German F1 GP: Alonso's sixth win, Renault's seventh

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July 24, 2005 Fernando Alonso took his sixth win of the season and the Mild Seven Renault F1 Team took its seventh win of the season at this afternoon’s 2005 German Grand Prix in Hockenheim. Fernando Alonso converted his third position on the grid into a comfortable victory after another McLaren DNF led to Kimi Raikkonen’s retirement from the lead halfway through the race. The Spaniard’s run to the chequered flag was uneventful, and he controlled his pace throughout the final stint. Any doubts about Alonso not becoming the youngest F1 champ in history were dispelled with the win – he now leads the drivers’ championship by 36 points with seven races to go. At 10 points for a win and six points for a second place, he could conceivably win the title if he didn’t turn up for the remainder of the season given the unreliability of his main adversary’s car. McLaren has had the fastest car at the last half a dozen races, but has failed to take advantage of its speed.

The Renault F1 Team also leads the Constructors’ Championship by 22 points from McLaren, with a total of 117 points. Team McLaren Mercedes driver Juan Pablo Montoya finished in second place, having started the race from last on the grid and once again demonstrating the incredible speed found by McLaren. Kimi Raikkonen was forced to retire with a hydraulic failure on lap 36 whilst leading the 67-lap race – had Raikkonen’s car been reliable this year he would be close to Alonso on points as he has comfortably led several GPs only to have been forced to retire. Though he maintains a mathematical possibility of winning the championship, it depends on a lack of reliability from Alonso, which is highly improbable given his remarkable consistency and the reliability of the blue and yellow Renaults so far this year. Kimi also set the fastest lap of the race with a time of 1:14.873.

Michael Schumacher finished in fifth, after looking at another possible podium midway through proceedings, but lack of grip again costing the team a competitive edge. Ferrari’s decision to be the odd-man-out with its tyre alliance has cost it dearly this year.

The third spot on the podium went to BAR – it’s first of 2005. At the beginning of the season, it would have been inconceivable to think that BAR would have been in seventh place in the constructors title with 15 points after 12 races. Last year BAR finished second to Ferrari in the title, while this year it has taken two thirds of the races to find the combination of speed and reliability to take a podium. The Honda V10 engine is now producing competitive horsepower with the required longevity, though BAR might find it difficult to move any higher than sixth in the standings. Expect some serious effort between now and 2006 as Honda prepares its V8 – the Japanese giant does not countenance losing, much less losing embarrassingly badly.

Giancarlo Fisichella’s fourth place finish disguised an eventful Grand Prix, and a magnificent display of controlled, aggressive driving. The Italian was hit by Sato on the exit of Turn 3 on the first lap, breaking his left rear wing endplate and depriving him of downforce, as well as costing track position. The Italian climbed through the field during the first round of pit-stops, but soon afterwards was asked by his engineers to slow his pace in order to preserve the rear brakes, which showed an unusually high level of wear. These were inspected at his final stop, and the Italian drove the last stint with the brake balance wound fully forward. Three laps from the end, he was given the all-clear on his brakes and was able to drive at his true pace. At this point, he neatly outbraked Michael Schumacher into Turn 6 to take a hard-fought fourth place.

Panasonic Toyota Racing secured three more points after Ralf Schumacher took a hard-earned 6th place. Under overcast skies, Ralf started 12th and drove well all day, benefiting from a good strategy to climb through the field. But it was a dramatic day for Jarno Trulli, who had to pit to replace a damaged front left tyre after a first lap collision. Jarno rejoined at the back and battled his way up before a late drive-through penalty for a blue flag infringement. A final, unplanned pitstop to refill his engine's pneumatic fluid led to his eventual retirement on the last lap. His failure to score points, alongside Ferrari’s Rubens barichello, means the pair who were tied for equal fourth place in the drivers classification, have been leapfrogged by Montoya and are now equal fifth.

