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Canada analysis - McLaren closing in 13 Jun 2005

Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) McLaren Mercedes MP4/20 leads Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault R25.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 8, Canadian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Montreal, Canada, 10 June 2005 Pat Symonds (GBR) Renault Executive Director of Engineering with Flavio Briatore (ITA) Renault Team Principal 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 8, Canadian Grand Prix, Race, Montreal, Canada, 12 June 2005 Second place Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari F2005 waves to the crowd. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 8, Canadian Grand Prix, Race, Montreal, Canada, 12 June 2005 Takuma Sato (JPN) BAR Honda 007 is pushed into the garage for a gear change. He would restart the race again 20 laps later. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 8, Canadian Grand Prix, Race, Montreal, Canada, 12 June 2005 Felipe Massa (BRA) Sauber Petronas C24 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 8, Canadian Grand Prix, Race, Montreal, Canada, 12 June 2005

Double retirement for Renault, payback for Raikkonen

'What the Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away'. It’s unlikely that expression went through Kimi Raikkonen’s mind yesterday, but it is apposite. What he lost with that dramatic last lap retirement at the Nurburgring, he got back in Montreal, as Fernando Alonso suffered his first non-finish of the season.

For Renault, the Canadian Grand Prix yielded nil points, the first time they have not got at least one car home. But for McLaren there was also a degree of dissatisfaction, for they should have had a 1-2, or a 1-3 at least.

After the Renaults had expired - Fisichella’s after the gearbox started to malfunction because of a hydraulic failure, Alonso’s because, unusually, he made a mistake and hit the wall in Turn 4 and broke the right rear suspension - McLaren should have walked it. Raikkonen did, Montoya didn’t.

He made up for his exuberance in Turn 1 after his first pit stop, where he ran wide on to the grass trying to beat Alonso for second place, by pressuring the Spaniard into his mistake. But the jury is still out on just what went wrong in his communication with the team after Jenson Button’s lap 47 crash. The best guess is that both pit and driver were trying to transmit on the radio at the same time. The upshot was that the Colombian was singularly disenchanted by the time he reached the pits a lap later than Raikkonen and everyone else. When he rejoined he said that he didn’t see the red light at the pit lane exit; perhaps, many will wonder, because it blended in with the red mist that had descended on the McLaren’s cockpit? Then he compounded that by passing David Coulthard’s Red Bull as he rejoined the pack. That misdemeanour would have earned him a drive-through penalty, but as it was the red light offence earned him the black flag.

While all of that was intriguing, the hidden nugget was buried in a comment from Raikkonen, who admitted that the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve was the MP4-20’s bogey circuit of the season. If that was so, it looked pretty handy, and you wouldn’t have liked to bet either way on a Renault-McLaren pitch battle if the blue cars had kept going.

The bad news for the opposition is that Raikkonen is salivating at the prospect of driving the car at Indianapolis!

Ferrari went home with their tail up, their haul of 14 points for second and third places being their best of the season so far. It is clear that they are making steady progress now, but they were also lucky that the safety car came out. Prior to that Michael was 30 seconds adrift of the McLarens. Afterwards, he was within five seconds of the lead. There is still also a problem with the F2005 that is not anything to do with Bridgestone’s wares, which have also steadily been improving. The car was slow off the line and not quick in Schumacher’s first stint when he was running less fuel than anyone. He stopped on lap 12, yet thereafter with a high fuel load he was able to lap quicker than he had with less.

Barrichello made his second pit stop with perfect timing at the end of lap 47, when Button crashed, and had a further slice of luck when Webber ran wide at the hairpin and Rubens was able to jump him and a delayed Felipe Massa.

Toyota took home three more points in a season in which they don’t seem to be able to stop themselves from scoring, but they should have had a lot more because Jarno Trulli was headed for third place with seven laps left when he suffered brake failure. This was not a product of excessive wear, something actually broke, according to the Italian.

While there were a lot of glum faces after the race, there weren’t many at Sauber, where Felipe Massa’s excellent race drive netted five sorely needed points. The team have had five from Monaco and three from Nurburgring within their grasp, only to suffer late disappointments. The Brazilian had to nurse his rear tyres after the safety car went in because the C24 is quite kind to its tyres, and he couldn’t generate sufficient heat under the slow laps. Thereafter he struggled to keep Mark Webber’s Williams at bay. Team mate Jacques Villeneuve complained that his start-line software glitched at the start, bogging his car down, and after the collision with Takuma Sato he was doomed to a recovery drive that just missed out on the final point.

Webber’s fifth place brought Williams four more points, which was a little consolation after Nick Heidfeld lost some when his engine blew up. Radio instructions continually advised the German to pull out of Massa’s slipstream to aid cooling, the higher than expected ambient temperatures pushing the engines to their temperature limits. Just to make sure, BMW turned down Webber’s engine to ensure that he finished.

True to the form they have shown all year, Red Bull were there to pick up points when faster teams stumbled, and this time the haul was three for David Coulthard’s seventh and Christian Klien’s eighth. The Scot complained of excessive oversteer throughout, and Klien suffered similar imbalance, which quickly hurt his rear tyres. Reliability is always a strong suit, however, and they were there when it mattered.

Jordan lost Karthikeyan after he whacked the Turn 4 wall on lap 26, but Tiago Monteiro made it home without any major dramas once he had avoided his team mate at the hairpin on the seventh lap after Narain had gone off-course and was recovering.

Minardi lost Patrick Friesacher to a power steering hydraulics problem after he’d suffered oversteer throughout on his softer Bridgestones. On the harder tyre Albers initially did a fantastic job to run as high as 16th, but lost time obeying blue flags and finished a slightly frustrated 11th and last, 10 seconds adrift of Monteiro.

Finally, BAR started the race with great hopes and yet again moved on without tangible result for all their effort. Button clearly did not have the pace to hold the Renaults, but ran ahead of the McLarens until his refuelling stop on lap 15. After Trulli pitted on lap 23, Jenson moved up to fifth and seemed likely to finish there, or at worst sixth, until other events unravelled. Ultimately he crashed under pressure from Schumacher, but a desperately needed podium position was there for the taking. What happened was that he got the tyres dirty going wide off line in the hairpin after the rear brakes locked momentarily, then had big understeer at the chicane in the final corner and hit the wall off the second kerb.

As for Sato, the first lap attack by Villeneuve damaged his 007’s diffuser and rear wing, and later he suffered loss of gearbox oil pressure. He lost 24 laps having the rear end of the T-car grafted on to his race car as the team sought to improve his qualifying slot in Indianapolis. That plan backfired when he spun off in the hairpin after locking the rear brakes.

As a result of the happenings in Montreal, Renault’s once healthy championship lead is down to 13 over McLaren - 76 to 63 - while Williams and Toyota are joint third on 47 with Ferrari now beginning to make headway on 45. Red Bull have 22, Sauber 12. Jordan, BAR and Minardi have yet to score. With Indianapolis coming up so soon, there is absolutely no let-up in the pressure on all of them.