Tuesday, September 27, 2005

F1: Race analysis - season still far from over 

So, Renault have won the world championship for drivers, and McLaren have taken the lead in the constructors’ stakes for the first time this season. That was the news from Interlagos, as the silver arrows took their first 1-2 of the season and their first since Austria 2000, and the 18 points they garnered from that performance pushed their score to 164.

With Fernando Alonso’s strong run to third and Giancarlo Fisichella’s less convincing journey to fifth, Renault took only 10 and thus have 162. With two races left, however, anything can still happen and this is one battle yet to be resolved which will keep the 2005 season very much alive in the final two races.

Ferrari enjoyed a pick-up in performance in Brazil, with Michael Schumacher finishing a relatively competitive fourth and Rubens Barrichello sixth. That brought them to 98 points, whereas Toyota had a troubled race and scored only one point for Ralf Schumacher’s eighth, so their score is only 81.

Williams had one of those races that are best forgotten, drivers Mark Webber and Antonio Pizzonia being the innocent victims as David Coulthard tried to push his Red Bull between them as they left the grid. The result was that Pizzonia was spun across into Webber. The Brazilian, like the Scot, was an instant retirement. The Australian made a lengthy pit stop for repairs and resumed the race 25 laps in arrears. Ultimately Webber set the eighth fastest lap, which was an encouraging performance given that he’d had to turn down his engine’s revs to preserve it for Japan.

BAR added only two points to their score, bringing it to 33, and this counted as a major disappointment given that Jenson Button started from fourth place. The Englishman’s rear tyres began graining right from the start, even though he had opted for Michelin’s harder compound, and as a result he struggled with serious oversteer all afternoon. Tenth fastest lap was clear indication of his problems. Team mate Takuma Sato wasn’t very quick either, as he was on a single-stop strategy and also suffered from low grip. Altogether a race to forget for the Honda-powered team.

It wasn’t much better for Red Bull, though they proved that Christian Klien’s qualifying performance was not, as suspected, a result of a light fuel load. He got a tough driving lesson from Michael Schumacher on the opening lap, and later struggled with traction on his way to ninth place.

Eleventh and 12th places for Sauber were also major disappointments, and the team were not helped when they inadvertently changed a rear anti-rollbar on Jacques Villeneuve’s car which resulted in the stewards removing him from 11th place on the grid and ordering the team to start him from the pit lane. The C24s lacked straight-line speed and were frequently bottled up behind the Jordans and Minardis, and Massa also complained of oversteer and poor traction for most of the race.

Minardi finished one car, with Christijan Albers bringing his PS05 home 14th, and Jordan also got one car to the finish. Narain Karthikeyan lost time being lapped and later flat-spotted a tyre and had to make an extra stop just as he was catching the Dutchman. Robert Doornbos’ engine blew up on lap 34, and Tiago Monteiro’s amazing run of consecutive finishes finally ended thanks to an engine failure after 55 laps.

The drivers’ championship may have been settled, but the first four positions in the constructors’ are far from firm and this will be the focus of the final two races in a great Formula One season as the championship moves to Japan in a fortnight’s time.

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