After having seen Turkey for the first time, Formula 1 goes back to the old Europe on Sunday for a typical rendez-vous: the Italian Grand Prix, which has reached the edition number 79, the number 55 of the modern era. It has always been at Monza since 1950, except in 1980 when they raced at Imola where Nelson Piquet won. Not to mention that, here, they race at Ferrari's home. At the Monza racetrack, the team from Maranello has triumphed sixteen times, with an impressive series of wins during the last five years: four first places, two by Michael Schumacher, two by Rubens Barrichello. Only interruption in 2001 when the Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya won, with Williams at that time during his brilliant rookie season. It is precisely Montoya who is the big favorite this time. He likes this circuit a lot and it is probably adapted to his heavy foot characteristics. Two pole positions (2001-2002) in his hall of fame and 1 win on this track. Above all, Juan Pablo, in those last few days during the last tests on the Italian track, was very fast: he beat all the records of top speeds reached at the end of the straight - 372.2 km/h - and also revised the lap record that was belonging to Rubens Barrichello from last year, driving in 1'20"089, at an average speed of 260.395 km/h. While rumors about Michael Schumacher going to McLaren after 2006 are coming from Germany and there is talk about a pre-contract already signed between Scuderia Ferrari and Kimi Räikkönen, the German driver on Thursday, 25 August 2005, after a long testing day, serenely answers questions. So, Schumacher...
"I will talk before you do. I'm happy to be a Ferrari driver. I don't want to retire. And I'm tired of always repeating the same things. I hope to stay at Maranello as long as possible. And I have no intentions to stop racing".
For how long will you continue in Formula 1?
"It's clear that I won't last another ten years. But I still haven't decided when I'll stop. Anyway, I can't picture myself in another car than Ferrari. And I can't even imagine how could my very last grand prix be. I still have a lot of fun".
Isn't it true that your wife Corinna has asked you to leave the tracks?
"If she had asked me herself, I wouldn't be here. However, my children Gina Maria and Mick want to know why I don't win anymore. We try to educate them and explain to them that you can't always win. I hope that when they'll grow up, they will prefer tennis rather than motorsport... The children of drivers experience too much pressure, think of Nelsinho Piquet and Nico Rosberg".
But how were those rumors of Mercedes born these past days?
"Good question. It's true that I had a meeting with Norbert Haug, Mercedes' manager. But I've always done it, we see each other at parties, on track. And we don't talk about my future, there are also other subjects. If this is a strategy from Mercedes to put pressure on Ferrari, it's the wrong tactic".
And what about the rumors about Räikkönen having signed an agreement with Ferrari?
"I would be very surprised of that. It's a similar story to the one that I had to also face in the past many times. But, for now, the seat at Ferrari is mine".
But if the Finnish driver really arrives at Maranello at some point?
"I've had so many teammates. And I repeat: I've never chosen them myself".
No problem, even if Valentino Rossi would arrive?
"It would be interesting to see how he would act. Me as his master? Another question?"
Would you try Valentino's Yamaha?
"When I was young I had a sport bike. I was driving on the road, where it was too dangerous to go fast. You do what you do, I do what I do".
Let's get back to Formula 1. Your thoughts on the Räikkönen-Alonso duel?
"It's strange. McLaren is a better car, Renault scores more points, an interesting and unusual championship. It's far from being finished".
How will Monza be?
"I don't know. This year, we have ups and downs. The team is always the same, they work as never before. But we don't manage to solve the problems. I don't think that there are difficulties with the car, that is to say with the mechanical grip. It's hard to find the right tyres. We'll try".
Did you see that, on Wednesday, Juan Pablo Montoya set the new speed record for Formula 1, reaching 378 km/h?
"Really? It doesn't surprise me. With the rules of last year, we would at least be at 380 km/h. It seems to me that we've continuously gone slower and slower on a lap time since the beginning of the World Championship; it's a step forward, even if in our sport there are no limits to improvement. With the V8 engine in 2006, we'll go even more slower, a goal to achieve for safety".