Fernando Alonso, Mild Seven Renault F1 Team, Winner: “I am delighted with this victory. We saw McLaren dominate this weekend, and knew it would be tough to beat them in the race, even though our pace was much closer than in qualifying. So to win here in Germany is a good surprise but we all know that the race is 70 laps long, and you don’t get any prizes for being fastest until half-distance. The car was reliable all weekend, as it has been throughout the season, and we know we have to find some more performance: that will start with new pieces for Hungary. In terms of the race, it was quite straightforward – the biggest problem today, like in Silverstone, was with the blue flags which were not being shown to the lapped traffic. After Kimi retired, it was quite easy to manage the gap to the others, and control the race, so it was not the most exciting win. But I think it was an important afternoon for the team, because we increased the lead to McLaren as well, and it puts us in a strong position for Hungary in a week’s time.”

Flavio Briatore, Mild Seven Renault F1 Team, Managing Director: “You have to finish races to win them, and that is what we managed today. I am delighted with the result this weekend. Along with McLaren, we have been competitive since Friday afternoon and Fernando and Fisico both drove great races today – especially Fisico at the end, when he was managing the brakes and still managed to overtake Michael. Fernando has strengthened his championship position, and Fisico brought home more good points for the Constructors’ Championship. I want to congratulate the whole team for the win, and dedicate it to all our colleagues in the Renault group: we are proud to be racing for them.”

Pat Symonds, Mild Seven Renault F1 Team, Executive Director of Engineering: “Fernando drove an outstanding race to take his sixth win of the season. As expected, our race pace was much closer to the McLarens than in qualifying, and Fernando was still pushing hard when Kimi was forced to retire. After that, it was a question of controlling his pace to the flag. Giancarlo put in an equally impressive drive to take fourth. He was hit by Sato on lap one, which damaged the rear wing and cost him downforce, before experiencing unusually severe rear brake wear from halfway through the race. He ended up driving with the balance all the way forward – primarily using the front brakes – which is far from ideal at this circuit. In those circumstances, to finish fourth and overtake Schumacher on the penultimate lap was quite an achievement.”

Juan Pablo Montoya, Team McLaren Mercedes, second place: "A good day for me but a frustrating one for Kimi. I hope the result made up a bit for the mistake I made yesterday. It was tough because of all the hard work everybody has been putting in. Anyway, I gained eight places on the first lap which was very good and then settled down a bit behind the next four cars to save some fuel as there was no need to take any risks as I knew there would be a good chance to pass during the pitstops. To start so far back was an experience I would rather not repeat as I couldn't even see the lights and just moved when the other cars moved. The balance of my car was perfect, and we were able to put in a strong performance. The strategy was spot on and allowed me to push during the race especially when I had the chance to get ahead of Button and Schumacher following their second stops. Without yesterday's mistake, which put me at the back of the grid, a race win would have been possible."

Ron Dennis, Team Principal, Team McLaren Mercedes: "Clearly a weekend of what could have been. Juan Pablo's mistake on Saturday and Kimi's car's hydraulic problem during the course of dominating the race put paid to what could have been a great weekend. The speed and general performance of the cars were exceptional and clearly should have provided Juan Pablo and Kimi with the opportunity of a one-two finish. Juan Pablo's excellent drive from the back of the grid to second clearly demonstrates our capability. Of course the mountain is now a bit higher and steeper to climb, but our commitment to the challenge remains undiminished - it's more difficult but not impossible."

Norbert Haug, Mercedes MotorSport Director: Kimi's performance was extraordinary until a hydraulic failure finished his race on lap 36. This is a bad blow to his chances in the title fight. Juan Pablo did a very good job fighting through the field from last to finish second. It's clear that our reliability must be improved to become as good as the speed of our technical package. We will work hard for it."

Jenson Button, Lucky Strike B.A.R Honda, third: “It’s fantastic to be back on the podium today after a great race for me and the team. I don’t need to tell anyone what a tough season this has been for us and it’s a great feeling to come away from here with a trophy for the guys who’ve worked so hard to get us up there today. I didn’t get a great start and obviously Michael was able to pass me. In the first stint I worried that I might not be able to catch him but then he seemed to lose a bit of pace and I just kept pushing and pushing until I had my chance. I had to keep pushing hard because I knew he was stopping later than me, but in the end I was able to keep him behind for the rest of the race. Catching Juan Pablo was always going to be a different matter though. For us it was just a great race and I enjoyed every minute because I could push the car all the way. It’s a huge boost to everyone at the Team, Honda and Michelin and my thanks to all of them.”

