Fernando Alonso takes majestic win in Spain
BARCELONA, May 14 Renault's Fernando Alonso capped one majestic drive with another today to become the first Spaniard to win his home Formula One grand prix on an unforgettable afternoon.
The 24-year-old world champion warmed up the 130,000 strong crowd, the biggest yet at the Circuit de Catalunya, by giving King Juan Carlos a passenger ride around the Barcelona track in a road car before the race.
A few hours later he took the chequered flag to drive that same crowd into a frenzy, with the monarch joining him on the podium to present his happy subject with the winner's trophy as the national anthem played.
It was, the Asturian declared proudly, one of the greatest moments in a career that has seen a few firsts already.
In the race, there was only one king of the road and it was Alonso.
''It was the best feeling so far I think in a Formula One car, equal to the Brazilian Grand Prix (last year) where I won the championship,'' he told a post-race news conference.
''I finished third in that race with a lot of problems defending the third place and I didn't enjoy it so much as I did today when I was alone.'' Alonso started from pole position and, with the lead changing only at the pitstops, crossed the line 18.5 seconds clear of Ferrari's Michael Schumacher.
It was his third win of the season but easily the sweetest.
''The last five or six laps I saw that Michael was slowing down, not pushing any more, so it was four or five laps just cruising to the end,'' Alonso said.
''To race here and to race in front of an all-blue grandstand is a different feeling compared to all the other races.
''It's true that 66 laps is not enough to enjoy all the race, but when you are leading by 10 seconds I think you want to finish the race already and celebrate the victory. It was a fantastic day, difficult to forget for me.'' Alonso zig-zagged before the finish, gesturing and pumping the air in delight with his fists to take the crowd's roar of applause.
Parking in the pitlane afterwards, he jumped up on the car to dance with an exaggerated swagger -- imitative of what he would not say.
What he would remember most, he said, was ''a little bit everything -- the laps I did with the King in the normal car, with all the people enjoying seeing us together, then the start, the first laps...and for sure the last two or three.'' If the race was short of incident, with places won and lost mainly in the pitstops, today was a champion's homecoming -- Alonso's first race at home since he won the title last September.
''I think we did our maximum race performance today, the tyres performed really well through the race. We had some doubts before the start but everything went perfectly as we planned,'' said Alonso.
''It was just maintaining the gap, especially in the last stint, controlling the revs.'' Team boss Flavio Briatore said the Spaniard had driven faultlessly.
''Renault scored an incredible team result this afternoon,'' said the Italian. ''Fernando and Giancarlo (Fisichella) were perfect, we made the right choices with the strategy and beat Ferrari fair and square.
''Apart from Renault and Ferrari, the other teams just didn't seem to have the pace to stay with us today.''