Are you curious to test the new Ferrari V8?
"No. At the moment I'm not interested, I'm focused on this championship and I hope to win a race again before the end. A driver doesn't like to go slow…".
Do you have a comment to make about Felipe Massa taking Rubens Barrichello's seat?
"Felipe is fast and he will win if Ferrari is competitive. Those who criticize him don't remember Alonso and Räikkönen when they were driving for Minardi and Sauber. Rubens surprised me. He's been an excellent teammate and we've gone through fabulous moments. Then, there's been the controversies of Monte-Carlo and Indianapolis, but I don't think that they are the reasons for his decision to sign with BAR. I don't totally agree with him, but this doesn't matter".
On Friday, Juan Pablo Montoya sets another lap record of 1'19"813. A strong signal not only from the Colombian driver but also and above all from McLaren.
Kimi Räikkönen, engaged in the title fight with Fernando Alonso, plans to catch up on the Spanish driver and to reduce the gap under the current 24 points. That will be necessary to still have hopes for the four races that are yet to be disputed after the Italian Grand Prix. After eight years of abstinence, that is to say since the win of David Coulthard in 1997, the Anglo-German team has good opportunities to come back at the top and to also threaten Renault in the Constructors' World Championship standings. However, both teams will have to try avoiding the reliability issues reported over the course of the season. During the practice, both McLaren and Renault had to slow down their tests because of mechanical failures. Reliability could be a small weapon in the hands of Ferrari. Based on the lap times achieved in four days of intense tests and development of much material, from the tyres to the aerodynamics, the F2005 does not seem to be particularly in shape. A bit better than in Istanbul, but always with a heavy one-second gap behind Juan Pablo Montoya. Michael Schumacher indeed set a time of 1'21"071, finishing fifth in the last day, behind Juan Pablo Montoya, Kimi Räikkönen, Fernando Alonso, Giancarlo Fisichella and Mark Webber. The technicians of the team from Maranello are particularly worried about the gap - almost 16 km/h - recorded in top speed, probably caused by the difficulties of the car at the exit of the Parabolica corner. However, Michael Schumacher promises:
"I'm not giving up, I'm still confident and convinced that before the end of the championship we'll be able to win at least one race".
The secret dream of the German driver and his teammate is precisely to overturn the unfavorable prediction at Monza. A difficult task but not an impossible one given that, in the past, also with the help of a bit of luck, it has already happened. Obviously, it will highly depend on the tyres and on the set-up of the car. Meanwhile on Wednesday, Michael Schumacher prepares himself psychologically for the rendez-vous with the Ferrari Tifosi, leading the drivers' football team engaged against the team of actors, at 8:00 p.m. on Monday, 29 August 2005, at the Brianteo stadium. As always, it is a guaranteed show and the proceeds from that match will go to charity. On Thursday, 1 September 2005, Rubens Barrichello beats Michael Schumacher. But it is a race of basket-golf-bike, Formula 1 has nothing to do with that: an internal show at the Piazza del Duomo in Milan with thousands of people who stop to support them. And, in the meantime, the Maranello team also draws attention because the results are so inadequate.
"It's been some months since our last win".
Says Luca Montezemolo.
"When we'll get back to the top, it will be even more right".
The Ferrari Chairman speaks at the opening ceremony. They toast with Ferrari sparkling wine, a homonymy that is now also a commercial agreement between two symbols of the Made in Italy: sports cars and good wine. The Ferrari Store of Milan is the sixth and biggest one in Italy, the ninth in the world. The first one was in Maranello, followed by those of Rome and of the airports of Bologna and Malpensa. Abroad, there are those of Las Vegas, Shanghai and Guangzhou. Clothing products, engines (whole or individual mechanical parts), toys, models and gadgets are on sale, all bearing the Maranello team logo that the mother of Francesco Baracca, pilot and hero of World War I, gave to Enzo Ferrari. At the end of the show, Michael Schumacher immediately leaves for Monza.
"It's difficult to keep him away from a circuit".
