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2005 Race by Race - Part Four 21 Dec 2005

World Champion Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault R25 arrives in Parc ferme.
Formula One World Championship, Rd17, Brazilian Grand Prix, Race, Interlagos, Brazil, 25 September 2005 Second placed Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Renault R25 is passed by race winner Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) McLaren Mercedes MP4/20 on the last lap of the race.
Formula One World Championship, Rd18, Japanese Grand Prix, Race, Suzuka, Japan, 9 October 2005 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault leads at the start of the race as David Coulthard (GBR) Red Bull Racing RB1, Antonio Pizzonia (BRA) BMW Williams FW27 and Mark Webber (AUS) Williams BMW FW27 crash at the mid of the pack.
Formula One World Championship, Rd17, Brazilian Grand Prix, Race, Interlagos, Brazil, 25 September 2005 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault and Flavio Briatore (ITA) Renault Team Principal on the podium. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd19,  Chinese Grand Prix, Race, Shanghai, China, 16 October 2005 (L to R): Ron Dennis (GBR) McLaren Team Owner puts his arm around Juan Pablo Montoya (COL) McLaren
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Belgian Grand Prix, Race, Spa Francorchamps, Belgium, 11 September 2005

Belgium, Brazil, Japan and the season finale in China

A look back at the final phase of this year's championship, rounds 16 to 19 - four races which saw Fernando Alonso become the youngest man ever to win the drivers’ crown, Renault become the first mainstream car manufacturer to win the constructors’ title, and an all-time classic Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka.

Round 16 - Belgium - September 11
Winner:
Raikkonen
Pole: Montoya
Fastest Lap: R Schumacher
Links: Results / Live Timing Archive, Photos, TV images, Technical Analysis

Spa is renowned for throwing up fascinating races and this year’s was no exception. For Kimi Raikkonen the pressure was on - he arrived knowing that should Fernando Alonso outscore him by four points or more, then his championship would be over. The Finn soaked up that pressure in style, although unfortunately for him Alonso put in an equally calm and collected performance.

The weather defined the meeting’s opening day - heavy rain meant minimal running in first practice and the second was a washout, hence tyre choice was delayed until Saturday lunchtime. By then things had dried out quite nicely, with McLaren and Renault predictably duelling for supremacy in final practice. Qualifying presented a set-up dilemma, as more rain was expected for Sunday’s race. Giancarlo Fisichella was one of those who risked taking a low-downforce route, the Italian keen to minimise the impact of a ten-spot grid penalty for an engine change. It gave him the third-fastest time behind the two McLarens, with Jarno Trulli fourth for Toyota and Alonso fifth. What it meant for the grid was that Raikkonen - who narrowly lost out on pole to Juan Pablo Montoya - once more found Alonso sitting directly behind him for the start.

Sunday afternoon and though no rain was falling, the Spa circuit remained wet, making intermediate tyres the rubber of choice. The first four led in formation for the opening 11 laps until Fisichella’s aggressive strategy came back to bite him. The Renault driver went off heavily at Eau Rouge and as he walked away from the wreckage the safety car was deployed, triggering the inevitable flurry of pit stops. A few drivers gambled on dry tyres, but quickly changed their minds and switched back while the safety car was still out. When it came in, Montoya retained the lead and Ralf Schumacher was up to second. His brother Michael, however, found himself punted out at the restart by a late-braking Takuma Sato. Both men were forced to retire and Sato subsequently received a ten-spot grid penalty for the following race.

Montoya’s advantage remained intact until lap 33, when the later-stopping Raikkonen vaulted ahead. By then the Toyota challenge had faded and Alonso was keeping a watching brief in third. He was expecting to see a safe McLaren one-two, but as had happened in Turkey, he was to be handed an additional two points when Montoya tangled with a backmarker. This time it was Williams stand-in Antonio Pizzonia who collided with the McLaren as he went to unlap himself. The result was both men out of the race and a hefty fine for Pizzonia.

