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2005 Race by Race - Part Two 17 Nov 2005

Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) McLaren celebrates on the podium.
Formula One World Championship, Rd6, Monaco Grand Prix, Race, Monte Carlo, Monaco, 22 May 2005 Pole sitter Nick Heidfeld (GER) Williams BMW FW27 arrives in Parc ferme.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, European Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Nurburgring, Germany, 28 May 2005 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault R25 retires from the race after hitting a wall. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 8, Canadian Grand Prix, Race, Montreal, Canada, 12 June 2005 (L to R): Race winner Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari and Tiago Monteiro (POR) Jordan on the podium. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 9, United States Grand Prix, Race, Indianapolis, USA, 19 June 2005 Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) McLaren Mercedes MP4/20 spins out of the race when the front suspension breaks on the last lap. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, European Grand Prix, Race, Nurburgring, Germany, 29 May 2005

Monaco, Europe, Canada, United States, France

A look back at rounds six to ten, in which Kimi Raikkonen and McLaren began to emerge as genuine title contenders. Among the key moments - a double podium for Williams; Nick Heidfeld’s first Formula One pole; a dramatic race exit for Raikkonen; a rare error from Fernando Alonso; a black flag for Juan Pablo Montoya; a six-car event at Indianapolis; and a home romp for Renault in France.

Round Six - Monaco - May 22
Pole: Raikkonen
Fastest Lap: M Schumacher
Links: Results / Live Timing Archive, Photos, TV images, Technical Analysis

Kimi Raikkonen resumed in Monaco where he had left off in Spain. Practice had suggested the race for pole might be a closely-fought affair, but the McLaren star stamped his authority on proceedings by going a full half a second quicker than Fernando Alonso in first qualifying. The Spaniard fought back on Sunday morning, but he was never likely to make up that margin and it was Raikkonen who duly took P1 on the grid for the third race in succession. In fact, such was the spread of times from Saturday’s session that very few men moved up the order on Sunday - just two in fact: Jarno Trulli, from sixth to fifth, and Michael Schumacher, from 10th to eighth.

More notable were the two names at the bottom of the order - Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya. Some ‘confusion’ between the two over track position in Saturday practice had led to a three-car pile up when Montoya slowed dramatically on the run up the hill to Casino Square. Many suspected the Colombian had brake tested Ralf. Whatever the truth, the stewards were not happy and sent the McLaren driver to the back of the grid. Ralf would end up joining him there after putting his Toyota into the wall (this time purely of his own accord) in first qualifying. The other story of qualifying was Minardi, who comprehensively out-performed key rivals Jordan.

Raikkonen made full use of his pole position, immediately sprinting away from his Renault rival at the start of the race, despite a heavier fuel load. Drama arrived on lap 25, however, when Christijan Albers spun his Minardi at Mirabeau, bringing out the safety car for four laps. Many took the opportunity to dive for the pits, though notably Raikkonen was not one of them. However, what had looked a possible error from McLaren proved to be anything but and the Finn was never seriously challenged. The real race was behind him.

Both Renaults were eating their rear tyres at a rapid rate (a set-up rather than a rubber problem as the team later acknowledged). The result was some thrilling action as Alonso tried, ultimately in vain, to fend off the charging Williams of Nick Heidfeld and Mark Webber who subsequently claimed a double podium for the BMW-powered team, both men scoring their best ever results. Montoya charged through the field to take fifth, with Ralf Schumacher putting in a similarly strong drive to sixth. Michael almost stole his brother’s place in a dash to the line after the champion had muscled his way past team mate Rubens Barrichello on the final lap. It all made for a thrilling race and firmly ended talk of Renault and Alonso running away with the championship - for the time being at least.

Round Seven - Europe - May 29
Pole: Heidfeld
Fastest Lap: Alonso
Links: Results / Live Timing Archive, Photos, TV images, Technical Analysis

After their two-race ban BAR returned at the Nurburgring, but it was far from the comeback they had hoped for. Handicapped by engines that had been sat on the shelf for five weeks and by their early running in qualifying (now a single Saturday session after the unpopular Sunday one was dropped post-Monaco), it was a low-key weekend for the Honda-powered team, with Jenson Button and Takuma Sato finishing 10th and 12th respectively.