Rubens Barrichello, however, stays until the end of the celebrations. Luca Montezemolo sees him, calls him to himself and hugs him:
"We've always won the Contructors' Championship with you. You've gone through the most winning era of Ferrari's history. Maybe, before leaving, make sure you win another race".
At the end of the year, Rubens will go with BAR-Honda.
"I've arrived with the smile, I'm leaving with that same smile".
Monza is close, and not only physically. The Maranello team fears a defeat that, in front of their home crowd, would be more painful than in Turkey. Montezemolo calls upon every supplier, but especially Bridgestone.
"For my birthday (58 years old, ed), Jean Todt promised me a present. You know well which present I want, I told him".
The victory. Rubens Barrichello tries to be optimistic:
"The pole position is impossible but on Sunday, during the race, something could happen. At Istanbul, I held on until the very end, hoping that the performance would improve and would allow me to claim the eighth place. There, it didn't happen, at Monza we hope that it will go better".
Michael Schumacher, summoned for the press conference of the race presentation, leaves little hope:
"We're slow. If it doesn't rain, it will be hard. The car this year is quite fast and not so much inferior to McLaren. It's clear that in this season, there's also been a tyre issue".
During the tests, both drivers did some laps on the fastest track of Formula 1 and they did not manage to come close to McLaren and Renault. But Ferrari could have been hiding an update tested at the last moment on Wednesday, at the Mugello. The minds are peaceful. They are also a bit resigned. A statistical fun fact: if Michael Schumacher scores less points than Fernando Alonso, he will be mathematically out of the fight for the World Championship. Everyone talks about something else. About children, for example. Rubinho's wife is expecting their second son. He's due any day now and his name will be Fernando.
"If the doctor says that the birth is imminent, I'll go back to São Paulo after the Grand Prix, even if we're racing at Spa next week".
Michael Schumacher thinks about the future of his son Mick:
"I would prefer him not to follow his father's footsteps because he would go through too much pressure due to his name. It's best that he dedicates himself to tennis and golf".
The spirit of competition is elsewhere. Fernando Alonso already foretastes the title. Leave the superstition to the devil, his technique is to depress his rivals:
"I'm sure to become World Champion. I'll drive the last five races brilliantly. In the worst case scenario, I will defend my 24 points of lead".
A praise to the Monza circuit follows:
"The history of motorsport has been written here. It's a track that deserves respect".
Kimi Räikkönen believes in a comeback:
"I always win from here to the end, then we see what happens".
On Friday, 2 September 2005, the show languishes and the grandstands remain as empty as the cities in August. Only 12,000 spectators are present at Monza. And Scuderia Ferrari continues to find no solution to their ills: the only thrill comes from a harmless spin by Michael Schumacher at the Parabolica. Harmless for the driver's health, but a bad sign for the race. And the news which foretells the revolution:
"Valentino Rossi will do a test per month. He is very brave and we want to see if he is also fast. To discover it, he has to throw himself body and soul into this task. In four or five months of full immersion, we'll understand his value".
Says the Scuderia Ferrari Technical Director, Ross Brawn, who adds:
"In the slow corners he is as brave as a Formula 1 driver. He has to learn to brake in the fast corners. He has a huge potential, also from a commercial point of view".
Will we see Valentino Rossi next to Kimi Räikkönen in 2007?
"It sounds like a good pairing".
This is the future while, regarding the present, Formula 1 has invented a perverse mechanism: occasionally it allows teams to do tests on the same circuit on which the next Grand Prix will be held in the following week. It happened in Monza and on Friday, as expected, the drivers are sparing themselves, avoiding to use the engine, as they had already understood everything there is to know. Fernando Alonso does six flying laps in the second session only, Kimi Räikkönen does ten of them. It would have been better for the Ferrari cars not to do laps at all: the development drivers excluded from the standings, Michael Schumacher did the tenth best time of a day which ended half an hour in advance against the barriers of protection of the Parabolica; Rubens Barrichello is only fourteenth. The Brazilian says:
"We're slower than ourselves".
Which means that Ferrari did a step backward compared to last week when they were already not competitive.
