Once upon a time there was the Hungarian Grand Prix in which Michael Schumacher - in 2001 - and Scuderia Ferrari - in 2002 and 2004 - celebrated the world title in advance. The legend took a year off, this is Fernando Alonso's season. The Spaniard wants to choose the gift himself: a success, the seventh of the season. At the Hungarian he won his first race in 2003, at 22 years and 80 days old, the youngest driver in the history of Formula 1. Now he's racing with Renault to win his first World Championship, a feat never achieved by anyone so young. The others gave up the chase. Kimi Raikkonen follows in second place, 36 points behind:
"We have slipped too far behind. I have to be realistic, a comeback is impossible. What's more, this is an impossible circuit for overtaking. I'll be the first out on the track when the track is slower, so I'll qualify poorly".
Michael Schumacher, who is 40 points behind, adds:
"I no longer consider myself in the running for the World Championship. Now for this championship we have only one goal: to think about the next one. It's not possible to change almost anything in a week, and we haven't been able to gain competitiveness compared to Hockenheim (fifth place, ndr)".
Even the Constructors' World Championship standings leave little hope for Scuderia Ferrari. Admits Rubens Barrichello:
"We have to forget the German Grand Prix and keep working. Aware that here is not a favorable track for us".
On Wednesday 27 July 2005, the World Champion takes part in the football match in honor of Ferenc Puskas, while on Thursday, in a hotel in Budapest, he cooks together with his teammate, to the delight of the telephone sponsor Vodafone.
"It was fun. I made a chili dish. For Fernando, of course".
Monday 1st August 2005 Michael Schumacher will celebrate his tenth marriage rival with Corinna.
"We love each other like the first day".
The hierarchy at home?
"That's Corinna's world".
The other drivers also give a little thought to Fernando Alonso. Jenson Button wishes him a hearty drink:
"It's on me, I'll get him drunk".
Giancarlo Fisichella, on the other hand, has another idea:
"I invite him to dinner and ask him for a favor for Sunday".
Jacques Villeneuve, on the other hand, is more direct:
"If his birthday fell on a Sunday, I would wish him a podium. Sin".
Asked for a greeting message, Kimi Raikkonen shows off his summary:
Renault prepares a surprise party. But Fernando Alonso says:
"It is not the gift that counts but the spirit with which it is given".
A truly unprecedented comment. In the holiday mood, some market news stands out. In 2006 Williams will mount Cosworth engines instead of BMWs - the Bavarian house bought Sauber and will race under its own name - and would like Jenson Button. Last year the Englishman had done everything to move to Williams, but his contract didn't allow it. Now that he's asking to stay at BAR but it's possible he'll be forced to relocate instead. Friday July 29, 2005, suddenly the slow ones are Fernando Alonso and Giancarlo Fisichella. Worse than the Ferraris, which don't look so bad. Are you kidding about the heat? The Hungaroring’s asphalt reaches 50°C, the air 38°C, but it's always been like this in Hungary, nor does it appear that the Michelin-shod cars suffer from the excesses of the greenhouse effect. Moral: the fastest on Friday in Hungary are, as always, two testers, who run on low fuel and set extraordinary and unreliable times: first Ricardo Zonta with Toyota, second Alexander Wurz with McLaren. The ranking of titled drivers begins with Kimi Raikkonen, Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher, Juan Pablo Montoya. Then the Ferrari of Rubens Barrichello, seventh overall, fifth of the owners. The Brazilian driver is amazed:
"We are faster than we expected".
Even 0.5 seconds better than Fernando Alonso. Michael Schumacher is late, fifth in the first session, the German stops at the start of the second. Scuderia Ferrari speaks of an electrical problem with the alternator.
"I rely on Rubens. He did a great job and thanks to him we know clearly which tires to choose. We'll have to transfer the data he collected to my car. The track? No problem, it's only the twelfth time I've come here (three victories, ed). I think I remember it".
Ritual question: what can we expect from the Maranello team?
"In qualifying we aim for sixth time, while in the race we should improve. We are very satisfied with the performance of the tires over the distance, because we set our time on used tyres".
