Fisichella races to Malaysian victory

 

Formula 1:  Giancarlo Fisichella led home his team-mate Fernando Alonso to complete a Renault clean sweep at the Malaysian Grand Prix.

The Italian had started from pole and made the most of problems for his rivals behind to record his first win since the Australian Grand Prix a year ago.

Honda’s Jenson Button was a fighting third, but had to give way to the pace of Alonso in the closing laps.

Kimi Raikkonen’s title hopes took a blow when he crashed out on lap one with damage to the rear of his McLaren, apparently caused by contact from behind.

Juan Pablo Montoya had an inconspicuous race on his way to fourth in the remaining McLaren, with Ferrari duo Felipe Massa and Michael Schumacher, fifth and sixth, respectively.

With Fisichella able to control the race from the front, an otherwise lacklustre grand prix was kept alive with the fight between Alonso and Button.

After fuel rig problems in qualifying, Alonso started seventh, but had jumped up to third by the end of the first lap and began one of his trademark charges.

Button was quicker earlier in the race, but the Spaniard showed why he is world champion by making up time after the Honda driver’s second pitstop.

Alonso emerged from his final stop on lap 44 two seconds clear of the Englishman, whose quest to win his first Formula One race goes on.

Ferrari will not look back at Malaysia 2006 with great fondness after engine changes compromised their weekend.

Schumacher was unable to vault the impressive Nick Heidfeld for much of the race until the BMW engine expired late on and the German even wound up behind his far less experienced team-mate Massa, who made just one pitstop all afternoon after starting from the back of the grid.

For a time, it looked as if Schumacher would be ushered by, as so often happened in the past at Ferrari, but the Brazilian was allowed to beat the seven-time world champion after deservedly outracing him.

Jacques Villeneuve took seventh for BMW and Ralf Schumacher claimed the final point for troubled Toyota.

Williams had entered the race with high hopes having qualified third and fourth, but Nico Rosberg and Mark Webber were forced out of the race with Cosworth engine problems by lap 17.

It was also not a good day for Red Bull - Christian Klien had to pit at the end of the first lap with a damaged front wheel, possibly caused in the incident with Raikkonen, while David Coulthard’s race was over by lap 10.

PA