F1: Alonso ends bad spell

Fernando Alonso celebrated a surprise victory at the Japanese Grand Prix which should see the Spaniard retain his Formula One drivers' crown.

Fernando Alonso celebrated a surprise victory at the Japanese Grand Prix which should see the Spaniard retain his Formula One drivers' crown.

With Michael Schumacher retiring 17 laps from the finish, it was a doubly sweet success for Renault and a delighted Alonso performed a post-race jig after he finally ended his barren run.

The Spaniard's last win came at the Canadian Grand Prix in June, and that success was followed by a series of performances which saw him struggle in Hungary, fail to finish in Italy and lose unexpectedly to Schumacher in last week's Chinese Grand Prix.

But with just the Brazilian Grand Prix left and a lead of 10 points over Schumacher in the drivers' standings, Alonso is in pole position to defend his world title.

He said: "I think it was not only Monza where we lost points, I think we had very unlucky moments in Hungary as well as in some other places as well - China.

"So we lost a lot of points in bad luck moments and for sure these 10 points are a little present that God gave to us."

While the win was largely attributed to Schumacher's engine failure on the 36th lap, Alonso's impressive performance after struggling in qualifying was just as key to his victory.

Starting from fifth on the grid, the Spaniard had a blistering start and was past Toyota's Jarno Trulli by the first corner and pushing Ralf Schumacher as the Ferraris of Felipe Massa and the elder Schumacher set the pace.

By the start of the third lap, the seven-time world champion was in the lead and the tone appeared to be set for the race after the Ferraris had dominated so impressively in qualifying.

But rather than pulling away as expected, the rest of the chasing pack kept the duo in sight with Alonso pushing the pace in fourth and being held up by third-placed Ralf Schumacher.

Alonso finally found a way past the Toyota on the 13th lap and was soon homing in on the leaders, setting the fastest lap in the process before passing Massa in the pits on the 15th lap.

Schumacher responded and the gap between the two remained around the five-second mark as the fastest runners encountered traffic.

The second round of pit stops presented little in the way of change, with Schumacher exiting the pit lane comfortably ahead of Alonso at the start of the 36th lap but, soon after changing tyres and refueling, the outcome was turned on its head.

Within seconds of reappearing, smoke was billowing from the back of the Ferrari.

As Schumacher pulled over to the side of the track, Alonso went past -- pumping his fist triumphantly before cruising to victory ahead of Massa, who held on to take second place.

Fia Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix, Suzuka, Japan - 53 Laps: 1 Fernando Alonso (Spa) Renault 1hr 23mins 53.413secs, 2 Felipe Massa (Bra) Ferrari 1:24:09.564, 3 Giancarlo Fisichella (Ita) Renault 1:24:17.366, 4 Jenson Button (Gbr) Honda 1:24:27.514, 5 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) McLaren 1:24:37.009, 6 Jarno Trulli (Ita) Toyota 1:24:40.130, 7 Ralf Schumacher (Ger) Toyota 1:24:42.282, 8 Nick Heidfeld (Ger) BMW Sauber 1:25:09.508, 9 Robert Kubica (Pol) BMW Sauber 1:25:10.345, 10 Nico Rosberg (Ger) Williams at 1 lap, 11 Pedro de la Rosa (Spa) McLaren at 1 lap, 12 Rubens Barrichello (Bra) Honda at 1 lap, 13 Robert Doornbos (Ned) Red Bull at 1 lap, 14 Vitantonio Liuzzi (Ita) Scuderia Toro Rosso at 1 lap, 15 Takuma Sato (Jpn) Super Aguri at 1 lap, 16 Tiago Monteiro (Por) Midland at 2 laps, 17 Sakon Yamamoto (Jpn) Super Aguri at 3 laps. Not Classified: 18 Scott Speed (USA) Scuderia Toro Rosso 48 laps completed, 19 Mark Webber (Aus) Williams 39 laps completed, 20 Michael Schumacher (Ger) Ferrari 36 laps completed, 21 David Coulthard (Gbr) Red Bull 35 laps completed, 22 Christijan Albers (Ned) Midland 20 laps completed

Fastest Lap: Fernando Alonso (Spa) Renault 1min 32.676 on lap 14.

World Championship Standings - Drivers' Championship leaders: 1 Fernando Alonso (Spa) Renault 126pts, 2 Michael Schumacher (Ger) Ferrari 116, 3 Felipe Massa (Bra) Ferrari 70, 4 Giancarlo Fisichella (Ita) Renault 69, 5 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) McLaren 61, 6 Jenson Button (Gbr) Honda 50, 7 Rubens Barrichello (Bra) Honda 28, 8 Juan Montoya (Col) McLaren 26, 9 Nick Heidfeld (Ger) BMW Sauber 23, 10 Ralf Schumacher (Ger) Toyota 20.

Manufacturers' Championship: 1 Renault 195pts, 2 Ferrari 186, 3 McLaren 105, 4 Honda 78, 5 BMW Sauber 36, 6 Toyota 35, 7 Red Bull 16, 8 Williams 11, 9 Scuderia Toro Rosso 1.

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