April 4, 2005 Fernando Alonso dominated the Bahraini Grand Prix at the Sakhir circuit on Sunday, winning his second race in a row and looking set to end Michael Schumacher’s reign as the King of Formula One. In many ways, there has been a significant changing of the guard, with Toyota’s second and fourth places netting the company’s best points finish ever and putting it in a clear second place in the constructors championship. Ferrari meanwhile is languishing in sixth place behind the increasingly consistent Red Bull. The ever-astute bookmakers now consider Michael Schumacher only 3/1 chance of retaining his title, with Alonso at long odds-on for the title. The stage is now set for an epic battle. Ferrari showed enough with the speed of the 2005 car’s first showing to suggest that it will have the speed to contest the remainder of the season fiercely. It’s now down to Bridgestone to provide competitive tyres for the less extreme temperatures of Europe.
Statements from Leading Players after the race:
Fernando Alonso, Renault, Winner: “The R25 was perfect today, and the team has been fantastic all weekend, with no mistakes. To score 26 points out of 30 possible is brilliant, but we need to stay cautious: we have only done three races out of nineteen in a very long season. However, I think that if we stay competitive like we are, and if we can avoid mechanical problems, then we will be hard to beat.”
Flavio Briatore, Renault F1, Managing Director: “This was a fantastic result for the whole team. Fernando dominated from start to finish: he had a nice fight with Michael, but after the Ferrari retired he just had to manage his tyres, his engine and the gap to Jarno. We are all disappointed for Giancarlo, but I know he will fight back strongly at the next race. Well done to everybody at Enstone and Viry; we are all proud to bring Renault their hundredth Formula One victory.”
Pat Symonds, Renault F1, Executive Director of Engineering: “To see a driver control a race like Fernando did this afternoon is an impressive sight. His performance is even more remarkable when you consider he did not even use all the revs available on the engine in the opening laps. He seemed capable of increasing his pace when necessary, without putting undue stress on the car. We are sorry for Giancarlo, whose engine started to fail on lap two. We knew there was nothing we could do, but given the way in which the race unfolded, he could have scored a very strong result. We also need to thank Michelin: the tyres were really put to the test this weekend, with track temperatures over 50°C. Once again, the tyres were excellent in every area: they were quick over one lap, and consistent all the way through the race.”
Jarno Trulli, Panasonic Toyota, second: "I am so pleased with this result. After Malaysia, I thought we would be competitive and to claim our second consecutive podium is fantastic. The car performed amazingly well, it was quick and reliable with no issues whatsoever. The braking, cooling, Michelin tyres, engine, everything worked well. I realised midway through the race that it was futile to try and catch Fernando and we were safely in second, which is tremendous for everyone in the team. I would like to thank all the team for this result, but we still have one place ahead of us, so we must keep pushing with that as the target."
Tsutomu Tomita, Panasonic Toyota, Team Principal: "It is still like a dream to find ourselves in such competitive shape after only three years in the sport. I think first and foremost it is great to confirm our ultimate competitiveness at the front of Formula 1. It is also an outstanding achievement to consolidate Toyota's second place in the world championship. It really is a fantastic result. Performance-wise excellent drivers from both Jarno and Ralf. Jarno drove another smooth and consistent race making it look easy. Ralf did a great job in qualifying this morning to take him five places up the grid after a difficult lap yesterday. We knew his strategy would be compromised by stopping early but he drove a challenging race to pick up 4th place and five points – a great effort. Congratulations must again go to everyone in the team, the sponsors and the Toyota family. Now we have to look to ensure we retain this second place in the championship once the European season gets underway in Imola in three weeks."
Kimi Raikkonen, McLaren Mercedes, third: “I am very pleased with third place after a difficult two qualifying sessions. The car felt really good in the race, but unfortunately I was stuck behind a lot of traffic early on. I managed to gain a few places, but once I was in third position the front two cars were too far ahead for me to catch them.”
Ron Dennis, McLaren Mercedes, Team Principal: “A challenging weekend, which, in contrast to Malaysia, allowed us to demonstrate the true potential of our cars. We are fully aware of what we have to do to improve our qualifying positions and will try hard to accelerate elements of change that were originally targeted for the Spanish Grand Prix. A great result for both drivers with Kimi achieving a podium position and Pedro demonstrating the level of professionalism and speed that we have always observed in his testing role. Our goals for 2005 remain completely unchanged, there are still 16 races to go and everything is still possible.”
