Alonso and Renault take World F1 title

Alonso and Renault take World F1 title
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Juan Pablo Montoya
Juan Pablo Montoya
Kimi Raikkonen
Kimi Raikkonen
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September 26, 2005 Fernando Alonso today became the youngest world champion in Formula One history, after his thirteenth podium finish of the 2005 season in the Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos. Starting from pole position, the Spaniard drove a consistent race to claim third position and a championship lead of 23 points with two races remaining in the 2005 season - he therefore has an unassailable lead in the drivers’ championship. At 24 years old, he is the youngest world champion in F1 history. While Renault celebrated, McLaren-Mercedes wondered what might have been had the team found consistency to match its speed. Juan Pablo Montoya and Kimi Raikkonen scored a dominant one-two in the race and last year’s champ Michael Schumacher finished fourth for Ferrari. With teammate Rubens Barrichello in sixth place, Ferrari consolidated their third place in the Constructors’ championship, the lead of which was taken by McLaren, now two points ahead of Renault with two races to go. With the title safe, an all-out fight for the constructors’ crown will be the centre of attention of the final two races of the season.

Fernando Alonso said after the race, “It is too early to realise what is happening to me, and I think I will only understand properly in the days to come. So far, I have spoken to the King of Spain, the Prince and the Prime Minister – it is impossible to really say anything about it now. I thought we could fight with the McLarens today but it was clear after the first stops that we couldn’t keep their pace, so I just concentrated on controlling Michael Schumacher behind me, and managing the tyres. The engineers were also worried it might rain, so in the last laps I was really focusing on that, and preserving the tyres, and I was sure there were strange noises coming from the car, so it was only when I crossed the line that I realised I had become world champion! I want to dedicate this championship to my family, and all my close friends who have supported me through my career. Spain is not a country with an F1 culture, and we had to fight alone, every step of the way, to make this happen. A huge thank you to the team as well: they are the best in Formula 1, and we have done this together. It will say that I am world champion, but we are all champions, and they deserve this. Now, I can go to the last two races and enjoy them a bit more. We made some conservative decisions in some of the last races, and now we will be able to race with nothing to lose until the end of the season.

Flavio Briatore, Managing Director Renault F1: “I am just delighted today. For Fernando of course, who has been fantastic all season, and for the team as well. They have produced a fantastic car and even if McLaren has been quicker, the points tell the only story that matters, over nineteen races. Fernando is just 24 years old, and he has been an incredible leader in this championship. The team works to make the car quicker, and he transforms that into results: that gives the team amazing motivation. Of course, we have to thank the team back in Enstone and Viry, all the partners who have supported us to make this championship possible, and everybody at the Renault group: they have all been part of a fantastic adventure. Now, we need to do our best in the constructors’ championship, with Fisico and Fernando both pushing hard. We are doing our best to get closer to McLaren, and to take it down to the final race.

Pat Symonds, Executive Director of Engineering Renault F1: “Fernando is a worthy champion, and thoroughly deserves every success he has achieved this year. The race itself was not dramatic for either driver, but it certainly produced a spectacular result. Now, we will be focusing 100% on the constructors’ championship. There is no doubt McLaren are quicker than us, and we relinquished our lead today – albeit by a slender margin. But the team is working hard to develop the car and improve our speed, and we were certainly closer to them this weekend thanks to the developments at Enstone and Viry. We fully intend to take the fight to McLaren right up until Shanghai. But first things first: we will be celebrating a worthy champion this evening, and letting the feeling sink in properly!

The start of the 71 lap race threatened rain, but none came until after the chequered flag. Alonso took off into the lead from Montoya with Raikkonen moving ahead of Fisichella during the first lap, as did Michael Schumacher. Jenson Button was sixth from Christian Klien, then came Barrichello and Ralf Schumacher.

However, a midfield accident involving both Williams and David Coulthard caused a brief safety car interlude. At the restart, Montoya overtook a cautious Alonso going down the hill to turn four and Raikkonen nearly got through too.

In the first 20 laps, Montoya managed to draw out a four second lead, but it was never much more than that. At first, Raikkonen challenged the Renault but then he too began to drop away with as much as a three seconds gap between them. Fisichella got ahead of Michael Schumacher and began to pull away, while Button came next, initially challenged by Klien and Barrichello before he eased away.

