Thursday 22 June 2005 Luca Montezemolo not fail to attend, inside of the futuristic structure of logistic, next to the track of Fiorano, to the delivery of the annual awards to the technical partners that have helped to the victories of the factory, both in the industry and in the sporting one. With the Formula that it’s inside the heart of the Ferrari president and always and anyway at the centre of his interest.
"Saturday I was very happy about the news that arrived by the America, where after the qualify there were great prospects ahead of the race. Sunday then there was an important fact. I saw the Ferrari win once again after a fought race between Schumacher and Barrichello. A valuable sporting event. I emphasize this, because when our two drivers do not fight there are people saying that we are kidding the fans, if anybody thinks that is not normal. There was a true race that, looking at the data that we collected, the Ferrari would be won even with all the other drivers on track. The bad impression of the US Grand Prix it’s not a fault of our team. Even if I heard few newcomers of the Formula 1 make incredible comments. It’s clear that what happened had very negative aspects, we are very sorry for the viewers, which by the way were not warned of what was going to happen".
The result of Indianapolis can reopen the battle for the World Championship?
"I hope yes. But in the meantime we started to go in Magny-Cours to win, with or without the teams of the Michelin. If these one do not race I would recommend to Michael and Rubens to keep calm… We are doing a great work with Bridgestone and to keep improve. In this last few years the rules have changed to try to damage us. We accepted this, we respect the sport. We are in Formula 1 since always and every time we agreed to conform with the rules. But there are absurdities as the one of the tires that they needed for the qualify and for the race. I don’t like this. As I said, this became a championship of the tires. In any case the rules are everyone. When we had a bad time we didn’t ask not to race. It is like asking, before a football match, to tighten or widen the door because someone has problems".
But someone tried to change the racing game.
"The FIA had a responsible behaviour in not yielding to pressure at a very difficult time. I repeat: the Ferrari has three basic values. The passion for a loyal sport, the respect of the rules and of our fans. Last Sunday we were in line with our history and I was happy to see that a car designed by an Italian, the engineer Aldo Costa, is back to the victory after a great work followed by a a record line that is not enough for me. In the meantime Schumacher increased his record of victory. Before talking about Schumacher we need to count until three: one, two, three. Because this type of record is something that when only few drivers will be able to win 50% of what he won we can start to talk".
And Tuesday 23 June 2005 the World Champion will be on track in Barcelona for few tests. The best way to prepare the next French Grand Prix. In the meantime the BMW to grow up they bought the Sauber. Also to end the rumors and gossip that had long circulated in the environment, in München the BMW announced to have bought the majority of shares of the Swiss team Sauber. This move has two meanings. The first one is about the intention of the prestigious German company to stay in Formula 1 for a long time. The second one is I am pleased to note that direct involvement will bring better results than those achieved so far in the partnership with Williams. After they won the World Title in the 1983 with the turbo engine on the Brabham of Nelson Piquet, the German brand retired in 1987 and it has returned in the 2000 with the English team, giving his V10 aspirated and gaining the second place on the 2002 World Championship. Peter Sauber, that started his business activity in the field of electrical equipment, great fan of motoring, had thrown himself into the world of racing in 1970, becoming a little at a time the point of reference for those who wanted to emerge.