Norbert Haug, Vice-President Mercedes-Benz Motorsport: “Congratulations to Kimi for third and Pedro for fifth place. The potential for top results is there, which can be seen from Kimi’s podium finish and Pedro’s fastest lap. With better grid positions more will be possible soon. We will continue to work hard to further improve our package and look forward to the start of the European season in Imola in three weeks time.”
Ralf Schumacher, Panasonic Toyota, fourth: "Another great result for the team after our success in Malaysia. I had a good race, although it was pretty slippery, but that is to be expected at this track. The end result was dictated by the mistake in qualifying yesterday which bumped me down to eleventh but the team did a great job to move me up some positions on the grid. We have two cars in the points, including one on the podium, so well done to Jarno and everyone in the team both here and in Cologne. After my 5th place in Malaysia and now 4th in Bahrain, it must be my turn for the podium next."
Pedro de la Rosa, McLaren Mercedes, fifth: "I had a great time racing today. My lap times were consistently fast when I had a clear track ahead. However most of the race I had fights with competitors which kept me busy. I gave it my all to win the battles against Takuma Sato, Rubens Barrichello, Jenson Button and Mark Webber. It was hard work to make my way through the field after a difficult first few laps coming from ninth after the first lap. I must thank the whole team who have worked so hard to provide me with a car that was both fast and reliable.”
Mark Webber, Williams BMW, sixth: “It was a tough race for me. Unfortunately with about 20 laps to go I had a spin at turn 10 when I was running third and I lost two positions. My tyres were in bad shape after I spun and the car was difficult to drive because of strong vibrations. So in the last few laps I lost one position to de la Rosa. Everyone in the team did a very good job and also Michelin provided us with good tyres. Now I am looking forward to Imola.”
Sam Michael, WilliamsF1 Technical Director: “This is obviously not the result we were aiming for after qualifying. In the ambient conditions we ran the engine at its thermal limits, which may have contributed to Nick's engine failure. In terms of lap times we had to manage the engine revs during the race which made it difficult for both drivers to defend. Either way we are confident that we will be able to race more strongly in Imola.”
Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director: “After a strong qualifying we were hoping for more from this race. The intense heat compromised us in two ways. First of all Nick drove the only car with an engine that had already endured the Malaysian heat. The combined temperature effects of both those races was obviously too much. We will find out in Munich what was the exact reason for the failure. The other reason is that even with the car's maximum cooling configuration we were running at thermal-limits and we could not exploit our engines to their full revs and this contributed to Mark being unable to properly defend his good position.” Felipe Massa, Sauber Petronas, seventh: "That was exactly what I hoped for in my heart before the start of the race! The C24 was strong and consistent all the way through and I am sure that my hard tyre choice was the right one. I think it was a good move I did on Rubens, but he was in trouble with his tyres so to be fair it was not real overtaking. I am proud to have scored our first points of the season in our 200th race, and now I'm looking forward to continuing our intensive preparations next week before the championship moves to Europe for the San Marino Grand Prix at Imola."
Peter Sauber, Sauber Petronas Team Principal: "This was a very tough race, and both drivers did a very good job. Jacques was unlucky to lose the final point when Coulthard ran into him in the closing stages, but Felipe's two points for seventh place were a great present, a thank you to the team as everyone here in Bahrain and back home in Hinwil celebrates our 200th race. It is a satisfying way to finish the opening stint of the season, and sets us up for our forthcoming test session in Barcelona later this week which will help us to prepare for the European races."
David Coulthard, Red Bull F1, Eighth: “At the end, Barrichello was a lot slower in his braking area and kept overshooting, so I pretty much lined him up for a couple of laps and I knew I was going to have a go on the last lap. A point out of a difficult weekend is encouraging but now we need to do a total investigation of where we are with the car because I just struggled badly in the race and in qualifying.”
Christian Horner, Red Bull F1, Sporting Director: “It was a good end to a frustrating start. It was really disappointing for Christian to not make the start after such a strong weekend but at least with David we had a fairly lengthy strategy that panned out for us. He really stuck with it and we salvaged a point. It was a pretty exciting finish on the last lap and perseverance and persistence paid off. We were again reliable with David’s car and another point and we’re looking forward to getting back to Europe. ”
Gunther Steiner, Red Bull F1, Technical Director: “In the end it was a lucky race, we got a point which is great. But I feel very sorry for Christian. It seems like we had an electronic problem due to the heat but we have to do an investigation as the car did later fire upon a second try in the garage. So we have to go home, do an investigation and sort out the problem for the next race. David’s car was reliable throughout the race but, as we experienced throughout this weekend, his balance was never really good and therefore he wasn’t on the pace of the front-runners. But in the end we got away with a point and made the best out of the worst. ”
David Prigg, Cosworth (Red Bull engine supplier): “I’m delighted for David scoring a point in his third consecutive race, but disappointed that Christian was unable to start the race. We are currently investigating why his engine would not start on the grid but we suspect an electronics problem.”