How do you recover positions on a circuit almost as tight as Monte-Carlo?
"With strategy. Ours is calculated for Sunday. Our overall performance doesn't look too bad. We always hope for the best".
Chanok Nissany, 42 years old, Minardi reserve is seen on the track for the first time: it is the absolute debut of an Israeli at a Formula 1 event. In Bahrain they had not granted him an entry visa. The Israeli driver laps 14 seconds behind the best, almost 7 from the slowest of his teammates, the Dutch Christijan Albers. Budapest is celebrating two anniversaries: one is the twentieth anniversary of the Hungarian Grand Prix, introduced in 1986 at the height of communism. The other is Fernando Alonso's birthday. Renault prepares a chocolate cake, Flavio Briatore gives him a watch, Giancarlo Fisichella a tennis racket, the mechanics a steering wheel. The Spanish rider replies:
"Thanks, but I am more interested on points".
Saturday 30 July 2005 in 80 seconds Michael Schumacher manages to say that Ferrari is competitive again, that his retirement can wait, that the last record out of his collection is one step away. Michael Schumacher speaks the language of speed: 0.9 seconds behind Juan Pablo Montoya's McLaren, over a second to everyone else in the crazy qualifying at the Hungaroring. Up until a year ago, demolishing opponents was the usual practice for Ferrari, but lately the clock has been showing heavy delays. There is no explanation. The insiders swear they don't understand anything, not even he was driving:
"I did a good lap, of course, but I don't understand: a week ago at Hockenheim we took 1.3 seconds. We brought a new tire here, but none of us expected such a recovery".
On Thursday it was the pilots themselves, who traditionally avoid making out-of-the-line statements, who emitted a cosmic pessimism, sublimated by the quip:
"Our goal this year is to do well in 2006".
At the end of qualifying, the smiles returned to the Maranello team garage. Michael Schumacher followed the lap of the last opponents on the trackside wall. When Fernando Alonso, the last to take to the track, finished in sixth place, the World Champion embraced Hiroshi Yasukawa, the director of Bridgestone. A liberating gesture, a symbol of an unfortunate season that has perhaps reached a turning point. Perhaps.
"Here is the reward of six months of work. The race? I am confident because this rubber is durable. The strategy? I probably have less fuel than my rivals, but that's not enough to explain my advantage".
With the World Championship now lost, could Senna's record make sense of his season?
"No, I'm interested in victories".
However, the pole position of the twentieth Hungarian Grand Prix has a special value. First of all, it is the first of 2005. In 2004 Michael Schumacher had won it for the last time in Japan, Rubens Barrichello in Brazil. And then it's a severe lesson in speed for McLaren and Renault.
"This is Formula 1. Things change quickly, as I always repeat. My strategy? It's an advantage to be up front. Above all, there is a confidence boost for the whole team after the difficult period. I'm happier than in Indianapolis. Within two or three Grands Prix we will understand if the worst is over. I realize that it's difficult for our fans to understand both the crisis and the sudden recovery: we too are struggling. Here the car-tyres package worked perfectly, we hope to continue like this".
The German driver books the victory:
"There is no reason not to believe it. Usually we don't have any problems at the start and I'm on the clean side of the track. Montoya on the other hand is in the dirt, so I don't worry. I'm more afraid of Trulli who is behind me".
Juan Pablo Montoya is flabbergasted:
"I did everything right. I can win, unless Ferrari really pushes again".
Jarno Trulli is the usual qualifying animal, third place on a dirty track. Too bad that Sunday is another day and his Toyota in the race has to significantly reduce the number of engine revolutions to avoid breakages:
"I hope for a good placement".
Kimi Raikkonen has the fourth fastest time: taking into account that he lapped first, when the track is dirty, his performance is almost at the level of the World Champion. It is not a gamble to hypothesize that Michael Schumacher's most difficult opponent will be him. The Renaults were bad, slow out of the corners. In 2003 in Hungary Fernando Alonso won the first race of his career. Today, however, in qualifying he had to settle for sixth place:
"A disappointment, there's no way to overtake here. We'll have to be good at pit stops, it's the only way to recover positions".
