October 18, 2005 Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix was the last Grand Prix of the season, and with the drivers championship decided, the duel between the two outstanding teams of the season for the constructors crown was the highlight of the event. In the end, the script ran as it had done all season, with the mercurial McLarens failing when it counted and Fernando Alonso performing flawlessly when it mattered most, and the Renault F1 Team winning the FIA Formula One World Constructors’ Championship. A dominant team performance saw Fernando Alonso take his seventh win of the season, while Giancarlo Fisichella finished fourth, only missing a podium finish through a questionable penalty from the FIA late in the race. But the day was dominated by the joy of Renault's win: the constructors’ championship coming alongside Fernando Alonso’s drivers’ championship to leave Renault as double world champions, an historic first for the French company.
Fernando Alonso, Winner: “This is a fantastic feeling. I didn’t think anything could equal winning the drivers’ championship, but seeing our people celebrating, it’s just as good! I am really so happy and there is only one word to say to them: thank you. The race was actually very easy. We only used full power on the engine in the first part, and we saw we were quicker than everybody so we turned things down and went conservative for the second part. Honestly, it was like the opening races when we had an advantage and could manage our pace. But today is about the team, they deserve to win, and now we are team and drivers champions. We showed that when we want to push, and take the risks, we can win races.”
Patrick Faure, President, Renault: “This was a perfect weekend for the team. The race was full of emotion, and we twice had a big advantage wiped out – but even in the third part of the race, we pulled away. Nobody could stay with the Renaults and nothing could stop us from winning. This has been a perfect season, and I would like to congratulate the whole team, thank Flavio for his excellent management, and also pay tribute to our partners, who have enabled us to win. This victory is a welcome reward for all their work, and a great moment in Renault’s history.”
Flavio Briatore, Managing Director, Renault F1: “A great victory for Renault and the whole team. We managed the drivers’ chase well this season, and after that people built up the constructors’ championship as if it was the most important title in this sport. So to come here this weekend and dominate the race shows we have done the job right this year, both with Fernando and as a team. We have shown speed, reliability, and the whole team at Enstone, Viry and in Renault has worked flat out to make this happen. I also want to thank our sponsors, who allow us to go racing, and the Renault group for their fantastic support at every level. All those people are the reasons why we are world champions today. The last word goes to our drivers: Fisico drove brilliantly this afternoon, and after he was criticised in Japan, he put in a splendid performance; Fernando was, as always, superb. I think this Renault team is a dream team.”
Pat Symonds, Executive Director of Engineering, Renault F1: “The constructors’ championship means so much to the team, not just here at the circuit but back at Enstone and Viry where people have worked with such dedication throughout the season. This is the recognition of all the work they have done, and we send our congratulations to them. The race itself did not unfold as expected, and in all honesty I wish the safety car periods had not happened, because that would have allowed us to show the true performance we have gained in the past few weeks. To win the championship with a dominant race win is the perfect way to round off an amazing season. I would also like to thank Michelin for their efforts this year, and congratulate them on their fabulous success. It is a fitting tribute to the vision of Pierre Dupasquier as he retires after this race. There has not been a race this year where the conditions have not suited their tyres, and today was no exception. They have dominated from start to finish.”
Kimi Räikkönen, McLaren, second place: “Today was not our day and finishing second was the best we could do but obviously it was not enough to take the title. The car was not quick enough at the start of the race and when it really came on towards the end it was too late. The lap before Juan Pablo hit the cover I saw it was at a strange angle and just managed to avoid it the following lap. The whole incident brought out the Safety Car which meant that we were not really able to use our strategic advantage. Congratulations to Renault but next year we try again and I can’t wait.”
Ron Dennis, McLarenTeam Principal: “Not the result we would have preferred, but that is motor racing. I think everything seemed to work against us today, and the Safety Car period meant that we were unable to take full advantage of our strategy. It’s frustrating not to achieve the result we want at the end of a season where we have finished on the podium 18 times and claimed 10 victories. Both drivers have done a good job this season as has the team and we will work hard to ensure that the momentum continues next season.”
Norbert Haug, Vice President Mercedes-Benz Motorsport: “We can look back on a good season, and I want to thank everybody in the team for all their efforts. Today we were unable to see how our strategy would have unfolded in comparison to the opposition because the Safety Car was deployed before the first round of pit stops. Kimi made the best out of the situation with his second place. Unfortunately Juan Pablo hit a loose drain cover and immediately after that he suffered an engine failure – the cause of which is still being investigated. Congratulations to Renault for winning the Constructors’ title at the end of a great and closely fought season – we are looking forward to 2006.”
