Alonso finishes second in Brazil, wins F1 title again
SAO PAULO, Brazil -- Fernando Alonso won his second straight Formula One championship Sunday by finishing runner-up to Felipe Massa in the Brazilian Grand Prix, a race that marked the end of Michael Schumacher's mighty career.
Schumacher, a seven-time Formula One champion, needed to win his final race before retirement to keep alive his remote chance of another title. But the German punctured a tire less than 10 laps into the race, dropped out of contention early and finished fourth.
Alonso entered the race needing to finish eighth or better to secure the championship. Last year, he became F1's youngest champion by finishing third.
Massa, Schumacher's Ferrari teammate, won the race from the pole before an adoring home crowd at Interlagos. Honda's Jenson Button was third.
As soon as Alonso crossed the finish line, the Spaniard thanked his crew over the radio in French (Renault's engines are built in France) and English (the team is based in Britain). He helped Renault also clinch the constructors' title but will race for McLaren next year.
"Thank you, thank you," said Alonso, who waved a Brazilian flag before his fans. "Both championships again. It's been a pleasure for me. I wish you the best."
In Spain, tens of thousands of jubilant Spaniards waved banners in honor of Alonso. A crowd of 6,000 poured into the streets of Oviedo, his hometown. People danced in the Plaza de America square and splashed in a fountain, Oviedo's traditional gathering place for triumphant sports moments. Many fans, wearing the blue-and-yellow colors of Renault, chanted, "Champion Alonso."
"Alonso's heroic deed will be bigger with the years to come," Jaime Lissavetsky, Spain's sports minister, said moments after the race.
|Wins from pole||40|
• Won record 5 straight F1 titles (2000-'04)
• Won record 13 F1 races in 2004, including 7 straight
• Set F1 record with 17 podiums in 17 races in 2002
• Only driver to win five times at Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Schumacher's trouble made things easier for Alonso, who started in fourth place but moved up to second halfway through the 71-lap race.
Schumacher jumped from 10th to seventh on the first lap, but a flat left-rear tire entering the ninth lap shattered his chances. He had just passed sixth-placed Giancarlo Fisichella on the outside of the first turn when the tire blew, forcing him to slowly return to the pits.
He changed tires and returned to the track in 18th place, more than a minute behind race leader Massa and out of the running barely 15 minutes into the race.
Schumacher caught Fisichella on the 63rd lap and had a chance to move to fifth. This time, Fisichella went off the track and Schumacher went past, pursuing Raikkonen with six laps left. At the start of the 69th, Schumacher moved on the inside and passed Raikkonen for fourth, with wheels almost touching around the first turn.
Raikkonen will replace Schumacher at Ferrari next year, starting with the 2007 opener at the Australian Grand Prix on March 18.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press