Blinding pace and razor-sharp strategy allowed Michael Schumacher to triumph over early race leader Fernando Alonso at Magny-Cours on Sunday.

Blinding pace and razor-sharp strategy allowed Michael Schumacher to triumph over early race leader Fernando Alonso at Magny-Cours on Sunday.

Renault had hoped for a win as it celebrated the 25th anniversary of its first grand prix victory at the French circuit. Alonso got off to a promising start and led until midway through the race before Ferrari assumed the lead using rather unconventional tactics.

When it became clear that running a similar race strategy to the French team would not guarantee the Scuderia a win, technical director Ross Brawn employed a four-stop strategy to wrest the lead from Renault. With a lighter fuel load, a softer tyre compound and a few lightning-quick laps, Schumacher was able to open up a substantial lead to take his ninth win this season from ten starts.

“The strategy and the precision of the team in the pit stops were fantastic today,” Schumacher said. “Before the start, I was not so optimistic, but it became clear that our Bridgestone tyres were very good at the end of their stints, which was not the case with the opposition. Then, after the second stop, we decided to switch to a four-stop strategy.

“I had nothing to lose and it was a case of no risk no fun! We might have won on a normal three stop, but this would have involved passing cars on the track. Based on last year, I had expected to struggle more here, but this season is proving to be really outstanding,” the race winner said.

Runner-up Alonso said: “I have been waiting for this podium for a long time. I could have had it at each of the last two races were it not for mechanical problems, so I am really happy to be here! I had a good race, and fought as hard as possible, but I think Michael was just stronger today.”

Behind the leaders, who had been involved in a private battle from the start, the battle for third place intensified as the race drew to its close. Initially the battle for third had been fought between Renault’s Jarno Trulli - whose fantastic start catapulted him from fifth on the grid to third by the first corner – and BAR Honda’s Jenson Button.

However, after the third and final pitstops had been completed, Rubens Barrichello passed Button to join the battle. Trulli seemed assured of claiming the final podium position when an opportunistic Barrichello snatched third on the final corner with the finish in sight.

“From tenth to third – I am very happy and I had a lot of fun today. The car was very fast and the Bridgestone tyres were fantastic, especially at the end of each stint. It was a shame that I paid the penalty for my pre-qualifying problem, without which I could have had an even better race. I gave it all I had.”

Speaking about his overtaking manoeuvre, Barrichello said: “It was risky, but I thought it was worth the risk, even if I was a bit careful not to damage the car as it would have been a shame to get from tenth to fourth and then not finish.”

Trulli was relegated to fourth place with Button finishing in a close fifth. After the race, Renault boss Pat Symonds said he would have a word to Trulli about handing third place to Barrichello.

An angry Symonds said: "I simply can't understand something like that. It looked like he left the door completely open. Unbelievable!

After qualifying third in McLaren’s new car, by the end of the first lap David Coulthard had dropped to fifth place. Not able to match the pace of the cars ahead of him, Coulthard was able to outrun his team mate Kimi Raikkonen who finished behind him in seventh place.

Juan Pablo Montoya, driving a heavily revised Williams finished in eighth place to claim the remaining point. Ralf Schumacher’s replacement Marc Gene finished in a disappointing tenth place while Takuma Sato was one of only two retirements when his BAR suffered yet another engine failure.

Meanwhile reports have claimed that Montoya’s inclusion in the British Grand Prix at Silverstone could be in doubt for next weekend. The Colombian sustained a neck and shoulder injury in a crash during testing at the weekend. After Sunday’s race, Montoya left Magny-Cours with his neck packed in ice.

“I didn't expect the pain to become so sharp in the race," the Williams driver said in a statement. "I could barely hold my head up in the end."

Original article from Car