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Alonso wins European Grand Prix thriller

india Updated: Jul 23, 2007 05:07 IST
Alan Baldwin
Alan Baldwin
Reuters
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McLaren's Fernando Alonso won a wet and wild European Grand Prix on Sunday to cut championship-leading team mate Lewis Hamilton's lead to just two points.

While Spain's double world champion celebrated his third victory of the season, after a wheel-banging thrust past Ferrari's Felipe Massa just four laps from the finish, Hamilton's run of nine podiums in a row came to an end.

The 22-year-old British rookie, passed fit only on Sunday morning after emerging unscathed from a high speed crash in qualifying, finished ninth and lapped in a race thrown into chaos by the wildly fluctuating conditions.

Brazilian Massa finished second with Mark Webber of Australia fending off Austrian Alexander Wurz's Williams to take third place for Red Bull.

Hamilton has 70 points, Alonso 68 and Massa 59.

McLaren, facing a hearing in Paris on Thursday over a 'spying' controversy that could cost them heavily, stretched their lead over Ferrari to 27 points.

Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen, who started on pole position in search of his third win in a row, retired with hydraulics failure at a circuit full of bitter memories for him and slipped to fourth overall on 52 points.

In the past the Finn had to retire twice while leading grands prix with his previous team McLaren.

Despite clawing back vital points, Alonso kept his jubilation in check: "It's an important race but the championship is so long.

"You never know what's going to happen in 14 days. In Hungary anything can happen."

WINKELHOCK LEADS

In a race halted for 22 minutes in a downpour after four laps and then re-started behind the safety car, with Germany's Markus Winkelhock astonishingly leading on his debut for struggling Spyker, Alonso showed all his fighting spirit.

He went almost side by side with Renault's Giancarlo Fisichella down the pit lane after his final pitstop, successfully asserting his right of way, and then took the fight to Ferrari as rain again fell.

He took the chequered flag 8.1 seconds ahead of Massa, who was struggling with tyre vibration, and had a heated exchange with the Brazilian before they stepped on the podium.

To rub further salt in the scowling Brazilian's wounds, the winning team's trophy was presented to McLaren boss Ron Dennis by Ferrari's retired seven times champion Michael Schumacher.

Massa could only console himself with the fastest lap, the 200th of Ferrari's history.

"I like the rain, there's no doubt. Always when it rains I'm quite happy and have some fun," said Alonso, who takes his career tally of wins to 18.

Hamilton, started 10th and made a blistering start to fourth place before he joined five others who skidded off at the first corner on the third lap.

However he kept the engine running and was lifted back onto the track by crane to continue for the re-start a lap down on the leaders.

"It's a new experience for me, not having to find my way to the podium," he said.

"I came here completely sick, had one of the biggest crashes I ever had, then got a puncture, went into the gravel, it started to rain -- it was really a great weekend in terms of learning," said the Briton.

Compatriot David Coulthard was fifth for Red Bull and Germany's Nick Heidfeld sixth for BMW Sauber, with stewards deeming a collision that ended the race for compatriot and Toyota driver Ralf Schumacher to have been a racing incident.

Poland's Robert Kubica was seventh for BMW Sauber and Finland's Heikki Kovalainen took the final point for champions Renault.