Ralf Schumacher, Panasonic Toyota Racing, third: "That was a great way to cap off an excellent first season with Toyota, especially coming after a pretty hard weekend. The car was really difficult to handle in qualifying and at the beginning of the race but the first safety car came out at just the right time for me. I think I was due a bit of luck after what happened at last week's Japanese Grand Prix and this time it paid off. The team did a good strategy and after the second safety car period I was in second. At that point the handling was incredible and I was almost able to keep up with Alonso and pull out the gap I needed. The pit stops were excellent today and I'd like to pass on a big thank you to all the team. I've scored points in 14 races out of 19 this year and I look forward to pushing even further up the grid next season."
Tsutomu Tomita, Panasonic Toyota Racing, Team Principal: "It has been a very good year for us and to finish on the podium is a fine way to finish it off. So I would like to offer my thanks to everyone on the race team and at Cologne as well as everyone at TMC in Japan and all our partners. Thanks to both drivers for a great season. Jarno has been unfortunate several times and again today he didn't have much luck. He pitted the lap before the safety car and it ruined his race when he wasn't waved past. He had to make a late stop because of a bad tyre problem but I'm grateful to him for bringing the car home. Ralf was unlucky with the safety car at Suzuka but today went much better. We made efficient use of the pit stop and kept him out on the second safety car period hoping that traffic would hold up the field, which worked out perfectly. Our fifth podium is a great end to a great year. We are not yet able to compete with the top teams so we need harder development to overtake them. But we already have some excellent data from the B car and this podium will provide excellent motivation over the winter." Mike Gascoyne, Panasonic Toyota Racing, Technical Director Chassis: "This podium is a fitting tribute to all the year's hard work by everyone both on the race team and back in Cologne. To come here with the B car and go away with a result like that is excellent so a big thank you to everyone involved."
Giancarlo Fisichella, Renault F1, fourth : “I am so happy for the whole team, because we are now champions of the world. That was our target and we did the best possible. I enjoyed the race, because the car balance was fantastic and I could keep the McLarens behind easily in the first stint. I was just managing my pace at the start, driving within the limits to let Fernando build a good lead, and I was still in a strong position when the FIA penalised me. I don’t know why, because Raikkonen did the same in Belgium and nothing happened to him, and it was a shame not to be able to celebrate on the podium with Fernando and Flavio. Overall, this has been a fantastic year for me, my best in F1. I have won a race, scored podiums and helped the team to be world champions. I bounced back strongly after the criticism last weekend, and this is the best fourth place of my life.”
Christian Klien, Red Bull Racing, fifth: “Absolutely brilliant, fantastic, that was one of the best races for me. Everything came together and not pitting during the second safety car worked perfectly. When I came out of the pits and saw on the pit board that I was fifth, I couldn’t believe it. It was great to set some of the fastest laps of the race too, as the fuel went down in the car, it just got better and better to drive. It’s a great way to end the season.”
Christian Horner, Red Bull Racing Sporting Director: “Christian drove an excellent race. We decided not to stop him during the second pace car, which, due to his track position, was the right thing to do. He set some impressive times, including, at one point, the fastest lap of the race. We managed to leapfrog the group of cars behind Barrichello, which included David, and fifth place was a well-deserved finish after a good season for him. David looked extremely strong in the first part of the race before we pitted. Unfortunately, he picked up the pace car at just the wrong time, which cost him significantly as it allowed other cars to pass, while David had to effectively complete another lap to catch the safety car. This ultimately cost him points. I’d also like to thank Cosworth who have done an excellent job for us in this race and all season.”
Michael Janes, Cosworth F1 Race Engineering: "Both Cosworth engines ran without fault all weekend, despite a more aggressive duty cycle. We’re delighted with Christian’s fifth position, which is a great result for him. David had a frustrating race, which prevented him from getting the most from his car and engine. But, overall, a great way for Cosworth and Red Bull Racing to end the season.”
Felipe Massa, Sauber F1, sixth: "The car was much better than I expected. The turning point of the race was when we decided to stay out when the second safety car period begann. But on the restart I really had to push massively hard to open out enough of an advantage to make a later stop. I had flat-spotted the left front tyre and that lost me a lot of grip, but towards the end I had no trouble keeping Webber behind me. After I crossed the line Peter promised me a car for finishing sixth, so I’m really glad I didn’t have to give it up! On a more serious note, it was a wonderful way to thank Peter and this great team and to finish the World Championship and the history of the Sauber era. For me, P6 was as good as a podium today."