Giancarlo Fisichella fared worse, since he will have to start from the ninth potion:
"I made no mistakes. Maybe I was too cautious".
It will be another uphill race for the Italian rider.
"Rubens Barrichello is already from BAR. He signed a contract for 2006 and 2007".
Says Nelson Piquet, Brazilian, three times World Champion and above all very knowledgeable of the background of Formula 1. The news is spreading on the Hungaroring circuit but it comes from Brazil, and is launched by the Estado de Sao Paulo newspaper. Ferrari forcefully returns to the spotlight: on one side there is Schumacher who celebrates pole position, on the other Rubens Barrichello grappling with the customary denials.
"Why don’t you ask to Piquet?"
Already done, swears it’s all true
"I have nothing to add to what I've always said. I have a contract that binds me to Ferrari until the end of 2006. If one invents something, then everyone believes it to be true. Now I'm announcing that Michael is going to Red Bull and tomorrow I'll read about it in the paper".
There is no evidence, no official confirmations, but there are many clues. Gil de Ferran, BAR sporting director and friend of Rubinho, explains:
"We need two riders capable of winning, Barrichello has the right qualifications".
Reading between the lines, Takuma Sato is already on the fire list. When asked specifically, the leaders of the Anglo-Japanese team elude the answers:
"At the moment we have nothing to communicate".
For now, exactly. The announcement will probably be made on the eve of the Turkish Grand Prix, after the summer break. Even the interested party struggles to be convincing in his denial. Who will drive Ferrari in 2006?
"I do not answer".
No problem, Piquet will take care of revealing:
"Felipe Massa will race alongside Schumi".
The candidacy is likely: Felipe Massa is young, has Nicholas Todt as manager, has already been a test driver for the Maranello team and therefore knows the environment and the rules, is fast enough to make a dignified figure and not make Michael Schumacher nervous. The second option is David Coulthard, 34, a temporary solution pending the choice for the future. The Scotsman is linked to Red Bull Racing for a year. However Christian Horner, who will be a Ferrari customer for the supply of engines, guarantees the Scotsman the possibility of freeing himself. Kimi Raikkonen should be excluded because he would enter a collision course with the German, moreover he is linked to McLaren until 2006 and is negotiating a renewal for another season with excellent chances of success. Last clue: Rubens Barrichello is no longer so happy at Ferrari.
The sporting relationship with his teammate cracked at the Monaco Grand Prix, where Michael Schumacher overtook him on the last lap, and broke down in Indianapolis. Once upon a time, disappointments were diluted with victories: Rubens Barrichello signed five Constructors' World Championships in as many years, won nine races and obtained eleven pole positions (in addition to the two with Jordan and Stewart). Now that successes are on the run, saudade prevails. The economic question can have its weight. Ferrari pays him 8.000.000 dollars per championship. To convince him to change, BAR offered him over 10.000.000 dollars. Engine supplier Honda has a winning project and huge resources to take over the brand and take control of the team. The only doubt concerns the driver to support the Brazilian. Jenson Button would like to stay, but he has a commitment that binds him to Williams. The lawyers will see it. Sunday 31 July 2005 the air temperature is 34 °C and that of the asphalt is 47 °C. At the start of the Hungarian Grand Prix both Michael Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya got off to a good start and maintained their respective positions, while Kimi Räikkönen overtook Jarno Trulli and finished the first lap in second place, after also overtaking his teammate. Further back, Fernando Alonso's Renault was rear-ended in the first corner by Ralf Schumacher: the German's right rear wheel made contact with Fernando Alonso's front wing, detaching it. Rubens Barrichello also braked too late into the first corner, breaking the front wing on the diffuser of Jarno Trulli's Toyota. Further back, the Red Bull Racing of Christian Klien made contact with the Sauber-Petronas of Jacques Villeneuve, wheels touching as they battled for position entering the first corner. The Red Bull Racing race then went from bad to worse when Fernando Alonso's front wing moved between turns 10 and 11 in the path of several drivers. Most of the competitors managed to avoid it, but David Coulthard, apparently unseen by Mark Webber, hit the debris, causing the front right suspension to break and forcing the Scottish driver to retire. At the end of the first lap, Michael Schumacher is 1.9 seconds ahead of Kimi Räikkönen, who is another 2.4 seconds ahead of Juan Pablo Montoya. Fernando Alonso, Rubens Barrichello and Tiago Monteiro were forced to pit at the end of the lap to make repairs.
