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2005 Race by Race - Part Three 25 Nov 2005

The podium (L to R):  Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault; Juan Pablo Montoya (COL) McLaren and Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) McLaren  
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, British Grand Prix, Race Day, Silverstone, England, 10 July 2005 Third place Jenson Button (GBR) BAR Honda 007 in parc ferme. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, German Grand Prix, Race, Hockenheim, Germany, 24 July 2005 Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari F2005.
Formula One World Championship, Rd13, Hungarian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Hungaroring, Hungary, 30 July 2005 Third place Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Renault 
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Italian Grand Prix, Race Day, Monza, Italy, 4 September 2005 Tiago Monteiro (POR) Jordan Toyota EJ15.
Formula One World Championship, Rd14, Turkish Grand Prix, Practice Day, Istanbul Park, Turkey, 19 August 2005

Great Britain, Germany, Hungary, Turkey, Italy

A look back at what was to prove the decisive phase of this year's championship, rounds 11 to 15. Among the key moments were Juan Pablo Montoya’s first win for McLaren; a shock pole position for Michael Schumacher and Ferrari, further reliability woes for Kimi Raikkonen and a disastrous race for the Renault team in Hungary.

Round 11 - Great Britain - July 10
Winner:
Montoya
Pole: Alonso
Fastest Lap: Raikkonen
Links: Results / Live Timing Archive, Photos, TV images, Technical Analysis

After swallowing the bitter pill of a ten-spot grid penalty at Magny-Cours, Kimi Raikkonen was hoping for better luck at Silverstone. It didn’t happen. He qualified less than three hundredths of a second behind Fernando Alonso, but another failed Mercedes V10 demoted him to 12th on the grid, dealing another heavy blow to the Finn’s world championship hopes. As in France, however, Raikkonen made the best of a bad situation and overall it was McLaren, not Renault, who emerged the weekend’s winners.

Sunday afternoon’s front row consisted Alonso and Jenson Button, giving British fans hope of a home win, or at least BAR’s first podium of the year. Juan Pablo Montoya had other ideas, sprinting from third on the grid to pass Button into Turn 1 and come alongside the leading Renault. By the time they reached Becketts, the Colombian had muscled ahead of Alonso, in a move that effectively clinched his first win for McLaren. Raikkonen had a strong first lap too, moving up to eighth, but then got stuck behind a slow-moving Jarno Trulli-Michael Schumacher train, which ended his slim hopes of victory. He eventually moved up to third, thanks in part to the luckless Giancarlo Fisichella stalling during his second pit stop. At the front, Alonso stayed in touch with Montoya, but vital time lost lapping Trulli (several drivers later complained of a lack of blue flags) meant he wasn’t close enough to challenge for the win in the final stages.

It really was a McLaren-Renault race, just 18 seconds covering their four cars at the finish. Button was a lonely fifth for BAR, 40 seconds behind Montoya, while Ferrari were even further off the pace, Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello crossing the line for sixth and seventh over a minute and a quarter after the winner. Ralf Schumacher took the final point for Toyota, just ahead of team mate Trulli, as once again the Japanese team struggled to convert a strong qualifying performance into race pace.
Most disappointed, however, were Williams, who were still unable to get to grips with the ‘Mark II’ FW27, despite running Nick Heidfeld in the older car to carry out a back-to-back comparison. Mark Webber did prove quicker in the newer machine, but only just, the pair coming home a distant 11th and 12th, leaving them plenty to do ahead of BMW’s home race in Germany.

Round 12 - Germany - July 24
Winner:
Alonso
Pole: Raikkonen
Fastest Lap: Raikkonen
Links: Results / Live Timing Archive, Photos, TV images, Technical Analysis

Could Mercedes make amends for the disappointment of previous rounds and get it right on home soil? That was the question on everyone’s lips as the season moved to Hockenheim. The sheer pace of the McLarens was obvious throughout practice - they topped every session - and with no reliability problems heading into qualifying, a silver one-two on the grid looked to be a foregone conclusion.

That was until the very last corner of the very last lap of the session, when the rear end of Montoya’s car stepped out as he brushed the kerb. Raikkonen had controlled the oversteer at the same point on his way to a clear pole position. Montoya failed to do so and in an instant he was into the wall and on to the last row of the grid. BAR were the main beneficiaries, Button claiming a front-row slot for the second race in succession. Championship leader Alonso was right behind Raikkonen, with Renault team mate Fisichella alongside for support. And just to throw some extra spice into the mix, Michael Schumacher confounded Ferrari’s poor form to take fifth in front of his home fans.

