Alonso wins Monaco GP

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Defending Formula One champion Fernando Alonso of Renault won the Monaco Grand Prix on Sunday, his first victory in F1's most prestigious race.

Updated: February 25, 2007 11:34 IST
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Defending Formula One champion Fernando Alonso of Renault won the Monaco Grand Prix on Sunday, his first victory in F1's most prestigious race. "This is a special place for any driver to win a race, for the history, for what it represents to Formula One and because it is such a big challenge to get through the race with no mistakes," Alonso said. Alonso was followed by Juan Pablo Montoya of McLaren-Mercedes and David Coulthard of Red Bull was third. It was the first podium for Red Bull in an F1 race. Rubens Barrichello in a Honda was fourth with Michael Schumacher of Ferrari fifth and Giancarlo Fisichella sixth in a Renault. The victory was Alonso's fourth in seven races this season and the 12th of his career. He has 64 points with Schumacher on 43 going into the June 11 British Grand Prix. Raikkonen and Fisichella are tied for third with 27. Alonso's task was made easier when Kimi Raikkonen of McLaren, last year's winner, dropped out and five-time Monaco champion Schumacher was penalized before the race began. Alonso and Raikkonen were separated by less than a second through 50 laps when Raikkonen's engine gave out. "He was pushing quite hard but in Monaco it is impossible to overtake," Alonso said. "When I saw that is was impossible to open a gap, I controlled the tires so that when I wanted to push, my tires would be ready." "You have to be conservative a little bit and push a little bit before the pit stops," he added. Alonso started from the pole, moving up from second when Schumacher was stripped of the pole position late Saturday. Stewards ruled Schumacher deliberately stopped his car on the circuit - blocking other drivers - during Saturday's qualifying. Schumacher's pit start After setting the fastest lap, Schumacher appeared to brake too hard and stalled on the final turn. Others - including Alonso - were behind him trying to clock a quicker lap but had to slow to avoid the car of the seven-time series champion. Stewards ruled Schumacher stopped intentionally and took away his qualifying time. Instead, Schumacher started from the pit lane with a full fuel load. The top three finishers declined to openly criticize Schumacher. "From the stewards' point of view he did something wrong," Montoya said. "He made a mistake, whatever it was and that's it." Schumacher defended his actions. "I was amazed at how tough the stewards' decision was," Schumacher said. "I am sorry that Fernando's lap was ruined and it was definitely not my intention to do that," Schumacher said. After quickly moving up to 16th, Schumacher got stuck behind Jenson Button's Honda and lost 2-3 seconds a lap to the leaders. After 15 laps he was 48 seconds behind. He was a minute behind after 20 laps when he finally passed Button. Alonso and Raikkonen were close through the first pit stops after 23 laps. Schumacher pitted after 37 laps, which put him more than a lap behind. At midrace - 39 laps - it was Alonso and Raikkonen continuing their close battle with Mark Webber and Montoya less than four seconds back. Schumacher was a lap down. Webber's race ended with smoke and fire coming from his engine on the 49th lap, which brought out the safety car. Raikkonen's race ended soon after with his engine also smoking. "There was a small fire caused by a heat shield which damaged wiring, and that was the end of the race for me," Raikkonen said. It was the same problem he had in the first practice on Thursday when he ran just three laps. It was Coulthard's first podium since the 2003 Japanese Grand Prix when he was racing for McLaren. For Schumacher, his fifth place ended a run of three good races in which he won twice and was second. Alonso dedicated his victory to Edouard Michelin. The head of the tire company that supplies the tires to Renault and other teams died on Friday in a boating accident. (AP)

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