"Everyone went slower because of the heat (more than 30 °C, ed) and the humidity. We've slowed down more than the others. It will already be complicated to qualify with the eighth best time".
The number of spectators is decreasing: 30.000 fewer people than on Friday in 2004. Pre-sales are lukewarm: prices for free practice and qualifying sessions range from 40 to 100 euro, for the race it goes from a minimum of 70 euro for the circular/lawn ticket to 500 euro for the central grandstand. The Maranello team remains the main attraction of Formula 1. No Ferrari, no party.
The so-called Formula 1 boredom of the past seasons at least guaranteed enthusiasm and sold out tickets. Friday's high in Monza is the World Champion gaffe. Who explains:
"The car was unstable. I had just changed the set-up. Perhaps I exaggerated and the car became unbalanced. I didn't do anything to myself in the impact. The marshals ran to help me. They were really kind, they asked me how I felt and if I was thirsty".
The German driver takes comfort like this:
"The tyres aren't gone. We'll be able to keep using them in the last two sessions of free practice".
Rubens Barrichello looks at the sky clear from clouds.
"We would need a miracle of a bit of rain. To get out of this situation, we'll have to do bold choices".
At the top positions, McLaren is unstoppable. Kimi Räikkönen follows his comeback dream. Will Juan Pablo Montoya - faster than his teammate - help him?
"It's not up to me to tell him that. He's a rival like the others".
And Juan Pablo Montoya says:
"I'm not fighting against Kimi, but against the records".
Renault still plays defense. The championship leader, Fernando Alonso, is satisfied:
"We're in a good position. I've spared the car, so much so to confirm the result of the tests".
To revive interest in the Circus, the Federation turns to an information technology giant, Amd: it has given her the data collected in an Internet poll asking to simulate a spectacular Formula 1 for 2008. But more than the rules, the characters can. Someone like Valentino Rossi makes audience by himself. On Saturday, 3 September 2005, in his own collection of bad luck cases, Kimi Räikkönen was missing the haunting pole position. He succeeds at Monza, on the occasion of the Italian Grand Prix, the former monopoly of Ferrari: the McLaren of the Finnish caresses the chicanes and speeds along on the very fast curves as if the asphalt was a rail. Best lap time and eleventh place on the starting grid because he changed his engine after the free practice. Difficult law, but it always happens to him. Like in France at Magny-Cours, like in Great Britain at Silverstone, the powerful Mercedes power unit breaks down before qualifying.
"It's our fault, the driver's driving technique is not involved".
Norbert Haug, the boss of Stoccarda's race department, assumes full responsibility. If a destiny exists, it is written at some point that the 2005 World Championship will be won by Fernando Alonso. Apart from the 24-point lead and a great car (Renault), the Spaniard inherited the skills of Flavio Briatore, a perfect mix of talent and luck.
The stopwatch says that he has the third best time, instead he will start in the front row alongside Juan Pablo Montoya, that is to say in the ideal position to avoid the traffic jam of the number 1 chicane. His philosophy is simple:
"Avoiding trouble and bringing home as many points as possible. And taking advantage of the gifts granted by McLaren. Perhaps, we'll not win".
Between McLaren and Renault, there is a difference of 0.5 seconds per lap but it is reliability that is deciding the fate of the World Championship. Juan Pablo Montoya, called One Problem, is in a real pole position, while the one of his teammate, Kimi Räikkönen, is only valid for statistics.
"I think that Räikkönen will have an excellent race. And he will be able to finish it in the points, perhaps also to climb on the podium. We have to wait and see what will happen, especially in the final stages of the Grand Prix. But given the distance in which we find ourselves to race, even though I'm dying to help him, at the moment I don't see how I can do it. He is too far away, further back on the grid. I'm convinced that for now it is best to try to win the Constructors' Championship, which is within our reach. The eleventh place of Kimi at the start makes everything more difficult".
What will happen if, at a certain point, you see the McLaren of the Finnish in your mirrors?
