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,"
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
"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.