European F1: last lap heartbreak for Raikkonen

European F1: last lap heartbreak for Raikkonen
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May 29, 2005 West McLaren Mercedes’ Kimi Raikkonen looked set to take his third consecutive win of the season at the Nurburgring today, until a mechanical failure saw him crash out on the very last lap when in the lead. With the principal challenger eliminated and the win inherited by championship leader, Fernando Alonso of Renault, Alonso now holds a 32 point lead with one third of the season gone and the championship looks safely in his keeping. Williams’ Nick Heidfeld scored his second podium in a row and Ferrari returned to the podium with Rubens Barrichello third and Michael Schumacher fifth.

After a weekend of hot and sticky weather, things cooled down a bit for race day at the Nurburgring, with the odd cloud hanging over the Eifel mountains.

At the first start, Fisichella’s Renault was left stranded on the grid, so another formation lap was called for. The Renault seemed literally stuck to the road, as Race Starter Charlie Whiting signalled for the car to be pushed away, as the field came round again.

Second start and Raikkonen immediately shot into the lead, but it was chaos behind at the treacherous first corner, with Webber’s Williams out, R Schumacher’s Toyota off the track and several cars forced to take wide lines. At the end of the first lap, Sato pitted the BAR with accident damage.

The order was Raikkonen, Heidfeld, Trulli, Coulthard amazingly fourth from 12th, Alonso, Massa, Liuzzi, Button, Barrichello, Monteiro, up from 17, Karthikeyan, M Schumacher, also involved in the first corner tangle, Villeneuve, Friesacher, Fisichella, Albers and Sato.

After just 4 laps, the gaps at the front were already big: Raikkonen in the West McLaren Mercedes MP4-20 leading Heidfeld by 2 seconds, with the German a massive 7.3 ahead of Trulli’s Toyota.

Lap six saw a great side by side dice for sixth place between Button and Barrichello, while out in front Heidfeld, presumed to be running a lighter fuel load than those around him, was setting fastest race laps. Now it was Montoya’s turn to duel with Button, relieving the BAR of ninth spot.

Trulli in third, was given a drive-through penalty because his mechanics had not cleared off the grid quickly enough prior to the start.

By lap 7, having started from pit lane, renault’s Fisichella was up to 12th. Lap 8 and Barrichello got his Ferrari past Liuzzi’s Red Bull to go 7th. When Trulli came in, Coulthard was promoted to third, 13 seconds behind Heidfeld.

Lap 12 and M Schumacher passed Button to take 13th, just as Barrichello was the first to refuel, taking on enough gas for another 20 laps. Heidfeld followed him, taking on fuel for 14 laps, so it looked as though different strategies would come into play later in the race.

Lap 13 and Raikkonen led Coulthard by almost 20 seconds. Montoya was seventh, on the tail of Liuzzi and this battle would rage on for several laps. On lap 18, Kimi refuelled in 9.1 seconds taking on 20 laps worth of fuel. Coulthard thus led, as Massa, Montoya and Liuzzi all pitted together, with the West McLaren Mercedes heading out of pit lane in front of Liuzzi. Coulthard pitted on lap 20 as did M Schumacher. This meant Alonso, in the lead was the only front runner not to have refuelled.

Fisichella pitted from 6th on lap 22 and Coulthard was given a drive-through penalty for speeding in the pit lane. Alonso finally came in on 23, so that Raikkonen was now back in the lead, ahead of Heidfeld, with Alonso third, Barrichello fourth, followed by Coulthard, Massa, M Schumacher, Montoya, Liuzzi, Trulli, Button, Fisichella, Sato, R Schumacher, Karthikeyan.

By lap 28, Massa, M Schumacher and Montoya had formed a tight little group fighting for sixth and gradually this trio was closing on fifth placed Coulthard. Raikkonen had a scary moment running very wide across the grass which let Heidfeld into the lead, but the Williams man made his second stop on the same lap so that Kimi was back in front followed by Alonso and Barrichello. The Ferrari man made his second stop on lap 34.

One lap later and R Schumacher retired in a gravel trap. On lap 39, Montoya was right up with M Schumacher and almost got past the Ferrari, but was forced to run wide, the two cars nearly touching.