"I don't know. You tell me. I'm always ready to sacrifice myself for the team, giving the maximum, you know it. Also to do it for Kimi, renouncing to my standings ambitions. But it's difficult to think that he will be able to get very close. Still, let's wait and see: in a long race, many things can happen".
The Colombian, caring and graciously sympathetic to everyone, has no problems. However, he is interested by the race and few other things. The regulations have not a huge impact on his conscience, neither the ones that could get him involved in the future to improve the show:
"To be honest, I don't know what we're talking about. I heard Mosley who was saying something, but there was my son with me, thus I had other things to do. In any case, if it changes, it will be the same for everyone".
Fernando Alonso plays the first ball match with the peace of mind of someone who has four more available ones. And he does not make many mistakes. His whole team does not make many errors, and everyone to the detriment of Giancarlo Fisichella, eighth because of a brake issue. Kimi Räikkönen swears that once he has gone through the chicane, he will start chasing. The alternation of straights, thrilling parts and very fast corners offers irresistible temptation to overtake. Kimi Räikkönen could climb up to bringing himself in the mirrors of his teammate. And then what will happen?
"You tell me".
The Italian Grand Prix thus remains a decisive rendez-vous, the beginning of the sprint that will end in China. It is a shame, for the 70,000 Tifosi who will be present on Sunday, that the Scuderia Ferrari will not be among the main characters. Yet, the affection remained unchanged even for Rubens Barrichello, who will leave the team at the end of the year. The Tifosi dedicate a long banner to him:
"You are the sun that warms up our hearts".
His replacement on the team will have a hard time earning the same affection.
"With Massa, the speed goes down".
The Maranello cars seem slightly more competitive than expected: nothing to do with the triumphs of 2004 but a step forward compared to the Turkish disaster. The World Champion will start in sixth position, his teammate in seventh. At Monza, they will celebrate one hundred races disputed together. They are the longest-running and most winning pair of Formula 1: in six seasons, they have won five titles with Michael Schumacher and as many in the name of Ferrari.
“Before the end of the year, we'll get another win”.
Difficult for them to succeed in Monza. A storm would be needed to change the values in the field. On Sunday, 4 September 2005, the hopes of victory for Räikkönen during the Italian Grand Prix are even more mortified due to a very bad start. In the meantime, Juan Pablo Montoya keeps the first place, followed by Fernando Alonso, while the rest of the group take advantage of their slipstream before facing the first chicane. In the middle of the group, David Coulthard crashes into the Renault of Giancarlo Fisichella and breaks his front wing, while Mark Webber bumps against the rear part of the Red Bull Racing of the Scottish driver. Christjian Albers is taken by surprise by Narain Karthikeyan, who suddenly changes trajectory while going into the chicane, resulting in both cars making contact and the Jordan of the Indian driver goes spinning. In first stages of the race, Juan Pablo Montoya, taking advantage of the great speed of his McLaren-Mercedes in the straights, manages to create a good lead against Fernando Alonso, who in turn manages to distance Jenson Button. Jarno Trulli fights with the two Scuderia Ferrari drivers for the fourth place. Later, Michael Schumacher manages to overtake the Toyota only after having cut the first chicane. In the meantime, Kimi Räikkönen remains blocked behind the Sauber-Petronas of Jacques Villeneuve, out of the top ten, the Finnish driver manages to free himself from the presence of the Canadian only when the latter goes into the pits over the course of lap 14 to do his refueling. As soon as Kimi Räikkönen manages to free himself from the presence of Jacques Villeneuve, he starts to complete a series of stunning laps, in the middle of them he sets the new record for the top speed reached in a Grand Prix, going through the main straight at 370.1 km/h.
