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Thirteen races down, six to go... 08 Aug 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 Race winner Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) McLaren on the podium. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd13, Hungarian Grand Prix, Race Day, Hungaroring, Hungary, 31 July 2005 Race winner Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault in the post race press conference. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, San Marino Grand Prix, Race, Imola, Italy, 24 April 2005 (L to R): Second place Rubens Barrichello (BRA) Ferrari ; Race winner Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari and third place Tiago Monteiro (POR) Jordan in the post race press conference. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 9, United States Grand Prix, Race, Indianapolis, USA, 19 June 2005 Race winner Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Renault R25 in parc ferme.
Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Race Day, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, 6 March 2005

A review of the season as we head towards its finale

It seems hard to believe we are already more than two thirds of the way into the 2005 FIA Formula One World Championship. We have had five race winners, five teams and six drivers on pole, and, incredibly, seven teams and 13 drivers on the podium. On top of that 23 drivers and all ten teams have scored points. We take a race-by-race look back at a highly eventful season to date…

Round One - Australia - March 6
Winner:
Fisichella
Pole: Fisichella
Fastest Lap: Alonso
Links: Results / Live Timing Archive, Photos, TV images, Technical Analysis

The new rules were naturally the focus of attention in Melbourne - less downforce, engines to last two race weekends, one set of tyres for qualifying and race, and a revised two-part qualifying system, with the best times from a Saturday and a Sunday session aggregated to determine the grid. And what an unexpected grid it was, though thanks as much to the weather as to the new format.

A cloud burst midway through Qualifying One caused huge variations in the lap times. Under the new aggregate system, the ‘slow’ drivers had no way of making up the difference on Sunday morning, hence Renault’s Giancarlo Fisichella effectively sealed pole on Saturday afternoon, while Michael Schumacher found himself 18th on the grid. Jarno Trulli put Toyota on the front row, while Red Bull made a sensational debut, locking out row three. It set up the prospect of a thrilling race.

However, with the drivers still unsure as to how their tyres would cope with a full grand-prix distance under race conditions it was not quite as exciting as some had hoped. Fisichella drove impeccably to win on his Renault debut, while team mate Fernando Alonso stormed through the field to take third, justifying everyone’s suspicions that they would be the team to beat in Australia. Splitting the blue cars was the Ferrari of Rubens Barrichello, whose rise through the pack surpassed even that of Alonso. It was welcome news for the champions, who were still running a revised version of their 2004 car, with the new F2005 still a few races away. Less welcome was Michael Schumacher crashing out after a dubious collision with the Williams of Nick Heidfeld.

There were plenty of other surprises. Williams proved more competitive than pre-season testing had suggested, with Mark Webber finishing fifth. Team boss Sir Frank had tipped Red Bull to raise a few eyebrows and so they did, with David Coulthard beating Webber to fourth and Christian Klien coming home seventh to give the newcomers an opening-race haul of seven points - more than previous incarnation, Jaguar, had scored the entire previous season. The result was particularly sweet for Coulthard, whom many had written off after he was dropped by McLaren. To prove the doubters wrong he beat both the man who took his seat, Juan Pablo Montoya (sixth) and former team mate Kimi Raikkonen (eighth).

While Renault and Red Bull toasted their success, BAR and Toyota were finding less to celebrate. The former, Ferrari’s biggest rivals in 2004, were nowhere near the pace or the points and controversially chose to retire both cars on the final lap, exploiting a loophole in the new regulations to give them fresh engines for Malaysia. At Toyota, the promise of Trulli’s second-place grid spot came to nothing as he slipped down the field to a distant ninth, with Ralf Schumacher 12th.

On a more positive note, three of the four rookie drivers completed the race, with Jordan’s Narain Karthikeyan and Tiago Monteiro 15th and 16th respectively and Minardi’s Patrick Friesacher 17th. Despite finishing last, Minardi were in plenty of headlines, thanks to boss Paul Stoddart’s battle with the FIA over his wanting to run 2004-spec cars in the race. After gaining a court injunction allowing him to do so, Stoddart then made an unexpected U-turn, hastily switching his cars to 2005 spec, after Max Mosley suggested that the affair could threaten the whole future of motorsport in Australia.

Round Two - Malaysia - March 20
Winner:
Alonso
Pole: Alonso
Fastest Lap: Raikkonen
Links: Results / Live Timing Archive, Photos, TV images, Technical Analysis

The unusual qualifying conditions in Melbourne had left plenty of questions over the true pace of the teams. Sepang answered those questions and surprisingly little changed. Renault were still the team to beat, Ferrari really were off the pace and Red Bull’s Australian outing had been no fluke. The big story, however, was Toyota. Trulli put the red and white team on the front row for the second grand prix in succession, but this time he had the race pace to match, giving them their first Formula One podium. With team mate Ralf Schumacher also in the points, it was the breakthrough the Japanese squad had long been waiting for.

