Renault wins Malaysian Grand Prix
Fisichella was ahead of Alonso at the finish but controlled race throughout.india Updated: Mar 19, 2006 19:10 IST
There were only words of congratulations and elation coming out of Giancarlo Fisichella's Renault's radio after his victory at Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix.
That was in sharp contrast to last week in Bahrain, when Fisichella began swearing into the team radio after he dropped out after 21 laps with engine problems as teammate Fernando Alonso sped on to the win.
This time it was Fisichella ahead of Alonso as the pair gave Renault only its second 1-2 finish ever, with the last coming 24 years ago, at the French Grand Prix in 1982.
Fisichella was ahead of Alonso by 4.5 seconds at the finish but controlled the race throughout.
Honda's Jenson Button took third in the 56-lap race at the 5.5-kilometre (3.4-mile) Sepang International Circuit.
"It was important for me to do my best," said Fisichella.
"It was really hot. In the middle of the race you are tired. Its important to concentrate," he added dedicating the win to his friend, Pietro, who died in an accident a week ago.
"It's the opposite of last year," added Fisichella, who won in Australia in 2005 but fell off the championship wagon with a series of failures on track.
It was also the opposite of last week in Bahrain, when Fisichella began swearing into the team radio after he dropped out after 21 laps.
Juan Pablo Montoya in a McLaren-Mercedes was fourth.
Fisichella has previously won at the rain-shortened Brazilian Grand Prix in 2003 -- a victory initially given to Kimi Raikkonen -- and last year's Australian race.
Alonso and Michael Schumacher, who share the last six world championships between them, started seventh and 14th on the grid after engine changes shuffled the starting lineup after qualifying.
Ferrari's Schumacher had the fourth fastest time in qualifying but dropped down the starting order because of an unscheduled engine change.
Ferrari was uncertain of the reliability of the new V8 engine after the opening race.
He finish behind teammate Felipe Massa in sixth place on Sunday.
Fisichella meanwhile, qualified on pole and controlled the race from the start.
The 33-year-old Italian led until his first stop on the 17th lap when he was the first of the major contenders to pit.
By the 25th lap, he was back at the front with Button second and Alonso third. The second set of stops for fuel and tires started on the 38th lap, again with Fisichella and Button together in the pits. Alonso stayed out five laps longer.
Less fuel and a lightning fast stop allowed the Spaniard to go past Button into second. "There was no point in the race where we could have gone any quicker...They pulled away so quickly at the start," said Button, who declared Honda the closest rivals to Renault.
"The pace of the Renaults is very good," said Button. "At the moment, it looks as though we are their closest rivals but we are not on their pace. Hopefully, we will not let them get away." Fisichella led by almost 12 seconds at that point over Alonso.
The world champion whittled the gap to about eight seconds with 10 laps left until the race winner slowed on the final lap. Massa, Ferrari's second driver, started on the back row -- after another engine change -- and came in fifth, less than a second ahead of Schumacher.
"During the race I was able to push a bit more at the right moment knowing that during the other phases I would need to play more of a waiting game," said Massa, who gained his first points with the team.
"We can accept the result considering everything that has happened over the weekend," Schumacher said. Between the two Ferraris there were three engine changes this week.
Jacques Villeneuve, in a BMW-Sauber, was seventh and Toyota's Ralf Schumacher, who also started on the last row, was eighth. Raikkonen, the 2003 Malaysian GP winner, had a race that lasted less than 30 seconds. He was hit from behind by Red Bull's Christian Klein and broke a rear suspension.
"It was fairly obvious that Christian Klein made a pretty fundamental mistake and ran into the back of me," Raikkonen said. After starting last and finishing third at Bahrain, Raikkonen was sixth on the grid here.
Another star from last week also had a short race. Rookie Nico Rosberg of Williams, who had the fastest lap and came in seventh in his first race, blew his car's engine in a mass of flame and smoke on the seventh lap.
Alonso won in Malaysia last year -- the beginning of a three-race winning streak that he used as a springboard for the Formula One drivers' title.
"I have a special feeling for this circuit," Alonso added. "It is a fantastic track and it has always been good to me." In 2003, he became the youngest Formula One pole-sitter at 21. He finished third that year behind Raikkonen.
Alonso now leads the drivers' standings with 18 points. "We'll be competitive everywhere," he said. "Eighteen points in two races, it was what I dreamed before Bahrain." The next race is the Australian Grand Prix April 2.
"I will try to win in Melbourne and conclude the first part of the championship in the best way possible," Alonso said. Schumacher is also looking forward to Australia.
"Melbourne is a completely different circuit and I hope it will be better suited to our 248 F1 (car)," he said.
First Published: Mar 19, 2006 19:10 IST