In the last few years the team gained a contract for the supply of the engines by the Ferrari that were managed by the Petronas, Malaysian sponsor. The choice of the Sauber, as raise point is not random for the BMW. A very serious team consisting of 300 people, a good headquarter near Zurigo, a history of success with the Junior team of the Mercedes (two Championship Sport-Prototypes gained in 1989 and in 1990, when one of the most promising driver of the category that it was called Michael Schumacher), a new wind tunnel ended this year. And a strategically valid location , not too far from the factory of Monaco where th engines are produced. Mario Theissen, director of BMW Motorsport, indicates the decision to take control of a team with the fact that the car, the driver and the tires have too important an influence to get to the victory It is not just the engines that are provided and that a good technology package can only be exploited by a united and fully integrated team. This doesn’t mean that there wasn’t a perfect harmony with the Williams. In any case the BMW is still discussing with the English team to continue the sale of his engines also in the 2006. But it’s not a mistery that Frank Williams is looking around to find another valid partner. By the way the same Theissen says that his society has not yet established if in the 2006 will race with a V8 of 2400 cc or if it will keep the V10 of 3 litre with reduced number of laps, as allowed by the regulation provided by the FIA for next year. Meanwhile, the debate continues on the United States Grand Prix, deserted by the seven teams rubberized by Michelin. The World Council of the FIA that will judge what happened in Indianapolis, without any doubts they will take a decision that will be equal and balanced. That’s the estimate of Max Mosley, the FIA president:
"What to say or the American fans? From my personal point of view, and I repeat that it is only that, is that Michelin should offer to indemnify them on a fair basis and should ask to the International Motor Speedway to coordinate the operation. Then Tony George, owner of the circuit, and Bernie Ecclestone should announce, together, that in the 2006 the American Grand Prix will take place regularly in Indianapolis, and should guarantee all holders of this year’s ticket the free replacement with an identical one for the next year".
Wednesday 29 June 2005, in the dock this morning they go up the managers of the Michelin and the seven teams of Formula 1 that they use the French tires: Renault, McLaren, Toyota, Williams, Red Bull Racing, Sauber and BAR. The court is the sports one of the FIA that in it’s turn needs to answer to the judges of Indianapolis, where the lawsuits of refund. The appointment is in Place de la Concorde, historic heart of Paris. The charge for the Michelin is the one of show up at an event with inappropriate tires and for teams to not have races the American Grand Prix without a valid reason and without notifying to the stewards. The penalties will depend on the severity of the judges. In theory the BAR is the one who risks more, under the parole for the disqualification of Imola, but it’s probable that the verdict held on different plans the two cases.
"We tried everything to race safely, but were rejected".
According to Max Mosley, the FIA president, the fines will be adjusted to the severity of the incident. That is severe. But not the disqualification, otherwise in Magny-Cours there would be unusual Grand Prix, with only the six cars, the one with the Bridgestone tires, on track. Also the penalisation on the ranking only for the constructors - since the drivers want to race - could worsen political relations in Formula 1. The Ferrari is along the side of the FIS on the street of the reform, everyone else is against them: a harsh sentence would be accepted as a hostile act, even if the charge justifies it. Defender of the team Michelin is Paul Stoddart, owner of the Minardi, that uses the Bridgestone. As usually happened in the past, he is the one that carry forward the demands of the anti-Ferrari block, which, however, threatens to crack, given that Toyota was caught trying the wrong way on the circuit of Spa, in violation of the pact between builders.
Paul Stoddart says:
"A fine too hard that would trigger a riot".
But Max Mosley dismisses him with disdain:
"Paul is a human case. It seems that he forget that I helped him when the other teams wanted to take his money. Maybe he stopped to take medication".
The Black Friday of the Formula 1 is Friday 17 June 2005. Everything started with Ralf Schumacher that hits the wall of the banking of Indianapolis, a turn to over the 300 km/h. It’s the explosion of a tires to betray the Toyota. The driver he gets off with a whiplash that forces him to give up the race. Michelin studies the causes of the explosion and comes to a bleak conclusion:
"Our tires are dangerous, to the teams we say to not to race".
The Saturday is about the negotiations. The Michelin offers a chicane. The FIA says no. On Sunday the cars lined up, they start and they go back to the box. The Ferrari of Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello prevail the race and they gain 18 points. The Michelin ended, on the next days, the the investigation: the tires were not defective. They were simply unsuitable for the stresses of the circuit. So that’s why the FIA is angry.
"On Sunday in Friday we’ll have safe and competitive tires".
Now from Clermont Ferrand they assure. Just twenty-four hours from the trial of FIA, the Michelin makes its voice heard. The French company announces that it will refund the viewers and his president Edouard Michelin reply to the charges of Max Mosley saying that:
"His are just hints without foundation. Michelin decided to partecipate participate in the expenses incurred by spectators by offering to refund them the price of the ticket and this even if no legal device would force him to do so".
In order to promote the Formula 1 in the United States. Michelin offers to buy 20.000 tickets for the American Grand Prix of the 2006 and offer them to the spectators present to the Indy of this year.