Alonso gave Renault their second pole of the season and a strong start ensured it was converted to their second win. However, team mate Fisichella had a less straightforward Sunday. Searing track temperatures meant managing tyre wear was critical and anything less than a perfect handling balance led to a very rapid reduction in grip, as the Italian discovered to his cost. After struggling to stay with leaders Alonso and Trulli he then crashed out in an ill-judged repassing attempt on the Williams of Webber. With both men retired it cleared the way for Heidfeld to take third for Williams’ first podium of the year. That all followed a thrilling three-way scrap between Heidfeld, Webber and Ralf Schumacher that saw the trio all swap places several times in the space of a lap.

McLaren again came off second best to Williams, despite a promising qualifying session, with Montoya their best finisher in fourth. The unlucky Raikkonen was on course for better before falling victim to a puncture which dropped him out of the points. That left Red Bull as the only team besides Toyota to bring both cars home in the top eight, with Coulthard sixth and Klien keeping Raikkonen at bay for the final point.

So what of Ferrari? It was a bad weekend all round for Bridgestone who failed to match Michelin’s performance in the extreme heat. Barrichello and Schumacher were 12th and 13th on the grid - a genuine reflection of their pace. Schumacher clawed his way up to seventh in the race, while Barrichello pulled out with handling problems, all of which meant the planned debut of the new F2005 was hurriedly brought forward for the next round in Bahrain.

Only BAR had a more dismal time at Sepang. Takuma Sato was forced to withdraw from the meeting due to a virus, with third driver Anthony Davidson stepping into his race seat. The Brit did a solid job at such short notice, but both his and Jenson Button’s races were over within three laps, both retiring with identical engine failures. It was all highly embarrassing for Honda, especially after the team’s intentional retirements in Melbourne to give them fresh V10s for Sepang, a tactic the FIA consequently banned ahead of the Malaysian Grand Prix.

Round Three - Bahrain - April 3
Winner:
Alonso
Pole: Alonso
Fastest Lap: De la Rosa
Links: Results / Live Timing Archive, Photos, TV images, Technical Analysis

Ferrari knew they had to do something and do it fast, hence the appearance of the new F2005 in Bahrain, two races earlier than originally planned. But would the gamble pay off? Ultimately the answer was no, though the car did show plenty of potential, Schumacher beating Trulli’s Toyota to give the team their first front-row grid slot of the year, alongside the dominant Renault of Alonso. Barrichello, however, would start from the back after gearbox woes ruined his qualifying.

Ferrari’s promise did not last long. Schumacher kept his second place at the start and was pushing Alonso hard until lap 13 when a hydraulics problem sent him spinning into retirement. From there the Renault star went unchallenged, with Trulli driving a lonely race to second place, proving that his identical result in Malaysia had been no fluke. Behind them, though, there was action aplenty.

McLaren had their best weekend of the season to date, despite Montoya pulling out with a fractured shoulder. His replacement, Pedro de la Rosa, out-qualified Raikkonen and then put in a thrilling, if somewhat erratic, race drive to fifth, pulling off some spectacular passing moves on the way. And while the Spaniard bathed in the spotlight, Raikkonen coolly converted his ninth-place grid spot to a podium position in third. Between the McLarens was the Toyota of Ralf Schumacher, the German’s fourth place ensuring the Japanese team of their best ever result.

Webber brought his Williams home sixth, after losing an enthralling tussle with de la Rosa. It followed team mate Heidfeld’s early retirement with engine failure - his V10 had already endured the heat of Sepang and similar conditions in Bahrain proved too much. It wasn’t all good news for Renault either, Fisichella suffering a similar fate on only lap four, despite a fresher engine. Massa took seventh place for Sauber in their 200th Grand Prix, while Coulthard kept up Red Bull’s 100 percent scoring record in eighth. It followed bitter disappointment for team mate Klien, who, having qualified an excellent seventh, saw his race end before it had begun thanks to an electrical glitch.

So what of Barrichello? A spectacular opening first stint saw the Brazilian go as high as fifth at one point. However, the toll on his tyres was too high, leaving the F2005 all but undriveable by the end of the race and he was forced to surrender eighth place in the dying stages. Coulthard was the beneficiary, but only after he had punted the unfortunate Jacques Villeneuve out of the way.

So, a good race for Renault, Toyota and McLaren; a promising, though pointless one for Ferrari; and another nightmare one for BAR, who yet again saw both cars retire, this time with brake and clutch problems, leaving them as the only team yet to finish a Grand Prix in 2005.

Round Four - San Marino - April 24
Winner:
Alonso
Pole: Raikkonen
Fastest Lap: M Schumacher
Links: Results / Live Timing Archive, Photos, TV images, Technical Analysis

Everyone expected Bridgestone and Ferrari to fight back at Imola and that’s exactly what they did. In the end it wasn’t quite enough, although had Michael Schumacher not made a rare error in qualifying it could all have been very different. P1 on the grid went to Raikkonen, McLaren scoring the first non-Renault pole of the year. Alonso was, however, right behind him, followed by the much-improved BAR of Jenson Button. Schumacher, having gone third fastest in first qualifying, slipped up in the second, running wide at Rivazza and consigning himself to 13th on the grid.

