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Culture

World Champ Schumi Nowhere in Malaysia

After having to retire from the opening F1 race in Australia, Michael Schumacher again failed to deliver in Malaysia, finishing seventh. Renault's Fernando Alonso took the flag and the top points in Sepang on Sunday.

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No Ferrari red in Sepang as Alonso's win left Schumi feeling blue

German world champion Michael Schumacher scored his first points of the season at the Malaysian Grand Prix on Sunday but finished a disappointing seventh as the checkered flag went to the Spaniard Fernando Alonso who claimed his second career win and moved to the top of the world championship table when he eased to victory.

Schumacher wasn't even the highest placed German at the end of the race with Williams driver Nick Heidfeld taking third and a podium place while the world title holder's younger brother Ralf finished two places above him in fifth.

Alonso led from pole position and overcame minor handling troubles in the closing stages to stay ahead of Italian Jarno Trulli, who took a satisfying second place to give Toyota their first ever Formula One podium finish.

Sapped of strength, Alonso celebrates win

Alonso had to crouch on the podium after an energy-sapping race spent without the use of a drinks bottle and he admitted: "It was very tough conditions and I finished on the limit today. We knew before the start of the race that it would be tough, but my drinks bottle didn't work and I had problems. But I was not pushing very hard during the race and the car was easy to drive."

"The last 15 of 20 laps were very long and the same for everyone here in Sepang, but maybe more when you are in position one. You are very close to winning the race but everything was fine and we showed we are the team to beat."

Trulli was delighted with his podium finish and said: "I had an extremely good start but the Renault seems to get away well. I drove my race, I was competitive and I started managing the race, taking care of the tyres. It is fantastic to bring the first podium finish to Toyota. We were quite comfortable on reliability even though the conditions are difficult here and the team has done a good job over the winter."

Heidfeld battles to third

Nick Heidfeld

Nick Heidfeld

But the battle was waged behind for third place as Australian Grand Prix winner Giancarlo Fisichella fought with Williams pair Mark Webber and Heidfeld and Toyota's Ralf Schumacher for the final place on the podium.

The position eventually went to German Heidfeld, who secured his first podium for Williams, after Italian Fisichella and Australian Webber crashed into retirement and German Schumacher faded away in the closing stages.

Heidfeld said: "It was very hot. My drink bottle failed - it always happens where you don't want it to. I had to push quite hard because I was only 10th in qualifying. I had a good start and some good overtaking moves."

Ralf comes in fifth ahead of Michael

Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya played a calculated race and moved up from 11th on the grid to finish fourth for McLaren, just ahead of Schumacher in fifth, with Scot David Coulthard sixth for Red Bull Racing.

Formel 1: Michael Schumacher siegt in Imola

Schumi has yet to get going this season.

World champion Schumacher hung onto seventh as he stayed ahead of eighth-placed Austrian Christian Klien, who ensured Red Bull Racing secured a second consecutive double points finish.

Schumacher admitted that his chances of retaining his crown for a sixth consecutive year are already not looking good after just two races of the season.

Ferrari were way ahead of the competition last year as they dominated the championship and won 16 of the 18 races on their way to their sixth consecutive constructors' title. But this season has seen them plunge down the order and after opening his championship account with seventh place on Sunday Prix he admitted there is a long way to go for the struggling champions.

"At the moment it does not look very good," said Schumacher. "There's different areas in which we have to work, we know that, and it's clear we all have to work together to raise our game. But we will do that and we will do it successfully."

Old car and tyres in the firing line

Neuer Ferrari F2005

Renault have started the season on a high with victory in the first two races in Australia and Malaysia but Ferrari are still using their old 2004 car and have a new one ready to be introduced. Next week the team will test the machine, which is said to be faster by between half a second and a full second per lap, to decide whether it is reliable enough to take to the next race in Bahrain.

And Schumacher added: "Obviously the other teams were doing a better job in several areas. We have to improve in all those different areas. We can see that in comparison with the other teams our (current) car is not the best.

"When I came here I didn't expect a very strong race but Friday and Saturday morning it didn't look too bad. But there was a lot of work behind me today - we had a lot of hard work for two points."

Ferrari's tyre suppliers Bridgestone have been singled out for criticism but Schumacher insisted: "I think it's extremely wrong to concentrate on just one factor. We have won together and we lose together."

The full picture of the season, which at 19 races is the longest ever in the history of the sport, is yet to be revealed, however, and Schumacher believes Ferrari are not as far behind as results suggest. "I can see it is hard to understand that we win 16 races in a season then coming here we are fighting for seventh position. But if you look back I always said things can turn around very fast and it's not down to one track at all."

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