As a frustrated Montoya found his way back to the pits, Raikkonen took a convincing win, though Alonso’s second place left him just six points shy of the title. Joining them on the podium was Jenson Button after an aggressive drive from eighth on the grid for BAR. Mark Webber took fourth for Williams after timing his switch to dry tyres to perfection, with Rubens Barrichello losing out to the Australian in fifth. A single-stop strategy gave Jacques Villeneuve sixth, with Ralf eventually seventh and the final well-deserved point going to Tiago Monteiro, who retained his remarkable 100 percent finishing record for Jordan.

Spa was a weekend for news off-track as well as on it. Williams announced their switch to Bridgestone tyres for 2006; Michelin threatened to pull out of the championship as early as 2007 if the FIA didn’t alter its plans to switch to a single tyre supplier; and Paul Stoddart finally found the deal he wanted and announced the sale of his Minardi team to Red Bull.

Round 17 - Brazil - September 25
Winner:
Montoya
Pole: Alonso
Fastest Lap: Raikkonen
Links: Results / Live Timing Archive, Photos, TV images, Technical Analysis

As had become the norm, it was the cars of Renault and McLaren that dominated practice at Interlagos, but it was the latter who were expected to win pole. However, Alonso put one hand on the championship trophy by stealing P1 from Montoya, as key rival Raikkonen slipped up, running wide at the very start of his lap in the Senna S, pushing him down to fifth on the grid, with the Renault of Fisichella and Button’s BAR ahead of him on row two. It was not a good start for Raikkonen, who knew he must win to retain any realistic hope of the title, while all Alonso needed was a third place to wrap things up - regardless of Raikkonen’s result.

When the lights went out Alonso kept his lead, but a first-corner pileup involving both Williams and David Coulthard’s Red Bull immediately brought out the safety car. When it pitted, Montoya got the jump on Alonso and faced little resistance as he muscled past into a lead he would retain, except briefly during pit stops, until the chequered flag. For once the Colombian dominated his McLaren team mate, who duly finished second, but Raikkonen was powerless to prevent Alonso taking the third place required to make him the youngest Formula One world champion in history, aged just 24.

The only bad news for Renault was McLaren’s one-two, which, coupled with Fisichella’s fifth place, meant the blue team lost the constructors’ championship lead for the first time in the season. Ferrari, meanwhile, put in relatively strong performance, with Michael Schumacher’s fourth and Rubens Barrichello’s sixth ensuring they stayed in front of Toyota in the battle for third in the standings. For Schumacher, however, the race would surely be remembered as the day he finally passed his crown of five years to a new, and much younger, king.

Round 18 - Japan - October 9
Winner:
Raikkonen
Pole: R Schumacher
Fastest Lap: Raikkonen
Links: Results / Live Timing Archive, Photos, TV images, Technical Analysis

As in 2004, the weather played a crucial role in the Japanese weekend. Nothing as extreme as a typhoon this time, but the rain was enough to conjure up a topsy-turvy grid which helped produce one of the most thrilling races in living memory. Qualifying started with a damp track and ended with a soaked one, the tricky conditions claiming the cars of Trulli and Tiago Monteiro, both men spinning off at Degner, the latter on his out lap. Ralf Schumacher, at the wheel of the heavily-revised Toyota TF105B, brought consolation for the team in the shape of their first pole position on home soil. As 13th man out, a great lap, fortuitous timing and, it turned out, a very light car helped him take P1. Just minutes later, heavy rain made running all but impossible, even on full-wet tyres, leaving many of the big guns - Michael Schumacher, Alonso, Raikkonen and Montoya among them - languishing in the bottom third of the grid. Joining Ralf on row one was the BAR of Jenson Button, while row two comprised Fisichella (great news for Renault’s constructors’ title hopes) and the Red Bull of Christian Klien.