The race leader came in for his final refuelling on lap 44, thus slipping to second behind Alonso but coming out ahead of third placed Heidfeld as Massa and Liuzzi pitted. Montoya came in from eighth for his final refuelling on lap 45, as Alonso needed to use all the gravel trap at the hairpin. M Schumacher pitted from sixth on lap 46, followed by Alonso next time round, which meant Raikkonen was back in the lead. Coulthard pitted from fifth.

Barrichello pitted from third on lap 48, the Ferrari man running a three stop strategy. Heidfeld pitted from second on lap 50, which meant that with the pit stops completed for the leaders, the order on lap 51 was Raikkonen, Alonso, Heidfeld, Barrichello, Coulthard, M Schumacher, Fisichella and Montoya in the last points scoring position, eighth.

From lap 53 onwards the gap between Raikkonen and Alonso began to come down, with the Renault man lapping quicker and with four laps to go it was just 3.5 seconds then 2.7 on lap 57. One lap to go and it was all over for Raikkonen as a mechanical failure saw him crash into the barriers, handing the win to Alonso. The final order behind the Spanish Renault man was Heidfeld, Barrichello, Coulthard, M Schumacher, Fisichella, Montoya and Trulli the last points scorer in eighth place.

Fernando Alonso, Mild Seven Renault F1, Winner: “I was afraid from the start of the race after Ralf hit me – I thought the car might have been damaged, and that I would have to retire. After a few corners, though, it was clear that everything was OK so then it was a case of pushing hard, doing the strategy and trying to get a good finish. The car was very good today, easy to drive, and the strategy was definitely perfect. I was quite happy to settle for second before the last pit-stop, then the team said Raikkonen had a problem and that I should push – that was when I went off because I was just trying 100% and made a mistake. But even so, I was catching Kimi and then I saw him crash at the first corner. For me, the big worry was that I would get caught up in the debris, and then I just had to stay calm for the last lap and take the flag. The most important thing about this victory is that is shows our team is strong. After Monaco, the mood was quite low but we have shown we can bounce back. Today’s performance shows we are still leaders, and that both cars are quick – Fisi did a great job to be sixth, and he will be even quicker next time, I am sure. I think today proved we are really going to fight for this title.”

Flavio Briatore, Managing Director, Mild Seven Renault F1: “This was a fantastic victory for the whole team, and especially Fernando after a drive where he did not give up from start to finish. We thought before the race that other cars were lighter than us with their fuel load, and the race proved us right; it also showed we had the right strategy as we made up places on the other cars. Michelin provided great tyres, and we used them in the right way to keep pressure on McLaren until the last laps – and it paid off. We showed today that our car is quick, as Fisico managed to climb fourteen positions from the back to finish sixth. Congratulations to the whole team on a great win.”

Pat Symonds, Executive Director of Engineering ,Mild Seven Renault F1: “This was a fine win for the whole team, but our feelings go to Kimi and McLaren who did an excellent job today. We took a very different approach with our strategy this weekend, which was designed to pay off at the end of the race, and in fact we did better than expected. Fernando lost a lot of time in his first stint after being hit by Ralf in the first corner and losing positions, which left him stuck behind Coulthard for the first twenty laps. However, he drove the kind of consistent race we are used to seeing and the car was very strong at the end. Our apologies once again must go to Giancarlo – we don’t know what caused his engine to stop on the grid, but he drove a strong race and collected valuable points from a difficult position.”

Kimi Raikkonen, McLaren Mercedes, DNF after leading into last lap: "I am really frustrated to retire from the race in the lead on the very last lap having dominated throughout. I had a well balanced car until a flatspot on my right front tyre caused terrible vibrations which eventually led to the suspension failure. We lost valuable ten points in the championship, however we will do our very best to try to win races in the remainder of the season as we have a very competitive package. This is not just a sad result for me but for the entire team that has worked so hard."

