Tuesday 22 March 2005 the F2005 is tested for the first time by Rubens Barrichello. Mugello circuit: 95 laps, 11 of which on the short version of the track, best time 1'21"435, covering over 450 kilometres. Then the feeling that there might be a problem leads the rider to switch off the engine, park on the side of the track and put the car back in the hands of the mechanics. While the F2005 was going around the track, in Maranello Luca Montezemolo called his men to report and asked for explanations regarding the Malaysian Grand Prix, the troubles with the F2004M, the tire problem, the development times of the single-seaters who are entrusted with the hopes of redemption.The summit begins at 10:00 a.m. and concludes with an invitation to all, teams and suppliers.
"We bring out the attributes that we possess".
But without the anxiety of making the new car debut in Bahrain.
"When we go back to winning there will be more fun".
Yes, but when will Ferrari be competitive again and fight for success? Michael Schumacher replies:
"Little will change in Bahrain. At Imola we will take a good step forward. I guarantee that we will win some races".
On Thursday it's up to him to take to the track on the Tuscan circuit, do a hundred laps, return to the pits and in the evening, after a day's work, meet with the technicians and give his opinion, the most authoritative:
"it’s ready for me".
"It's not worth the risk".
Luca Montezemolo repeats:
"Let's not get anxious".
Even if Scuderia Ferrari collected ten points in two races and in Sepang showed an embarrassing inferiority not only against the unleashed Renault, but even against Red Bull Racing. There seems to be no alarm for the start of the season below expectations, rather the desire to react with the usual tools: passion, grit, seriousness of work. In Maranello they ensure that the situation is under control, that we are not living in a climate of last resort and that problems must be faced with the usual determination, with the so-called attributes of teams and suppliers: we win and lose all together and we need to do all together a great effort. The president had an exchange of ideas with Bridgestone's number one, Shigeo Watanabe, and spoke with both riders, who said they were determined and calm. On Thursday evening or at the latest on Friday morning it will be decided whether to take the new car to Bahrain.
The pros: better performance and a strong signal to the competition. If Ferrari decided to postpone, the debut of the F2005 would be postponed by two races and a fool in front of the Italian fans would leave its mark. The cons: uncertain reliability and technical difficulties, because production had been calibrated for a debut in May. Rubens Barrichello votes yes, and explains to Luca Montezemolo during the mid-day break:
"This car is better than its predecessor in every way".
Tuesday's best lap time was 2.5 seconds higher than his record, set in 2004 with the F2004, but - the Maranello team technicians point out - the test was carried out in race set-up, i.e. with a full tank. And the breakdown, whatever its nature, occurs at the end of the session and after a thousand kilometres: almost enough distance to cover two race weekends. On Wednesday 23 March 2005 Michael Schumacher also says yes:
"The F2005 made me realize that it's good and fast".
The feeling was immediately excellent at Mugello, when the German driver tested the new single-seater for the first time, already weaned on by test driver Luca Badoer and Rubens Barrichello: 81 laps, equal to 422 kilometres, without technical problems and with a best time of 1'21"233, a couple of tenths less than the best performance established by his teammate. Michael Schumacher's yes weighs at least as much as the will of the Scuderia Ferrari to redeem the poor Malaysian impression. In the comparative tests, the new single-seater proved to be 0.8-0.9 seconds faster on the lap. All ready for the debut in Bahrain, then? Not at all: the decision will be made today after an examination of the data collected and a discussion with the Bridgestone technicians. The work passes to the tire specialists: the compounds tested on the Tuscan circuit resist well to asphalt temperatures between 16 °C and 23 °C, just as in Australia they had allowed Rubens Barrichello to make a good comeback, ending with second place. But in Malaysia, where the bottom of the track touched 56 °C, the Ferrari tyres, in addition to being poor in qualifying, couldn't handle the 305 km race. Rubens Barrichello was forced to retire, Michael Schumacher managed the race without attacking just to bring home two points. At Bridgestone, Ferrari is asking for a tire capable of withstanding the best chassis and engine performance on the most difficult circuit of the season, where the heat and sand of the desert make the asphalt as abrasive as sandpaper. If the Japanese company gives a favorable opinion, the debut will be possible and the Maranello plant will work day and night to prepare the second car. So far, in fact, only one specimen has been built (a second chassis was used for crash tests). If, on the contrary, from the data collected the advantage over the F2004 were to be minimal, the debut would take place in Spain, as announced on the day of the presentation. In this case, the men of the Maranello team would have an extra month to prepare a winning single-seater, but would be forced to face two Grands Prix, including the one that will be held at Imola in front of the Italian public, in conditions of inferiority compared to their rivals. On the eve of the decision, Ferrari is however ruling out two options: that of going to Bahrain with two different cars and that of switching to the F2005 in the San Marino Grand Prix, suffering a ten-place relegation on the starting grid. Schumacher hopes. His optimism emerges from a sentence pronounced during trials that are still in progress:
"It's always a thrill to get behind the wheel of a new car. This time it's an even more particular feeling after what happened in Malaysia".
The satisfaction shown by Michael Schumacher is combined with the good news arriving on the state of health of the engine tested on Monday and Tuesday by Luca Badoer and Rubens Barrichello and which, after a thousand kilometres, had malfunctioned.
"Based on the first analyses, already carried out in the evening at Mugello and the checks carried out in Maranello, no particular criticality has been found".
An expression to say that the engine does not have structural problems but drawbacks of youth. Michael Schumacher concentrates the work program in the central hours of the day, the hottest ones. A continuous going in and out of the pits for fine-tuning.