Gil De Ferran, Sporting Director, Lucky Strike B.A.R Honda: "We are very happy with Jenson's podium. He drove a very strong race pushing hard throughout and perfectly executing an overtaking manoeuvre over Michael that turned out to be decisive for us to finish third. The Honda engine and Michelin tyres performed faultlessly throughout the race. Unfortunately Taku got caught in a traffic jam coming out of turn three and had to stop for a new nose, which delayed him a lot and made it difficult for him to score points. This result sets us up nicely for the qualifying order in Hungary, where we are again hoping to be fighting at the sharp end of the grid."

Shuhei Nakamoto, Engineering Director, Honda Racing Development : "Congratulations to Jenson for a fantastic drive - including a brilliant overtaking manoeuvre on Michael Schumacher - right in front of a group of over 1000 Honda dealer guests! He drove a great race from start to finish and fully deserved his podium finish. It was a shame that Takuma had another early race incident, but he again recovered well and must keep looking forward. I'm sure his luck will turn."

Giancarlo Fisichella, Mild Seven Renault F1 Team, 4th position: “What a race! It was full of action, from start to finish, and with the problems we had, I think it was good to finish fourth. I had a good start, but there was no space to pass on the right-hand side and that meant my line into turn 1 was not ideal, so I was in a big bunch of cars at the next corners. On the run to the hairpin, Sato hit my car – although he has apologised now – and knocked off part of the rear wing. The handling felt strange for a few laps, and I lost more places before I could start pushing. I made some places at the first stop, then the engineers said to start looking after the rear brakes, so I was taking things easily, braking earlier than normal and just controlling my pace. Even so, we were quite worried about the wear and the brake balance was all the way forward at the end of the race! But two laps from the end, they said on the radio that I could try and overtake Michael and it was quite easy – he had tyre problems, and I was much faster than him. It was a good result for the team, but I still had the pace to do better.”

Michael Schumacher, Ferrari, fifth place: “In the end, I guess you could say this was an interesting race, although I would have preferred to be fighting for a podium finish rather than the lower places. I struggled a lot with my tyres today, which is why I could not hold off Jenson. Later, Giancarlo got past me as I had a fuel feed problem. Fifth place is okay in that I did not lose any positions from where I started, but of course I was hoping to do something better for the fans, who were incredible all through the weekend. I am proud to have such support.”

Jean Todt, Ferrari: “It was a very difficult race. Michael had to fight really hard for his fifth place, while Rubens finished outside the points. Up to the first pit stop Michael was comfortably able to maintain the third place he won at the start, but after the stop, he progressively and significantly began to lose grip. Losing third place, Michael then tried to fight off the attentions of his pursuers, but with two laps remaining, a sudden drop in fuel pressure saw him lose fourth place as well. Rubens, who had gone for a more conservative tyre choice than his team-mate, never had enough grip to attack and so he was unable to move on from the position he acquired during the hectic period after the start. This is a very tough year for us, the most difficult period we have experienced in a long time. We have to keep concentrating and try and extricate ourselves from this situation by working with our friends at Bridgestone.”

Ross Brawn, Ferrari: “It turned out to be a very frustrating race, after we had started well. But our performance faded as the race progressed. This got worse in the final stages and we were very vulnerable to attack from the cars behind us. Michael had a little problem with the car and had to let Fisichella pass, which is a shame.”

Ralf Schumacher, Team Toyota Panasonic,6th: "That was an exciting race for the public and a good one for me as well. I said yesterday that we could have a good race today and so it proved. I didn't make the best of starts and I found myself crowded out, but it is always like that in Hockenheim. From then on our strategy was excellent, including a long stint before the first pit stop. We could even have ended up one or two positions higher. Unfortunately when I came out of the pits after my first stop the tyres took a couple of laps to get my lap times back while I was struggling for grip. But three points is another good result. The team did a great job and we have to be happy with this result."