Peter Sauber, Team Principal, Sauber F1: "This was one of the most emotional days of my time in Formula One, for both myself and for the team. It was a very exciting race with a happy ending. When the safety car came out the second time Willy Rampf decided on a high-risk strategy to keep Felipe out, and Felipe rose superbly to the occasion to do everything he needed to do to make that work. It was perfect teamwork, which complemented the reliability of the Sauber Petronas C24. Jacques’ race was going well until the first safety car period, after which he lost the rhythm. I want to thank everyone on the team for doing an excellent job today and over the past 13 years, and all our fans back home in Switzerland and around the world for the unfailing support we have enjoyed so much during our memorable time in Formula One."
Mark Webber, WilliamsF1, 7th: “It has been quite a frustrating Grand Prix I don’t think many drivers enjoyed it. The safety cars destroyed the race for many of us but that’s the way it goes sometimes. It was a shame I could not get Barrichello earlier. He had absolutely no speed in the corners but good top speed so I could not attack him on the straight. I want to thank all the team, because throughout the season we had zero retirements related to the work they did. An absolutely incredible job from all of them.”
Sam Michael, Technical Director, WilliamsF1: “It is not really the end that we would have liked to have had to the season because the car was stronger today than the result. Anyway, that's it for the 2005 season. Now we're looking forward to returning to our winning form next year. With Mark's race strategy we should have been further up if we hadn’t been held off for so long by Barrichello. Congratulations to Renault for taking both Championships, they really deserved it more than any other team.”
Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director : “Due to the incidents and safety car phases it was quite a turbulent race today. In the end, the two drivers who have dominated the entire season were at the front. Behind them just about anything was possible today. Mark got stuck behind Rubens Barrichello after his second pit stop and therefore missed out on the chance of a podium finish, which would have been a very nice conclusion to our six years partnership with WilliamsF1. However, one can say that our team performed well in the last few races. Congratulations to Renault for a well deserved constructors’ title.”
Jenson Button, BAR, 8th: “Today’s result was obviously a disappointing way to end the season. We lost out under the first safety car when we pitted and the safety car was in front of us. The safety car should have waved us past, but as it didn’t, Montoya sat behind it and that was it then, I lost about three places. In the first stint the car was good but towards the end it wasn’t that much better than in Japan. We just didn’t make the final step up that we’d hoped for here. It’s been a long, hard season for all of us but we are all much stronger and more determined. My thoughts are already turning to 2006 and I know we have a lot to look forward to next year. For now I just want to thank everyone in this team, at Honda, at Michelin and all our partners for their incredible support this year during some very difficult times. We have a lot to look forward to together next season.”
David Coulthard, Red Bull Racing, ninth: “That was pants. With every safety car we went backwards, but that’s the way these things work sometimes. Safety cars either work for or against you. We made our pit stop one lap before it came out, which cost us, but there was also some confusion with Jenson and Montoya. I overtook them both and came up along side the safety car. I slowed down to clarify the safety car wanted me to pass, but they both re-passed me alongside the safety car and re-took position. I asked Charlie Whiting (FIA) for clarification during the race, to find out if it was allowed, but it never came from the FIA. I know it’s very confusing in those situations, as there’s lots of traffic and cars, but it undoubtedly cost me some points. Christian scoring four points is great for the team and it concludes what’s been a very positive first year for Red Bull Racing. We’ll be back next year and, hopefully, be even stronger.”
Jacques Villeneuve, Sauber F1, tenth: "I was unlucky because I lost out in both safety car incidents. On each restart I had trouble getting heat into the front tyres. But later on I was very lucky to avoid getting involved in Karthikeyan’s accident. I saw smoke everywhere and thought he would come back across towards me, which he did. I just missed him and the nose of his car which had become detached, but I did hit some debris. After that I had good clean fights with Monteiro and Trulli. It’s frustrating because we ran low downforce and were quick on the straight, and overall our pace was good today." Takuma Sato, BAR Honda, final race, DNF: “Today’s race was a difficult one and the end result was disappointing because I was making good progress and a points finish looked possible. The gearbox problems I had been experiencing earlier in the race eventually forced me to retire which is a frustrating way to end the season and my time with B.A.R Honda. It’s been a tough year but it has been great to be a part of this team. We have had some fantastic times together and I have a lot of good memories. I would like to thank everybody in the team and all our partners. I wish them all the very best of luck for the future.”
