Alonso wins German GP, extends points lead

Updated: July 24, 2005, 1:04 PM ET
Associated Press

HOCKENHEIM , Germany -- Fernando Alonso moved closer to his first Formula One season championship by winning the German Grand Prix on Sunday, while his nearest challenger, Kimi Raikkonen, was forced out with another breakdown.

Raikkonen started from the pole and led comfortably until the 36th lap of the 67-lap race, when his McLaren-Mercedes stopped on the track with hydraulic problems.

Alonso's Renault was followed by McLaren-Mercedes' Juan Pablo Montoya, who started from the back of the grid but charged back to finish second, ahead of Jenson Button in a BAR-Honda. Montoya started last after crashing in Saturday qualifying.

Giancarlo Fisichella, Alonso's Renault teammate, was fourth ahead of defending champion Michael Schumacher in a Ferrari. Schumacher surged to third at the start, but dropped back to fifth -- his starting spot on the grid.

Alonso turns 24 on Friday and is on course to become the youngest champion in Formula One history. But he's being cautious, knowing Raikkonen's car is the quickest -- when it's running.

"He [Raikkonen] has the best car and we have to be careful," Alonso said. "There are still 70 points to race but if we keep finishing races, it will be difficult for him."

By collecting 10 points for his sixth victory of the season, Alonso has 87 points, followed by Raikkonen (51) and seven-time champion Michael Schumacher (47), who finished fifth. There are seven races remaining.

Raikkonen may have the fastest car in the field, but it hasn't been reliable. This is the third time this season he has dropped out while leading a race.

"It's always terrible to retire from a race, but to retire while in the lead with a good gap to the No. 2 car is even worse," Raikkonen said. "This is the worst thing that could have happened as it looked like the race was in the bag.

"There is still a mathematical chance that I can win the championship, but it's getting difficult," he added.

Starting from dead-last, Montoya treated second place like a victory.

"I hope the result made up a bit for the mistake I made yesterday," Montoya said.

Alonso covered the 67 laps on the 5.574-kilometer (2.842-mile) Hockenheim circuit in 1 hour, 26 minutes, 28.599 seconds, for an average speed of 212.629 kph (132.13 mph). Montoya was 22.5 seconds behind and Button 24.4 seconds adrift.

"It was a fantastic day," Alonso added. "I had a perfect race, the balance of the car was perfect from the beginning.

"After the retirement of Kimi, well, it was boring, I had such a big lead."

Raikkonen also had to abandon the San Marino GP at Imola and the European GP at Nuernburgring while leading both. In the two races preceding Germany, he had engine failures in practice and was penalized 10 places on the starting grid.

"It seems I've had my share of bad luck this season," Raikkonen said.

Button had his best finish of the season, coming in third.

"It was a lot of fun," he said. "Michael got in front of me at the start when I went wide in the first corner and it's so difficult to get past on this circuit.

"Michael is not the easiest person to overtake."

Schumacher, a three-time winner at Hockenheim, gained two places at the start but couldn't hold on.

Button overtook him in a corner on lap 45 and Fisichella surged past on the final lap.

Schumacher dominated last season to win his seventh Formula One championship, but his Ferrari has been underachieving this year.

"It was more or less what we expected," Schumacher said of his fifth-place finish.

"I struggled a lot with my tires today, which is why I could not hold off Jenson and I had a fuel-feed problem when Giancarlo got past me," he said.

The Hungarian GP is next weekend, followed by a three-week break before the Turkish GP in Istanbul.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press