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Kimi Räikkönen sweeps unchallenged to Spanish GP victory
Kimi Räikkönen and McLaren-Mercedes enjoyed an almost-perfect weekend in Barcelona, as Räikkönen led from start to finish in the Spanish Grand Prix to record his first win of the Formula One season.
In so doing he broke the Renault stranglehold on the Manufacturers' Championship race and interrupted a streak of three straight wins by Fernando Alonso.
Racing in front of his adoring home fans, Alonso had to be content with second spot, which still keeps him in a comfortable lead in the drivers' standings.
The previous GP at Imola had seen wheel-to-wheel racing between Alonso and Ferrari's Michael Schumacher, and also a very quick McLaren until Räikkönen was forced to retire with a driveshaft failure. Hence the pundits had forecast real excitement and drama in Spain.
They could hardly have been more wrong: Räikkönen took pole position, left the grid like a bullet, and built up such a lead that by the time he emerged from his first stop for fuel after 25 laps, he was still able to head the field.
After this, the Finn eased off and merely kept the pack at bay by a comfortable 20-plus seconds until the chequered flag. The only concerns were that the McLaren-Mercedes would last the distance, as the car has hitherto shown some signs of unreliability. In Barcelona, however, everything went like clockwork, and the victory almost had an air of the routine about it.
Things could actually have been even better for the team, as Räikkönen's colleague Juan Pablo Montoya could have been challenging for a podium place but for an extra unscheduled pit stop after there was a malfunction with the fuel nozzle. Montoya finished in 7th to score two points.
For Ferrari, the weekend was something of a disaster. Rubens Barrichello came home in 9th, out of the points, and World Champion Michael Schumacher, who had looked quick only briefly just before his first pit-stop, eventually retired after not one but two punctures. Amazingly, it is seven months since Schumacher recorded a Formula One victory.
With last season's dominant stable in the doldrums, Sunday's results boosted the fortunes of the three top teams so far this year. Renault scored 12 points from Alonso's second place and Giancarlo Fisichella in 5th, while Toyota continued a very impressive start to the season: Jarno Trulli was 3rd, just under a second ahead of team-mate Ralf Schumacher.
Trulli has been on the podium three times already this season, and Toyota are second in the manufacturers' race behind Renault, and just ahead of McLaren.
The McLaren points come interestingly from four drivers, as Montoya's earlier absence through injury has given drives to Alexander Wurz (6 points) and Pedro de la Rosa (4 points).
For Kimi Räikkönen, Sunday's win was balsam after the disappointment of Imola, but he still has a long way to go to overhaul Fernando Alonso's lead in the championship. Räikkonen now has 17 points to Alonso's 44.
The F1 circus now moves on to Monaco on May 22nd, in the slowest - and arguably the most prestigious - Grand Prix of the season.