertray had been damaged, with detrimental consequences on the handling. Then, on lap 17, he straight-lined the Roggia chicane, breaking the barge-boards.

"We radioed Fernando to check everything was OK, he said yes, so we let him continue racing," explained Gascoyne. "The car had clearly been damaged, but looking at the lap-times, he didn't seem to notice."

Facts and figures are not everything, but the data reinforces the argument that Alonso produced a special drive on Sunday: at the end of lap 1, he was over a minute behind Nick Heidfeld, whom he passed for eighth position on the last lap. He also made up a minute on seventh-place finisher Mark Webber, and forty-five seconds on Jacques Villeneuve, as well as setting the eighth-fastest lap.

So how much lap-time did the damage cost him? "It's impossible to say," continued Gascoyne. "We don't usually test with only half the parts on the car, so we don't have any way of comparing it! What is clear, though, is that Fernando's drive was a good education for any young driver: he didn't give up at all, reeled in the cars ahead of him and got past the Sauber on the last lap to score a point. Apart from the mistake at the chicane, it was another immaculate performance."

The chassis will get back to the factory tomorrow, and will be as good as new again for the next race in Indianapolis. "His chassis [06] was brand new for this race, and it's coming back with only half the parts it left with!" joked Gascoyne by way of conclusion. "But when it gets driven that quickly, nobody minds repairing it."

 

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