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Fernando Alonso took a most unlikely victory in Sunday's European Grand Prix after rival Kimi Raikkonen crashed out on the final lap having dominated the race, writes James Allen at the Nurburgring.The result takes the pressure off Alonso in the World Championship and could have a huge effect on its outcome.
The momentum was all with Raikkonen and his McLaren Mercedes team going into this race. He had won the previous two Grands Prix and was starting from the front row of the grid for the fourth race in a row. Alonso lined up sixth, but the Spaniard had more fuel in his car than any of his rivals and made good progress through the pack. With 10 laps to go he had settled for second place before Raikkonen's problems took a dramatic turn, handing the initiative back to Alonso and Renault. Again the new rules set the tone, and tyre wear was a critical factor, or more precisely tyre management.
Raikkonen pushed his car too hard, running off the road and twice locking up his front wheels under braking. He put a large flat spot on his front right tyre, which started to disintegrate and caused severe vibrations. His comfortable lead dwindled as the car became undriveable in the closing laps. To pit for a new tyre at that stage would have handed victory to Alonso and confined Raikkonen to a probable third place but at least he would have had six points to show for his day. Instead his racer's instinct and that of his team said "stay out" and he paid the price. As he braked for the first corner of the last lap the front suspension shattered and his car slammed into the barriers right in front of the Mercedes hospitality grand- stand.
Alonso drove through to pick up his fourth win of the season and extend his lead over Raikkonen to 32 points.
BMW Williams driver Nick Heidfeld finished second for the second race in a row having started this one from pole position while Ferrari's Rubens Barrichello picked up his first podium of the season. Another unlucky man was David Coulthard. From 12th on the grid, he took advantage of a first corner incident involving Juan Pablo Montoya, Mark Webber and Ralf Schumacher to move up to fifth place. He was on target for the podium but was caught speeding in the pit lane and handed a drive-through penalty, which lost him a position to Barrichello. Without that, Red Bull Racing would have had their first podium.
* Argentina's Angel Cabrera won golf's BMW Championship at Wentworth, writes Graham Otway.Although the PGA Championship has been renamed, with a first prize of £468,000 it remains the showcase for European Tour golf. Yet the climax was overshadowed. Repeated attempts by the Tour to bring about the closure of an incident involving Colin Montgomerie during March's Indonesian Open suffered another failure. The Scot has been the subject of a whispering campaign among his fellow professionals, and a European Tournament Committee investigation after failing to return his ball to its original position after a break in play for lightning in Jakarta.
The tournament director cleared Montgomery of any misdemeanour, with the decision ratified two weeks later by the 14-man committee. But many tour members remain disgruntled and their feelings were made public on Saturday by the English professional Gary Evans. Following Sunday tabloid headlines, the Tour demanded that Evans apologise while Montgomerie said he was "very hurt" by the renewed attack on his integrity. He responded with a final round 66 to finish tied in 11th place, which when the latest rankings are published today could see him restored to the world's top 50 and qualify him for next month's US Open.
However, on a sublime day for scoring, few of the leaders could match the quality of that golf. Sweden's Peter Hedblom started out level with Cabrera, two shots ahead of the field, but quickly fell away. The only serious challenge was launched by Ireland's Paul McGinley who covered the first nine holes in just 30 shots with a burst of five birdies in six holes. However, his bid faltered with bogeys at the 16th and 17th holes, leaving Cabrera clear to win by two shots with his final round of 67 and a third Tour victory more than compensating for finishing runner-up twice at Wentworth in the previous five years.
* Sheffield Wednesday will play in football's Championship next season after their extra-time victory on Sunday over 10-man Hartlepool in a thrilling League One play-off final in Cardiff's Millennium Stadium. Hartlepool looked to be heading for promotion after second-half goals from Eifion Williams and Jon Daly had cancelled out Jon-Paul McGovern's opener for the Owls. But Steve MacLean equalised from the penalty spot near the end of normal time after Chris Westwood was sent off for pulling back Drew Talbot and Glenn Whelan and Talbot both scored to win it for Wednesday in the extra half-hour.
Meanwhile, former Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier has been appointed coach of Ligue 1 champions Lyon. Houllier replaces Paul Le Guen, who quit after leading the club to their fourth consecutive title and their third under his command.
* In tennis, world number one Roger Federer underlined his status as French Open favourite by hammering former champion Carlos Moya 6-1 6-4 6-3 to reach the quarter-finals. The top seed, chasing the only grand slam title to elude him, crushed the Spaniard in 101 minutes. The 23- year-old Swiss faces a seemingly easy passage through to the semi- finals as he now meets world number 90 Victor Hanescu of Romania, who overcame former Wimbledon finalist David Nalbandian 6-3 4-6 5-7 6-1 6-2.
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