Tsutomu Tomita, Team Principal, Team Toyota Panasonic: "That was a good race from Ralf, and we have to be encouraged by today. But given the race pace we had today we really could have hoped for more. Ralf's long first stint paid off and got him into a very good position. Unfortunately he lost a couple of places after his first stop, which we were able to get back at the end. Jarno's race was ruined in the first couple of corners when he got pushed off by a Williams, picked up a puncture on his front left tyre and had to pit. He drove a strong race until he picked up a drive-through penalty. That was unfortunate because he was trying to overtake Heidfeld, which obviously distracted him. Then we had a pneumatic problem on his engine, and he came in to refill it before we finally had to stop the car. It was a shame not to be able to come away with even more but we have to be very encouraged by the pace we showed here today."

David Coulthard, Red Bull racing, seventh: “We felt that we were well set up to get points here this weekend. Qualifying was very close and we performed better than at recent races, which gave us a good foundation for a strong start. From there, we were able to deliver a good race. There are still some inconsistencies with the car that need attention, but we’ll continue to work hard and see what we can do in Hungary next weekend.”

Christian Horner, Sporting Director, Red Bull racing: “Both drivers put in solid performances today. David had an aggressive first lap and came home with two points as a result of a competitive afternoon’s work. Christian lost a few places at the start, which cost him some time, but he made two very good passing manoeuvres on Barrichello in the Ferrari. The result finishes off a very solid weekend for the team, which included yesterday’s qualifying, a good strong race and a two-points finish to maintain sixth place in the Constructors Championship.”

Gunther Steiner, Technical Director, Red Bull racing:“Generally, a good result. David’s car became in-balanced after each pit stop when it was carrying a high fuel load and Christian experienced a similar problem, so we need to sort that out before Hungary. But, a good weekend and we take two points away with us, which is positive.”

Simon Corbyn, Head of Cosworth F1 Race Engineering: "The Hockenheim GP was a good race for Cosworth with both TJ2005 Series 12 engines performing faultlessly to complete their second race events in the top 10. This maintains Cosworth's excellent 2005 reliability record. David's seventh place finish also represents the first two points scored since the introduction of the Series 12 upgrade with Red Bull Racing."

Felipe Massa, Sauber, Eighth: "I think I made a pretty good start, huh? I just saw a space and braked a lot later than anyone else into Turn One, and then let the car run wide and passed maybe four cars coming out. In Turn Two I again braked late and passed another, so it was very, very good! The pace after that was reasonable and consistent, and the balance of the car was good. Overall I think that was one of my best races to date, and scoring a point after starting so far back really keeps me motivated to keep on fighting. I’m very happy!"

Peter Sauber (Team Principal): "Considering where we started on the grid, a point for eighth place was the best we had any right to hope for. After making a fantastic start Felipe got to the position he would have liked to start from, and was always in a position then to fight for a point. He drove a strong and flawless race, passed Heidfeld in the pits and was able to keep Barrichello behind, and really deserved his result. Jacques seemed to be everybody’s target today and ran from one problem to the next. For sure a painful race for him, and one he will want to forget."

Christian Klien, Red Bull racing, ninth place: “I think it was a very tough race and the car was very difficult to drive, especially when it was carrying a lot of fuel. I didn’t make such a great start. I was on the right hand side of the track where there was a lot of dirt, and I lost a couple of places. I pushed really hard during the race and made two good overtaking manoeuvres on Barrichello, but apart from that there was not so much good action.”

Rubens Barrichello, Ferrari, 10th: “The race started well for me and I even managed to move up a few places. Then, just after the start, another car came up the inside of me and I had no option but to move to the outside of the corner, which is how I collided with Villeneuve. After that, I spent the rest of the race fighting a lack of grip from the tyres. The grip I was expecting to improve in the race compared to the way it was in qualifying did not in fact do so. The choice I made yesterday did not pay off.”

