BARCELONA, Spain - King Juan Carlos made Fernando Alonso feel like a winner.
The Spanish driver finished second to Kimi Raikkonen on Sunday at the Spanish Grand Prix, denied a fourth straight victory in a race before a roaring sellout crowd of 115,000 that included the king.
“Second place here at home is a like a victory for me,” Alonso said.
Raikkonen led all the way from the pole in his McLaren-Mercedes for the third Formula One victory of his career. Alonso, in a Renault, was trying to become the first Spaniard to capture his national race since it was first run 54 years ago.
Seven-time series champion Michael Schumacher was forced out after 46 laps when his car limped into the pits with a flat tire. Ferrari has failed to score a point in two of the last three races.
Schumacher, meanwhile, has not won in six straight races, matching his longest stretch since he joined Ferrari in 1996. He last won seven months ago in Japan and will try to break the streak in Monaco on May 22 in what has become a troubling season.
“No doubt it is moving away from us,” said Schumacher, who won 13 times last year and captured the last four Spanish Grand Prix races. “But not so far away that we already have to give it up.”
Raikkonen finished in 1 hour, 27 minutes, 16.830 seconds. Alonso was 27.6 seconds behind, with Jarno Trulli of Toyota third. Ralf Schumacher of Toyota was fourth, followed by Renault’s Giancarlo Fisichella and Mark Webber of Williams-BMW.
“Overall the car was perfect,” Raikkonen said. “I cannot think of anywhere it was not strong.”
Signs around the course hailed Alonso as “King Alonso I” or “Asturias’ Best,” referring to the northern region that is home to the driver. Thousands of blue-and-yellow Asturian flags complemented Renault’s colors. A hillside overlooking the course was painted blue and yellow as fans without tickets strained for a glimpse.
Alonso was cheered at every turn by spectators hoisting signs, waving flags and playing bagpipes. As in Scotland, the instrument is a favorite in Asturias, which sent about 10,000 fans to the race.
At Alonso’s three wins this season — Malaysia, Bahrain and San Marino — the king called each time. This time, he was in the pits and gave him a royal hug on the podium before presenting Raikkonen with the trophy.
“He told me to keep it like this — or something like this — because we enjoyed the race,” Alonso said. “It was a big party we saw this weekend in Spain.”
The 23-year-old Alonso is on track to be the youngest driver to win the season title. Through five of 19 races, he leads the standings with 44 points, followed by Trulli with 26. Raikkonen moved into third with 17 points. Fisichella and Ralf Schumacher have 14 each.
In team points, Renault leads with 58, followed by Toyota (40), McLaren (37), Williams (21) and Ferrari (18).
“Five races, five podiums,” said Alonso, who also was third in the opening race in Australia. “I said many times this year the start of this year was something I never expected.”
Raikkonen was simply too quick in a relatively clean race at Circuit de Catalunya. At times, he added two full seconds per lap to his edge over Alonso. After 22 laps, Raikkonen led the Spaniard by 24 seconds. It was his first victory since the one eight months ago in Belgium.
“I just kept the pace, I didn’t go full speed and I won quite easily,” said Raikkonen, who took the pole two weeks ago at Imola, but dropped out after nine laps with a broken drive shaft. “Finally, it happened. The last race was close.”
The field was cut from 20 drivers to 18 after BAR-Honda was banned for two races Thursday when the governing body ruled Jenson Button’s car was underweight and raced illegally at last month’s San Marino GP.
Schumacher’s race began to break down after 44 laps, when he pitted to replace a blown left rear tire. Two laps later, he went out with a flat. This was his second retirement with mechanical problems in the last three races.
“We will keep on working,” he said. “And we will keep on trying.”
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