Fond farewells from three famous team names
Peter Sauber desperately wanted to beat his old sponsor Red Bulls new team, but Sauber had a disappointing season and finished only eighth overall in the standings. At the end of 2004 that years C23 had been very quick when they changed to Michelin tyres, but the C24 wasnt optimised for them and drivers Felipe Massa and Jacques Villeneuve generally struggled to score points.
The high point should have been a podium for the Brazilian after an excellent drive at Spa, but he elected to change too soon to dry tyres and the team had to settle for the French-Canadians sixth there. Villeneuve also took a strong fourth in Imola, while Massa was a great fourth in Canada and added sixth in China to round off his time with the Swiss team before he heads to Ferrari as Michael Schumachers partner in 2006. The worst moment came in Monaco, when Villeneuve rashly tried to pass Massa at Ste Devote and their resultant collision cost the team a haul of much-needed points.
Midway through the year it became apparent that Sauber intended to bow out at the end of the season after selling all but 20 percent of his shareholding to BMW. That made the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai the end of the era of the privateer, for Eddie Jordan had already sold his Jordan team to Russian billionaire Alex Schnaider, and at Spa Paul Stoddart reluctantly announced that he would sell Minardi to Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz.
Jordan was a very different team in 2005 after Eddie Jordans departure in January. Rumanian Colin Kolles was appointed to run the team, initially with former rally co-driver Christian Geisdorfer looking after the marketing and British team owner Trevor Carlin as sporting director. Geisdorfer and Carlin departed mid-season, but the team received a boost when former F1 driver Johnny Herbert was brought in as sporting relations manager at Hockenheim. Drivers Narain Karthikeyan and Tiago Monteiro pushed hard all season and were evenly matched, and their high point came when they finished fourth and third respectively at Indianapolis. Monteiro was also an impressive eighth at Spa.
Formula One lost its other privateer when Stoddart sold up. His team finally produced a new car, the PS05, at Imola. Drivers Christijan Albers and Patrick Friesacher used it to finish fifth and sixth respectively at Indianapolis and thus to score the marques final points, but later the Austrian was replaced by Dutchman Robert Doornbos. All three men faced an uphill struggle on limited finance but there were emotional farewells in Shanghai to a team that at least gave newcomers their chance, Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber among them.
For 2006 Sauber will at the very least include BMW in its title; Minardi will become Squadra Toro Rosso; Jordan will become Midland; and BAR will be Honda.
Fernando Alonsos triumph brought the domination of Michael Schumacher and Ferrari to an end, and turned the sea of red at race tracks into a blue lagoon. Now there will be a period of intensive development as everyone readies new machinery. Will Kimi Raikkonen and McLaren grab the crowns away from Alonso and Renault? Will Ferrari and Honda get back on top?
There are just five months to wait for the first answers.
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