"We made the best to preserve the safe while the statements of Mosley have heavily damaged the reputation of the company".
The verdict sham of Paris is the logic result of the sham Grand Prix of Indianapolis. Wednesday 29 June 2005 the Federation and punishes no one. But perhaps he will punish all, but only Wednesday 14 September 2005. It depends on what will happen in the meanwhile, if the spectators of Indianapolis will be refunded, if ever again there will be a mass withdrawal for technical problems. In the uncertainty of the law, the only certainty is that the seven defendants will appeal, even if they feared the sting, because is not good to partecipate to a championship knowing that you can won it but maybe the 14 September They take away five points, and then you lose it.
It’s not enough for Max Mosley’s eloquence, they take away five points and then you lost it. Max Mosley’s eloquence is not enough, big boss of the FIA, to clarify the verdict.
"We don’t have any title to judge and to punish the Michelin, that it’s only a provider of seven teams and the main head of what happened in America".
"So we asked to the Michelin the data of the accidents, of the last two years, due to the burst of the tires. If they make mistakes other times, they could be kicked out from the Formula 1".
And the seven team why you focus on them?
"It wasn’t right to punishing them. They have two months to repair the damage".
It’s the end of a weird day, more of a comedy than of a drama. The call is for the 9:30 a.m. in Place de la Concorde, Paris, the headquarter of the FIA. The World Council meets. On the agenda the hearing of the seven rebel teams, the one that in Indianapolis returned to the box after the formation lap and they leaved the Ferrari to battle with Jordan and Minardi. In Paris they appear in eight, there’s also Paul Stoddart, the owner of Minardi. We don’t understand why he is in Paris too, because he has a contract with the Bridgestone, and in fact at the entrance is politely rejected. The others form an almost unique block. Red Bull Racing runs itself, the rest of the group relies on a single lawyer and would like to debate collectively. Nothing to do: one by one, ten minutes each. It starts Nick Fry (BAR), then Christian Horner (Red Bull Racing), Ron Dennis (McLaren), Flavio Briatore (Renault), Tsumitu Tornita (Toyota), Frank Williams (Williams).
"It’s like we are back in school".
A snarky comment made by Flavio Briatore. At midday t’s all over: the six team principal retire to a building 300 meters away waiting for the events, the council of the FIS (of which Jean Todt, the general director of the Ferrari, it is part. At 3:10 p.m. Max Mosley reads the decision. The imputed are guilty of two charges out of five: first (with very good mitigating factors), have not verified that the tires were able to compete in the American Grand Prix; second, they refused, without valid reasons, to race, even if they could used in every lap the pit lane to avoid to cross the dangerous turn 13. The other points skip, the trick to damage the Formula 1, the lack of communication to the commissioners of race, the self-limitation of speed. The teams prnicipal react. The situation is too tangled to venture into a press conference. Better a joint statement, the legal suggests. In short: first point, we have the trust on the Michelin and we are doing what they suggest us because it’s a world famous tyre manufacturer approved by the FIA itself; second point, no one, before now, never asked us to race crossing the pit lane every lap, a dangerous idea and less spectacular for the audience. Also, nineteen drivers agreed to make a chicane in turn 13 (all, also the testers, except for Michael Schumacher, Rubens Barrichello, Thiago Monteiro and Narain Karthikeyan, ndr). Conclusion: they will appeal. There is a real possibility that, for the first time in the history of law, an appeal will be handed down in advance of the first instance sentence. Then we’ll have another mock verdict of a mock trial of a joke Grand Prix.
Sunday 3 July 2005 in Magny-Cours the Formula 1 is back. The true one. Tuesday 30 June 2004, on the eve of the French Grand Prix, drivers, team manager and tires dealer, arrive in Magny-Cours, they want to fight again. And it appears a document that was signed, after the American Grand Prix, by nineteen drivers to prove that all the drivers wanted to race with the creation of the famous chicane. Michael Schumacher, with a cold, doesn’t fit:
"It was a thing arrived by the Renault. No one it submitted it to me. Indeed, I would be surprised if someone had done it".
Flavio Briatore reply:
"The Renault is not about it. This morning Michael drinker too much beer".
