Alonso on pole!
Both Fernando Alonso and test driver Allan McNish predicted on Friday that a Renault R23 would start the Hungarian Grand Prix from pole position, and on Saturday the Spaniard justified the expectation by pipping favourite Ralf Schumacher to the optimum starting slot. Alonso secured his second pole position of the 2003 Formula 1 season and his career.
“It’s a great feeling to get my second pole,” Alonso said. “Our car has been competitive since the start of the weekend, and I don’t see any reason why that should change tomorrow!”
Race day – Alonso dominates the field
Fernando Alonso became the youngest-ever Grand Prix winner and the first Spanish winner in Hungary after a superb drive saw his Renault R23 finish 16.7s ahead of Kimi Raikkonen.
Brilliant strategy saw the 22 year-old Spaniard burst into the lead in a start that was confused when yellow flags were waved for Cristiano da Matta’s stalled Toyota. The key point for Alonso was that Mark Webber, starting third, on the clean side of the grid, jumped straight into second place as the Williams duo of Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya, starting second and fourth, lagged on the dirty side. Ralf Schumacher then compounded his problems by spinning almost to last place in the second corner.
Running a three-stop strategy, Alonso rocketed away and only lost the lead, to Raikkonen, when he made his first stop on lap 13. The Finn stayed ahead until lap 18 when he made his own first stop of three, whereupon Alonso regained an initiative he was never again to lose. He stopped again on laps 30 and 49, and was never again seriously threatened.
The icing on the cake came on the 62nd lap, when Alonso lapped Michael Schumacher. The world champion had a desperate afternoon in his Bridgestone-shod Ferrari, which was the first runner home, in only eighth place, for the Japanese tyre manufacturer.
“I have said it a lot this year, but this is the best day of my life. The car was perfect, the strategy too, and I managed to drive a consistent race. We had some problems on Friday, but the team worked hard to overcome them. Personally, I want to say a big thank you to the whole team, here at the track but also back at the factories in France and England. I am proud to be racing for Renault: winning this for them, and becoming the first driver from my country to win a Grand Prix, is fantastic.”
“It’s too many things for one day!” Alonso smiled. “The weekend was fantastic, with pole and now victory it’s a dream come true! I’m 22 years old and now I have my first victory in the pocket. I hope I have a long career with lots of them!
“For the first two or three laps Mark was in the mirror, then on the eighth or ninth I asked the team on the radio where the others were and they told me they were 15s away! I pushed quite a lot and had an advantage after the first stint, and did the race quite slowly after that. I didn’t have any dramas and an important moment of the race came with nine laps to go when I had Jarno and Michael in front of me and was able to lap them. I had a perfect car through all the race.”
In Alonso’s wake Raikkonen needed until lap 14 to pass Webber, and did so only when the Jaguar driver made his first of three stops. That delay was crucial for Alonso and Renault, and left their rivals to chase one another home.
At the front, however, there was no question about the identity of the winner – even if he hadn’t previously stood on the top step of the podium. Alonso rounded the last corner, resisted the temptation to floor the throttle in celebration, and crawled under the chequered flag in order to savour the moment.