Ferrari pace leaves rivals reeling 24 Apr 2005
World champions won't let title go without a fight
When Rubens Barrichellos F2005 drew into the pit garage to retire on lap 18 it looked like being another weekend of disappointment for the Ferrari team. It turned out to be anything but as Michael Schumacher put in one of the most remarkable drives of his career.
Once again the luckless Barrichello seemed to be the one to suffer from any lack of reliability on Ferraris part - but his disappointing 10th place qualifying performance certainly didnt suggest that he was driving a car capable of running with the front of the field. Team mate Michael Schumacher had looked stronger during the first qualifying session, which he finished in third place, but a mistake during the second session pushed him down to 13th place. During the early stages of the race his pace was unexceptional, and in the run-up to the first round of pit-stops he was sitting in 10th, one place behind brother Ralfs Toyota.
Yet as his rivals made their stops, Schumacher showed his hand, putting in a devastating series of fast laps that saw him leapfrog from 10th to third by the time he emerged from his own first stop. During the next stint he was often running more than two seconds a lap quicker than his rivals and quickly reeled in the 20-second lead held by second-placed Jenson Button.
After a spirited defence Button lost his place as Schumacher swooped around him while he was trying to lap the battling Williams of Nick Heidfeld and Mark Webber. Schumacher emerged from his second stop just seven seconds behind Alonsos Renault, and the pair were quickly running together. An amazing contest developed during the closing stages of the race as Schumacher pushed Alonso very hard indeed.
The Ferrari had a clear advantage under braking, but the Renault appeared to possess better traction out of corners - and some impressively cool-headed defensive driving by the Spaniard managed to keep the world champion behind. They took the chequered flag just 0.2 seconds apart, one of the closest finishes in recent years.
If Ferraris pace was an indication of what we can expect throughout the rest of the season then it looks as if the championship could be set to get a whole lot closer in the coming races. Ferrari are definitely back.