The Finnish is the last driver to do his refueling, and in doing that he manages to overtake Jenson Button, both Ferraris of Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello, Jarno Trulli and the rest of the top ten, reaching the third place. Kimi Räikkönen will also be the main character of a short duel with Fernando Alonso before going back into the pits to do his stop scheduled, rejoining the track in fifth position, behind Jarno Trulli. Kimi Räikkönen loses all his hope of climbing on the podium and of winning the World Championship a few moments after having left the pit lane, because of a failure to the rear left tyre, near the Lesmo corner, which forces him to come back into the pits on three wheels. The McLaren driver rejoins the track in twelfth position, behind Jacques Villeneuve. With Kimi Räikkönen delayed by the usual reliability problems, the focus turns to the second round of stops, although there will be few changes in the ranking order. In the second part of the race, Kimi Räikkönen manages to catch up and to climb up into fourth place. And later, he gets closer to the Renault of Giancarlo Fisichella. However, a spin at the Roggia chicane prevents the Finnish driver from catching up another position, and even loses a place in favor of Jarno Trulli. Juan Pablo Montoya, undisturbed throughout the whole race, wins the Italian Grand Prix. The Colombian driver is ahead of Fernando Alonso and Giancarlo Fisichella, who completes the podium positioning himself in third position, way ahead of Kimi Räikkönen, who takes the position back in extremis to the detriment of Jarno Trulli.
Ralf Schumacher is sixth, followed by Antonio Pizzonia and Jenson Button. The handover takes place in Monza: Michael Schumacher returns the crown after five consecutive titles. The Italian Grand Prix mathematically excludes him from the race to the World Championship. The Tifosi in red who were dreaming of the rescue of Ferrari have seen quite the opposite. The heir is Fernando Alonso, but the coronation is postponed; a 27-point lead is sufficient to rest assured but not to pop the champagne. At Spa, in Belgium, he will already be champion if he scores four more points than Kimi Räikkönen. He will also become champion finishing in second and in third place from here to the end of the World Championship. He will be the youngest champion of Formula 1, 24 years old on Friday, 29 July 2005. Credit to Kimi Räikkönen: he has fought until the very last kilometer with the courage and the speed he is capable of, but the fourth place brings him back to reality. Credit to Juan Pablo Montoya, winner of the Italian Grand Prix. Fernando Alonso drives with a format in the head. He chases the McLaren on duty, hunts it, waits for it to make a mistake. Luck?
"Let's put it this way: under normal conditions Räikkönen would have won, but if the engine had broken during the race instead of during the free practice he would have done zero points. And if there was an extra lap, I would have won the race, because Montoya had a busted tyre".
When would you like to celebrate?
"It's not the end, yet".
What if it happens?
"I like Spa because I've won my first race there in Formula 3000. The São Paulo circuit is very beautiful. And so are the ones of Suzuka and Shanghai".
Never mind. For Fernando called Nano, the little prince of Asturias, he has scored eleven podiums out of fifteen Grand Prix this season. With early-season wins and constant performance, he has created a lead for himself that cut off rivals. His strategy is not to make errors. He only failed in Canada crashing at the exit of a chicane that has betrayed a lot of champions in the past, from Michael Schumacher to Mika Häkkinen. The third-place finish of Giancarlo Fisichella completes the celebration of Renault. The challenge in the Constructors' World Championship ranking is wide open. At Monza, McLaren scored only one more point: we are at 144 against 136. Almost seven months were needed for Giancarlo Fisichella to be back on the podium. From the win in the Australian Grand Prix to the third place in the Italian Grand Prix. A small satisfaction for the Italian driver who, for five times out of thirteen races, because of crashes and failures did not arrive to the finish line and in other occasions he had been slowed down by various problems, particularly by not really perfect pit stops. Started from the eighth position, Fisichella managed to catch up with tenacity and skills. He dedicated his result to the late Michele Albereto, as the Milan-born driver had been the last Italian to climb on the podium in 1988 with Ferrari, second behind his teammate, Gerhard Berger.
"Because of the error that I had committed on Saturday in qualifying which led to a brake problem, my race was difficult. But the balance of the car was excellent, the right strategy for which everything was worth it. Even if, in some parts of the circuit, there was little grip and I had to be careful not to mess up the trajectory. I knew almost with certainty that both BARs of Button and Satō and that the Ferraris that were ahead of me had less fuel, so I was confident on the possibility of catching up. So it was. The only doubt concerned Trulli, but he stopped for his pit stop one lap before me and I was able to overtake him".