"It was a beautiful day. It was also important to gather my impressions, which were as positive as those of Luca and Rubens. Driving sensations are good. We have no comparison with the F2004M on this circuit but, fundamentally, the F2005 represents a step forward and I am undoubtedly satisfied".
The time obtained by the World Champion is lower than those of Luca Badoer and Rubens Barrichello, but far from the circuit record set a year ago by the young F2004. The main reason is in the new rules on engine, tires and aerodynamics. What's more, the day's program wasn't lap time performance (the F2005 is faster and you don't need confirmation), but rather behavior over distance in a Grand Prix and the relationship with the tyres. On Thursday 24 March 2005, Scuderia Ferrari announces its decision: the F2005 will make its racing debut in Bahrain. Two specimens of the new car are being shipped to the Sakhir circuit, while an F2004M will be used as a reserve. There are many reasons which prompted Jean Todt to bring forward the debut of this single-seater, initially scheduled for the Spanish Grand Prix. The data collected by the technicians during the tests and interpreted positively by Ross Brawn, the positive impressions reported by Rubens Barrichello and Michael Schumacher in recent days at Mugello and - lastly - the negative results obtained above all last week in Malaysia. The German driver expresses his satisfaction with the decision taken by Scuderia Ferrari.
"I can only be happy with the decision to use the new car starting from the next race. From the first outing it gave me positive sensations. I was able to do numerous laps with the F2005 and, as the hours went by, working on the set-up, the single-seater improved more and more, also allowing us to gather valuable information. I can't wait to get to the Emirates to go on the track with this new Ferrari".
Last year, at the brand new Sakhir circuit, the Maranello team achieved one of its many one-two wins of the season, with Michael Schumacher ahead of Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button with the BAR-Honda trailing by almost half a minute. Michael also recorded pole position and the fastest race lap. The brilliant precedents and the prospect of having a more competitive car available should not, however, create easy illusions. The competition this year is very strong and, in a certain sense, compact, with seven teams on the Michelin tires that prevailed in the first two rounds of the World Championship. Renault proved to be a team in great form, with two victories, but McLaren, Williams and Toyota also went faster, while Red Bull Racing took advantage of the Italian team's problems. However, the Bahrain track should, in theory, help the F2005 make the best use of the tyres. The sand on the asphalt could in fact prevent the accumulation of rubber particles that had stuck to the wheels of Rubens Barrichello's F2004M, putting the Brazilian's Ferrari in crisis. But, above all, the new car, designed for the changes in aerodynamic and mechanical regulations, should have better balance in order to obtain high and constant performance. It will also give the two riders the opportunity to mount the most up-to-date version of the engine, designed to have perfect integration with the chassis, whereas a compromise had to be made in order to use it on the F2004M. It is clear that having anticipated the debut of the F2005 by two races could lead to some risk of reliability, because fewer tests have been carried out than expected. But it is also certain that Jean Todt and his men did not act only under the pressure of the results. The new car is certainly more competitive than the old one and will probably solve many of the problems that emerged in Australia and Malaysia.
Already in Friday's practice in Bahrain it will be possible to understand if hopes will be confirmed, but the real verdict (separate race) will come in Saturday's qualifying, when the timed lap will be done with the minimum fuel in the tank. In Melbourne and Sepang, on the same occasion, the F2004M had never managed to finish in the top ten, conditioning both Grands Prix. Meanwhile, the three banks that hold 75% of the Formula 1 rights are close to an agreement with Bernie Ecclestone. The agreement precedes by a few weeks the start - scheduled for Tuesday 10 May 2005 - of a process in which Bayerische Landesbank, J.P. Morgan Chase and Lehman Brothers opposed Bernie Ecclestone himself for control of Formula One Administration and Formula One Management, two companies still under the control of the English tycoon. The lawyers of the two parties have informed the High Court of London of the imminent settlement. The new agreement - writes the Financial Times - should avert a contract between the three banks and the GPWC, a company managed by the big manufacturers - Ferrari is out of it - born to organize an alternative championship starting from 2008.
"It appears that Bernie has folded after losing control of one of the two companies".
Juan Pablo Montoya is a talented and feisty driver, but a ruffian and also a bit of a loser. He wants to imitate Schumacher, he intends to win as much as he does, he went on a diet to offer the same image of sports athlete and fitness lover. In vain. Michael Schumacher is a frequenter of soccer fields all over the world, he dedicates himself to snowboarding in winter, he practiced free climbing and parachuting without twisting a hair, while Juan Pablo Montoya just needed a trivial tennis lesson to end up with a shoulder battered. And now the Colombian risks missing the Bahrain Grand Prix. It happened on Saturday 26 March 2005, on the eve of Easter: the McLaren driver made an appointment with the instructor in Madrid, took to the field, played for half an hour, then slipped into a change of direction. A disorganized fall that caused him a micro fracture in his left shoulder plus a slight injury to tendons and muscles.
"These things happen".
McLaren-Mercedes comments benevolently, specifying that Juan Pablo Montoya will undergo other tests and clinical examinations, including a CT scan.
"The final decision will be made on Thursday whether to race him or not".
The injury itself is not serious, but it affects a very important joint for steering wheel control. The reserve driver for the first three races of the season is Spaniard Pedro De La Rosa, who usually attends Friday free practice in the third car. In the event of Juan Pablo Montoya's forfeit, the race will be disputed by the Spanish driver, while the tests would involve the other test driver, the Austrian Alexander Wurz. Of a very different temper is Mark Webber, an Australian of few words and brisk manners. On Monday 28 March 2005 the Australian rider revealed that he had raced in Australia and Malaysia with a fractured rib during testing in Barcelona due to badly adjusted belts. Takuma Sato will return to Bahrain instead, forced to miss the Malaysian Grand Prix due to an intestinal virus and replaced by Anthony Davidson. A similar problem had hit Jarno Traili, who had recovered in time and was the protagonist of an unexpected second place. But the most awaited event on the Sakhir circuit in the Bahrain desert, the third round of the Formula 1 World Championship, is the debut of the F2005, the new single-seater that should relaunch Ferrari.
