First Monaco victory of Alonso dedicated to Michelin

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This afternoon at the Monaco Grand Prix, Fernando Alonso took his fourth win of the 2006 season with a measured, mistake-free drive from pole position. His team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella, having been forced to start from ninth on the grid following a penalty yesterday afternoon, drove a dynamic race to finish sixth. The combined result allowed the Renault F1 Team to consolidate its lead in the Constructors’ Championship, with a total of 91 points from seven races, and a 28-point lead over its nearest challenger.

Fernando enjoyed a trouble-free afternoon after starting from pole position. He took the lead at the first corner, and then controlled his pace as he was chased throughout the first stint by Kimi Raikkonen. His longer first stint allowed him to emerge from the pits ahead of his rival, and also meant the team could cover the McLaren-Mercedes strategy by fuelling longer in the second stint. However, a safety car period on lap 49 rendered this academic, as all the leading runners pitted for their second and final stops. Following Raikkonen’s retirement during the safety car period, Fernando was able to look after his tyres and engine during the remaining 30 laps, preserving the performance potential of the V8 for its next race, while controlling the gap to Montoya in second. He has extended his championship lead to 21 points over Michael Schumacher, and has a total of 64 points from a possible 70.

Giancarlo Fisichella began the day with a much harder task: starting from ninth position following a post-qualifying penalty, but on a strategy designed for a position at the front grid. This left him running a shorter first stint than his immediate competitors, and required an aggressive approach to convert his grid slot into points. Giancarlo delivered in style, with an aggressive start, dynamic driving and strong pace. He also disproved the myth that overtaking at Monaco is impossible, with impressive manoeuvres on three fellow competitors on the track (Rosberg, Villeneuve, Coulthard). The safety car period disadvantaged him relative to the cars around him who were running one stop strategies, but he nevertheless raced to a strong sixth position – and three valuable championship points. He now lies third in the drivers’ championship.

Fernando Alonso "This is a special place for any driver to win a race, for the history, for what it represents to Formula 1 and because it is such a big challenge to get through the race with no mistakes. We have been trying since 2003, and Renault had a good car here every year, but now we have done it. To be honest, I was quite surprised by Raikkonen’s speed but I knew that I had to control my pace as well to look after the tyres. We seemed to have more problems with the rear wear than our competitors, but I managed the situation to keep the tyres fresh for the end of the stints, and to build a gap when I needed it. Michelin did a fantastic job for this race, and I want to say thank-you to all their employees for their work. Looking at the championship, I am in a great position, and the consistency is the best part of it. We know that podium finishes are the key to winning the title, and so far this year we have had seven from seven races."

Giancarlo Fisichella "I lost my chance of a good finish yesterday after the penalty in qualifying. With the strategy we had for the car, it was almost impossible to do anything from ninth position. So I just had to go out there and push to the maximum. I was behind a lot of traffic for most of the race, but still managed to overtake some people on the track – Rosberg, Villeneuve and Coulthard. I was able to do a good pace at the end, and managed to get sixth position, which is good for the team along with Fernando’s victory. Renault is in really good shape at the moment, and we are very optimistic that we can be quick at Silverstone after a very strong test there. We will certainly be trying to get both cars on the podium."

Flavio Briatore, Managing Director "This was a great team performance from Renault today. We want to dedicate the win to Edouard Michelin. Michelin was a big part of our world title success last year, and they have played an important role in putting us in the lead of the championship in 2006. We are very happy to win here in Monaco, and to be able to pay tribute to his memory in the way he would have wanted."

Pat Symonds, Executive Director of Engineering "Congratulations to Fernando. He took a fantastic win on the ultimate driver’s circuit. There is not much to say about his race, apart from the fact that he had it perfectly under control. He was very deliberately taking it easy after each pit-stop because this circuit is so demanding for the rear tyres, owing to the heavy traction demands. Throughout the race, though, Fernando had the ability to increase his pace when he needed to. As for Giancarlo, it was a true pleasure to watch him race today. His overtaking manoeuvres were daring and well-judged, and I cannot remember a driver working so aggressively in many years to move through the field here at Monaco. In spite of this, his race was effectively controlled by traffic, and the Safety Car prevented his strategy from playing out fully, but we could not have asked much more of him today. Our thoughts are also with Michelin today. They brought tyres that struck the perfect balance between first-lap performance and long run consistency, and we are proud to have taken their fifth consecutive Monaco victory, all the more so in such poignant circumstances."