Renault’s Fernando Alonso overcame a spell of fever and mid-race gearbox problems to follow up his first pole position with a maiden podium finish at Sepang.

Renault’s Fernando Alonso overcame a spell of fever and mid-race gearbox problems to follow up his first pole position with a maiden podium finish at Sepang.

Alonso, a former Minardi driver, performed testing duties for Renault last year and on Sunday scored the French team’s first podium finish since the manufacturer took over Benetton in 2001.

The 21-year old surprised many in the paddock when he set the fastest time in qualifying on Saturday, but most F1 observers felt that the Renault drivers had opted for a light fuel loads in order to gain the best qualifying positions. As it turned out, a first corner incident had a greater effect on the outcome of the race than Renault’s pit strategy.

"We had enough fuel to do a normal two stop strategy and in the first stint it was a really good feeling to be in front of the race,” said Alonso, who lead the first 12 laps of the race. “But then I was fighting with Rubens Barrichello in the second stint, and in the third one, I had a little gear change problem with the car, so I changed manually in the last laps.

“Today is the best day of my life. It's a great feeling to finish on the podium, especially since halfway through the race I thought I wasn't going to finish,” Alonso added.

On the first lap, Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher, who had started third on the grid, attempted to beat Alonso’s team-mate, Jarno Trulli, on the inside of the second corner and smashed the Italian off the track. Trulli eventually crossed the line in fifth place after a race-long battle with the five-time world champion and BAR Honda’s Jenson Button.

“Honestly I think we missed a good opportunity today,” Trulli said. “Everything was going smoothly but then Michael pushed me out. He eventually apologized but at that point, my race had been spoiled. I incurred in other problems, such as a long pit stop and I had to fight till the end to keep my position. Certainly my fifth place brings some more points to myself and the team, however, I am disappointed because I feel I could have done better.”