The pit stops began on lap 22. Alonso came in first, then Fisichella a lap later with Barrichello. Michael came in on lap 26 and emerged just ahead of Fisichella in fourth place, while Button came in on the same lap. Montoya pitted on lap 28, but Raikkonen didn’t come until virtually half distance, lap 31.

When he rejoined, he was just 1.4s behind Montoya, but even though he was 10s behind, Alonso was still in third place which is where he needed to be to win the Drivers’ championship. Michael was another 14s back, still pushed by Fisichella although the Italian would fall away in fifth place. Once Takuma Sato had made his first stop, Button came next, now with Barrichello on his tail.

Montoya steadily eased away to a four second lead before the final round of stops, but the conservative Alonso was still in attendance in third place and with a 16s margin over Michael, was hardly threatened. Fisichella wasn’t far behind Michael, but not threatening him, while there was a big gap to Button and Barrichello, the Ferrari getting past to huge Brazilian cheers on lap 44.

The next round of stops began on lap 48 with the two Renaults, followed by Barrichello on lap 50. Montoya and Michael came in on lap 54, but it wasn’t until lap 59 that Raikkonen came in. He rejoined just behind teammate Montoya but Alonso was still there in third place, 22s behind Raikkonen, 17s ahead of Michael, so that nothing had changed among the front runners. Fisichella remained fifth, with a large margin over Barrichello who kept his lead over Button to the flag, the BAR driver being lapped and only just ahead of Ralf Schumacher at the end.

Third place behind Montoya and Raikkonen was enough to give Fernando Alonso the World Championship, the youngest ever champion and the first from Spain.

Michael Schumacher is now fourth in the championship, on equal points with Juan Pablo Montoya while Barrichello is seventh, equal with Ralf Schumacher. In the Constructors’ series, McLaren-Mercedes’ one-two gave them a two point lead in the series, with Ferrari now third, 17 points clear of Toyota with two races to go.

Juan Pablo Montoya, McLaren-Mercedes, first place: "That was a lot of fun. I had a really good fight with Kimi and it was definitely not easy keeping him behind. He came especially close after the second pitstop but not close enough. I got past Fernando at the first corner when the Safety Car came in and then managed to maintain the lead for the rest of the race but it was tough. It's great to win in Brazil for the second time in a row particularly as a lot of Colombian fans come here to support me. I'm so pleased for everybody in the team who have worked so hard that we finally got the one-two which has been so close a number of times this year. I think we definitely deserve the Constructors' Championship and I can't wait for the last two races. Also well done to Fernando."

Kimi Räikkönen, McLaren-Mercedes, second place: "Congratulations to Fernando but he better be prepared for me and the team to fight him hard for the rest of the season and next year. Today's race was quite difficult and my car was not easy to drive. I carried a bit more fuel than Juan Pablo but I still was not able to get past him in the pitstops and he drove a good race. Of course I'm disappointed that my fight for the Drivers' World Championship is over but we sort of knew it was going happen. I will now focus on winning the Constructors' title for the team and go flat out for the last two races."

Ron Dennis, McLaren-Mercedes,Team Principal: "A phenomenal and well disciplined race by both Juan Pablo and Kimi. Our strategy meant that our actual qualifying performance was masked as we were running with a lot of fuel. We are delighted to be in the lead of the Constructors' World Championship but are disappointed not to be able to challenge for the Drivers' during the last two races. However today's performance makes us confident that we are in a position to end the season on a high. Apologies to Kimi and Juan Pablo for the missed opportunities this season. Congratulations to Fernando and I'm sure he will be worthy World Champion. Now he has to raise his game as he faces a significant challenge to beat us in the remaining races."

Norbert Haug, Vice President Mercedes-Benz Motorsport: "A perfect double win and a great achievement by both our drivers and the entire team which put us in the lead of the Constructors' World Championship. Our strategy worked well and gave us the opportunity to use our strong technical package to the maximum. Congratulations to Fernando and Renault for winning the Drivers' World Championship he and Renault deserve it."

Michael Schumacher, Ferrari, 4th: “First of all I want to congratulate Fernando and his team on winning the title. They have done a great job and from a personal point of view it is nice for me to see some of the guys I worked with at Benetton looking so happy. I look forward to fighting them again next season. We had a reasonable race today, certainly better than the last few. The Constructors’ championship is important to us and from that perspective this was a good result. Maybe this afternoon’s positive tendency can continue in the final two races.”

