Malaysia 2005 - Toyota come good 14 Mar 2006
Ahead of this weekend's Sepang race we take a look back at last year's Malaysian Grand Prix. Unusual qualifying conditions at the 2005 season opener in Melbourne's Albert Park 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 Bulls Australian outing had been no fluke. The big story, however, was Toyota. Jarno 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 been waiting for.
Fernando 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 re-passing attempt on the Williams of Mark Webber. With both men retired it cleared the way for Nick 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, which 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 Juan Pablo Montoya their best finisher in fourth. The unlucky Kimi 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 David Coulthard sixth and Christian 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 Michelins performance in the extreme heat. Rubens Barrichello and Michael 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 seat. The Brit did a solid job at short notice, but his and Jenson Buttons races were over within three laps, both retiring with identical engine failures. It was all highly embarrassing for Honda, especially after the teams intentional retirements in Melbourne to give them fresh V10s for Sepang, a tactic the FIA consequently banned.
Links: Results / Live Timing Archive, Photos, TV images.