Nick Heidfeld, Williams BMW F1, 11th: “I had a good start, making up two positions. In the beginning it was not bad and I could clearly keep the pace of Michael Schumacher and Button who were both just in front of me. I was unlucky after the pit-stop, just falling behind some two-stoppers and I couldn't go at my own pace anymore. I actually think the biggest problem was that at the end of the first stint something in the rear of the car changed and affected the balance. I was never able to do the lap times after that. Towards the end of the race I had a bit more oversteer and also the engine power was turned down as there was nothing more we could gain. I am disappointed because I thought we could score some points today.”

Sam Michael, Technical Director, WilliamsF1: “Obviously Mark had a coming together with Takuma into the first corner. The right rear suspension was damaged so we spent some time in the pits repairing this then he continued with the view to the qualifying slot for the next Grand Prix. On Nick's car we did not manage to make enough progress towards the end of his first stint. Afterwards it was difficult to come back into the points positions. Compared to the last two races we have improved the cars, but it is clear that we still have a lot of work to do.”

Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director: “In spite of our three-stop strategy, in qualifying we saw some improvement compared to Silverstone, which was not the case in the race. Nick was doing okay until his first pit-stop, but then the lap times never became the same again. This didn't depend on our strategy, as we were just not fast enough for some reason. Mark dropped back due to the collision at the first corner.”

Takuma Sato, Lucky Strike B.A.R Honda, 12th: "The race was a very big disappointment for me today, particularly as we had qualified with so much fuel on-board so I felt we were in a strong position. I had a small incident in turn one but the car was OK. I was following Fisichella through turn three which is usually flat, when for some reason he lifted and there was no way to avoid hitting him. We had to change the nose and I knew then that I was going to have a very difficult race but kept going. It was a big shame because the team had done a very good job, the car was performing well and getting better and better. Now I have to keep motivated and look forward to Hungary next weekend."

Christijan Albers, Minardi F1, 13th: “I’m pleased to have finished, although it turned out to be a tough race, as the car set-up was not quite what we had aimed for. Looking at it positively, however, it’s something we can improve on for the next race, and hopefully gain some more performance. That said, even though the car may not have been perfect today, it was raceable, and as a result, we were able to do a reasonable job. Certainly, I’m pleased with the outcome of the race, but I think it could have been even a little better”.

Paul Stoddart, Team Principal, Minardi Cosworth: “Today, the Minardi F1 Team achieved one of its year-long goals, by putting in a solid performance all weekend to finish ahead of its nearest rivals. Both drivers, who had to deal with damaged cars as the result of separate first-lap incidents, put in truly gutsy performances this afternoon. That, combined with the continuing hard work by the race team and all the staff back at the factory, is paying off. Well done to everybody!”

Robert Doornbos Minardi F1, 18th: “I’m happy to have finished my first Grand Prix, although it was definitely a very eventful race. I had a problem at the start with the launch control, and therefore did a manual start. I’m sure it looked dramatic, with lots of wheelspin, but I lost position against some of the other cars. Once I got going, the first lap was chaos. It was very good for me, though, as I gained a number of positions. Then, on the third lap, as we arrived at the Arena, my car took a big hit from Villeneuve and I spun. As a result, I had to make an unscheduled stop to have the car checked, and that was quite a shame because I think we had the pace to stay with the Jordans and to stay close to my team mate. If we were going to have a bit of bad luck, though, it’s maybe preferable to get it out of the way today, at the first race, and then next week it will all go a lot better. I’m feeling fit and now looking forward to Hungary”.

Kimi Raikkonen, Team McLaren Mercedes, DNF: "What can I say! It's always terrible to retire from a race, but to retire whilst in the lead with a good gap to the number two car is even worse. This is the worst thing that could have happened as it looked like the race was in the bag. However that is motor racing, but it seems like I have had my fair share of bad luck this season. Myself and the whole team now need to overcome today's disappointment and focus on the Hungarian race and the rest of the season. There is still a mathematical chance that I can win the Drivers Championship but it's getting difficult. However we are still in the battle for the Constructors' battle, so we will keep on fighting."