"After last year's experience (one Ferrari double), we all know what to expect. It's likely that it won't be an easy ride for us, but for that matter most races aren't. I'm happy to take on this challenge".
Regarding the disappointing start to the season, the German driver is serene:
"After fifteen years of Formula 1 I have learned that in every season there are ups and downs. This will be the longest championship we've ever had, so anything can happen".
How do you explain Ferrari's decline after five consecutive titles?
"We are experiencing that things can change in the blink of an eye, but we know that hard work makes you grow. We continue to focus on the work".
The Maranello team made up for a second place in Melbourne with Rubens Barrichello and a seventh with the world champion in Sepang: just 10 points, against 26 for the winning Renault with Fisichella and Alonso. The early debut of the F2005 serves to bridge the gap to its rivals as soon as possible. With the Malaysian heat, a lot of responsibility has been attributed to Bridgestone tires, and the climate in Bahrain is not much different. After the tests at Mugello last week, the riders are optimistic:
"Bridgestone knows exactly what we need. It is enough to recall 2003, when it had a moment of difficulty from which it recovered very well. The tires must necessarily improve, but Bridgestone is capable of turning the situation around".
A statistical curiosity: since 2000 Michael Schumacher has won the debut race of the new car. No Bahrain Grand Prix for Juan Pablo Montoya. On Wednesday 30 March 2005, the Colombian McLaren driver was forced to forfeit the third Grand Prix of the Formula 1 World Championship after sustaining a shoulder injury while playing tennis last Saturday. Montoya, who has undergone a series of medical and x-ray tests, will be replaced in the race by test driver, Spanish driver Pedro de La Rosa, who raced for Arrows and Jaguar from 1999 to 2002. In reality there are two riders who will not be able to participate in the Bahrain Grand Prix. One is the injured Montoya who needs no introduction, the other is called Chanoch Nissany and is almost unknown. His role is that of reserve at Minardi, but he has not been granted an entry visa to the Arab country, because he is of Israeli nationality. Strange story, that of this driver who at the age of 42 would like to enter the world of Formula 1. He started racing when he was thirty-seven, more or less the age in which Michael Schumacher could start thinking about retiring.
"Someone smiles because they don't know me. I'm like a pit bull: when I bite I never leave my prey. I dreamed of being a racing driver as a boy, but car racing is outlawed in Israel, you can't do it. So I prepared my future. I looked for a good job in entrepreneurship and moved to Budapest. In 2000 I started with a Formula 3 car, I paid for the steering wheel. Then I found some sponsors who help me. In 2003 I won the Hungarian Formula 2000 championship and also the Central European title in the same category. I think I was the first Israeli to win a motorsport championship".
Chanoch is a bit special in everything. Married to Michelle, he had three children by his wife. Two boys Roy and Romy and one girl, Dada. Roy is ten years old and already competes in karts.
"Mine is not just a dream. I've planned everything, in three years I'll be a race driver. To be successful, several conditions will be necessary: physical fitness and I train hard. Very quick reflexes, which I believe I possess and above all a great mental strength. I don't miss this. Which is why I don't see how I could miss the target. Meanwhile, I continue to prepare myself by practicing a very particular martial art, kung-fu, that of one of my idols. Caterpillar Lee".
The companies that support the Minardi driver are Israeli. One produces plastics, the other cosmetics.
"They allowed me to have these first experiences. Before joining the Faenza team, I had also tried out for Jordan. It is certainly a difficult profession. There are few places available and if you don't try hard, everything becomes more problematic. I also did some races in Formula Nissan and some in Formula 3000 with Coloni. But - as I said - I am determined and ready for any sacrifice, helped by the family that helps me".
Among the many problems there is also that of the Grand Prix in Islamic countries: at the moment, with Bahrain there is also Malaysia and Turkey will arrive in a few months.
"I don't give up for this, I will also solve this problem. I could even get to change nationality. For now, however, I do not deal with it. When I can't be in the pits, I watch everything on television. But I also spend a lot of time close to the team, to learn from my colleagues, from the mechanics, from the technicians. For now I'm happy with the reserve role, you'll see that sooner or later I'll be able to find a place in the sun. Remember the pit bulls".
Illusion? Maybe, how many drivers are there who believed they could race in Formula 1 and were disappointed for various reasons? Because they were driving uncompetitive cars, or because they weren't up to the task. Just remember the case of Michael Andretti, a phenomenon in the United States, a disaster with McLaren. For Nissany, however, there is a famous precedent: Juan Manuel Fangio arrived in Formula 1 at the age of 39 and won his first world title at the age of 40. Sure, the Argentine was a champion and above all the times and cars were very different. But Chanoch is a young man who has clear ideas. Will they be enough to launch him into the difficult circus of engines? We will see. Meanwhile, Thursday 31 March 2005, tanned, calm and smiling, Michael Schumacher arrives at the Sahkir circuit where the Bahrain Grand Prix begins on Friday 1 April 2005 with the first tests. If he feels under pressure, the German driver doesn't make it clear. First the German driver greets the sheikhs who have come to welcome him, then goes to the pits where he puts on his overalls and tests the cockpit of the new Ferrari F2005. A car that he tested for just one day on the Mugello track and which left him with positive impressions.
