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Alonso win seals Renault double 16 Oct 2005

(L to R): Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault R25 and Flavio Briatore (ITA) Renault Team Principal on the podium. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd19,  Chinese Grand Prix, Race, Shanghai, China, 16 October 2005 Ralf Schumacher (GER) Toyota celebrates third place. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd19,  Chinese Grand Prix, Race, Shanghai, China, 16 October 2005 The start of the race. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd19,  Chinese Grand Prix, Race, Shanghai, China, 16 October 2005 Podium (L to R): Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) McLaren, Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault, Flavio Briatore (ITA) Renault Team Principal, and Ralf Schumacher (GER) Toyota 
Formula One World Championship, Rd19,  Chinese Grand Prix, Race, Shanghai, China, 16 October 2005 Narain Karthikeyan (IND) Jordan EJ15B survived unharmed from a massive accident.
Formula One World Championship, Rd19,  Chinese Grand Prix, Race, Shanghai, China, 16 October 2005

As he crossed the line to take victory in China, Fernando Alonso broke into song over the team radio - and his choice of ‘We Are The Champions’ couldn’t have been more appropriate.

It was an inspired drive, Alonso led from pole position to the chequered flag and ensured that Renault add the constructors’ championship to the drivers’ title that he secured two races ago. Kimi Raikkonen put in a determined challenge, but had to settle for second place. And some brilliant pit-stop strategy saw Ralf Schumacher take a somewhat improbable third place.

The race began with excitement even during the recognition lap en route to the grid, when Michael Schumacher inadvertently moved over on Christijan Albers, damaging his Ferrari and the Minardi. The pair of them started from the pit lane in their spare cars.

Alonso led from the start, clearly on a lighter fuel load than Raikkonen. Meanwhile, team mate Giancarlo Fisichella managed his pace to hold off the McLaren challenge from the Finn and team mate Juan Pablo Montoya. Behind them, Jenson Button fended off David Coulthard as Rubens Barrichello, Ralf Schumacher and Mark Webber gave chase.

That order prevailed until lap 17, when Montoya ran over a dislodged drain cover in Turn 10. The Colombian continued for another lap and a half before pitting on lap 18, but he was back in a lap later after the safety car was deployed while the errant cover was retrieved.

Montoya was not the only one to pit on lap 19: Alonso, Fisichella, Raikkonen, Barrichello, Schumacher Jnr, Webber, Felipe Massa, Antonio Pizzonia, and Jacques Villeneuve also took advantage and came in.

The safety car stayed out until lap 24 as other covers were checked, and when racing resumed on lap 25 Alonso was still in front. The safety car period had wiped out his 17.5s lead, but he was close to his refuelling window anyway and was able to maintain his lead over Fisichella and Raikkonen. However, the stops had rejuggled the order. Button, having pitted on lap 18, lost out and was now only seventh, behind the leading trio, Barrichello, Schumacher Jnr and Webber. Coulthard had lost out too, and was chasing Button, with Massa and Christian Klien on his tail. With Montoya dropping back after stopping again on lap 19, McLaren’s chances of the constructors’ title were already looking decidedly weak.

Alonso quickly began to open up a lead again over Fisichella, but Raikkonen was not yet able to challenge the second Renault. Further back, Barrichello was under serious attack from Schumacher Jnr, Webber, Button and Coulthard.

The next drama unfolded on lap 29 when Narain Karthikeyan spun his Jordan and crashed very heavily in Turn 13. Villeneuve had a lucky escape as he just avoided the EJ15B as it slid back across his path, but there was so much debris on track that another safety car period was inevitable. This time it stayed out until lap 34. Schumacher Jnr, Massa and Klien all stayed out as the others pitted, so that when racing resumed on lap 35 they were running second, third and fourth behind Alonso. Raikkonen passed Fisichella during this round of pit stops, and the Italian’s ploy of trying to hold everyone up on his in lap, as Raikkonen had done at Spa, later earned him a drive through penalty as the FIA had warned everyone beforehand that such tactics were unsporting. At this stage Fisichella was running sixth ahead of the battling Barrichello, Webber and Button. Webber’s persistent pressure on the Brazilian finally paid off on lap 44 as Barrichello locked up and ran wide in the Turn 14 hairpin. Button was also able to move up, and having been held off that lap Coulthard was able to make a passing move stick on Barrichello on lap 45.

Massa pitted on lap 44, followed by Klien a lap later, and when Schumacher Jnr stopped on lap 47 Raikkonen finally had a clear road to Alonso. But by now the Spaniard was 13s ahead and had turned down his engine. Raikkonen got the hammer down, but it was all too late. The disruptions of the safety car had worked against McLaren, and though the Finn set two fastest laps at the end and closed to within four seconds by the flag, Alonso had everything firmly under control and came home for his seventh win of the year to even their individual victory scores.

Schumacher Jnr moved from fourth to third when Fisichella served his drive through penalty on lap 52, the Italian recovered to fourth, and Klien was a delighted fifth in his best race to date. At one time the Austrian even set fastest lap before his second pit stop.

Massa held on for an emotional sixth place for Peter Sauber, who promised him a race car during the slowing down lap. Webber’s challenge for sixth faded slightly at the end, but he was comfortably ahead of Button and Coulthard.

Villeneuve’s incident-filled day yielded 10th place after battles with Tiago Monteiro and Jarno Trulli, whose Toyota slowed dramatically in the closing laps. Antonio Pizzonia’s chances of 11th ended when he stopped on the last lap with a punctured right rear tyre. Barrichello dropped back to 12th after a pit stop on lap 46, Pizzonia was classified 13th, and Robert Doornbos was 14th ahead of Trulli and team mate Christijan Albers, who also stopped late, on lap 52, after his Minardi’s left rear wheel nut came undone.

Schumacher Snr never featured at all after his pit lane start in a fuel-heavy Ferrari, and his appalling day finally ended when he spun during the first safety car period when his worn and cold Bridgestones surrendered grip and sent him into the gravel. Montoya finally retired with an engine failure on lap 25, and the other retirement was Takuma Sato. The Japanese driver was in trouble once again after a blatant jump start earned him a drive-through penalty, and his BAR expired on lap 35 as the second safety car period ended.

In the end it was perhaps not the classic race that had been expected, thanks to the two safety car interventions, but there was something fitting about Renault winning its first title as a constructor rather than just as an engine supplier, and the success capped a brilliant season for the French manufacturer.