Ron Dennis, Principal, McLaren Mercedes: "Perhaps understandably the whole team has a strong sense of disappointment, heightened by the fact that Kimi's retirement took place on the last lap. Kimi flatspotted his right front tyre passing Jacques Villeneuve and from that moment on the front suspension was subject to extremely high levels of vibration. Kimi was able to cope with the inevitable blurred vision for over 15 laps and the team discussed with him his tyre condition. We jointly decided to go for the win and no member of the team including Kimi regrets this decision. The resulting suspension failure was understandable in the circumstances. Juan Pablo's race was looking good after a strong start putting him third after the first corner. Inevitably someone is going to get the braking wrong into the first corner and in this instance it appeared to be Mark Webber with Juan Pablo suffering the consequences. Once he had returned to the field and even with a badly damaged floor he was able to race to seventh place."

Norbert Haug, Mercedes Motorsport: "Kimi drove a tremendous race and deserved to win. His retirement from the lead four kilometres from the finish was caused by a flat spotted tyre and strong vibrations resulting in a suspension failure. This is a very disappointing end to the race which had been dominated by Kimi. Juan Pablo's chances for a good result were over at the first corner after the start whilst being in third place when Mark Webber pushed him off the track. However we will continue to attack and try to do our best in the fight for the World Championship. We are now looking forward to the next race in Canada."

Nick Heidfeld, BMW WilliamsF1, second place: “It's obviously great to be second today after yesterday's pole position of. I didn't think I was able to win, but a podium finish was within reach. We knew that Kimi would have a better start and in fact he went in front from the start, but I still had a go at him into the first corner but ultimately he held on to his position. I pushed as hard as I could in the first stint to open a good gap from the cars behind me and our strategy of three stops paid off, because towards the end I was in third position. The car was good and I didn't make any big mistakes. Barrichello was getting closer and closer in the closing laps but I pushed hard and could keep him behind me even despite having lost my rear tyres a bit. Then Kimi had the accident and it was just luck to claim second place. Thanks to WilliamsF1, BMW and Michelin - it's clear that we are recovering our form strongly”

Sam Michael, Technical Director WilliamsF1: “It was a fantastic drive from Nick which made our three-stop strategy work. We were on hard tyres to complement our plan and it proved to be the right decision. It was the harder compound from Michelin which made it onto the podium today. It is another good result for us and it is just what the team needed. Mark had an accident in the first corner which was a shame as he was on a different race strategy with higher fuel load compared to Nick and the other cars around him.”

Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director: “It has been a turbulent race with many incidents in which we have been involved. Mark's race was over in the first corner. Nick delivered another error free race. He was on three stop strategy which meant he was taking a bit of a risk. This enabled him a drive without traffic and he made full use of this opportunity. Pole position and a second place in the race made a great weekend for him and for the whole team. Though, one must feel sorry for Kimi. He was dominating the race and to retire in the last lap obviously is very bitter.”

Rubens Barrichello, Ferrari, third place: “This has been a lively weekend! I think that starting seventh and finishing third is very good. At the start I came alongside Alonso and then two cars cut across in front of me, forcing me to go left before I could turn right. I lost a lot of time, but after that I was able to push hard and make the most of my three stop strategy. My race set-up was very good. Everyone in the team and back in the factory is doing a fantastic job right now. The car was very reliable, the engine strong and the tyres were great. I feel we are coming back to where we should be and hopefully, we can start winning races soon.”

Jean Todt, Ferrari: “This was a very difficult race. In the chaos after the start, we ran the risk of seeing both our cars out of the race and, at the end of the first lap, Rubens was ninth and Michael fourteenth. We had to fight from start to finish. Rubens, who had chosen an aggressive strategy based on three stops, drove a great race, managing to get on the podium, after the leader retired on the final lap. Michael, who had opted for two pit stops, finished fifth. Obviously, these are not the results we aspire to, but at the moment, we have to settle for what we can get. If we cannot get near the front of the grid, then it is hard to win the race. This race marks the start of the second third of a long season. We know we still have a lot of work to do along with Bridgestone to get back on top and we will do that with our characteristic determination and methodical approach. I am convinced that we will soon succeed. These ten points are the result of a great job from our drivers and the entire team.”