"We will certainly do better than in Malaysia. Even much better. But if we look at the gaps we suffered in the first two rounds of the championship, I'm not sure we made such a huge leap in terms of performance. But there will be time to take another step forward. I would like to remind you that there are nineteen races to go, so they still have seventeen to face, a lot, with a good chance to recover. The important thing is to progress from Grand Prix to Grand Prix".
To those who remind him that since 1999 all the new Ferrari debuts have won, Michael Schumacher replies confidently:
"In the past we had been able to prepare better, because each single-seater was the evolution of the previous one, there hadn't been any radical changes. Now we were thinking of debuting with the F2005 at the fifth world round, in Spain, but we preferred to anticipate. The reason is simple. This single-seater is faster than the F2004, much more stable, saves tires and reacts well to the settings. It's like driving the old Ferrari with little petrol in the tank".
Michael Schumacher's analysis of the defeats in Melbourne and Sepang is simple:
"Our opponents have made many mistakes in recent years. They studied the situation and managed to build very competitive cars, avoiding repeating mistakes. But that's normal. We've won a lot lately, it wasn't a surprise for us to lose in the first two races. At best we didn't expect to go so badly, as happened in Malaysia. But I am convinced that we will be strong again. The team and us riders are very motivated. Tire problems? Our results did not depend on just one factor. With Bridgestone, Ferrari dominated for five consecutive seasons. We are confident. In 2003 after three races I had 8 points, now I only have 2 but there is still one race to go".
Neither the driver fear bad luck as he was forced to get rid of the necklace and bracelet he used as amulets, because the FIA has banned any type of chain or earring for safety reasons when driving. In any case, Michael Schumacher sports a new tattoo on his right forearm, a bird designed by his son Mick. Nobody takes that away from him. Meanwhile, his opponents are enjoying the favorable moment. Alonso and Fisichella feel fit, ready to win again. Briatore is even euphoric, always ready for one of his jokes:
"The new Ferrari? In the first two races behind us were a Red Bull or a Toyota, not the Ferrari. I look at who is close to us, not who is at the center of the group. However in Maranello they were good at bringing it forward by five weeks, we wouldn't have made it. But I don't know if they made up two seconds per lap. For now, we're going ahead".
Friday 1st April 2005 the new Ferrari takes half a step forward. The World Champion almost regained the pace of the best, while Rubens Barrichello broke the gearbox after five laps of free practice. Behind the test drivers who do the speed races on Friday (Zonta in the Toyota in the first session, Wurz in the McLaren in the second, the best) there is still a Renault, and it is once again that of Fernando Alonso. Michael Schumacher is the first of the starters in the morning and third in the afternoon on tires that had already done fifteen laps, trailing by 0.5 seconds from Fernando Alonso and one from the other Spaniard, Pedro De La Rosa, who replaces Juan Pablo Montoya at the wheel of McLaren. And, in this regard, Kimi Raikkonen lets slip one of the rare smiles of his expression:
"De La Rosa is slower, I have one opponent less".
At the end of the day Michael Schumacher has a relaxed chin and the smile of the best of times:
"We are moving in the right direction. I have no terms of comparison on this circuit with the F2004M, but in general the new car is better".
It's a comforting statement, because on the Sakhir circuit in Bahrain, Formula 1 finds the same Malaysian climate that had melted the Bridgestone tyres: 38 °C in the air, 51 °C.
"I expect a good performance in qualifying and I hope for a podium in the race".
Under the suit he continues to wear a lucky necklace.
"The Federation has banned metal piercings, rings and pendants. Mine is leather and I can keep it".
Will it bring luck? If so, one should be ordered for Rubens Barrichello. After five laps, of which only two flying laps, the Brazilian driver heard Ross Brawn's voice in his headphones:
"There is a problem, he goes back to the pits immediately".
It is cracked the left gearbox bearing.
"I don't remember a breakdown like this ever happening at Ferrari. It's not a structural problem, because the gearbox used by Rubens is the overhauled one that had done two thousand kilometers with Badoer without problems. Some mistake was probably made during the assembly".
Rubens Barrichello follows the second free practice session from the monitors.
"It will mean that I'll get Michael to recommend the right tires, he seems like a good driver, I'll trust his impressions".
Then he drafts an explanation:
"The technicians preferred to try to repair the gearbox to understand what happened, rather than replace it".
The truth comes a couple of hours later: the gearbox has not been replaced because there was no spare. Anticipating the debut of the F2005 forced Ferrari to show up in Bahrain with the pieces counted. Ross Brawn confirms:
"Tomorrow the new piece will arrive from Italy. Barrichello will run free practice with the gearbox repaired, then we'll see".
And Rubens Barrichello adds:
"The car was going well, I was in third place behind Zonta and Michael. Too bad: unfortunately it was not an April fish. The opponents? Renault and McLaren are strong, Toyota is constant".
Giancarlo Fisichella, however, complains of oversteer problems:
"It's the opposite of Malaysia, where my car understeered. Unfortunately during Friday's free practice we always keep the same set-up to compare the behavior of the two types of tyres".
The duel at home with Fernando Alonso?
"Renault is one step ahead of all the others, even if Ferrari has improved. The goal is to keep winning".
Once the engines are turned off, the pilots worry about the Pope's condition. Rubens Barrichello, very religious, says:
"No one is more in the hands of God than he is".
Giancarlo Fisichella, who keeps a photo of Wojtyla with his daughter Carlotta at home, adds:
"In 1999 he received the national football team of pilots. It was a very intense emotion".
Michael Schumacher, who was in the Vatican on Monday 17 January 2005 with the Ferrari team:
"That meeting gave us great motivation. We are all very worried".