Raikkonen and Alonso made a clean break at the start, pursued by Schumacher, who got the jump on both Button and Fisichella. Further back there was plenty of first-lap drama, with Takuma Sato, Webber and Trulli all needing to pit for repairs after minor clashes. Webber suffered most, the Australian eventually rejoining 11 laps later after a lengthy suspension fix. Amid the chaos, Montoya leapt from last to 11th, Felipe Massa went from 13th to seventh and David Coulthard made up five places to move into sixth.

Montoya quickly gained two more places and a long first stint helped vault him to third. Then, just as things were working out for McLaren, disaster struck, Raikkonen’s car coasting to halt with a hydraulics problem on lap 36. With Montoya too far back to challenge, Alonso was gifted an easy win. There was still plenty of excitement behind, however. Schumacher was forced to drive more and more defensively as the rear Bridgestones on his Ferrari began to fade. Button took advantage just before his second stop and went on to secure a comfortable podium, while Fisichella also made it past the German in the dying stages to take fourth, extending Renault’s championship advantage over McLaren still further. Ralf Schumacher finished sixth, right on his brother’s tail, closely followed by Coulthard and Massa.

Round 13 - Hungary - July 31
Winner:
Raikkonen
Pole: M Schumacher
Fastest Lap: Raikkonen
Links: Results / Live Timing Archive, Photos, TV images, Technical Analysis

Just as it was beginning to look as though Renault were safely on course for both championships, the blue team gave their rivals a present in Hungary as both cars failed to score. Admittedly, there was an element of bad luck involved - both Alonso and Fisichella suffering in dramas at the opening corner - but the team also had technical issues and failed to match the pace of their rivals. Instead it was left to McLaren and a resurgent Ferrari to grab the headlines.

Ferrari did it courtesy of Michael Schumacher, who stunned the paddock by taking the team’s first pole of 2005 by almost a second from Montoya. Raikkonen, first man out in qualifying due to his Germany retirement, put in a sterling effort to take fourth on the grid, while championship leader Alonso could only manage sixth. Inevitably there were suspicions that Schumacher was running incredibly light, but the race would prove that the world champions had made a genuine step forward.

At the start, Schumacher maintained his lead into Turn One, with Raikkonen finding his way past Trulli and then Montoya within the opening lap to seize second. Behind them, however, chaos reigned thanks to a number of incidents at the first corner. Wheel contact between Jacques Villeneuve and Christian Klien sent the Austrian’s Red Bull literally rolling out of the race; Barrichello ran into the back of Trulli’s Toyota, forcing both men to make early stops; and Alonso suffered serious front wing damage as was squeezed over the kerbs by Ralf Schumacher. That wing gave way pretty soon after and was run over by an unsighted Coulthard. The damage inflicted was terminal, leaving both Red Bulls out of the race with less than a lap run.

Up front Raikkonen hounded Schumacher, but with passing so difficult he had to wait until the second round of stops to slip ahead. Thereafter, the Finn’s victory wasn’t in doubt, his only real rival - team mate Montoya - retiring with a driveshaft failure 41 laps in. The McLaren may have been unbeatable, but Schumacher still managed the third fastest lap behind the two silver arrows. He also held on for third in the race, despite his much-improved Bridgestones fading in the closing stages, allowing brother Ralf to close to within a second as he clinched his first Toyota podium. With Trulli fourth it was a good day all round for the Japanese team, who extended their lead over nearest rivals Williams in the constructors’ standings. It wasn’t all bad news for Williams, though. Some crafty race strategy helped compensate for a disappointing qualifying and Heidfeld and Webber came home sixth and seventh respectively, sandwiched by the BARs of Button in fifth and Sato in eighth.

So what of Renault? Alonso never really recovered after his unscheduled stop on lap one. Damage to the car caused when his front wing detached left the Spaniard off the pace and eventually took the flag in 11th, two places behind his team mate, both of them a lap down on the leaders. Fischella’s race was blighted by handling and fuel feed problems. The result was ten points taken out of their constructors’ championship lead, putting McLaren very much back in the hunt, just 12 points adrift. It also revived Raikkonen’s hopes of catching Alonso for the drivers’ crown, even if the 26 point deficit remained a considerable mountain to climb.

Round 14 - Turkey - August 21
Winner:
Raikkonen
Pole: Raikkonen
Fastest Lap: Montoya
Links: Results / Live Timing Archive, Photos, TV images, Technical Analysis

The Formula One circus arrived in Turkey full of anticipation. Expectations of Hermann Tilke’s all-new Istanbul Park track were running high, with speculation that the man behind Sepang, Bahrain and Shanghai, may just have created his best circuit yet. Those expectations were to be fulfilled, spectators and drivers alike singing the praises of the new venue. With its spectacular gradient changes, blind corners and genuine overtaking opportunities, it presented a real challenge to both man and machine and by the end of the weekend the three-apex Turn 8 had already passed into Grand Prix folklore.