Jean Todt, Ferrari: “Today, we did the best we could, getting the most out of the package at our disposal. This result means we can consolidate our third place in the Constructors’ classification. Today, Fernando Alonso took over the Drivers’ title that Michael had won with Ferrari for the last five years. Fernando has put together a perfect season, supported by Renault, led by Patrick Faure and Flavio Briatore and Michelin. Congratulations to all of them. There are still two races to go. Along with Bridgestone, we face a lot of work to develop the tyres. We must do our utmost in these next two rounds, because they can produce precious data that can even be useful for next year. Today, our cars proved reliable, the team worked very well and the drivers gave their all.”Fernando Alonso third and Giancarlo Fisichella fifth this afternoon in Brazil. The Spaniard becomes the youngest world champion in F1 history.

Giancarlo Fisichella, Renault, 5th position: “I had poor rear end grip at the beginning of the race, and that meant I was struggling with oversteer in the high speed and low speed corners, and just trying to keep the car on the circuit. To be honest, I was a little disappointed to finish fifth because we should have been able to beat the Ferrari today, but the really important thing is Fernando becoming world champion. I am very happy for him, he has done a great season with no mistakes, and I wish him all the best. But we still have a second crown to race for, and we need to keep fighting against McLaren to get back the lead. I though we were much closer to them this weekend, so their pace in the race was a surprise. We’re not giving up though, and we will fight to the very end of the season.

Rubens Barrichello, Ferrari, sixth: “I had a good race, but I was blocked by the people ahead of me and I had nowhere to go really and could never really push to the maximum. It was a shame. I had a particularly exciting battle with Jenson which was a bit crazy because it was a bit wet on the inside line. I just tried hard not to create any problems for myself. If it hadn’t been for the difficulty in qualifying yesterday, I could have had a much better race as the car returned to normal today. The only problem I had this afternoon was with twenty laps to go, when the power steering started pushing me to the left. Sixth was the best I could do. Congratulations to Fernando. He deserves this title.”

Ross Brawn, Ferrari: “Our race went pretty well. I am pleased that we beat Fisichella and it showed we had a good strategy with Michael. The team carried out the pit stops very well. Of course, we would like to win races, but we are not in a position to do so at the moment. However, I think that all weekend here, we performed to our maximum doing the best that we could at this point in the season. It is a shame that Rubens was unable to start a bit higher up the grid, as he could have been up there as well. The cars worked well as did the tyres. We just need to find some more performance.”

Jenson Button, BAR Honda, seventh place: "It was a difficult day for us. Our pace was slow and we suffered with rear graining right from the start. We were on the hard tyre as well, so we didn't expect to get the graining. In fact that's the reason why we took that tyre. I struggled particularly on the last section of the circuit, through the fast corner and onto the straight, where we had big oversteer. So not a great day but at least we picked up a couple more points and have a decent qualifying position for Suzuka. I would like to offer my congratulations to Fernando Alonso, the new world champion. He's done a great job this season."

Ralf Schumacher, Toyota Panasonic 8th: “That was a pretty tough race for us today. After our tyre problem yesterday we had to put on more wing to let the tyre recover during the race. But the car was very difficult to drive all race, especially early on. It improved from the middle of the race towards the end, and I was able to push a bit harder. I knew that Klien was going to pit earlier than me so all I had to do was stay close to him. Then I was lucky because I had to let Raikkonen past during my crucial extra laps but I didn't lose too much time. After all that, one point is better than nothing."

Tsutomu Tomita, Panasonic Toyota Team Principal: "It was good that Ralf made the points but he could have had so much more. During qualifying he had some severe understeer on his car because he was not satisfied with his particular set of tyres. We are very disappointed that this happened, but because of the strong racing and commercial relationship between Michelin and Toyota over many years we are confident that this situation will not arise again. Ralf should have started further up the grid and it certainly didn't help his race balance so in the circumstances he did very well. It was a frustrating race for Jarno. He did well to avoid Pizzonia in the first corner but then spent much of the race in traffic without a real chance to attack because it's so hard to overtake here. It all means it is now very difficult to chase third position in the constructors' championship, but we will keep pushing. We are especially keen to show our best performance at home in Japan in two weeks' time."

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