Saturday 2nd April 2005 Michael Schumacher takes his seat again in the ritual press conference reserved for the top three, and never mind if his is only third place.
"I expected an improvement, but not so important. I'm happy for President Montezemolo: after the Sepang race he was quite nervous".
The F2005 performed the miracle of bringing Ferrari back to the top teams, Bridgestone refined the tyres, the number one found his cannibal hunger again.
"It's time we start making life difficult for Alonso".
Adds the German, accompanying the reasoning with a pat on the back of the Spaniard, author of the provisional pole. An affectionate gesture that is also a gesture of defiance. Between the two join Jarno Trulli, who never failed to get second place in qualifying. The heat is infernal: 44°C in the air, 53°C in the asphalt. The Sakhir circuit is located in the middle of the desert, beaten by a light wind that barely mitigates the heat and complicates life for the drivers, because it disturbs the delicate aerodynamic balance of the single-seaters. Engines and tires don't seem to be affected by the temperature, but the real test is in the race. With its alternation of straights and tight curves, the track designed by Hermann Tilke slaughters the brakes. During the first Grand Prix, that of 2004, Michael Schumacher was a splendid performer, followed by Rubens Barrichello, in qualifying only fifteenth after missing free practice.
This year, Renault sets the pace, with Toyota close behind. Ferrari reserves the podium.
"We're going better in the race than in qualifying, so I expect a good result. I'm happy to have repaid the team for all the nights of work".
On Sunday morning the German will defend third place in the session which assigns the definitive pole by sum of the times, and will subsequently lead the F2005 to its debut in a Grand Prix. The statistics have been favorable for six years, that is, since Eddie Irvine brought the F399 to success in Australia. Since then the cars from Maranello have never failed to make a debut. Ferrari tries again. A lot will depend on the pace of others even if in Malaysia, in similar climatic conditions, only the BAR-Honda gave way. What has changed from the F2004M to the F2005?
"The new car has more grip, treats the tires better and has better aerodynamic efficiency. All in all, it's faster".
Will it be enough to reach Alonso?
"We will see".
The men of the Maranello team have decided to take the new single-seater to Bahrain to remedy a performance crisis, at the cost of showing up with limited spare parts. Rubens Barrichello says:
"Before leaving we said to each other: let's hope nothing happens. And instead it happened. He could have touched me as well as Michael. Yes, I know it happens more often to me".
The Brazilian driver broke his gearbox at the start of Friday practice. A new one was sent from Maranello on a private plane which landed at Manama airport on Friday evening. The piece will be mounted this morning and will not cost any penalties on the starting grid. Barrichello faced the first qualifying with the gearbox repaired, but was forced to miss free practice to avoid the risk of an irreparable breakage.
"I was walking around the car and asking the mechanics to let me use it. I sounded like a child crying for candy. In the end I had the candy, but it was too late. In my thirteen-year career I had never faced a qualification so unprepared. Unfortunately I made a mistake. In the race, I think I'll finish in the points".
Fernando Alonso appears little disturbed by what is happening behind him:
"Michael's third time? When I think about who he is, I'm not amazed. If I look at Malaysia, I'm surprised by his recovery. In any case, two cars are in front of him and Trulli scares me more".
The Spanish rider will also have to watch out for the return of his teammate.
"I plan to pass Heidfeld and Schumacher. The telemetry data shows that I was as fast as Fernando, but the car lost some grip on the dirty track in a couple of corners".
He's the cause of his illness: without the incident with Mark Webber at Sepang he would have finished the race in a good position and wouldn't have been forced to go out on track so soon. Fernando Alonso and Jarno Trulli embrace and swear:
"We remained friends and fast".
One is still at Renault and has become the leading driver in the World Championship, the other has moved to Toyota and turned it into a top team. The separation between Trulli and Briatore was abrupt, even if now the Renault boss sends messages of peace:
"I'm really happy for Jarno, he likes to be close to us on the track as well".
The Italian Toyota driver replies:
"He will be less happy the day that I will be in front of him".
Jarno Trulli is the surprise of 2005 perhaps more than Fernando Alonso himself (indicated by many as Michael Schumacher's heir) precisely because he accepted the challenge of starting from the bottom, with a team with great resources but modest results so far. He has so far obtained an extraordinary sequence of second places in all five qualifying sessions held. Plus, he finished second in Malaysia. The runner-up is said to be the first of the losers. We should ask the opinion of the other Toyota driver, Ralf Schumacher, who is said to be losing his nerve: since Jarno Trulli is not a brawler, Ralf Schumacher is forced to suffer variable gaps in silence.
"I'm good at setting up, maybe that's why my teams grow up quickly".
Thirty years old, Italian, married to Barbara and waiting for his first girlfriend, at the end of 2004 he began his adventure with the Japanese.
"In the two races last year I let them have their own way. Then I started giving directions and taking matters into my own hands".
They also say that he is the magician of the fast lap.
"Well, it means that I've already left a mark. If Schumacher is so good at 36, he means I have a lot of career ahead of me. I would like to show my little boy how good he is dad".
As usual, the driver shares the credit for the performance with the whole team:
"They are all doing a great job. If no one is wrong, we get excellent performance. We must work to maintain this moment of grace. A good race is not enough for me: I want an unforgettable season".
"I dream of something more than second place. But we have to be realistic: I never thought I'd go so fast in the opening races of the season. However, the championship is long…".