Pierre Dupasquier explains the position of the Michelin, that in America didn’t have the right tires for the race:
"It’s like that our camion full of tires was on fire".
Michael Schumacher uses a metaphor that is a bit clearer:
"We can take the example of another sport, like the athletics. If a sprinter gets injured, the public feel bad, but this is the sport".
Michael Schumacher, so we can close the story in this way?
"Yes. I didn't agree with that document, that approved the introduction of a chicane. It’s not a topic of competence of the drivers Association, that handles the safety instead. The problem in Indy was technical and only concerned few teams. Making mistakes is human, unfortunately an error in Formula 1 can be seen all over the world".
What the Ferrari would do if all the rivals were on track?
"Ferrari would have fought for victory: I have no doubt about that".
And now what will happen here in Magny-Cours?
"The target is a first or a second place. We work hard in the last month and we made great progress. Now we are waiting to see where our opponents are. We will discover it only driving. I’m optimistic, the car is good".
How much increased his chances of winning the Championship after the America?
"Of ten points. I’ve never given up. Now we are stronger and closer to the first. Especially we improved in qualify".
A victory of the Ferrari also in Magny-Cours would resume back into the championship?
"I’m afraid that it couldn’t be sufficient, but I could use it. Alonso has 25 points of advantage again. Are many".
The French Grand Prix is the tenth of the season. The first half of the World Championship ended. The report of the Scuderia Ferrari?
"We can say that regard the performances of the start of the season we are good enough. We have regained competitiveness".
Do you believe that a great race reconcile the great audience with the Formula 1?
"It’s weird, but I don’t think that the Indianapolis Grand Prix was bad. We need to look after the event as a whole, with calm, taking a step back. In Germany and in Italy the television ratings are very high even if we were racing only in six".
Schumacher how do you explain this?
"A journalist should have understand it better than me…".
You will be back to race in America?
"I’m sure yes. We don’t know yet the 2006 calendar (the FIA pinned twenty indicative dates, it is probable that Mexico will be added to the current appointments, ndr), but you will see that we will be there again and we will offer a great show. And then all of this talk on the Formula 1, even if negative, they created interest. I believe that the audience will increase".
Schumacher likes Magny-Cours?
"I won seven times, even if this is not one of my favourite circuits".
We meant the location… There would be nobody.
"Everyone leave in big city and they don’t appreciate the country".
A message to your brother Ralf that turns 30 years?
"Listen to his experience and be always himself. It’s a grow up man, he doesn’t need my advice".
The polemics and the discussions about the American Grand Prix continue. But Friday 1 July 2005 they go back on track. And the battle for the victory of the World Championship is on again after the Nord-American double header that saw to trace the shares of Scuderia Ferrari in the Formula 1 stock exchange.
The team of Maranello prepared something special for the French race, the tenth of the season, so we are arrived at the turning point of the half of the season. The F2005 that made his debut in Bahrein and days in wind tunnel to check the efficiency of the solutions studied first at the desk, then put into practice by men guided by Rory Byrne and from the designer of the car, the engineer Aldo Costa. The result is visible. On the cars of Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello wings and fins are back again, in front, near the front suspension; below, at the level of the flat bottom; behind, placed on the dome that hides the engine. There are also different drains, so-called chimneys, of different size of the one fitted before and more inclined outwards. The intention is to direct the air flows so as to push them out of the area where the rear wing works. All these innovations have been personally tested by Michael Schumacher, that made two days of tests in Barcelona last week, Wednesday was back at the circuit of Fiorano to check that all things put together worked as he and Ferrari expected. Even the suppliers were not stopped. The Bridgestone prepared totally new tires, as compound and structure. Always with an eye to safety, these tires should ensure both greater speed on the dry lap of qualifying, both in performance and consistency in racing. The Shell will instead debut a blubber with particular characteristics to get the best from the gearbox and the transmission of the F2005, another low point of the Ferrari of this year. According to the calculation made in Maranello and by based on the data collected in the tests, the overall gain should be about 0.5 seconds per lap, even in the timed one that on Saturday establishes the starting grid. It’s that Just what was missing until now to make different races, making aggressive strategy. If Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello will be able to start on the first rows and to keep the positions, then for the rivals will be difficult to hold them off. And, in fact, Friday 1 July 2005 the Scuderia Ferrari is back to race on the best of times. At the end of the day, between Juan Manuel Montoya, Fernando Alonso and a Michael Schumacher there are 0.075 seconds of difference. Before there was always a detachment of 0.5 seconds. Rubens Barrichello, eight - six, if you exclude from the ranking the test driver De La Rosa and Panis - confirms the progress. It’s the the reversal of trend sought, hoped and eventually obtained by the team of Maranello just in France, on the home circuit of the Renault. After the second and the third place in Canada and the double in the United States, the performances start to show up in free practice. Michael Schumacher admits, with relief:
"The work is done".