Jarno Trulli, Team Toyota Panasonic, DNF: "That was a very unlucky day for me. At the start the car didn't pull away well, then at first corner I had a problem with Webber, who was suffering with his gearbox and just pushed me wide onto the very outside of the circuit. I picked up a puncture and found the car difficult to stop into the second and third corners and down the straight. So I had to pit and change the front left tyre. The balance was fine after that, and in fact the car felt very good today, better than it has for a couple of races, and I was able to overtake Sato down the straight. Later on I knew there were blue flags, but they came just as I was overtaking Heidfeld. I let Montoya past immediately afterwards but was given a penalty. Finally I had a problem with the pneumatic pressure in the engine and I was forced to stop. All in all, that was just one of those races when everything happened."

Jacques Villeneuve, Sauber, DNF: "I seemed to get hit by everybody today! On the first lap Rubens came into the side of me at the hairpin; I think maybe somebody pushed him. Then I had the thing with Doornbos on lap four. He was being very over-aggressive in his first race, and he moved over on me while he was braking so we touched. That was Formula Ford stuff, unnecessary. As for Monteiro on lap 27, I really don’t think that he saw me. "The funny thing is that the car was still good after all that contact, but eventually it developed a serious vibration. We changed the front tyres but that didn’t fix it, and it began to get worse and worse, so I had to ease off a little. There was no point in risking everything by then."

Mark Webber, Williams BMW F1, DNF: “I don't know what I've got to do this season to get some luck. At the first corner after the start I got hit at the right rear by Sato and had suspension damage. The mechanics replaced the part quickly, but obviously by the time I went back on track I was 11 laps behind the leader. This compromised my race of course, but it will also affect qualifying for the next race, as I will have a very early start slot.”

Race Results:

1 Fernando Alonso Renault 2 Juan Pablo Montoya McLaren-Mercedes 3 Jenson Button BAR-Honda 4 Giancarlo Fisichella Renault 5 Michael Schumacher Ferrari 6 Ralf Schumacher Toyota 7 David Coulthard Red Bull Racing 8 Felipe Massa Sauber-Petronas 9 Christian Klien Red Bull Racing 10 Rubens Barrichello Ferrari 11 Nick Heidfeld Williams-BMW 12 Takuma Sato BAR-Honda 13 Christijan Albers Minardi-Cosworth 14 Jarno Trulli Toyota 15 Jacques Villeneuve Sauber-Petronas 16 Narain Karthikeyan Jordan-Toyota 17 Tiago Monteiro Jordan-Toyota 18 Robert Doornbos Minardi-Cosworth Ret Mark Webber Williams-BMW 55 Ret Kimi Räikkönen McLaren-Mercedes

Fastest Lap: Kimi Räikkönen 1:14.873

2005 Drivers Championship

1 Fernando Alonso 87 pts, 2 Kimi Räikkönen 51 pts, 3 Michael Schumacher 47 pts,4 Juan Pablo Montoya 34 pts, 5 Rubens Barrichello 31 pts, 5 Jarno Trulli 31 pts, 7 Giancarlo Fisichella 30 pts, 8 Ralf Schumacher 26 pts, 9 Nick Heidfeld 25 pts, 10 Mark Webber 22 pts, 11 David Coulthard 19 pts, 12 Jenson Button 15 pts, 13 Felipe Massa 8 pts, 14 Tiago Monteiro 6 pts, eq 14 Alexander Wurz 6 pts, eq 14 Jacques Villeneuve 6 pts, 17 Narain Karthikeyan 5 pts, 18 Christijan Albers 4 pts, eq 18 Pedro de la Rosa 4 pts, eq 18 Christian Klien 4 pts, 21 Patrick Friesacher 3 pts, 22 Vitantonio Liuzzi 1 pts

2005 Constructors Championship

1 Renault 117 pts, 2 McLaren-Mercedes 95 pts, 3 Ferrari 78 pts, 4 Toyota 57 pts, 5 Williams-BMW 47 pts, 6 Red Bull Racing 24 pts, 7 BAR-Honda 15 pts, 8 Sauber-Petronas 14 pts, 9 Jordan-Toyota 11 pts, 10 Minardi-Cosworth 7 pts

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