Final qualifying on Sunday morning was once again without major incidents, with Fernando Alonso taking pole position and Michael Schumacher in second, driving the brand new F2005 car. Rubens Barrichello, after having gearbox problems on Friday and Saturday, qualified in fifteenth position and decided to change the engine, therefore starting from the back of the grid. The afternoon of the race brings the hottest temperatures ever recorded in a Grand Prix, with an air temperature of 42.5 °C and a track temperature of 56 °C. This exceeds the record temperatures of the 1955 Argentine Grand Prix and the 1984 Dallas Grand Prix. Christian Klien fails to the take the start of the warm up of the Bahrain Grand Prix. His car was pushed into the pits but the Red Bull Racing team was unable to restart it and the Austrian driver was forced to retire. At the start Fernando Alonso is the author of an excellent shot, and faces the first corner first. Michel Schumacher moved from second place on the grid to the clean side of the track, positioning himself in front of Jarno Trulli, who tried to pass the German pilot in the first two corners, but was unsuccessful. Rubens Barrichello made an aggressive start, climbing up to tenth place at the end of the first lap. Giancarlo Fisichella's engine began to smoke during the second lap: the Italian driver was thus forced to return to the pits to retire. However, while applying the pit lane speed limiter, Fisichella felt a return of power and returned to the track. But the recovery was short-lived and on the fourth lap he returned to the pits to retire. On lap three, Narain Karthikeyan's car suffers a similar electrical failure to Christian Klien's. Meanwhile Michael Schumacher continued to follow Fernando Alonso closely until lap 12, when the World Champion passed turn nine and made a 270° bend in the run-off zone. At the end of the lap, Schumacher pitted, registering his first mechanical retirement since the 2001 German Grand Prix, ending an extraordinary run of 58 consecutive Grands Prix. It will later emerge that the car's hydraulic system failed, preventing the German driver from downshifting to use the engine brake when cornering. Therefore, Jarno Trulli moves up to second place, 2.7 seconds behind Fernando Alonso, with Mark Webber in third position. During lap 18 Ralf Schumacher made his first scheduled pit stop among the leaders, rejoining the track in twelfth position.
Fernando Alonso, Jarno Trulli and then Marl Webber all pitted over the next few laps, in what appears to be the now fairly standard three-stop scheme. After the pit stops Fernando Alonso maintains the lead, followed by Jarno Trulli, Mark Webber, Kimi Räikkönen, Ralf Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello. During lap 25 Nick Heidfeld retired due to a BMW engine failure. During lap 27 Takuma Sato was also forced to retire, after being the author of a spin due to a malfunction of the front brakes which had already started smoking for a few laps. In the following laps the brakes of his teammate, Jenson Button, also seem to emit more carbon dust than usual. The British BAR-Honda rider is busy defending himself from the attacks of Pedro de la Rosa, who intends to conquer the seventh place. De la Rosa is making his first start for McLaren-Mercedes, replacing outcast Juan Pablo Montoya. Pedro De la Rosa manages to pass Jenson Button on lap 33, overtaking him at the first corner. During lap 34 Mark Webber lost control of his car exiting turn 8, spun entering turn 9 and allowed Kimi Räikkönen and Ralf Schumacher to pass. In the following laps, before the second pit stop, the closest battle was between Rubens Barrichello, sixth, and Pedro De la Rosa, seventh. De la Rosa continued to press the other Ferraris, but initially only managed to push too far, running wide into the first corner and allowing Jenson Button to close behind him. In the end, however, he manages to take sixth place at the last corner. Fernando Alonso made several fast laps to increase his lead and pitted on lap 41. The other drivers also returned to the pits without problems, except for Jenson Button, who was forced to retire due to a broken clutch on his BAR-Honda. After several attempts to restart the engine, the British driver nearly took the rear jack with him before retiring at the end of the pit lane. After the second series of pit stops, Fernando Alonso remains in the lead, followed by Jarno Trulli, Kimi Räikkönen, Ralf Schumacher, Mark Webber, Pedro De la Rosa, Rubens Barrichello and Felipe Massa. In the final stages, the main fight sees Mark Webber and Pedro De la Rosa as protagonists for fifth place. Webber defended strongly, but in the end Pedro De la Rosa overtook him with two laps remaining in the race.
Jacques Villeneuve retires on the penultimate lap, while Rubens Barrichello slips further and further back, allowing Felipe Massa to take seventh place and score points in the 200th Grand Prix for his Sauber, and David Coulthard moves up to eighth position in the last tour. Fernando Alonso won the Bahrain Grand Prix with a comfortable 13.4 second lead over Jarno Trulli, leading Renault engines to win the 100th Grand Prix of the World Championship. Follows Kimi Raikkonen, who in turn precedes Pedro De La Rosa, Mark Webber, Felipe Massa and David Coulthard. Scuderia Ferrari's illusion lasted twelve laps, enough time to see Michael Schumacher making life difficult for Fernando Alonso. He had promised her the day before:
"You win too easily".
Then it happened that the F2005 broke down and the Spanish driver continued the race in blissful solitude. Rubens Barrichello fared even worse: ninth place, dubbing included. His car held up, the tires didn't. The Maranello team suffers one of the heaviest defeats in recent years in Bahrain. Michael Schumacher had not retired due to mechanical problems since Sunday 29 July 2001, on the occasion of the German Grand Prix. And after the 2003 Brazilian Grand Prix, at least one Maranello car had always finished in the points. This time it's worse: Renault and Fernando Alonso have something extra. The Spaniard looks like the Schumacher of 2004. Two consecutive victories as well as a third place in Australia after qualifying compromised by the rain. The race to him is a long, pleasant ride. Starting from pole position, he resists Michael Schumacher's attack at the first corner, then controls his attacks until the red silhouette vanishes from the rear-view mirrors. The Ferrari enters the straight line with the gearbox blocked and ends up in the long asphalt escape route. Michael Schumacher returned to the track immediately, but the car broke down: the hydraulic system that powers the main functions of a single-seater, including the gearbox, lost pressure. The gears no longer engage, the #1 Ferrari pits at low speed. For Fernando Alonso the hot Sunday turns into a walk, while Jarno Trulli moves into second position. The distance between the two remains unchanged until the end, a photocopy of the Malaysian race. The other Renault doesn't work. After the sprint at the start, Giancarlo Fisichella was overtaken by the BAR-Honda of Takuma Sato. He returns to the pits, but they tell him to keep going. He executes, but after a lap at tourist speed he is forced to stop due to a drop in oil pressure. Spring in Bahrain has impressive temperatures.
