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Dream season for Renault
Alan Baldwin | October 17, 2005 13:32 IST
Fernando Alonso thought nothing could give him as much satisfaction as becoming Formula One champion, but he was wrong.
Just weeks after he clinched the drivers' title in Brazil, Renault's 24-year-old Spaniard celebrated again in China on Sunday after a victory that handed his team their first constructors' crown.
"This is a fantastic feeling," said Alonso, who sung 'We are the Champions' over the team radio on his slowing down lap after the race.
"I didn't think anything could equal winning the drivers' championship, but seeing our people celebrating, it's just as good," he added.
While Renault could be thankful that he did not drive like he sang, Alonso had every reason to be satisfied in Shanghai as the longest season in Formula One history -- a gruelling 19 races from Asia to America and back -- turned full circle.
His victory allowed Renault to end the season as they started, with a runaway win, while silencing anyone who dared to suggest that McLaren and Kimi Raikkonen might have been more deserving champions.
Alonso's tally of seven wins equalled that of the Finn, while the Spaniard had one more pole and three more podiums. He also collected 133 points to Raikkonen's 112.
True, McLaren won two more races but strategy -- with Renault racing conservatively earlier in the season to make sure of the drivers' championship -- played a part in that.
Alonso's title will not now go down in history, as others have, as one that saw the champion winning fewer races than his main rival. He and Renault deserved their success.
"The race was actually very easy," said Alonso, who led from start to finish after Italian team mate Giancarlo Fisichella effectively rode shotgun by doing just enough to keep the McLarens behind him while allowing the Spaniard to get away.
"We only used full power on the engine in the first part and we saw we were quicker than everybody so we turned things down and went conservative for the second part.
"Honestly it was like the opening races when we had an advantage and could manage our pace."
Pat Symonds, the Renault engineering director who won the double with Michael Schumacher and Benetton 10 years ago, savoured the moment.
"I think I preferred this one," he decided.
"It's been a really, really hard fight all year. Two teams with different philosophies, but I think it's great because we've managed to switch our philosophy when we've needed to."
Syomonds only regret was that the two safety car periods during the race prevented Renault from showing the world just how competitive they really were.
"We had the performance this weekend," he said.
"I really, truly believe we would have beaten them in a straight race. In fact, I absolutely know it."
For Raikkonen there was only the consolation of yet another fastest lap and knowing that he had done his best in a season that McLaren started on the back foot.
There was a certain symmetry to their season too.
McLaren suffered after their cars ran wide over the kerbs in the Australian season-opener and they saw the title literally go down the drain in China when Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya hit a loose cover and retired.
"I did my best but it wasn't enough," said Raikkonen, whose rivalry with Alonso promises to light up Formula One for years to come.
"The Renault was too quick, our congratulations to them and next year we try again."
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