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Joy and despair for Schumacher brothers 16 Oct 2005

Ralf Schumacher (GER) Toyota celebrates third place. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd19,  Chinese Grand Prix, Race, Shanghai, China, 16 October 2005

The vagaries of the Chinese Grand Prix - and the 2005 Formula One season in general - were dramatically demonstrated by the differing fortunes of the two Schumacher brothers in Shanghai on Sunday.

Well before the start of the race in China, Michael Schumacher already knew that 2005 would go down as his least successful season since joining Ferrari. Yet after a strong qualifying performance it looked as if he might be able to salvage something from the final race of the season - putting in a composed lap to earn a P6 grid spot.

Yet things had taken a dramatic turn for the worse within a minute of leaving the pitlane, and before he had managed to get to the grid. Schumacher’s slow-running Ferrari was involved in a violent crash with Christijan Albers’ Minardi. Both cars were far too damaged to be repaired before the start, and Schumacher was forced to hike back to the pits to take the start in the T-Car.

By contrast, Ralf Schumacher’s qualifying performance gave little indication that he would be ending the race on the podium. He was 1.6 seconds off Alonso’s pace and ended up all the way down in ninth place.

Yet after the race started it seemed that everything played into Ralf’s hands. He pitted well during the first period of safety car running, emerging in fifth place. But Toyota took the decision to keep him out as everyone else pitted when the safety car was called out again by Karthikeyan’s crash - which proved to be an inspired strategy. After the restart he was running second on the track behind Alonso, and was able to push hard to create margin for his late splash-and-dash stop while his rivals slowed each other down. He looked set to finish the race in fourth until Giancarlo Fisichella was given a drive-through penalty, and Ralf found himself standing on the third step of the podium.

Michael’s race couldn’t have gone much worse. Having started from the pits he struggled to make much progress - and by the time the safety car had come out he only climbed as high as 15th. As the cars ahead of him stopped it looked like the German’s luck was changing as his heavily-fuelled Ferrari climbed to 10th. But then he made what seems to have been an unforced driver error, spinning his F2005 into a gravel trap - where his frustrating season finally ended.