The wind has a temperature of 42 °C, the asphalt reaches 57 °C. 42.300 people are resisting in the stands. It's a fun Grand Prix because, behind the two Renaults, McLaren, Williams and Ralf Schumacher's Toyota have similar performances. Barrichello also emerges from the rear. The vicissitudes of his change are textbook of bad luck: breakdown in free practice (Friday); repair for the first qualifying session (Saturday afternoon); replacement with a piece arriving from Maranello on a private flight (Saturday evening); break in the second qualifying (Sunday morning); new replacement with the old gearbox and a new engine (Sunday before the race). By regulation, the Brazilian driver starts from last place. After two laps he is tenth thanks to a series of extraordinary overtakings. In the middle of the race he reaches sixth place, then the decline of the Bridgestones begins. But Rubens Barrichello does not give up. Pedro De La Rosa, tries everything to overtake. The Ferrari driver invents new trajectories, occupies the center of the track to defend himself better. And in the end he induces the adversary to attempt an impossible braking on a straight line. The McLaren ends up in the escape route, returns and after a new chase gets back under. This time the Brazilian driver is no longer able to resist. Jenson Button, Ralf Schumacher, Mark Webber, Felipe Massa and even David Coulthard will pass him, who in extremis recovers the last available point. The Red Bull Racing Scotsman is the only driver other than Fernando Alonso to have always finished in the top eight. Pedro De La Rosa's show continues. He does the fastest lap and gets close to Marl Webber. The duel lasts eight laps, it becomes a matter of principle because only fifth place is at stake. Webber has a slower car.
De La Rosa is a test driver with little training in overtaking. But in the end he wins. BAR-Honda was a disaster: Takuma Sato retired with a brake problem, Jenson Button had a clutch problem during the pit stop. The mechanics push him and he sets off pulling the jack behind him for a few metres, then parks at the end of the pit lane. Sato and Button are the only ones who have never seen the checkered flag. Ferrari meditates. The traditional post-race meeting will be held in Maranello on Monday. Simultaneously in Barcelona Marc Gene will inaugurate a series of four days of testing. There are two full weeks to solve the F2005's reliability and tire problems (the San Marino Grand Prix is scheduled for Sunday 24 April 2005). Ferrari wants to present itself as a winner again in front of its fans and gets back to work starting from the only strong point that emerged on the Sakhir circuit: the new single-seater is very fast on a single lap. Now we need to equip it with tires that last an entire race and give it back the reliability that has been the pride of the Maranello team for years.
"Now I know that I can fight to win again. We will not disappoint our fans at Imola".
So say Michael Schumacher and Jean Todt after the defeat. The men of the Maranello team use reassuring words. In the disaster of Sakhir they see the good aspect: the newfound speed.
"We have great potential, now we're working on reliability and the tyres".
The trial against the F2005 and the decision to anticipate its début by two races is rejected for four reasons: the debut of the car made it possible to immediately discover the strengths and weaknesses of the project which, in testing, would not have emerged; the F2005 will be able to take to the track again at Imola; with the old car, the hopes of finishing in the points were slim. Michael Schumacher talks about his black day:
"Everything was fine, I was even faster than Alonso. Suddenly the pressure in the hydraulic circuit dropped and I was no longer able to shift gears. In the first few laps there was a lot of debris on the track, maybe they have caused damage. We will find out in Maranello. I'm sorry, but this is the situation and we must take note of it. I am an optimist by nature and I try to grasp the positive aspects of this bad Sunday".
The World Champion thanks the team for the effort and the day and night work that made it possible to race in Bahrain with the F2005.
"It was a right decision. From now on we will be very competitive".
It is a promise, that of Michael Schumacher.
"I can't wait to be in Imola. And now to work. Four days await us in Barcelona with Rubens, Badoer and Gene".
Jean Todt points out:
"For twelve laps we felt like we were back in the best possible situation. Instead Michael had to stop, while Rubens had a difficult weekend. He made a good comeback, a good start, but then he had to slow down due to excessive tire wear".
So would Michael Schumacher also have had the same problem?
"No, on Barrichello's car we adopted the same set-up as Schumacher, which is not suited to his driving style. When Michael retired, his tires were fine".
Jean Todt closes with a joke:
"In Imola we will be close to home. If we need a new gearbox, it will be easier to recover it".
For Rubens Barrichello it was the worst weekend of his career:
"The tires ruined my race. I was able to reassemble, then they deteriorated, especially the rear ones. I've done my part. Too bad those last three or four laps. There was nothing to do, I also had to give in to Massa and Coulthard, losing the last two points up for grabs. It's a bad time, which we need to learn".
The debut of the new single-seater?
"If we had already had it in Melbourne, in the first Grand Prix of the season, we would be able to win at this point. It's a matter of time and work: we will solve the problems quickly".