Meanwhile Kimi Räikkönen starts putting pressure on Michael Schumacher. The two drivers begin to score numerous fast laps and the gap is reduced to just 0.792 seconds after 9 laps. Meanwhile, Rubens Barrichello passes Robert Doornbos. Kimi Räikkönen pitted first on lap 11, showing that his qualifying effort was greatly aided by the light fuel load and leaving Michael Schumacher to attempt to pick up the pace before making his pit stop. Rubens Barrichello also passes Christijan Albers, moving up to fourteenth place, while Fernando Alonso passes Robert Doornbos and moves up to sixteenth place. Jarno Trulli was the second driver to make the scheduled fuel stop on lap 13, while Fernando Alonso passed Christijan Albers for fifteenth place. Rubens Barrichello passed Narain Karthikeyan on lap 13, while Michael Schumacher pitted, refueled and rejoined ahead of Kimi Räikkönen. Meanwhile Ralf Schumacher manages to pass his teammate, Jarno Trulli, slowed down by the damage in the diffuser. Juan Pablo Montoya increased his lead to over 16 seconds at the end of lap 17. The Colombian made his first stop on lap 22, but his lead was not large enough to keep him in the lead. Montoya rejoins in third place, behind Michael Schumacher and Kimi Räikkönen, ahead of Jenson Button, who has yet to stop. Jenson Button pits alongside Giancarlo Fisichella on the following lap, while Kimi Räikkönen closes again on Michael Schumacher, closing the gap to just 0.6 seconds by the end of lap 24. During lap 27 Nick Heidfeld and Jacques Villeneuve returned to the pits to refuel, thus showing that he had chosen a two-stop strategy, while Mark Webber pitted on lap 29. Meanwhile, on lap 26 Robert Doornbos retired due to a hydraulic failure. On lap 30 Michael Schumacher led the race, but was only 0.6 seconds ahead of Kimi Räikkönen. Juan Pablo Montoya follows in third position, ahead of Ralf Schumacher, Jarno Trulli, Jenson Button, Nick Heidfeld, Takuma Sato, Giancarlo Fisichella, Rubens Barrichello and Mark Webber. On lap 33 Jarno Trulli and Rubens Barrichello pit, followed by Michael Schumacher on lap 35. The German is only 0.5 seconds ahead of Kimi Räikkönen, who pits on the next lap. That was enough for the Finnish driver to be able to take the lead at the end of the pit stop.
Meanwhile Juan Pablo Montoya slowed down considerably and returned to the pits at the end of lap 41, retiring due to a problem with the axle shaft. Kimi Räikkönen leads the race with a comfortable lead over Michael Schumacher, while Ralf Schumacher picks up the pace to secure a potential podium position. During lap 42 Felipe Massa returns to the pits. The Brazilian driver was forced to lose several laps remaining in the pits, while the Sauber mechanics tried to repair the damage caused by a small fire caused by a fuel leak. During lap 43 Giancarlo Fisichella makes a mistake in turn 4, losing eighth position to Mark Webber. Meanwhile Kimi Räikkönen increased the gap on Michael Schumacher to over 20 seconds at the end of lap 44. During lap 47 Jenson Button made his second and final pit stop, rejoining the track in sixth position. Kimi Räikkönen pitted for the last time over the next lap, with a large enough lead to allow him to rejoin the track comfortably ahead of Michael Schumacher again. Most of the field make their final stops between laps 50 and 55, with little change of position. Only Mark Webber manages to pass Takuma Sato and conquers the seventh place. Michael Schumacher made his final stop on lap 57, rejoining the track just 4.4 seconds ahead of Ralf Schumacher, who displayed impressive speed in his Toyota. During lap 62 Kimi Räikkönen extended his lead to over half a minute, while Ralf Schumacher closed the gap to just 2.9 seconds behind Michael Schumacher. Three laps later, the gap was reduced to 1.2 seconds. During lap 51 Christjian Albers makes a long stop, but rejoins the race a few laps later, while Jacques Villeneuve retires during lap 57, due to yet another small fire in the engine mounted on his Sauber. Kimi Räikkönen wins the Hungarian Grand Prix, finishing ahead of Michael Schumacher who was able to resist the return of Ralf Schumacher, who takes his first podium of the year, and his first for Toyota. Jarno Trulli follows in fourth, ahead of Jenson Button, Nick Heidfeld, Mark Webber, and Takuma Sato. Michael Schumacher leads for half the race and it seems to be watching the replay of another season.