A dramatic race start saw Sato understeer off at Turn 1. Barrichello did the same, tagging the front of the BAR as he did so, though miraculously both were able to crawl from the gravel and rejoin. Less fortunate was Montoya. At the final turn of the opening lap he was forced off track by Villeneuve and the Colombian was into the wall and out of the race. The safety car was deployed for five laps, ruining Ralf’s ambitious three-stop strategy. Things got worse for Toyota shortly after racing resumed, when Sato slew into the side of Trulli with a do-or-die overtaking attempt, eliminating the innocent Italian. Then, when Ralf made his first stop, he handed the lead to Fisichella and the real pattern of the race began to emerge.

It featured some classic racing between arguably the three greatest drivers in the field. Alonso twice had to find a way past the Michael Schumacher - the first time he audaciously went round the outside in the 130R - while Raikkonen eventually muscled past the Ferrari into Turn One. It was the Finn who had the real pace, and it was he who moved into the lead when Fisichella made his second stop. That lasted until lap 45 of 53 when Raikkonen made a late final visit to the pits, leaving an apparently straightforward victory within Renault’s grasp.

McLaren and Raikkonen had other ideas. By lap 50 the gap to Fisichella was down to half a second and as the pair crossed the line for the penultimate time it was just a tenth. As they went into the Turn One braking zone for the final time Raikkonen was wheel-to-wheel with the Italian and pulled off a fantastic move to go round the outside and into the lead. The win was his. A gutted Fisichella was left to pick up the pieces, while Alonso clawed his way up to third after passing an impressive Mark Webber in the closing stages. The result left Renault leading McLaren by just two points in the constructors’ championship, leaving everything to play for at the final round in China.

Round 19 - China - October 16
Winner:
Alonso
Pole: Alonso
Fastest Lap: Raikkonen
Links: Results / Live Timing Archive, Photos, TV images, Technical Analysis

McLaren were the team to beat in Chinese practice, but it was title rivals Renault who sprung a Shanghai surprise in qualifying to lock out the front row. Alonso took pole from Fisichella, with Raikkonen third and Montoya fifth, the two McLarens split by the BAR of Button. The question on everyone’s lips was whether the blue cars were running light? As it turned out, the question never really became relevant.

A strong start from Raikkonen saw him move up to third while Montoya jumped into fourth ahead of Button. With the Finn unable to find a way past Fisichella, leader Alonso started to build a cushion. His advantage quickly disappeared, however, when the safety car came out on lap 19 after Montoya hit a loose drain cover. It was the first of two safety-car periods which effectively dictated the race, the second coming after Jordan’s Narain Karthikeyan crashed out on lap 29. Alonso retained his lead throughout, but team mate Fisichella dropped to an eventual fourth thanks to a drive-through penalty for holding up the field as he entered the pits under the safety car.

That penalty meant that after the second round of stops, Raikkonen at last had a clear run at Alonso, but it was too late. Despite setting two fastest laps in the closing stages, he was unable to chase down his rival, whose Renault team had dealt better than McLaren with the safety-car complications. As the Spaniard took the chequered flag he broke into a rendition of ‘We are the Champions’ over his team radio, the result having clinched the title double for Renault.

Quick-thinking strategy also paid off for Toyota, as Ralf Schumacher finished third ahead of Fisichella, bringing the Japanese team’s best-ever season to a suitably strong conclusion. Klein scored a career-best result in fifth for Red Bull, while Felipe Massa departed Sauber on a high, edging out the Williams of Mark Webber for sixth. A disappointed Jenson Button picked up the final point for BAR after losing out during the safety-car periods.

And as Alonso and Renault celebrated, outgoing champions Michael Schumacher and Ferrari had a more low-key afternoon. It started badly when the German managed to collide with the Minardi's Christijan Albers en route to the grid and got worse when he then spun out on cold tyres under the safety car on lap 22. Rubens Barrichello’s 12th place was scant consolation for the Italian team.

Click here for Part One.
Click here for Part Two.
Click here for Part Three.

Click here for Final driver standings.
Click here for Final constructor standings.