Spa 2004 - Raikkonen rules as chaos reigns 06 Sep 2005
After a one-year hiatus Spa-Francorchamps returned to the Formula One calendar last season, much to the delight of teams, drivers and fans. And that was before the race had even begun - a race which turned out to be one of the best of the year.
If Hungary had been the seasons low point in terms of spectator excitement, then Spa was its zenith. Six different leaders, three safety-car periods and only ten cars running at the finish. Michael Schumacher may have clinched his seventh drivers title at the end of the 44 laps, but he was beaten fair and square by Kimi Raikkonen and a resurgent McLaren. It was just the pick-me-up the sport needed after Ferraris domination of the campaign to date.
Raikkonen showed his intent on Friday by setting the fastest time in dry conditions. But then the notorious Spa weather played its joker, reducing what should have been an hour and a half of Saturday practice to just 15 minutes. Come qualifying and it was still raining hard. It eased just enough for Jarno Trulli to try his luck on intermediates and the gamble paid off, the Renault driver taking the second pole position of his career. Ominously though, Michael Schumacher running in much worse conditions and on full wet tyres, almost pipped him at the end. Raikkonen was only tenth.
Drama came early in the race. As the fast-starting Renaults sprinted into a predictable lead, chaos reigned behind. Before the field had reached Eau Rouge, Mark Webber had hit Rubens Barrichello, Raikkonen had made contact with Felipe Massa, Jenson Button had hit Massa, Takuma Sato and Gianmaria Bruni had spun and Giorgio Pantano had in turn gone into Bruni. As the safety car was deployed four cars - Webber, Sato, Bruni and Pantano - were out of the race and another six - Button, Barrichello, Zsolt Baumgartner, Massa, Olivier Panis and Nick Heidfeld - were pitting for repairs.
After the restart, Schumacher continued to go backwards. Having lost out to Fernando Alonso and David Coulthard at the start, he was then quickly passed by Raikkonen and Juan Pablo Montoya. On a charge, Raikkonen was also quickly ahead of Coulthard, leaving just the Renaults ahead. But their luck was short lived. Alonso spun out on his own oil, while Trulli, struggling for pace, was nudged into a spin by a forceful Montoya at the newly-reprofiled Bus Stop chicane. Coulthard, meanwhile, was the first to survive a right-rear Michelin puncture, a sign of things to come, which severely compromised his race.
Safety car number two appeared after Button similarly suffered a right-rear tyre failure. He was less fortunate than Coulthard, spearing into Baumgartners Minardi, taking both men out of the race. At the restart, Raikkonen led Schumacher, the Finn cleverly slowing the pace to a crawl to ensure his rivals Bridgestones would be as cold as possible. A few laps and another Michelin puncture (this time Montoya) later he was repeating the process, after Coulthards collision with Christian Kliens Jaguar prompted the final safety-car period. This time the Finn made a break for it and there was little Schumacher could do. He wrapped up title number seven, but with Ferrari soundly beaten into second and third it was Raikkonen who stole the limelight at Spa.
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