Belfast Telegraph

F1: Alonso pays Fer mistake

By Alastair Moffitt

Fernando Alonso has been dumped to 10th on the grid for today's Italian Grand Prix at Monza.

Fernando Alonso has been dumped to 10th on the grid for today's Italian Grand Prix at Monza.

Race stewards looked into a complaint from Felipe Massa that Alonso held him up late in the qualifying session and yesterday evening punished the Renault driver.

He has been stripped of his best three lap times in final qualifying, dropping him to 10th on the grid.

Before facing the stewards, Alonso protested his innocence, claiming "Massa complained about me blocking his lap and my point of view is quite clear. He was 300-400 metres behind me. It's a strange complaint.

"I did my out lap at maximum so I didn't block anyone. I did my best sector times in the out lap."

Massa's version of the incident was different, however, and the Ferrari driver claimed he lost three 10ths of a second.

The stewards also disagreed with Alonso's view, claiming he "did impede" Massa and punished him even though "such action may not have been deliberate".

Yesterday evening's move puts Alonso's world championship lead in grave danger on home turf for Renault's title rivals Ferrari.

Michael Schumacher trails the Spaniard by 12 points but he starts second today and will expect to slash into that advantage.

With Alonso dumped back to 10th, Honda driver Jenson Button moves up to fifth place, with BMW Sauber's Robert Kubica joining him on row three in sixth.

Pedro de la Rosa moves up to seventh for McLaren with the other Honda of Rubens Barrichello eighth.

Renault are confined to the fifth row with Alonso starting alongside team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella.

Schumacher consoled himself with Alonso's misfortune after seeing pole position snatched from his grasp yesterday.

Schumacher looked set to clinch top spot with a late lap but, in the final seconds of qualifying, Kimi Raikkonen pipped him by just 0.002 seconds.

Ferrari ace Schumacher lines up second on the grid but his dream of slashing Alonso's 12-point championship lead remains intact.

The Renault's driver misfortune left Schumacher smiling ahead of a momentous day, when he is expected to announce his retirement from Formula One.

He said: "The car is going very well. In testing here we have been quite strong and consistent so it is a comfortable position to be in.

"If you look at the order, and particularly where Fernando is, it is not too bad for us."

Alonso had claimed fifth after a puncture in final qualifying but now finds himself which much more to do if he is to get on the podium.

Raikkonen disappointed Ferrari's home crowd by claiming pole on the weekend he is expected to be named as one of the team's 2007 drivers.

However, the Finn admits a repeat of Juan Pablo Montoya's Monza win for McLaren last year is a tall order.

"It will not be easy but we will give all that we have. It could go either way but I am confident."


From Belfast Telegraph