Monday, July 2, 2007

Man of the race

McLaren boss Ron Dennis praised Fernando Alonso for his never-say-die performance in the French Grand Prix, hailing him as the "man of the race". Alonso faced an uphill task at Magny-Cours after a gearbox problem in qualifying consigned him to 10th place on the grid.

The world champion spent much of the race in pitched battles with other cars, harrying them unrelentingly but finding it difficult to get past on the short, twisty track.The experienced Nick Heidfeld kept him at bay for lap after lap before Alonso finally made a move stick with a breathtaking inside pass on the entry to the 140mph Nurburgring chicane.Ultimately Alonso's early-stopping pit strategy negated his hard work, however, and he finished a frustrated seventh, behind both Heidfeld and Giancarlo Fisichella.

"For me Fernando was the man of the race," said Dennis.

"His race was always going to be challenging starting from 10th, but our aim was to score points, which he did."

Alonso said the fuel strategy the team employed – to which it had committed before his qualifying problem struck – meant he was unable to break free of traffic and exploit his car's pace.

"I did the maximum I could today, but we knew it would be difficult starting 10th with a fuel strategy that was originally aiming for a top-three grid position," he said.

"This meant that at the pit stops I was always changing positions and ending up behind those I had already passed.

"The fight with Nick Heidfeld was fun, but it was a lot of hard work.

"I also made a good move on Giancarlo."

Alonso lost ground in the world championship standings to team-mate Lewis Hamilton, who has a 14-point advantage after another podium finish in France. The Spaniard admitted he threw caution to the wind in his efforts to minimise the damage to his title chances.

"I am contesting the world championship, so I had to do whatever I could today and was not worried about the risks," he said.

"It is a disappointing result, but we will have to look to improve next week [at the British GP], where we should be strong."

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