Ross Brawn, Ferrari: “It was a frustrating start to the race because of what happened at the first corner. Considering that at the end of that lap we were last and close to last, I think we had a fantastic race. Rubens was very good and drove a great race. Michael had a two stop strategy which meant he obviously had a heavier fuel load. I think this led to his tyres being a bit “difficult” in the closing stages. Possibly the balance on his car was not quite so good either. Rubens was on a three stop, which meant less stress on the tyres and his were very good. He had race winning pace today. Unfortunately, problems on the first lap meant we could not exploit that fully.”

David Coulthard, Red Bull Racing, fourth: “I was very happy with the start of the race. I’d said to the team beforehand that I was planning to stay on the inside on the first corner, as we’ve seen incidents there in previous years. We had a very good first sector and were competitive. I was disappointed that I made a mistake trying to get out in front of the Minardi in the pit lane. I came off the speed limiter fractionally early and picked up a penalty, which cost us a podium. But, we’ve got to be satisfied with what we’ve done here today and I’m happy with the result.”

Christian Horner, Sporting Director, Red Bull Racing: “It was a fantastic race for us. We capitalised on the first lap incident on the first corner and David had the pace today. He was doing very good times and set a string of fastest overall laps towards the end of the race. It was a shame that the Minardi pulled out right in front of him in the pit lane, which distracted him and caused him to release the speed limiter button fractionally early. But, it’s another fourth place for the team and a podium cannot be that far away. Tonio also did a good job and missed out on scoring a point, principally due to traffic on his out lap.”

Gunther Steiner, Technical Director, Red Bull Racing: “We had a little bit of luck at the start of the race, but all credit to David and Tonio. They both did a good job and kept out of trouble. I think it’s a great result for the team. We had no technical problems with the cars and the drivers did the best they could.”

Dave Prigg, Cosworth: “An unexpected, but fantastic result for David, although unfortunate he just missed out on a podium finish. It was an exciting race that saw a Cosworth powered car lead for the first time this season. Both engines did their job faultlessly once again and will continue onto Montreal, the final event for the TJ 10 series engine prior to the introduction of a significant performance upgrade at Indianapolis."

Michael Schumacher, Ferrari, fifth place: “Before the start, I might have predicted a fifth place finish, but I thought it might be easier to come by. Today, my race pace was not as good as usual. We know what we have to do, which is to keep on working hard, on all areas of the car. When I went off the track, it was because I suddenly got more understeer than usual and once off the clean line there was no way to keep on the track, but even without that incident, I don’t think I could have caught Coulthard. At least Rubens’ result shows that we are moving in the right direction. I feel sorry for Kimi as it is a bitter experience to have something like that happen so close to the finish.”

Giancarlo Fisichella, Mild Seven Renault F1, sixth position: “I am very disappointed after the problem I had on the grid – I don’t know why the engine stalled when I engaged first gear. That meant I had to start from the pit-lane and it was not easy from there. The car balance was pretty good though, but I spent a lot of the race stuck behind Button, after they short-fuelled him at his first stop to keep track position ahead of me. That meant the laps around the second stop were critical, and the team did a great job with the pit-stops and strategy to help me go ahead – I passed five cars at the final stop I think. Considering my starting position, I think I did the absolute maximum today, and I feel confident for Canada. I just want a bit more luck.”

Juan Pablo Montoya, McLaren Mercedes, seventh place: "I am disappointed with the outcome of the race which was very tough forme. I had a good start and turned into the first corner in third place when I was hit by Mark Webber and went off. I resumed in 13th position and had to make my way up through the field. It is a pity not to have finished higher up as I had a quick car all weekend. We now have to look ahead and I will do my best to achieve a good result at the Canadian Grand Prix."

