Italy 2005 - masterful Montoya 05 Sep 2006
The tifosi flocked to Monza last year hoping for a Ferrari revival. They were to be disappointed. The champions had one of their worst home outings in living memory and their failure to score also meant Michael Schumachers slim hopes of retaining his drivers title mathematically disappeared - it marked the end of an era. The battle for his crown, however, raged on, and it was Renaults Fernando Alonso who emerged with at least one hand firmly on the trophy.
As at the previous round, McLaren were the pacesetters in practice and a silver one-two on the grid looked a foregone conclusion - that was until Kimi Raikkonens reliability jinx struck once more. He set the fastest time in qualifying ahead of team mate Juan Pablo Montoya, but as he did so he knew he would be relegated to 11th thanks to a precautionary engine change. Rubbing salt in the wound was Alonsos subsequent promotion to the front row. BAR had a promising session, with Jenson Button fourth and Takuma Sato fifth, while Ferrari gave their home fans some hope at least, with seventh and eighth spots.
After the embarrassment of surrendering second to Alonso at the previous race in Turkey, Montoya needed a strong performance. He gave it - leading throughout, despite constant pressure from the Spaniard and despite his left-rear tyre starting to delaminate in the closing laps. The same problem had hit Raikkonen earlier in the race, but had proved more costly. Just as a clever one-stop strategy looked to have put him in with a chance of second place, the Finn was forced to make an unscheduled stop for new rubber. He fought back to fourth place and then survived a spin which ended his hopes of catching Giancarlo Fisichella for third. So McLaren took first and fourth with the quickest car, but Renaults second and third served as an excellent damage limitation exercise, the blue team surrendering just a single point of their lead in the constructors championship.
It was a strong race for Toyota, with Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher fifth and sixth respectively. Less happy were BAR, whose qualifying pace deserted them, leaving Button to pick up a solitary point in eighth. Drive of the day for many, however, went to Antonio Pizzonia. The Brazilian stepped into the breach for Williams after Nick Heidfeld pulled out with headaches. Despite three months away from the car (and a year on from his last Grand Prix outing), he put in a mature and measured performance to bring his FW27 home in seventh.
The result took Alonsos tally in the drivers championship to 103 points - 27 clear of nearest rival Raikkonen with four rounds of the season remaining. In the constructors standings, however, things were much tighter, with McLaren closing to within eight points of leaders Renault.
One remarkable thing about the 2005 Monza race - all 20 drivers made it the chequered flag - only the third time in Formula Ones history that every car finished (and one of those was last years six-car US Grand Prix).
Links: Results / Live Timing Archive, Photos, TV images.