Fernando Alonso held off Michael Schumacher in a thrilling showdown at the San Marino Grand Prix to win his third Formula One race in a row…
The Spaniard’s Renault started the race from second on the grid and inherited the lead after an unlucky Kimi Raikkonen retired with a mechanical problem.
Schumacher’s Ferrari climbed up from 14th on the grid to push hard for the lead in the closing laps, but the Renault driver just held him off.
The lead swapped hands three times in just a few laps as Alonso pitted giving it to Jenson Button, Schumacher snatched it at the chicane and then pitted giving it back to Alonso by less than half a second.
The pair battled neck and neck for the lead during the last few laps after what had already been an exciting Grand Prix.
Three times Schumacher tried to snatch victory but Alonso held him off to the flag winning the race by just 0.2 seconds.
Alonso said it was probably the best fight he’d ever had.
"I knew Michael was more than one second faster than me and my only chance was to hold him up a little bit in the middle of the corner and be on the throttle a little bit earlier than him to have the pace on the straights, and it worked well."
Alonso said there were two or three corners where Schumacher was very close and the tires and his car were not performing perfectly.
“The last 10 laps I had the Red Bull and Williams in front of me and I was hoping not to catch them in case I lost a little bit of down force and Michael could over take me, so at the really slow chicanes and corners I was breaking maybe a little more than normal. I was ready to fight for the last laps and I really won the victory," said Alonso.
Michael Schumacher added that it could have been a different story if he had qualified well.
“Everybody was just flat out working and it paid out. I have to say a big thank you to Bridgestone who’ve had some bad publicity but I think this was the first step and there’s some more good to come," said Schumacher.
Jenson Button finished the race third in the first podium of the season for BAR after an excellent race.
McLaren stand-in Alexander Wurz was fourth with Takuma Sato’s BAR fifth.
Villeneuve finished sixth, scoring his first points of the season with the Toyotas of Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher rounded out the top eight points-scoring positions.
But in the practice rounds on the first day of the San Marino Grand Prix weekend it was McLaren’s Pedro de la Rosa who dominated the leader board.
Despite being fined $5,000 for exiting the pit lane under a red light, the Spaniard went on to set the fastest times in both practice sessions. With a fastest lap of 1m20.484s he was just outside Michael Schumacher’s lap record of 1m20.411s.