Monaco 2005 - Raikkonen runs riot 23 May 2006
Last year, Monte Carlo saw Kimi Raikkonen resume where he had left off at the previous round in Spain - on top.
Practice around the Monaco streets 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 the Renault of Fernando Alonso in Saturdays 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 Saturdays session that very few men moved up the order on Sunday - just two in fact: Toyotas Jarno Trulli, from sixth to fifth, and Ferraris Michael Schumacher, from 10th to eighth.
More notable were the two names at the bottom of the order - Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo 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 at the start of the race, 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. However, 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 Nick Heidfeld and Mark 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 brothers place in a dash to the line after the champion had muscled his way past Ferrari team mate Rubens 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.
Links: Results / Live Timing Archive, Photos, TV images.