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3/20/2005

[English Post] Alonso cruises to victory in Malaysian Grand Prix

Posted 05:28pm (Mla time) Mar 20, 2005
Agence France-Presse



SEPANG, Malaysia--Spaniard Fernando Alonso claimed his second career win and moved to the top of the world championship table when he eased to victory in the Malaysian Grand Prix here Sunday.

Alonso led from pole position and overcame minor handling troubles in the closing stages to stay ahead of Italian Jarno Trulli, who took a satisfying second place to give Toyota their first ever Formula One podium finish.

Alonso had to crouch on the podium after an energy-sapping race spent without the use of a drinks bottle and he admitted: "It was very tough conditions and I finished on the limit today.

"We knew before the start of the race that it would be tough, but my drinks bottle didn't work and I had problems. But I was not pushing very hard during the race and the car was easy to drive.

"The last 15 of 20 laps were very long and the same for everyone here in Sepang, but maybe more when you are in position one. You are very close to winning the race but everything was fine
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and we showed we are the team to beat."

Trulli was delighted with his podium finish and said: "I had an extremely good start but the Renault seems to get away well. I drove my race, I was competitive, I started managing the race, taking care of the tires.

"It is fantastic to bring the first podium finish to Toyota. We were quite comfortable on reliability even though the conditions are difficult here and the team have done a good job over the winter."

But the battle was waged behind for third place as Australian Grand Prix winner Giancarlo Fisichella fought with Williams pair Mark Webber and Nick Heidfeld and Toyota's Ralf Schumacher for the final place on the podium.

The position eventually went to German Heidfeld, who secured his first podium for Williams, after Italian Fisichella and Australian Webber crashed into retirement and German Schumacher faded away in the closing stages.

Heidfeld said: "It was very hot. My drink bottle failed--it always happens where you don't want it to. I had to push quite hard because I was only 10th in qualifying. I had a good start and some good overtaking moves."

Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya played a calculated race and moved up from 11th on the grid to finish fourth for McLaren, just ahead Schumacher in fifth, with Scot David Coulthard sixth for Red Bull Racing.

German world champion Michael Schumacher scored his first points of the season in seventh as he stayed ahead of eighth-placed Austrian Chrisitan Klien, who ensured Red Bull Racing secured a second consecutive double points finish.

Alonso made a clean start to lead into the first corner and Trulli managed to stay ahead of Fisichella as the rest of the pack jostled for position at the start of what would be a gruelling race in temperatures of 34 degrees Celsius.

The race was all over for BAR-Honda on lap two when Anthony Davidson, substituting for Takuma Sato, stopped when his engine expired and Button also slowed to a stop with a tell-tale smoke trail coming out of his car.

Austrian Patrick Friesacher spun and got stuck in the gravel trap on lap two in his Minardi and he also stopped to leave the field with 17 cars remaining after a frantic couple of opening laps.

By the fourth lap of the race Alonso led Trulli by 1.5 seconds with Fisichella third, Webber holding his fourth place starting position and Ralf Schumacher staying in fifth in the second Toyota.

Finn Kimi Raikkonen was up to sixth in the lead McLaren with Heidfeld seventh and Coulthard, who passed team-mate Klien at the start, up into eighth in the leading Red Bull Racing car.

World champions Ferrari continued to struggle and Rubens Barrichello was their lead driver in a disappointing 11th place with Schumacher two places further back in 13th.

Christian Klien kicked off the first round of pit stops when he came in at the end of lap 18 then Coulthard, Ralf Schumacher and Raikkonen all stopped for fuel at the end of lap 20.

Alonso, who built up a lead of 7.7 seconds, pitted from the lead at the end of lap 21 and he came out right behind one of the Jordans. Trulli also pitted from second and the two came out in the same positions.

Raikkonen moved into the lead when Fisichella and Webber came into the pits at the end of lap 22 and the Finn was able to jump past Webber when he came out from his stop two laps later.

But McLaren's bad fortune this season continued when he picked up a puncture on his out lap and his tire split into pieces as he cruised around to the pits again to make a permitted tire change.

By the end of the first set of stops Alonso was back in the lead, 12 seconds ahead of Trulli, who was still managing to stay on pace with the leaders, and Fisichella a further 6.7 seconds back.

Ralf Schumacher was fifth with Heidfeld, in the second Williams, in sixth, Montoya seventh in his McLaren and Barrichello up to eighth after getting past the two Red Bull Racing cars through the stops.

Former world champion Jacques Villeneuve, who is under pressure after a disappointing display in the first race of the season two weeks ago, spun out of the race on lap 29.

Fisichella complained of oversteer problems and Webber and Ralf Schumacher, who ran nose to tail as they chased after the final place on the podium, quickly caught him.

Heidfeld joined a thrilling battle on lap 32 when Webber and Schumacher clashed at the end of lap 31. Schumacher locked up as he lunged to overtake Webber but made it past after Webber ran wide.

The lack of speed allowed Heidfeld to pass Webber into the first corner but after a thrilling half lap of dicing Webber made it back in front and both Williams cars moved ahead of Schumacher's Toyota.

Webber then passed Fisichella on lap 38 but the Renault driver tried to fight back in the final corner of the lap and the pair collided as Fisichella locked his brakes and slid into Webber.

Fisichella's car spun over the nose of Webber's Williams and the two drivers were out of the race, promoting Heidfeld into third, Ralf Schumacher back up to fourth and Michael Schumacher into the points in eighth.

Alonso pitted at the end of lap 40 to hand Trulli the lead but the Italian stopped two laps later and returned to second as third-placed Heidfeld stopped for his second fill-up.

Barrichello, who finished second in the season-opening race in Australia, pulled into his garage and retired from the race on lap 50 to end a disappointing weekend for him and his Ferrari team as the race drew to a close.

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