Sunday, July 31, 2005

Raikkonen win keeps title hopes alive 

After the trials and tribulations of his season so far, Kimi Raikkonen took a well-deserved victory at the Hungaroring on Sunday with a masterful drive from start to finish. Michael Schumacher drove his Ferrari F2005 to second place - taking the position when Juan Pablo Montoya was forced to retire with yet another of the mechanical problems that has plagued McLaren’s season.

Raikkonen’s victory will have been made sweeter by the fact that his principal rival in the championship, Fernando Alonso, scored no points after suffering a collision on the first lap and having to make an unscheduled pitstop for a new nose cone.

The race got off to an eventful start as the pack arrived at the first corner for the first time, with Christian Klien suffering from a spectucular accident and rolling out of the race after his front wheel made contact with Jacques Villeneuve’s. Further damage was caused to Alonso and Barrichellos’ cars - with the unfortunate David Coulthard suffering a spectacular accident after he collided at speed with Alonso’s detached nosecone. Michael Schumacher got off to a good start from his pole position, keeping the lead but followed closely by Montoya and the flying Raikkonen – who overtook Jarno Trulli in the run to the first corner.

As usual the Hungaroring’s lack of passing opportunities defined the race - although Raikkonen was able to get past Montoya during the opening lap of the race, thereafter most of the overtaking was done by relative pitstop strategies.

Raikkonen was the first to pit, demonstrating Schumacher’s impressive qualifying performance on what was proved to be a heavier fuel load. Montoya then inherited the lead when Schumacher stopped, with Raikkonen re-emerging in P1 when the Colombian made his first visit to the pitlane. At the next round of stops the situation was reversed, Schumacher stopping first and releasing Raikkonen to put in a single flying lap before his visit to the pits – an ultra-quick stop allowing him to overtake his German rival. Shortly afterwards Montoya’s car slowed as he retired from the lead – and Raikkonen was on his way to a victory that keeps his championship hopes alive.

Schumacher’s Ferrari was clearly struggling for pace during the closing stages of the race - with brother Ralf catching up with him in his Toyota and ending the race just 0.5 seconds behind. Jarno Trulli brought the second Toyota home in fourth place, Jenson Button ended up fifth, and a successfully implemented two-stop strategy brought the Williams of Heidfeld and Webber home in sixth and seventh respectively, in what will be a welcome return to competitiveness for the Grove-based team. Takuma Sato took the final championship point in his BAR.

It was a disappointing race for Renault, the team struggling slightly for pace throughout the weekend with Alonso’s early accident relegating him to what turned into an eventual 11th place finish. Giancarlo Fisichella suffered from a lowly P9 grid spot and struggled to make progress, ending the race in ninth.

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