Hungary 2005 - McLaren close in 01 Aug 2006
This time last year it was beginning to look as though Renault were safely on course for both championships - that was until the blue team gave their rivals a present at the Hungaroring, where both cars failed to score. Admittedly, there was an element of bad luck involved - both Fernando Alonso and Giancarlo 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 teams first pole of 2005 by almost a second from McLarens Juan Pablo Montoya. Kimi Raikkonen, first man out in qualifying for McLaren due to his retirement at the previous round, 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 then world champions had made a genuine step forward.
At the start, Schumacher maintained his lead into Turn One, with Raikkonen finding his way past Jarno Trullis Toyota 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 Saubers Jacques Villeneuve and Christian Klien sent the Austrians Red Bull literally rolling out of the race; Rubens Barrichello ran his Ferrari into the back of Trulli, forcing both men to make early stops; and Alonso suffered serious front wing damage as he was squeezed over the kerbs by Ralf Schumacher in the other Toyota. 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 Finns victory wasnt 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 wasnt all bad news for Williams, though. Some crafty race strategy helped compensate for a disappointing qualifying and Nick Heidfeld and Mark Webber came home sixth and seventh respectively, sandwiched by the BARs of Jenson Button in fifth and Takuma 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 he eventually took the flag in 11th, two places behind his team mate, both of them a lap down on the leaders. Fischellas 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 Raikkonens hopes of catching Alonso for the drivers crown, even if the 26-point deficit remained a considerable mountain to climb.
Links: Results / Live Timing Archive, Photos, TV images.