The plans of the Renault driver for the last four races of the season are simple and precise:
“I feel refreshed and I think I can end the championship on a high. I have two goals. Helping the team and Alonso in the fight for the Drivers' and Constructors' titles and the one of always finishing on the podium”.
Twenty single-seaters out of twenty crossed the finish line at the Italian Grand Prix. It had happned only once, in the Dutch Grand Prix of 1961, at Zandvoort, with fifteen drivers on track (1-2 for Ferrari with von Trips and Phil Hill). Both Ferraris reached the finish line, but very far away from the first positions. Rubens Barrichello is twelfth, Michael Schumacher is tenth.
“I apologize to the Ferrari Tifosi, it was not a good weekend, both for them and for us. I want to thank them because they follow us with unchanged affection and despite everything they are always close to the team”.
The Italian Grand Prix let a bitterness difficult to hide among the men of the Maranello team. It was known since the eve that Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello would not even be able to aim for the podium, but finishing out of the points is a difficult verdict to accept. No one is accusing and no one seeks excuses, but it is clear that once again this year, the tyres have had a decisive role in negative, just like in the past they were a winning weapon. The puncture in which Rubens Barrichello stumbled is a marginal episode, the truth is that after a few laps, when the F2005 was giving the impression of being able to at least attack the BAR-Honda of Takuma Satō and Jenson Button, the performance of the tyres has been progressively decreasing, leaving both drivers at the mercy of their rivals that have been able to make rather humiliating overtakes. The Scuderia Ferrari engineers were aware of the situation. So Michael Schumacher does not despair for the goodbye, even arithmetic, to the possibility of defending the title:
"I'm not surprised, the challenge was already finished before Monza for me. After the terrible practice of Istanbul, we were hoping to have done some steps forward. Perhaps, we've made some progress, but not enough. A difficult, hilly race. I don't know what happened because I still didn't have the opportunity to examine the collected data. There probably won't be one only explanation, it's obvious however that the result is linked to these round and black things. We've really been too slow".
On the immediate and future prospects before the end of the World Championship, the German driver is more cautious than usual:
"It's true that we're racing on my favorite track, at Spa, next Sunday. But there is very little time and miracles do not happen by themselves. Maybe we'll have a little more hope in the next three races. I'm not demoralized, neither resigned. You don't go far with resignation. Ferrari is working to get out of this difficult time, we thought we would be quicker to catch up, but we are suffering more than expected. For many years, we've been the winners and the others the losers. Now that Ferrari stayed further back, it would be wrong to lose the motivations that have always pushed us, it would be from sore losers. And we don't want to be them".
Even if the subject marginally interests him, Michael Schumacher comments the fight for the World Championship:
"Räikkönen had a lot of bad luck this year. Too many things would need to happen in his favor to recover 27 points. There's no need to be prophets to understand that Alonso has the title in his hands and that he will win it, now it is settled. As for me, thinking about what we've done, I'm amazed to have been at the top for all these years. I knew it that sooner or later the series would have stopped. This is how the sport works".
Today, the personal questions do not worry the German driver.
"The third place in the standings doesn't matter and I think that Montoya will be able to close the 5-point gap and overtake me. The only actual important thing is recovering the performance with Ferrari. As for me, before the end of the season, I would only like to dispute again a race where I'm fighting for the win".
Rubens Barrichello, more humble, would have wanted to fight for the eighth place, get into the points, but it was impossible:
"I had a flat tyre and the pressure was going down lap after lap. They had alerted me via radio, it was dangerous. If I would have gone off track at 350 km/h, I could also have killed myself. It was not the case. We hope we'll have great tyres for the last three races. Perhaps, it could have gone differently if I wouldn't have been slowed down by the traffic in the first part of the race. First behind Satō, then Ralf Schumacher. With Michael, it wasn't a true fight, the performance of our cars was similar. And then, if you have to think of fighting with your teammate, it's over right from the start. To score this twelfth place I struggled more than I had last year to win. All this doesn't bother me, the six years with Ferrari were great".