At the sharp end, as in Monte Carlo, things developed into a three-way battle between McLaren, Renault and Williams. The last of the three dominated qualifying, with Heidfeld scoring his first Formula One pole position and Webber backing him up in third. Raikkonen was the meat in the Williams sandwich, while the Renaults of Alonso and Giancarlo Fisichella were left lurking back in sixth and ninth. Fisichella’s ninth quickly became 20th when he stalled on the grid, prompting an additional formation lap and forcing the luckless Italian to start from the pit lane. Things were not looking rosy for Renault.

The order got rapidly jumbled at the first corner when Webber, who yet again had failed to get his FW27 off the line cleanly, left his braking a little too late. The Australian spun off into the gravel, and retirement, after colliding with Montoya. The Colombian lost several places as a result, but miraculously he and everyone else continued, though Ralf had to pit for a new nose after running into the rear of Barrichello’s Ferrari. The big winner in all this was David Coulthard, who vaulted his Red Bull from 12th to fourth and would almost certainly have gone on to take a podium had he not incurred a drive-through penalty for speeding in the pit lane. And, at the front, as expected, Raikkonen got the jump on poleman Heidfeld to lead at the end of lap one.

Once again the new tyre rules were to play a decisive outcome in the race. As the afternoon progressed grip was notable by its absence, with Alonso and Raikkonen among the frontrunners to survive off-track excursions. It was to prove the Finn’s undoing. A flat spot on his right-front Michelin set up a vicious vibration - so vicious even TV viewers could see it. For lap after lap the Finn somehow drove through it as Alonso, sensing an unlikely victory, carved into his once healthy lead. Then, just as it seemed he would hold on, the McLaren’s suspension finally gave up the fight, sending Raikkonen spinning into the gravel on the very last lap.

Alonso’s victory may have seemed fortuitous, but in truth it was a worthy win. Renault’s race pace was arguably stronger than McLaren’s, as shown by Alonso’s fastest lap and Fisichella’s climb from the back of the field to sixth. Williams had no answer, despite Heidfeld’s faultless drive to second, while Ferrari, yet again handicapped by poor qualifying performance, enjoyed their best result of the year, with Barrichello third and Schumacher fifth. Coulthard equalled Red Bull’s Melbourne result in fourth, Montoya clawed his way back up to seventh and Trulli took the final point in another disappointing race for Toyota.

Round Eight - Canada - June 12
Pole: Button
Fastest Lap: Raikkonen
Links: Results / Live Timing Archive, Photos, TV images, Technical Analysis

After the cruel disappointment of Europe, Montreal was payback time for Raikkonen, but only after another incident-filled afternoon. All through Friday and Saturday practice another McLaren-Renault showdown looked on the cards, hence it was quite a surprise when qualifying produced a BAR-Ferrari front row, with Button edging Schumacher for P1. However, few in the paddock believed either team had the strategy to challenge for victory - and they were right.

In fact, a dramatic race start saw Button and Schumacher swallowed up by both Renaults at the very first corner, with Fisichella leading his team mate until a hydraulic problem put him out on lap 33. Despite Montoya chasing hard, it should have been a straightforward win for Alonso from there, but a rare driver error from the Spaniard saw him clip the wall, wrecking his R25’s suspension. That left Montoya in front, all set for his first McLaren victory - that was until the safety car came out after Button bounced his BAR over the new kerb at the final chicane and into the infamous ‘Wall of Champions’.

The safety car’s timing was not on Montoya’s side, the Colombian missing out on the chance of a ‘free’ stop, which countless others, including Raikkonen, took. He came in a lap later, but in his haste he failed to see the red light at the pit exit. The error was enough to get him black flagged, leaving Raikkonen to head for the chequered flag. The Finn’s run was not trouble free, however. A steering problem meant he was wrestling the car in the closing stages, allowing Schumacher’s Ferrari to close to within little more than a second.