McLaren dominated practice, which saw no end of runners making full use of the circuit’s huge run-off areas as they got to know the layout. Their biggest rivals for qualifying looked set to be Renault and, notably, BAR, but it was to prove a session full of surprises, the biggest of which was just how difficult Turn 8 was on the limit. Button and Sato made mistakes there - mistakes which probably cost the team a podium finish. Sato’s problems were compounded when his time was cancelled for impeding Webber on his slowing-down lap. Villeneuve was another spinner, while Michael Schumacher waited until the downhill Turn 9 to make his error, exiting the corner backwards on his way to the rear of the grid.

At the front, it was an all-McLaren-Renault affair, with Raikkonen on pole from Fisichella, then Montoya (who had the disadvantage of being fourth out) and Alonso. Their nearest challengers were Trulli in the Toyota and the two Williams of Heidfeld and Webber. Ferrari were confident this wasn’t going to be their weekend, with Barrichello their best runner in 11th.

Come the race and Renault were powerless to stop the McLarens running away, despite being on lighter fuel loads than the silver cars. Fisichella seized the lead at the start, but a mistake later in the lap allowed Raikkonen to regain the place once and for all. Further misfortune befell the Italian when a fuel-rig problem hampered his first stop and it was left to Alonso to maintain the chase. It looked to be a fruitless task, with McLaren all set for a commanding one-two as the race entered its final stages. Then Montoya went to lap Tiago Monteiro, choosing to move over in front of the Jordan in the braking zone. The result was a gentle tap from behind as the yellow car failed to stop in time, putting the Colombian into a spin. He continued, but with a damaged diffuser and Alonso large in his mirrors. The pressure - or the damage - soon told and on the penultimate lap he ran wide at Turn 8 and the Spaniard sailed through for second, dealing a severe blow to Raikkonen’s and McLaren’s championship hopes.

With Fisichella fourth, Button took fifth after an impressive drive through the field. Trulli was sixth, with the two Red Bull’s completing the points. Ferrari’s miserable weekend continued. Schumacher clashed with Webber, forcing both to pit for new bodywork, before eventually withdrawing, while Barrichello finished a lap down in tenth. There were no smiles at Williams either, with both drivers pulling out after two right-rear tyre failures each, the cause of which was thought to be bodywork touching rubber through the high g loadings of Turn 8.

Round 15 - Italy - September 4
Winner:
Montoya
Pole: Montoya
Fastest Lap: Raikkonen
Links: Results / Live Timing Archive, Photos, TV images, Technical Analysis

The tifosi flocked to Monza hoping for a Ferrari revival. They were to be disappointed. The champions had one of their worst home outings in living memory and their failure to score also meant Michael Schumacher’s slim hopes of retaining his drivers’ title mathematically disappeared - it marked the end of an era. The battle for his crown, however, raged on, and it was Alonso who emerged with at least one hand firmly on the trophy.

Once more, McLaren were the pacesetters in practice and one-two on the grid looked a foregone conclusion - that was until Raikkonen’s reliability jinx struck once more. He set the fastest time in qualifying ahead of Montoya, but as he did so he knew he would be relegated to 11th thanks to a precautionary engine change. Rubbing salt in the wound was Alonso’s subsequent promotion to the front row. BAR had a promising session, with Button fourth and Sato fifth, while Ferrari gave their home fans some hope at least, with seventh and eighth spots.

After the embarrassment of surrendering second to Alonso in Turkey, Montoya needed a strong performance. He gave it - leading throughout, despite constant pressure from the Spaniard and despite his left-rear tyre starting to delaminate in the closing laps. The same problem had hit Raikkonen earlier in the race, but had proved more costly. Just as a clever one-stop strategy looked to have put him in with a chance of second place, the Finn was forced to make an unscheduled stop for new rubber. He fought back to fourth place and then survived a spin which ended his hopes of catching Fisichella for third. So McLaren took first and fourth with the quickest car, but Renault’s second and third served as an excellent damage limitation exercise, the blue team surrendering just a single point of their lead in the constructors’ championship.

It was a strong race for Toyota, with Trulli and Ralf Schumacher fifth and sixth respectively. Less happy were BAR, whose qualifying pace deserted them, leaving Button to pick up a solitary point in eighth. Drive of the day for many, however, went to Antonio Pizzonia. The Brazilian stepped into the breach for Williams after Heidfeld pulled out with headaches. Despite three months away from the car (and a year on from his last Grand Prix outing), he put in a mature and measured performance to bring his FW27 home in seventh.

One remarkable thing about the Monza race - all 20 drivers made it the chequered flag - only the third time in Formula One’s history that every car finished (and one of those was this year’s six-car US Grand Prix).

Click here for Part One.
Click here for Part Two.
Part Four coming soon.