Rubens Barrichello, Ferrari F1, ninth : “I think this has been a weekend to forget for me. I had only driven four timed laps before the race and then I made up ten places in just a few laps. In qualifying, the tyres were great over the single lap and they were good in the first part of the race. However, after that I began to get too much oversteer as the tyre degraded badly and my lap times therefore got slower. Some of that problem came from the fact that with hardly any running over the two previous days, I had to use Michael’s set-up and I think I could have done better if I had been able to chose a set-up better suited to my driving style. That is why I began to lose places. Even if I could have held up Massa and Coulthard under braking, they could pass me out of the corners and that’s what happened. We now have three weeks before Imola and we will be testing in Barcelona which is very hard on tyres and we must work very hard to understand our problems in this area and with the reliability of the car. We have time to improve.”
Jean Todt, Managing Director, Ferrari F1: “The race was as tough as it was disappointing. Starting from the front row, Michael retired on lap 11, when he was fighting for the lead. Rubens staged a great climb up the order which took him from last to fifth place, but then he just lost out on a points finish in the very last moments of the race. It is disappointing, but we have also learnt that the F2005 is competitive. It is clear that we have a lot of work to do to improve its overall reliability, along with our partners, first and foremost Bridgestone. The net result of these first three races outside Europe is certainly a negative one and not up to our standard. However, I am convinced that we are totally capable of recovering in time for the race at Imola, where we will race in front of so many of our fans.”
Ross Brawn , Ferrari F1: “The result is obviously very disappointing, but there are a lot of positive indications to take away from this weekend. We knew that bringing the new car was going to be a tough challenge. Michael had a reliability problem in the race, while Rubens’ reliability problems earlier in the weekend meant that he had no set-up time. He was not able to make the most of the car in the race for that reason. Michael on the other hand, was very confident going into the race and was very comfortable with the position he was in. Because he retired, we did not get to see it, but I think the strategy we had would have been competitive. Now we have to work with our partners to make sure we make a big step forward for Imola and get back to where we want to be.”
Tiago Monteiro, Jordan F1, tenth: “I am really happy for the team and for myself that I finished in the top ten at my third race. It was a very difficult race because of the heat as it is not easy to control the car in such high temperatures. Everyone in the team has done a very good job over the weekend ”
Trevor Carlin, Jordan F1, Sporting Director: “We are slightly disappointed that Narain had a problem on the third lap and could not finish the race as he made up some good positions and things were looking quite good. Tiago has done a fantastic job to bring the car home in very difficult conditions. We are very pleased with our first top ten finish and we are improving at every race a little bit at a time.”
Jacques Villeneuve, Sauber Petronas, 11th: "It's a real shame. The start went well, Turn One went well, and the car went well. I got pushed wide and had to give back a place on the first lap, but after that it was a matter of keeping the pace and being consistent. I could certainly have got a point today. It was only another lap and I would have passed Rubens, but then I got hit by David. I don't know why and I'll have to ask him... "After that incident I could feel something wrong at the back of the car so I came into the pits so the team could check it out. They subsequently discovered that there was damage to the rear suspension where David had hit me. It's disappointing to get so close to a point and then lose it, but I'm feeling a lot more confident in the car after this race."
Patrick Friesacher, Minardi Cosworth, 12th: “In the beginning, it was quite good, and I could stay with the Jordans without really pushing, but then in the middle of the race, we began to lose grip at the rear of the car, and the combination of that and traffic meant we began to lose time. Before that, though, the car was really good. I’m quite happy with our effort today, and that we finished what will probably be the very last race for this car. Also, once again, thanks to the guys for a great job today.”
Paul Stoddart, Team Principal, Minardi Cosworth: “This was a fitting finish to the career of the PS04, with both Minardi entries taking the chequered flag in gruelling conditions. Patrick and Christijan found themselves struggling towards the end of the race, but persevered. We now move on to Imola with the introduction of the new car in sight and, hopefully, the start of improved Minardi performance in 2005.”
Christijan Albers, Minardi Cosworth, 13th: “I made a good start, just like Malaysia, but maybe even a little faster, but then, in turn 10, I was behind Barrichello, and made an attempt at getting by him, but then we came up to Coulthard, whom Rubens was passing on the inside. Unfortunately, David and I made contact under braking. In my view, it was just a racing incident, but I lost the nose of my car and had to pit at the end of the lap to have it replaced. It was a shame, because we were in front of the Jordans and quite a few other cars, but on the positive side, it’s pleasing to know the speed was there. Patrick made two stops and I made three, but I managed to reduce the gap between us from 40 seconds after the unplanned pit stop to 17 seconds by the end of the race. It was a shame that Alonso put me an additional lap down at the very last corner of the race, but overall, I think it was a good result today.”