It was a good day all round for Ferrari. Barrichello recovered from a pit-lane start to take third, while Felipe Massa, in the similarly powered Sauber, was an impressive fourth after withstanding intense pressure from various rivals, not least Webber in the Williams in the dying laps. Ralf Schumacher claimed sixth for Toyota, while Red Bull’s consistency continued, with Coulthard and Christian Klien taking the remaining points.

Round Nine - USA - June 19
M Schumacher
Pole: Trulli
Fastest Lap: M Schumacher
Links: Results / Live Timing Archive, Photos, TV images, Technical Analysis

The 2005 United States Grand Prix was highly memorable, but for all the wrong reasons. Things started to go awry in Friday practice, when Toyota suffered two left-rear Michelin tyre failures, one of which plunged Ralf Schumacher into the Indy banking wall for the second year running. The German walked away from the wreckage, but subsequently pulled out of the meeting as a precautionary measure, leaving Ricardo Zonta to take his place.

Saturday morning and Michelin still hadn’t found the cause of the failures, so running from their teams was minimal, just two cars completing a timed lap in the first session. Things looked to be back on track for the second, once Michelin had issued revised pressure and camber recommendations to ensure the safety of their tyres. Toyota used them to good effect in qualifying, bouncing back to take their first Formula One pole courtesy of Jarno Trulli.

Come Sunday morning and it was clear this was not going to be a normal race day. Michelin, still puzzled by the Friday failures, told the FIA they wouldn’t allow the teams to compete on the tyres as they couldn’t be sure of their safety over a race distance through the banked Turn 13. A series of heated meetings followed with all parties involved offering up a number of compromise solutions, none of which could be agreed on. With literally minutes remaining before the start, the seven Michelin teams declared they would only race if a chicane was inserted ahead of the banking. They took to the grid, completed a parade lap and then, with no chicane forthcoming, promptly returned to the pits to retire, much to the chagrin of the American fans.

That left a six car field - the three Bridgestone teams - and predictably the result was a Ferrari one-two, Schumacher edging ahead of Barrichello after their second pit stops. A delighted Tiago Monteiro scored his first podium for Jordan, while team mate Narain Karthikeyan and both Minardi men also took their first points. However, the result got scarce coverage in Monday’s press - instead the focus was on how a professional sport run by grown men had been allowed to plunge into such tragic farce. Michelin apologised for having failed to bring suitable tyres to the event, but that didn’t stop the FIA charging their teams with damaging the sport’s reputation and calling them before the World Motor Sport Council to explain why they had failed to race. Those charges were later dropped, with Michelin accepting full responsibility and refunding fans their race tickets.

Round 10 - France - July 3
Pole: Alonso
Fastest Lap: Raikkonen
Links: Results / Live Timing Archive, Photos, TV images, Technical Analysis

Renault came into their home race leading both championships, but only too aware of the mounting pressure from McLaren. Adding to that pressure was the presence of new Renault company Chairman, Carlos Ghosn, but the blue team proved more than up to challenge, Alonso taking a dominant victory, his fifth win of the season, to move further ahead of key rival Raikkonen in the standings. Such was Renault’s advantage in fact, that not once did Alonso lose the lead, even during his three pit stops, and by the end he had lapped everyone up to third-placed Michael Schumacher.

Admittedly, life was made easier for Alonso by McLaren’s misfortune. While the Spaniard took pole, an engine penalty demoted Raikkonen to 13th on the grid. He clawed his way through the pack, though, eventually clinching a well-deserved second place after team mate Montoya retired with mechanical failure. Michael Schumacher, meanwhile, was never really on the pace of the two leading teams, but may have stayed closer had he not got trapped behind a slow-moving Trulli in the early stages.

In what was a relatively low-key race, Button secured his and BAR’s first points of 2005 with fifth place ahead of Trulli. The luckless Fisichella fell to sixth after stalling in the pits at his final stop, but still finished well clear of the second Toyota of Ralf Schumacher in seventh. Jacques Villeneuve took a valuable single point for Sauber and may have done even better had it not been for an off-track moment during his final stint.

Click here for Part One.
Part Three coming soon.