Gil de Ferran, Sporting Director: “We are really disappointed with today’s result. This is always the case with any mechanical failure, but even more so for Taku as this was his last race with B.A.R Honda and it would have been nice for him to at least take the chequered flag one last time whilst driving one of our cars. Perhaps frustrated is the best way to describe how we feel about what happened to Jenson today. Things were going very well until we exited the pits after our first stop. When the Safety Car picked up Montoya and Jenson on their way out of the pits then kept them behind for a few corners, we lost a lot of time. By the time he finally followed Montoya past the safety car, the damage was done and that one incident sealed the fate of our race, not to mention other competitors. Furthermore he was delayed by Webber coming into the pits for our second stop, which denied us the opportunity to improve our position at that time. The frustrating thing is that, although we didn’t have the fastest car, our speed and strategy should have allowed us to finish much higher up and for reasons beyond our control we ended up where we did. In closing I would like to thank our partners and all of our team members for the tremendous effort they put into this season. Although ultimately we did not win a race, it certainly wasn’t due to lack dedication from all the great people at B.A.R Honda. We now shift our focus to 2006 which I am sure will bring greater rewards. Finally, our congratulations to Renault and Fernando Alonso on a great season."
Shuhei Nakamoto, Engineering Director, Honda racing Development Corporation: “A disappointing day to end a disappointing season. Formula One is undoubtedly the pinnacle of four-wheeled motorsport and is a great challenge, but it is not enough for us just to be here. We, as Honda, have to work harder, be smarter and above all else refocus all our efforts during the winter on our goal of winning.”
Nick Fry, CEO, BAR Honda F1: “The 2005 season has been a challenging one for B.A.R Honda, but we have pulled together throughout to resolve our issues and to continue to develop the car. The experience gained this year has made our team much stronger for 2006 and beyond. Problems which confronted us in the first half of the season were quickly put aside and the team recorded good grid positions and championship points consistently through the second half of the year. The introduction of developments on the engine and chassis has been relentless right through to the final race and the time, effort and enthusiasm demonstrated by everyone at our bases in England and in Japan, in testing and at the race circuits, has been remarkable. They are all to be congratulated. Finally, the support we have received from Michelin and all our partners has been unfailing - they are all true members of our team and we are proud to work with them. Takuma raced in his final Grand Prix for B.A.R Honda today but we hope to see him back in a Formula One car very soon. Although we clearly didn’t achieve the results we wished for in 2005, the team is stronger and more motivated than ever before. Honda’s acquisition of the team presents a new and exciting challenge for the future and next year we intend to be challenging for race wins with Jenson and Rubens as team-mates.”
Juan Pablo Montoya, McLaren, DNF: "The car was working well, but then I came into the corner, went on the kerb and hit the loose manhole cover which brought out the Safety Car. However the damage had been done, and eventually I was forced to crawl back into the pits with an engine failure. Not the way I would have liked to end the season but things happen.”
Jean Todt, Ferrari: “A bad end to a very disappointing season. Today, we failed to get either car home in the points. It is not the first time that, along with Bridgestone we find ourselves leaving the track empty handed after a difficult weekend. Given that situation, we can say that third place in the Constructors’ and the same result with Michael in the Drivers’ is pretty much of a miracle. I hope we can put this year behind us as quickly as possible and to be back for the start of the next season in a position to once again aim for the top. To do that, we have a lot of work ahead of us along with our friends at Bridgestone, in whom we have great confidence. I want to make a point of thanking Rubens for putting his heart and soul into trying to end his time at Ferrari, which will always be unforgettable, in the best possible way. Unfortunately, excessive front tyre wear meant he was unable to make it into the top eight. And an affectionate thought for Peter Sauber: a great race from Felipe Massa means he can end his fantastic adventure in Formula 1 in fine style. I wish him every happiness for the future.”
Rubens Barrichello, Ferrari, twelfth in last drive for Ferrari: “It was a hard race, during which everything was working okay up to the first pit stop. The team did a good job in terms of strategy, calling me at the right time, which allowed me to make up a couple of places. But from that point on, I felt I was losing performance and was having some problems with my front tyres. Basically, from the second Safety Car period onwards, my tyres were gone. The only enjoyable part of the race was my duel with Mark, but really I was in trouble because I had no grip at the front. So, a sad race, but I want to thank everyone in the team, both here and those back in Maranello. We have had a fantastic years. I learnt a lot and it is Ferrari that has given me the chance to build something for the future. I am grateful for that and I am sure we will be friends for ever.”
