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A good race for McLaren and Spain... 03 Apr 2005

3rd place, Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) McLaren Mercedes MP4/20.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Bahrain Grand Prix, Race Day, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain, 3 April 2005

At the start of the Bahrain Grand Prix McLaren’s prospects looked less than rosy - with its drivers starting in eighth and ninth positions, behind Renault, Ferrari, Toyota, Williams and even the Red Bull of Christian Klien.

Juan Pablo Montoya had failed to even make the race, after suffering an injury, and had been substituted by third driver Pedro de la Rosa, starting his first race since Japan in 2002. He had qualified in eighth place, narrowly pipping team mate Kimi Raikkonen, who seemed no closer to finding the race form that he enjoyed at the end of last season.

Yet 57 laps later and McLaren had enjoyed their best performance of the season so far. Raikkonen was standing on the third step of the podium, having benefited from a strong pit-stop strategy and gaining several positions as mechanical failure claimed several of the cars running ahead of him.

Meanwhile de la Rosa had driven one of the finest races of his life. Throughout the early stages his obvious rustiness was apparent - and he managed to out-brake himself spectacularly heading into turn one on two occasions, losing time but recovering each time.

But then, in the closing sessions of the race, the Spaniard enjoyed a spectacular battle with Mark Webber as the pair scrapped for fifth position. The Australian’s Williams was obviously suffering in the hot conditions, but he drove an extremely defensive strategy that kept de la Rosa behind for almost ten laps until, after some spectacularly close running, de la Rosa managed to find his way past and accelerated away to a well-deserved fifth-place finish. He also set the fastest lap of the race.

Along with Alonso’s victory it added up to the most successful race for Spain ever - the country’s two drivers scoring 13 points between them - and de la Rosa, for one, will be in no great hurry for Montoya to recover enough to reclaim his seat.