Raikkonen maintained his advantage at the start, and he and Alonso quickly began to pull away from Button. The Finn had built a lead of 3.5 seconds over the Spaniard when his luck deserted him on lap nine, a driveshaft failure robbing him of potential victory. Behind Button, the now third-placed Toyota of Trulli was having to fend off a huge train of cars, the last of them Schumacher’s Ferrari, bottled up in 11th place behind his brother.

All that changed at the first stops, which saw Schumacher stay out four laps longer than leader Alonso. Ferrari’s strategy and some stunning pace from the world champion vaulted him into an amazing third place, from where he immediately started cutting into Button’s 20-second-plus advantage. It didn’t take him long - the speed of the F2005 was a shock to all and on lap 47 Schumacher swept past the BAR as Button came upon the battling Williams duo, now a lap down.

Schumacher’s relentless charge continued and few held out much hope of Alonso retaining his lead. For the last ten laps, the Ferrari was never more than half a second from the Renault’s gearbox. But the Spaniard soaked up the pressure in the style of a true champion - no erratic defensive moves, simply driving to the strengths of his car, ensuring Schumacher was never close enough to pass on the parts of the track where his Ferrari was superior. It was nail-biting stuff, and they took the flag just two tenths of a second apart.

In a distant third, Button gave BAR their first podium (and first finish) of the year, with Alexander Wurz an impressive fourth on his race return with McLaren, standing in for the injured Montoya. Sato consolidated BAR’s strong result in fifth, ahead of Villeneuve who at last proved his critics wrong by scoring three points for Sauber. The Toyotas of Trulli and Schumacher were seven and eighth after a disappointing weekend by their high, 2005 standards. It got worse when Schumacher was demoted to 11th by a time penalty for a pit-lane incident, handing the final championship point to fellow German Heidfeld. That was nothing, however, compared to the fate awaiting BAR…

Round Five - Spain - May 8
Winner:
Raikkonen
Pole: Raikkonen
Fastest Lap: Fisichella
Links: Results / Live Timing Archive, Photos, TV images, Technical Analysis

One topic dominated conversation at the start of the Barcelona weekend - BAR. The team turned up ready to compete, only to be handed a two-race ban for running an underweight car at the previous round at San Marino. They were also stripped of their Imola points and, despite protesting their innocence, left the Spanish paddock in disgrace. By the end of the weekend the topic had changed - to McLaren.

Having threatened to do so at Imola, before reliability gremlins struck, Raikkonen took a runaway victory, leading from start to finish. Such was his pace, the Finn never lost the lead - even during his two pit stops. Championship leader Alonso had no response and came home a distant second, almost half a minute down the road.

Qualifying was a thrilling affair. On Saturday, less than a tenth of a second separated Trulli, Alonso, Raikkonen and Ralf Schumacher at the top of the times, though notably, only the McLaren driver’s lap included a mistake. With an error-free run on Sunday morning, Raikkonen duly clinched pole, with a lightly-fuelled Webber leaping up the order to join him on the front row for Williams.

Raikkonen streaked away at the start, while Webber went rapidly backwards, and it soon became clear the McLaren star was unlikely to be headed. For a while Fisichella looked capable of challenging his Renault team mate, but again poor luck hit the Italian and he was forced to make an unscheduled stop with a bodywork problem, eventually finishing fifth. Ahead of him were the Toyotas, the Japanese team proving their loss of form in Imola was, as promised, only a temporary blip. Behind him was Webber, whose race strategy effectively went out the window with his poor start, and Montoya, who had a typically eventful race on his return from injury for McLaren, surviving a 360 degree spin on his way to seventh. Coulthard maintained Red Bull’s perfect point-scoring run in eighth.

And what of Ferrari, who had displayed such stunning race pace at the previous round? Whatever the perfect combination of factors that had played in their favour at Imola, it had disappeared in Spain. Schumacher could only qualify eighth, while an engine change dropped Barrichello to the back of the grid and things got worse in the race. Schumacher went as high as second before his first stop before two punctures in close succession ended his race. Barrichello wound up ninth in an ill-handling F2005 with blistered tyres. Both Ferrari and Bridgestone admitted they still had plenty of work to do.

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

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 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: 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 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, 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. 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 Heidfeld and 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 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
Winner:
Alonso
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 team, with Button and 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 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 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
Winner:
Raikkonen
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 show down 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 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 Klien taking the remaining points.

Round Nine - USA - June 19
Winner:
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.

Round 10 - France - July 3
Winner:
Alonso
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. 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.

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 distance 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, Mark Webber and Jarno 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 Villeneuve and 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 David 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 remains a considerable mountain to climb.