Jarno Trulli, Panasonic Toyota Racing, 15th: "That was a difficult afternoon and things just didn't work out for me. I've found the car hard to handle all weekend. The balance was not too bad in the first stint, but after ten laps I felt a vibration from the front left tyre. Then the first safety car period came at just the wrong time – just after I had made my first pit stop – and that ruined my race. We tried to recover by filling up to the end at the second safety car but by then I was well down the field and I eventually had to come in to change my front left tyre. Still, it has been a great season so thanks to all the team. We missed out on a few podiums and a lot of points, but we showed a strong performance so I look forward to more success in 2006."
Michael Schumacher, Ferrari, DNF: “This weird ending pretty much sums up our season. As far as the warm-up lap is concerned, I was just warming up my tyres when suddenly I felt a big bang. I have not seen the incident on video yet, so I will not comment further. Then, during the Safety Car period, I spun simply because my tyres were completely worn and they were very cold, so when someone braked ahead of me, I had to brake as well and went off the track. Actually, I am not sure I would have finished the race because of the condition of my tyres. The only positive thing is that I am third in the championship. Now, let’s look ahead to putting things right next season.”
Ross Brawn, Ferrari: “This race was a very strange way to finish the season, but perhaps it typifies our year. Michael had an incident before the start and then, behind the Safety Car, he was just caught out as he was warming up his brakes. Rubens was doing fine for a while, but then his tyres began to lose performance. From that point on there was not much he could do. We changed the left front wheel because of a flat spot that was causing a lot of vibration. For safety reasons we felt there was little to be gained by staying out on track, so we changed it. Obviously, a very disappointing season and Ferrari and Bridgestone know they have a lot of work to do to get back to where we need to be. No one at Ferrari has enjoyed this season and we will be back stronger.”
Antonio Pizzonia, WilliamsF1, 13th: “It was a difficult race for me. It was a very hard decision for the team to take both Mark and myself in for our pit-stops when the second safety car came out. We took a risk and unfortunately it didn’t go our way, but this is racing. Track conditions changed a lot throughout the race and that made everything more difficult. Also, we lacked speed on the straight which is vital for over-taking. We couldn’t finish this season as we had wished but in general I think for me this was again a very good experience which enabled me to learn another new circuit.”
Schumacher: 'We are facing a new challenge'
“This race was the synthesis of the entire season”, reflected Michael Schumacher with a sigh. It was a few hours after the end of the final race in 2005.”Things went wrong once more and so I am pleased that this year is over. This is not because I am tired of racing but due to the fact that, until now, there have been no signs of improvement. I am happy because soon I will finally be home with Corinna and the children. Right now, this is the thing I am looking forward to most”.
“The race began oddly”, began Michael as he gave his view of yesterday’s events. “I was trying to warm up my tyres on the installation lap and the best way of doing this, especially when driving slowly to save fuel, is to zig-zag across the track. Perhaps Cristian wasn’t aware of this and I too did not see him; suddenly I heard a crash”. The Ferrari driver gave his account of the dynamics of his exit from the track that ended his race. “Lapping with the safety car on the circuit was not very simple as my tyres were very worn down and cold and so had little grip. When Felipe ahead of me braked suddenly, I naturally did the same and this was enough to send me off the track”.
The championship over, it was time for reflection. “This was not a great season and coming third in both championships does not truly reflect our performances”. The seven-time world champion made it clear that there would be little time off during the off-season. “Now we have to concentrate wholly on next year and our aim is to get back to challenging for the title. If we consider how well last year went, and how much better the other teams did in 2005, the conclusion is that we have to get back among the best in 2006. We will be working hard during the winter and this is our objective”. “After the race many people asked us how long it would be before we got back to being on form after such a difficult season. Put very simply, I am more motivated after a year like this one”, revealed Schumacher. “Such problems give me more motivation to challenge and get back to the top”.
“We should not forget, even though there are many reasons to be unhappy, that not everything depends solely on the team”, concluded Schumacher. “Our team is, and will always be, the best. We should be proud of the work we have done, both on the circuit and at Maranello. Everyone has always worked very hard and will not be discouraged. This is why I am very optimistic for next year. You cannot go wrong with this team. We are facing a new challenge and I cannot wait for it. I would like to thank the team very much”.