By clinching his fifth win of the season, Fernando Alonso consolidated his lead in the driver’s championship and handed the Renault team its first F1 victory on French soil for 22 years.

By clinching his fifth win of the season, Fernando Alonso consolidated his lead in the driver’s championship and handed the Renault team its first F1 victory on French soil for 22 years.


Although Renault achieved victory in the French Grand Prix as an engine supplier to the Grove-based Williams team in the ‘90s, four-time world champion Alain Prost had been the last driver to claim a win for the Régie in France (at Paul Ricard in 1983). Fittingly, Prost presented Alonso with his trophy on the podium at Magny Cours.


Kimi Raikkonen, who had been relegated from third to 13th place on the grid due to an engine failure in his McLaren-Mercedes on Friday, finished second and Ferrari's Michael Schumacher was third.


After a blistering start from pole position, Alonso was already three seconds ahead of Jarno Trulli’s Toyota and Schumacher’s Ferrari by Lap Three. At that point, Raikkonen had moved up to tenth and was behind Felipe Massa’s Sauber.


BAR Honda’s Takuma Sato was the first of the frontrunners to head for the pits. Raikkonen moved ahead of Massa when the Brazilian made his first stop and the Finn dramatically upped his pace.


Trulli and Schumacher’s cars entered the pit lane at the same time, but the German had a shorter fuel stop and emerged from the pits ahead of the Italian. Renault suffered a problem with its fuel rig and Giancarlo Fisichella dropped down the pack. However, his team-mate Alonso did not suffer the same fate and retained the lead after he made his first stop soon afterwards.


The McLarens of Juan-Pablo Montoya and Raikkonen, both of which were on a two-stop strategy, were up to second and third positions by the time the rest of field had finished the first round of pit stops.


Sato passed Ferrari’s Rubens Barrichello at the hairpin while the pair attempted to lap a backmarker and Raikkonen set a brace of fastest laps as he prepared for his first stop. Montoya was the first McLaren to pit and rejoined in third, just ahead of Schumacher.


Sato attempted a brave overtaking maneuver on the inside Trulli’s Toyota at the hairpin, but slithered into the gravel and recovered to tenth position. Raikkonen finally stopped for fuel on Lap 29, and rejoined in second spot ahead of Montoya.


Alonso now led Raikkonen from Montoya, Schumacher, Trulli, Barrichello, Jenson Button (BAR Honda) and Fisichella. Mark Webber's difficult weekend was compounded by a problem on his Williams-BMW, which caused him to suffer uncomfortable burns to his posterior.


Montoya's McLaren then suffered a technical failure and Schumacher inherited third place when the Colombian retired to the side of the track shortly afterwards. "It's a shame," Montoya said. "It was a hydraulic leak, I lost the steering, then the gears. It's been a bad season for me, things keep going wrong, but we keep trying."


Button, who had passed Trulli in the second round of stops, moved up to fourth. Sato had another excursion into the gravel, apparently due to another driver doing likewise. Fisichella was closing on Schumacher and Barrichello’s Ferrari was reeling in Ralf Schumacher’s Toyota, but neither driver was close enough to challenge for position. The three-stoppers visited the pits again and Fisichella stalled, which dropped him from to sixth.


During the final phase of the race, Alonso maintained a 17-second advantage over Raikkonen. Schumacher was about a minute behind the leader and by the end of the race, the dominant Spaniard had lapped every car behind the German’s Ferrari.


"(The win) was really really good," said Alonso. "The car performed extremely well again in the race. We were very competitive from the first lap. I saw in the mirrors Jarno going back a little bit so I pushed a little bit more until the first stint and then the gap was quite nice and we controlled the race a little bit more."


"I think Barcelona and at Magny-Cours, to see all the supporters, all the blue grandstands I think is an extra motivation and we did two good races, Barcelona and here, but obviously better to win."


Raikkonen was moderately pleased, but disappointed not to win. "Second place is quite good for us," the Finn said. "We only dropped two points so it didn't cost too much, but of course I want to win races and we have definitely got the speed. I think we stopped quite a bit later than most of the front runners, so let's say that in circumstances we did a good job but it's still disappointing to only finish second."


Meanwhile, Schumacher admitted that third was probably the best he could have managed. "If you look at the speed we have had, then clearly I have to say that third place was about the maximum," the German said. "If our strategy would have worked perfectly we could have been in front of Kimi due to the situation he was in his race but our race didn't go perfectly, so that was the way it was."


Button finally got BAR Honda onto the points table with fourth, followed by Trulli, Fisichella, Ralf Schumacher and Canadian Jacques Villeneuve picked up the final point for Sauber in eighth.

Original article from Car