Jarno Trulli, Panasonic Toyota Racing, eighth place:"After an afternoon like that, a point is certainly better than nothing, but it could have been much more. Unfortunately we had a problem firing up the engine on the grid and because of those few seconds we earned a drive through penalty that completely spoiled my chances. I pitted earlier than we intended because I was stuck in traffic and after that my race was fairly anonymous because it is nearly impossible to overtake here. But I kept pushing, pushing and pushing and it paid off when Raikkonen had his problem at the very end. It's a pity because otherwise after such a good qualifying and start we would certainly have made the podium and I could even have won. Still, given everything that happened I'll settle for 8th place." Tsutomu Tomita, Panasonic Toyota Racing Team Principal: "This was obviously a disappointing race result for us but Jarno did well to bring the car home for a point – even if it was helped by a competitor's troubles. We knew we were in for a tough afternoon right from the beginning. Our problems started on the grid when Jarno's engine didn't start and we couldn't get the spare starter quick enough to get off the grid in time. That's why we got the drive through penalty which left him too far behind to manage anything higher than 8th place. Then Ralf was involved in an accident at the first corner. From then on he kept pushing but he spun off trying to catch Sato. Still, this is a long season and we will have good results on some days and less good on others. This result will spur us on even more for the next two races in Canada and the USA."

Tonio Liuzzi, Red Bull Racing, ninth place: “I had some understeer from the beginning of the race, meaning I couldn’t push as hard as I’d have liked. Some cars got past me and it was difficult to match their speed, which was a bit disappointing. I’d like to have scored some points here but, overall the team’s had a good day, so I’m happy.”

Jenson Button, BAR F1, tenth place: “We thought that we would be reasonably strong here, so today’s race has taken us by surprise. We had a lot of oversteer in the car but also in turn-in we had huge amounts of understeer, so I don’t understand what was going on really. I struggled a lot, but at least we made enough progress to move a bit further up the grid for Canada. We have a few new aero parts coming for the next race so that will help us there I’m sure. We have a lot of work to do in testing next week and hopefully we will be able to make a bit more of an impact on the grid in Montreal.”

Takuma Sato, BAR F1, twelfth place : “We are pleased that we have come back and shown that we have a reliable package and I really appreciate all of the hard work by everyone in the team and at Honda to get us back racing this weekend. After gaining a few positions braking into turn one, one of the two cars involved in the accident in front of me spun sideways and stopped, and so I unavoidably damaged the front wing. After that we came back with relatively good pace, but we now need to find more speed during our test next week for the races in Canada and Indy."

Jacques Villeneuve, Sauber Petronas, 13th: "I was level with Felipe going into the first corner, but then I got caught up in the incident there. Unfortunately for me that put me behind Karthikeyan, and he was fighting me like we were in a 10-lap kart race. Okay, have fun and let’s race, I’m not saying don’t try to resist the challenge, but relax. He could see I was a lot quicker but whenever I got my nose inside him he just blocked me. That cost me 40 seconds and ruined my strategy, and that’s really the story of what was for me a pretty boring race."

Felipe Massa, Sauber Petronas, 14th: "Several laps after I made my second stop on the 44th lap, I started to experience vibrations from the front tyres. I hadn’t flat spotted either of them, but when I got to Turn 5 on lap 51 I just couldn’t stop the car and slid off into the gravel. I got back on to the track but after that the left front was vibrating really badly and then the tread began to break up and damaged my front wing endplate, so I had to make a stop for a new front left tyre and a new wing. That was such a shame because my car was fantastic in the race and I was easily keeping ahead of Michael and Montoya until that final stop."

Willy Rampf, Sauber Petronas, Technical Director: "We had a disappointing ending to what had been a great race for us. Felipe was able to steer clear of the first-corner incident and drove with strong pace and the chance to score points for sixth place until he encountered a problem. We have yet to examine the tyres, and while we await a report from Michelin we will also carry out our own analysis of all our car data from the race. As for Jacques, his strategy was compromised by the first-corner collisions and he was never in a position thereafter to be able to recover the lost ground."

Tiago Monteiro, Jordan F1, 15th place: “It was the race in which I had the most fun so far this season as we had a lot of fighting. I managed to keep Villeneuve behind me for a while. After the first pit stop, Narain overtook me so I pushed as hard as I could to pass him again after the second stop, which I did. Approaching my second stop, I did not respect the blue flags and was punished with a drive-through penalty. However, I kept on pushing as the race is never over until it is over and suddenly I saw a yellow car in front of me, so I pushed even harder and managed to pass Narain again after he made a small mistake. It was one of the best races for me as I was pushing all the way, working with the balance of the car. The car was getting better and better throughout the race, therefore I would like to thank the team for having done an amazing job to provide me with a better car. Bit by bit, we will get there.”