Ferrari #1 keeps behind the McLarens and doubles Alonso. But it is the Hungarian Grand Prix and the conclusion is obvious. Kimi Raikkonen wins and Juan Pablo Montoya's car breaks down, who had success at hand when a drive shaft broke. But here's the surprise: Michael Schumacher finishes the race in second place. The German driver manages the drop in tire performance that had already sent him into a crisis at Hockenheim and brings home the eighth consecutive useful result. Another coup de theatre: the Renaults finish a lap and a half away. The tables that Flavio Briatore and his team had drawn up after the German triumph are skipped. Zero points for Fernando Alonso, zero points for Giancarlo Fisichella. The first in the class has an extenuating circumstance: at the start he reluctantly got involved in a duel with Ralf Schumacher. That moved more and more to the right and poor Fernando Alonso had to do the same to avoid accidents. Move one meter, move two, the trail is over. The Renault forked the curb and destroyed the front wing, which flew under the wheels of David Coulthard. Fernando Alonso pitted for appropriate repairs. When he rejoined the race, the peloton was already far away and the Hungarian one is as overtaking as a motorway in mid-August. Final result: eleventh place behind Giancarlo Fisichella and Rubens Barrichello, the two disappeared on Sunday. Renault has been disappointing since Friday. It was unable to find the right settings, it made the wrong choice of tires with Giancarlo Fisichella - who made a different choice from his teammate - and paid for Fernando Alonso's accident at the start. Heavy errors, especially if they are not corrected immediately. Scuderia Ferrari is growing, but once again with only one driver, the German. There are those who more romantically attribute the result to matters of the heart. Kimi Raikkonen celebrates with Jenni Dahlmann, former miss Scandinavia, the first year of love.
"Yes, this success is a gift for her. But I think I’ll buy something else".
The Finn explains with his gaze so glassy and inexpressive that you wonder if he really wanted to give her the first place trophy. Michael Schumacher will instead celebrate the first ten years alongside Corinna.
"Where do we will celebrate? Our business. But surely not in Maranello".
Fernando Alonso, on the other hand, is an unrepentant bachelor. In Budapest he was accompanied by another Jenni, a new entry, with whom he spent his birthday evening. Dangerous distraction. There are six Grands Prix left to go. A championship that seemed finished is getting longer. Everyone has his own statistics: Michael Schumacher is the driver who has scored the most points in the last eight races and is growing, but he realistically admits that he won't be able to recover. Alonso manages to demonstrate that his chances have increased because he has overcome the traps of a terrible July by increasing his advantage:
"I was lucky on a couple of occasions, now my opponents have been. Those are things that happen. The accident with Ralf at the first corner? I think he did not see me".
If Ferrari still believes in the possible triumph in the Constructors' World Championship, let alone McLaren. Fernando Alonso had booked the party in Monza, in the heart of Scuderia Ferrari supporters, but it was postponed. He will talk about it again away from Europe, in the triptych that promises to be decisive: Brazil, China and Japan. The reliability factor plays in favor of Renault. McLaren is unable to contest two Grands Prix without running into some serious technical problems. Kimi Raikkonen stopped at Hockenheim, Juan Pablo Montoya on the Hungaroring circuit. But it is also true that Renault has lost the extraordinary continuity it showed off in the first part of the season. Next appointment in Türkiye. The new Istanbul circuit will be inaugurated by Formula 1 on Sunday 21 August 2005, at the end of the summer break during which testing is prohibited. An unknown for everyone. Whoever improvises better wins.
