Alonso wins Malaysian GP

World champion Fernando Alonso won the Malaysian Grand Prix on Sunday to hand new team McLaren-Mercedes its first Formula One win since 2005.

updated: April 10, 2007 16:29 IST
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Sepang, Malaysia:

World champion Fernando Alonso won the Malaysian Grand Prix on Sunday to hand new team McLaren-Mercedes its first Formula One win since 2005.

Rookie Lewis Hamilton, F1's first black driver, added to the McLaren resurgence by finishing second ahead of Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen, who won the season-opening Australian GP last month.

Pole-sitter Felipe Massa of Ferrari was overtaken by Alonso and Hamilton on the first lap and never challenged the lead from then on, finishing fifth.

"When I was leading after the first corner and I saw who was second, that opened the dream to win the race," Alonso said.

"We knew our chance was to overtake the Ferraris at the start," he added. "We were lucky to do it and it was even better to have your teammate second."

Sunday's win is the 16th of Alonso's career. The last time a McLaren won an F1 Grand Prix was October 2005 in Japan, when Raikkonen claimed victory.

After just two races with McLaren, Alonso found it hard to believe he was a winner for his new team.

"It's absolutely fantastic. It is wonderful what we achieved in so short a time," he said. "From the first test in December. The new car in January. I think it is just difficult to believe."

In the first race of the year it was Raikkonen, Alonso and Hamilton in the top three. Nick Heidfeld of BMW-Sauber finished fourth Sunday for the second straight race.

Massa went onto the grass on the sixth lap trying to overtake Hamilton, losing five seconds and two places.

"I braked late and he braked later and went straight on," Hamilton said.

Massa was unrepentant.

"I tried to attack Lewis but I made a mistake and ended up off the track," Massa said. "I cannot blame myself for trying and next time things will go better."

Long wait

Alonso, who took the world title in 2005 and 2006 for Renault, switched this season to McLaren, which had a winless season in 2006, its first since 1996.

The Spaniard also become the first McLaren winner in Malaysia since Raikkonen in 2003. Alonso started from pole position for that race at the age of 21, setting a record for the youngest driver to take pole in Formula One.

After taking the lead Sunday, Alonso quickly established a five-second lead after four laps, increasing it by almost a second a lap.

After 10 laps Alonso was cruising 10 seconds ahead of Hamilton, who had a slim lead over Raikkonen.

At the midpoint of the 56-lap race, Alonso led by almost nine seconds over Hamilton, with Raikkonen 21 off the pace. It stayed that way through the rest of the race with Alonso building up the advantage after the second pit stops.

Hamilton had his own concerns.

"To see Ferraris behind you, knowing you they are quicker than you," Hamilton said. "Felipe had a couple of moves. I was very fortunate I was able to cut across and get in front of him. Then I had Kimi hunting me down. I can't explain how tough it was."

Raikkonen said he and his team had to make some compromises to preserve his engine.

"I am happy to get some points but disappointed at where I ended up in the race," Raikkonen said.

Giancarlo Fisichella, last year's winner here, was sixth for Renault but more than a minute behind. He was followed Toyota's Jarno Trullie and Heikki Kovalainen, who replaced Alonso at Renault.

Renault won the last two Malaysian races, but struggled here.

"This was the maximum I could do today and in our situation at the moment, it feels like a podium finish,' Fisichella said. "The team is realistic about the position we are in at the moment, but they are working hard to understand why we are not on the pace."

In the constructors race, McLaren now leads with 32 points after two races with Ferrari next at 23 points. Alonso leads the drivers standings on 18 points, ahead of Raikkonen on 16.

The next race is the Bahrain Grand Prix on April 15.