Alonso wins again

FORMULA One championship leader Fernando Alonso (pic) became the first Renault driver since Alain Prost in 1983 to win the French Grand Prix here yesterday.  

The Spaniard beat home Kimi Raikkonen in a McLaren while reigning champion Michael Schumacher was third in a Ferrari. 

His fifth victory in 10 races was his most crushing of the season and stretched his overall lead to 24 points. Alonso has 69 points to Raikkonen's 45. Schumacher has 40. Renault stayed ahead in the constructors' standings with 89 points to McLaren's 71. 

With an army of blue and yellow-shirted fans cheering him on under clear blue skies, Alonso crossed the line with his hand up in a 'High Five' as the carmaker celebrated a first home win as a constructor for 22 years. 

“It was really, really good. The car performed extremely well again in the race, we were very competitive from the first lap,” said Alonso. 

“The last 10 laps went really slowly. I just wanted to cross the line and enjoy the victory with the team and the grandstand opposite the pits where most of the people were coming from the Renault factory.” 

The 23-year-old lapped all but two cars to end the Schumacher stranglehold as the first winner in five years from outside the German family. 

LONG WAIT: Renault’s Spanish driver Fernando Alonso waves after crossing the finish line to win the French Grand Prix yesterday. It was the French manufacturers’ first win on home soil for 22 years. --APpic

“I'm a bit disappointed really,” said Raikkonen, who had started 13th after a blown engine in Friday practice incurred a 10-place penalty on the grid. “What happened on Friday destroyed the whole weekend completely. 

“I only dropped two points, so it didn't cost too much, but I want to win races.” 

Briton Jenson Button was fourth, finally collecting BAR's first points of the season, with Italian Jarno Trulli fifth for Toyota. 

Both Button and Trulli benefited from Italian Giancarlo Fisichella's misfortune, Alonso's team mate stalling his Renault on his final pit-stop after challenging Schumacher. 

Fisichella was sixth, ahead of Toyota's Ralf Schumacher. Canadian Jacques Villeneuve took the final point for Sauber. 

Alonso made a clean start from pole position and ran in isolation for lap after lap as Trulli, holding on to second place from the front row, held up Ferrari's Schumacher and the rest of the field. 

“I spent 18 laps behind him and losing quite a bit of time,” said Schumacher. “It was all with traffic so to finish third is okay.” 

With 15 laps gone, Alonso was 21 seconds clear and had a big enough buffer to pit comfortably five laps later and rejoin in the lead. 

The McLarens had by then been unleashed, Trulli pitting with Schumacher at the end of lap 18 and the German coming out ahead of the Italian. 

Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya briefly challenged Alonso before pitting and allowing team mate Raikkonen to take over in second place. Montoya eventually retired after 48 laps with a suspected hydraulic problem. – Agencies 

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