As for the prospects for the Imola race, Barrichello is very clear:
"It's a difficult track in terms of brakes and engine. We'll still struggle a bit with these tyres. But one thing is important: the car is there".
Fernando Alonso has great talent, an excellent car and solid self-esteem. Ferrari doesn't scare him:
"Yes, she has improved, she has shown that she will still be fighting for first place as she did here in Bahrain in qualifying and in the first twelve laps, but right now we don't need to worry too much. Toyota, rather, seems to me the main opponent. Perhaps Schumacher could have passed me at the start, but I was sure of the goodness of the Michelin tires and I would have been able to recover the position without any problems".
Born in Oviedo, Spain, 23 years ago, Nano is the youngest winner of a Grand Prix - Hungary 2003 - and is also a candidate to become the youngest world champion. He seems to have freed himself from the internal competition of Giancarlo Fisichella, winner in Australia. Renault offers him a competitive single-seater.
"It's perfect. This time the water bottle also worked".
In Malaysia, on the other hand, he had reached the finish line dehydrated. Days of glory also for Flavio Briatore, who reserves praise for Ferrari and a joke:
"They will come back, I'm sure. In the first laps Michael was strong. I'm glad, because the championship is becoming interesting. Preferences for Alonso? Absolutely not. We are not in Maranello here, there is the pair condition. One Fisichella success, two Alonsos. At Imola we let Fisichella win again because we are in Italy".
Will the three weeks that separate from the San Marino Grand Prix, which will be held at Imola, allow Ferrari to recover?
"And why? We don't stay here to sleep under the palm trees. We will use the time better than them. They made a mistake in not starting the season with the new car and now they are paying the consequences".
Jarno Trulli is also radiant at the end of the race:
"Calm down, I'm happy but let's not exaggerate. In the middle of the season we will take stock and see what this championship can give us".
Entering the race for the World Championship for example?
"Well, at this point I have to admit it: among the drivers and Toyota among the manufacturers, we are the second force after Alonso and Renault. At the moment they have one more step. But we will improve".
New aerodynamic solutions designed by Niccolò Petrucci will arrive at Imola. And 20 more horsepower are ready for the engine designed by Luca Marmorini: there are also two Italian engineers behind Jarno Trulli's success.
"And if I hadn't had those problems with the tires in Australia… That's it, don't want to look back".
If he hadn't had problems with the tires in Australia today he would be on twenty points, very close to Fernando Alonso's 26 points. He is now 16:
"An extraordinary balance in these first three races. My goal is to improve. I'm enjoying the moment, but I want to beat the Renaults".
It is something more than a sporting purpose: it is the revenge of a driver discharged from the former team, a small revenge against his friend-enemy Flavio Briatore, who believed more in Fernando Alonso.
"I took on a team at the bottom of the standings but with great potential, in which technicians I have the utmost confidence worked in, for example Mike Gascoyne, with whom I worked very well at Renault. I took risks: either I succeed or I drown. Toyota looked for me even before I won last year in Monte-Carlo and they behave wonderfully with me. But I repeat: let's keep our feet on the ground, because it will be tougher at Imola and Barcelona".
Ferrari melted away in the Bahrain desert. The technical retirement of Michael Schumacher - first breakdown after 56 races - and the lapping suffered by Rubens Barrichello sent back the memory of the Maranello team to the difficult years of Jean Alesi and Gerhard Berger, who in 1993 at this point of the season had made up for a meager point. The difference is that now the technicians of the Maranello team know where to put their hands: on the gearbox and tyres. Jean Todt repeats:
"We understand where we are. Fans come and wave their flags at Imola".
The post-competition meeting is scheduled for Monday, April 4, 2005 in the general manager's office. We have to organize the work until Sunday 24 April 2005, the date of the San Marino Grand Prix:
"Two weeks of testing to get back to the old ones".
The Bridgestones worked on the qualifying lap but in the race, with the torrid heat of Malaysia and Bahrain, they gave way. On the Sakhir circuit, the Michelin-shod cars occupied the first eight places and scored all the points. If the temperature is a weak point, the situation will improve on the European circuits. At Toyota they admit:
"In February the car was a disaster. It depended on the cold: the tires were unable to reach operating temperature (around 90°C). However, winter has now passed".
Test driver Marc Gene will be on track in Barcelona on Tuesday 5 and Wednesday 6 April 2005 with the F2004M to test new compounds. Badoer and Barrichello will be filming on Thursday, Badoer and Schumacher on Friday. The Ferrari program will then continue at Fiorano and Mugello.
"We are the only top team to use Bridgestone tyres. At the slightest problem, everyone passes in front of us".
Conversely, Renault and Toyota are the teams that make best use of the Michelins. Or, more likely, the French tire specialists pay particular attention to them. Enough to allow Fernando Alonso to make a difference:
"Even if Schumacher had passed me in the opening laps, I would have recovered the position because our performance doesn't drop in the last kilometres".
Renault's excessive power is an additional problem for Scuderia Ferrari: if only one team always wins, the comeback becomes difficult. The French house worked very well in the winter. He improved the engine and overall balance of the car. Ferrari, on the other hand, is late: it has made a great effort to anticipate the debut of the F2005, but it has brought to Bahrain, together with its hopes, also the defects of the single-seater's youth. however, says Michael Schumacher:
"Now I know that we are strong again. I will still fight for the win".
Only a madman could say that after a beating. A crazy or a champion. There are still sixteen races to go, Fernando Alonso has an 18-point lead over Rubens Barrichello, 24 over Michael Schumacher. If he always managed to finish on the podium, the Ferraris would risk never reaching him. But in 2003, a difficult start complicated Michael Schumacher's run. But then the German driver won six races and took the title by just two points.