China 2005 - Renault seal title double 27 Sep 2006
McLaren were the team to beat throughout practice for last years Chinese Grand Prix, but it was title rivals Renault who sprung a Shanghai surprise in qualifying to lock out the front row. Newly-crowned drivers' champion Fernando Alonso took pole from Giancarlo Fisichella, with Kimi Raikkonen third and Juan Pablo Montoya fifth, the two McLarens split by the BAR of Jenson Button. The question on everyones lips was whether the blue cars were running light? As it turned out, the question never really became relevant.
A strong start from Raikkonen saw him move up to third while Montoya jumped into fourth ahead of Button. With the Finn unable to find a way past Fisichella, leader Alonso started to build a cushion. His advantage quickly disappeared, however, when the safety car came out on lap 19 after Montoya hit a loose drain cover. It was the first of two safety-car periods which effectively dictated the race, the second coming after Jordans Narain Karthikeyan crashed out on lap 29. Alonso retained his lead throughout, but team mate Fisichella dropped to an eventual fourth thanks to a drive-through penalty for holding up the field as he entered the pits under the safety car.
That penalty meant that after the second round of stops, Raikkonen at last had a clear run at Alonso, but it was too late. Despite setting two fastest laps in the closing stages, he was unable to chase down his rival, whose Renault team had dealt better than McLaren with the safety-car complications. As the Spaniard took the chequered flag, he broke into a rendition of We are the Champions over his team radio, the result having clinched the constructors title for Renault.
Quick-thinking strategy also paid off for Toyota, as Ralf Schumacher finished third ahead of Fisichella, bringing the Japanese teams best-ever season to a suitably strong conclusion. Klien scored a career-best result in fifth for Red Bull, while Felipe Massa departed Sauber on a high, edging out the Williams of Mark Webber for sixth. A disappointed Button picked up the final point for BAR after losing out during the safety-car periods.
And as Alonso and Renault celebrated, outgoing champions Michael Schumacher and Ferrari had a more low-key afternoon. It started badly when the German managed to collide with Minardi's Christijan Albers en route to the grid and got worse when he then spun out on cold tyres under the safety car on lap 22. Rubens Barrichellos 12th place was scant consolation for the Italian team.
Links: Results / Live Timing Archive, Photos, TV images.