"Did you see? At the beginning, I was faster than Raikkonen despite the fact that his car was lighter".
Ten years of marriage, two children, seven World Championships, all imaginable records and Michael Schumacher manages to get excited about a second place in Hungary. A fantastic pole and a second place: is Ferrari back?
"We're at a good point. We know the problems and will continue to work on them. For now, we're taking home last month's hard work award. Now the morale of the team is high. I thank you all".
Did you miss the feeling of fighting for success again like in Imola?
"Yes, but unfortunately it didn't last long enough. To tell the truth, when you're on the track you don't think too much about whether it's victory, second place or third. You focus and give your best. That's all".
Will Turkey be a truth race for you?
"Let's say that it will take two or three Grands Prix to understand if we have come out of the crisis".
He should be disappointed: he led for 30 laps and then Kimi Raikkonen passed during the pit stop.
"I race to win, it's obvious, otherwise I'd give myself to other activities. However, compared to Hockenheim we have taken a big step forward: here too the tires have gradually lost performance, but the initial pace and the speed in qualifying are the right ones. Unfortunately I stopped to refuel one lap before Kimi: if I had been in the lead after the pit stop, I might have made it. That was the turning point. I understood that I was slower, so I thought about preserving the tires and saving the podium".
A pole position nine-tenths ahead means his Ferrari could have started with more fuel. In hindsight, would a different strategy have changed the outcome?
"I rule it out. The tires degraded quickly from lap 25 onwards".
Can you tell us the mystery of the Bridge stones? Once they work better in the race, here they were extraordinary for qualifying...
"The new regulation requires a compromise. The same four tires have to face qualifying and the race: it's important to find the right compound that guarantees durability and performance".
After overtaking, Raikkonen gained seven seconds in one lap: what happened?
"It's a combination of factors. He made a shorter pit stop and was running a second faster than me. So I decided to slow down, I couldn't keep up with him anyway. Plus I got traffic".
Is Ferrari once again a dangerous opponent?
"Only for some teams. We still have to grow a lot".
The duel in the finale with his brother?
"I was in trouble, you can tell from the times. But he too didn't have new tyres. I was sure that if he hadn't made a mistake he would have stayed behind".
Was celebrating with him on the podium again nice?
"Well, it's happened several times already. I was struck by the enthusiasm of his team. I'm happy for him".
What did he plan for the tenth wedding anniversary?
"I will go to Max Mosley (the president of the FIA, ndr) to discuss safety on the circuits".
Romantic? Nothing else?
"They are mine and Corinna's things".
Formula 1 stops for three weeks. How will you spend this holiday period?
"I will prepare for the Istanbul Grand Prix. Physically and mentally my Turkish weekend starts as soon as I leave here. For us pilots, the word holiday is written very small".
Is it a pity to pause while you are finding the solution to your problems?
"No, it's a healthy interval. In Maranello the work continues".
Will Rubens Barrichello leave Ferrari at the end of the season?
Bad day for Rubens Barrichello, only tenth at the finish line.
"The talk about my move to BAR has created problems for me. Preparing for a Grand Prix requires a relationship of utmost trust with the engineers. With them I feel at home and when the attention moves to something else, the work suffers. The Brazilians have gone too far with this story".
The Brazilian driver does not spare a barb against Nelson Piquet, the former world champion who spread the news:
"Think of your son Nelsinho who races in GP2 and it seems to me that he's not even that fast. Don't make me say anything else, otherwise I'll end up talking bad about other people".
Yet his divorce from Ferrari and his replacement by compatriot Felipe Massa, now at Sauber, receives increasingly weaker denials. Jean Todt gets around the question:
"Are you annoyed by these rumors? Absolutely not. The only thing I don't like is not winning".
Does Rubinho's future depend on him or on Ferrari?
"As in any couple, the future depends on both of them".
Says the general director of Scuderia Ferrari, Jean Todt. On the family front, however, the life of the Ferrari driver is more serene.
"My second child will be born at the end of August or at the beginning of September. His name will be Fernando. I hope to be there for the happy event".