Narain Karthikeyan , Jordan F1, 16th place: “I had a reasonable start and managed to avoid the chaos in the first corner and stay in front of Jacques Villeneuve for about 10 laps. I had a good first pit stop and passed my teammate. For the second stop, I had very good in and out laps but unfortunately right after, the leaders had to lap me so I lost nearly about 10 seconds in two or three laps, which allowed Tiago to go ahead of me again after his stop. Then Monteiro had a drive-through penalty so I overtook him. Unfortunately, I made a small mistake near the end and he went in front of me again. I am really happy I have finished here. I knew it was going to be a hard race as it was my first time on this circuit. Canada and Indianapolis will also be new for me so this will be a bit difficult but we will cope with this.”

Trevor Carlin, Jordan F1, Sporting Director: “Both our drivers had eventful races. Fighting with Jacques Villeneuve for the first part of the race was exciting. It took quite a long time for Villeneuve to pass Narain and he did not actually pass Tiago. Then, the race settled down after the pit stops. Unfortunately Narain made a small mistake in the end. We are quite satisfied with our race pace throughout the race and the progress we are making.”

Christijan Albers, Minardi Cosworth, 17th: “The fuel load we were carrying this afternoon meant the car had a little bit more understeer than I would have liked for the qualifying run. As a result, I ran wide in one spot and lost a little bit of time there. Even so, it was not a bad run, and I think we have a good strategy for tomorrow. We should have a good pace in the race”.

Paul Stoddart, Team Principal, Minardi Cosworth: “Once again, we feel encouraged by today’s times, especially considering the fuel loads in both cars for tomorrow’s race. Indeed, all weekend, we have been exchanging lap times with our nearest rival, Jordan, and are pleasingly close to Sauber and Red Bull Racing. If we are able to split the Jordans at a circuit we really didn’t expect would suit our new car, and bearing in mind there is still a huge amount of development potential in the PS05, it bodes very well for the upcoming North American races, as well for the rest of the season”.

Patrick Friesacher, Minardi Cosworth: “Generally, I was quite happy with my lap. We were struggling a little bit this morning with one or two small problems on the car, but we made some changes, which enabled me to find a good balance. I think we’re in a good position for tomorrow’s race”.

Mark Webber, BMW WilliamsF1, DNF: “Today was just disappointing. Nick and I didn't get away from the grid that well that put us both in difficult positions into the first corner. I had Trulli and Alonso trying to get down the inside so I braked a bit later attempting to defend my position, especially from Jarno, because it was very important to keep him behind for our strategy. I just, just quite couldn't stop and hit the side of Juan Pablo. It was a shame because we had strong potential today.”

Ralf Schumacher, Panasonic Toyota Racing, DNF: "This was a very difficult day for me. I made a reasonably good start but as I went into turn one I was very close to Alonso when all of a sudden he came to an almost complete stop. Because I was so close behind him, I couldn't see what was happening in front so I became involved in the accident. It's a pity, but I really couldn't do anything about it. That meant I had to pit to replace my nose, leaving me over a minute adrift. From there the afternoon was always going to be difficult but I pushed as hard as I could, gaining a few places. Then I was close behind Sato when I lost grip at the front, understeered straight on, hit the kerb and that was it. We'll hope for a better weekend next time."

2005 Drivers Championship, after seven rounds: Fernando Alonso59Kimi Räikkönen27Jarno Trulli27Nick Heidfeld25Mark Webber18Giancarlo Fisichella17Ralf Schumacher17Michael Schumacher16Juan Pablo Montoya16Rubens Barrichello15David Coulthard15Alexander Wurz6Jacques Villeneuve5Pedro de la Rosa4Christian Klien3Felipe Massa2Vitantonio Liuzzi1

2005 Constructors Championship, after seven rounds:Renault76McLaren-Mercedes 53Toyota 44Williams-BMW 43Ferrari31Red Bull Racing19Sauber-Petronas 7

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