Ferrari star rebounds, but Alonso wins

Updated: April 24, 2005, 6:00 PM ET
Associated Press

IMOLA, Italy -- Fernando Alonso held off Michael Schumacher by 0.2 seconds in a fierce duel Sunday to win the San Marino Grand Prix for his third straight victory and fourth in a row for Renault.

Renault has won every race this year, the other victory by Giancarlo Fisichella in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.

``This is probably the best of the three that I've had so far,'' Alonso said. ``It was difficult, but at the end I managed to be first.''

Alonso increased his lead in the standings to 36 points. Schumacher's runner-up finish was his best result this season, and he now has 10 points.

Alonso and Schumacher raced 1-2 for the final 12 laps. Schumacher moved his Ferrari around the track in passing attempts on several occasions. Each time, however, Alonso responded with a block. Schumacher appeared to get half his car alongside Alonso on the final lap, but Alonso would not budge and closed again.

On an overcast and humid day, Alonso took the lead when pole-sitter Kimi Raikkonen retired after just eight laps with an apparent mechanical problem.

Schumacher started 13th after running wide onto the dirt in qualifying. He made up several positions early in the race by making a later first pit stop than other top drivers, then passed Jenson Button on the 47th lap to pursue Alonso.

``I'm happy in one way from the race. On the other hand, I'm disappointed with what happened this morning,'' Schumacher said. ``We had a stunning pace and performance. That's what we can take from the race.''

Fernando Alonso, right, and Michael Schumacher
Michael Schumacher, left, and Fernando Alonso could be on podiums together for the rest of the season.

Button, in a BAR Honda, was third for his first finish this season.

Alonso covered 62 laps around the Enzo and Dino Ferrari circuit in 1 hour, 27 minutes, 41.921 seconds. This was the fourth career victory for the 23-year-old Spaniard, widely considered the next great Formula One driver after Schumacher.

Schumacher, the seven-time world champion, made a vast improvement on his first three races in which he finished only once for the worst start of his career.

Throngs of Ferrari fans cheered wildly when Schumacher passed Button and watched in awe as the new and old stars of the sport went head to head. Afterward, they stood and applauded Schumacher's return to form and Alonso's performance under pressure.

Alonso waved three fingers in front of his on-board TV camera to mark his third straight win, including the Malaysian and Bahrain GPs.

Fisichella crashed out on the sixth lap but Renault remained atop the constructor standings with 46 points, followed by Toyota with 28 and McLaren-Mercedes at 24. Ferrari moved from sixth to fourth with 18 points.

Alexander Wurz finished fourth in his first race since running with Benetton in 2000. Wurz was filling in for McLaren's injured Juan Pablo Montoya.

BAR's Takuma Sato was fifth and Jacques Villeneuve of Sauber was sixth. Toyota's Jarno Trulli crossed seventh and maintained second place in the driver standings behind Alonso with 18 points.

Fisichella, Schumacher and brother Ralf Schumacher of Toyota are tied for third with 10 points each. Ralf Schumacher was eighth Sunday. Ferrari's Rubens Barrichello quit with electrical trouble after coming in for a pit stop on the 18th lap.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press