And the Scuderia Ferrari General Manager, Jean Todt, adds:
"I could repeat the same analysis as after Istanbul, and nothing suggests that the situation will change next Sunday at Spa. I hope that the work with Bridgestone will however lead to some results in the final three races".
The future? Valentino Rossi? The new regulations for 2006?
"Rossi has never told he wants to become a Formula 1 driver. When he'll say it, we will evaluate if he has the potential to race with Ferrari. For now, he is the greatest Moto GP driver in activity. At this moment, I would prefer to talk about the Grand Prix that we've just seen, or rather endured. The new regulations don't change the situation: the engines will be made of 8 cylinders and 2400 cc, it's not a problem for us. But for the whole race, we'll have to keep using the same tyres, and this is an actual problem".
In the past, Ferrari has solved their problems rapidly.
"This is a more serious case".
Sergio Marchionne, the CEO of the Group Fiat, followed the Italian Grand Prix from the Ferrari pits, next to Jean Todt and Ross Brawn. He had hoped, in vain, for a ransom for the Maranello cars, which were unable to finish in the points even in front of their home crowd. Among the men from Fiat was Andrea Agnelli, son of Umberto and board member of the Lingotto factory, who before the start was the protagonist of a curious accident on the starting grid: he collided with Fernando Alonso who was smoothly proceeding to his single-seater, the Spanish driver risked falling. The story ended with a handshake.
"I had just complimented Flavio Briatore on the great work that he's achieving. Then, I tried to find a strategy to stop their driver".
The word 'luck' is banned from the Renault dictionary. It is better to say risk calculation.
"We also had a more powerful engine, but we weren't sure of his reliability".
Says Pat Symonds, Technical Director, in a far from random reference to McLaren. And Fernando Alonso adds:
"We push to the point of making them commit mistakes, thus we take advantage of their weak points. I'm not going to Belgium to overreach, okay?"
Okay. Fernando Alonso will go to Belgium to take points. Probably a podium, since that only the two delicate McLarens are faster than him.
"If I were not to finish the next two races, I would arrive in Japan with only a seven-point lead and the situation would really become difficult. Kimi has the potential to win all the remaining rounds, I need to get as many points as I can".
Here is the plan of Fernando Alonso:
"We have to work as always, with the maximum professionalism. I want a perfect weekend, with no mechanical problems, with a great performance in qualifying and an excellent race. If we manage to do this, we'll very soon put both hands on the World Championship".
The season of the Prince of Asturias, as his fans call him, is divided in two: a first part without rivals, a second one defending against the comeback of McLaren. The beginning is difficult: in Australia, the Renault single-seater is the fastest, but a storm breaks out in the middle of qualifying. The Spanish driver qualifies himself with the thirteenth best time and climbs up until the third place during the race. His teammate, Giancarlo Fisichella, is the winner. Fernando Alonso wins the three following races, finishes second in Spain, fourth in Monaco and first again on the Nürburgring circuit. In Canada, he makes the only serious mistake of the season. Kimi Räikkönen gets closer. Renault is in difficulty and the Spanish driver defends during the races. But the results keep going: wins in France and in Germany, second in Great Britain. The DNF in Hungary reopens the duel for the World Championship, the podiums in Turkey and in Italy close it again. In Belgium, the unpredictability of the rain exists. It is the only chance that Ferrari has to arrange something good. Maybe, maybe not. According to the opinion of the General Manager, Jean Todt:
"For a long time, the Bridgestone tyres, in extreme wet conditions, not in mixed asphalt conditions, have been very superior. Things change, right now we can't know if it's still the case".
The downfall in Monza still bothers the men of Maranello. Michael Schumacher has apologized to the Tifosi present in Monza, but he did not seem troubled by the end of his reign:
"It was bound to happen that the series with Ferrari would come to an end. I'm rather surprised at how long it lasted. I had never expected to win five world titles in a row. Right now, it is important to recover the performance of the past".