Jenson Button, BAR Honda, DNF: "I got a reasonable start, our car felt strong and we had good pace, so we were obviously hoping for better things. I tried to overtake Fisichella on lap two but he moved across me and I lost three places behind him. From around lap 20 we were starting to experience some bad gear shifts and also signs of brake wear, so I had to start to look after the brakes a bit more. The pit crew removed the tyre to inspect the front left in the last pitstop and it seemed that we would make it to the end of the race. When I tried to select first and pull away though, the clutch problem recurred and I couldn't pull away. The guys did a fantastic job to try to get me back into the race but then the car stopped at the pit lane exit. We have two weeks of testing now where we have to work hard on reliability for Imola. We will have a new package and a stronger car, so let's hope that San Marino is where our season will finally get started."
Takuma Sato, BAR Honda, DNF: "We had a great race while it lasted, so it's a shame that I had to retire from the race. I got a good start and was able to make up lots of places in the early stages of the race, which was very exciting for me and I enjoyed it a lot. This is a very hard braking circuit though and we had a brake wear problem. I am obviously disappointed but the team did a great job keeping me ahead of Rubens following my pitstop. We have to keep focused on the positives now and I'm looking forward to the next two weeks of testing where we will keep pushing to develop the car for Imola."
Geoff Willis, BAR Honda, Technical Director: "Obviously the team are frustrated to have retired both cars from the race after what was promising to be a good performance for the team. Despite the retirements by Takuma who had run-away brake wear and by Jenson, who in his last pit stop appears to have had a clutch failure, there are a number of good points to take out of the race. As shown by the late first pit stops, both drivers had qualified with high fuel loads and our strategy was working well; the team beat Ferrari in Takuma's first pit stop allowing him to pass Barrichello. Both drivers drove well, Jenson taking the fifth fastest lap despite having to look after his brakes and Takuma having a strong start and first few laps to move from 13th to 8th by lap three. Takuma was in 6th place when he retired and Jenson was up to 7th. We now have to investigate the cause of our brake and clutch failures. We have a lot of new parts to test in the next two weeks and with new engines for Imola we have to focus on improving our chassis performance for the next race."
Nick Fry, BAR Honda, Chief Executive Officer: "It was encouraging that Jenson and Taku were able to run in point-scoring positions and for our pit crew to be able to beat Ferrari in a back to back pit stop race. Obviously it was very disappointing that both cars should stop with different problems, and for Jenson so late in the race when he was on target for a good points finish. We now need to regroup and implement both aerodynamic performance improvements and reliability measures before Imola, where we plan to kick off the European season with some points. The team remain focused on our goal of winning a race this season and with 16 rounds to go and knowing the depth of resource, skill and strength of character in our team, we can still meet our objective."
Shuhei Nakamoto, Engineering Director, Honda Racing Development: "It is obviously a frustrating day for the whole team but I thought that both of the drivers did a very good job today and got the best out of the car. We must make the most out of the three week break to improve our situation."
Narain Karthikeyan, Jordan F1, DNF: “It is really a pity I had to retire in the race as I made a really good start and I managed to overtake a few cars. I was keeping up the pace but suddenly the car just stopped on the track because of an electrical problem.”
Nick Heidfeld, Williams BMW, DNF: “It's disappointing not to finish the race, especially because I was running in a very good position and I was on course to collect several useful points. On the other side one has to consider that my engine was the only one in the field that had run in Malaysia already and was having its' second Grand Prix here, in such extreme conditions. Everybody is working flat out at WilliamsF1 and at BMW and it's a shame what happened, nevertheless I am sure we will get some reward in the next races.”
Michael Schumacher , Ferrari F1, DNF: “For sure, I have to be disappointed with not finishing the race. But on the positive side I can look at the fantastic effort made to bring the new car here and it was absolutely the right decision. Up until I retired, the car was very
Odds for F1 Drivers Title After Race
F Alonso 1.50 Michael Schumacher 3.75 J Trulli 15.00 G Fisichella 15.00 K Raikkonen 17.00 R Barrichello 21.00 J P Montoya 34.00 Ralf Schumacher 41.00 M Webber 51.00 N Heidfeld 67.00 J Button 201.00 D Coulthard 201.00
Odds for F1 Constructors Title After Race