And the lucky now is turning on the side of the World Champion. During the Free Practice, Kimi Raikkonen break the Mercedes engine on his McLaren: so, whatever goes in qualifying, he will lose ten position on the grid. On the general ranking the Finnish driver is second with three points of advantage on Michael Schumacher, that now point straight to the overtake.
"Finally something has changed. On the first laps the car on the turn no longer slides as before. The new aerodynamics and the tires work".
For the conquest of the pole position the favorite is Fernando Alonso again, that in practice is able to express a very fast and constant rhythm, few laps under the 1'16"0 that everyone envy him. Juan Pablo Montoya, instead, guesses the right lap and for the rest of the day he is traveling on the usual standard. Moreover, the Colombian when is fast he is a Troublemaker: It’s likely that Ron Dennis picked him up after repeated gaffes made on track and outside, that has earned him the nickname: One problem. And in the meantime, Michael Schumacher swear:
"I’m optimistic. Here we will fight for the victory".
Of the problems of Kimi Raikkonen discuss this with FairPlay:
"I don’t like to take advantage of others' troubles. Anyway can I get great results even if we will start from the back. Obviously is a bit more difficult".
And who better than he knows, after nine qualify under the expectations? Rubens Barrichello joins to him:
"I reassembled a lot of times, Kimi can do it".
In Brazil Rubinho told that he want to entrust to a memory book his life in Ferrari, also the anger.
"It’s true, I said it. They keep me asking personal questions, so joking I answered that I would relieved everything at the end of my career and with the profits I would have earned more than in Formula 1".
There are some more remnants from Indianapolis. The builders sentenced by the Federation - Red Bull Racing exclude - they organised a press conference with a speaker in the middle of the paddock to claim their innocence. Flavio Briatore says:
"The people didn’t understand. We have to do what the Michelin tells us, that’s what it is written on the contract. In Indianapolis we were instructed not to race for safety reason. If we had disobeyed, we would have risked the life of our drivers and the Michelin was able to sue us. According to the law of the Indiana we would be arrested even if there had not been accident. We had no choice".
During the evening is spreading the news that Niki Lauda, 56 years old, three times World Champion is sick again. The Austrian driver goes through, for the second time, to a kidney trasplant. The donor is his girlfriend, Brigit Wetzinger. In 1997 Lauda received from his brother, Florian, a third kidney, that has stoped working (the other two had been damaged on the scary burning of the Nurburgring in the 1976). The surgery was performed eight days before in Vienna, but the news was revealed only on Friday evening at the hospital. Niki Lauda and his girlfriend are back at home and they are okay. The surgeon Ferdinand Muehlbacher explains:
"Lauda is now living with four kidneys".
There are three reason why Fernando Alonso is in the lead of the World Championship; it’s good, he has a great car and he is lucky. For the first two reasons, Saturday 2 July 2005, the Spanish gain the pole-position in Magny-Cours. The third reason, his direct opponent on the race for the title, Kimi Raikkonen, broke the engine during the weekend and is demoted of ten positions. The Finnish set the third best time, so he will start from the thirteenth place. The other protagonist of the day is Jarno Trulli, the man of the Saturday, that joins his ex team-mate. At the end of the qualify he and Fernando Alonso hug each other. They stayed friends, even if, despite the rivarly and the tension inside of the team in the past season. Just a year ago here in France, the Italian driver understands that his relationship with the Renault was compromised: he made a mistake at the last corner that costs him the podium - for the benefit of Barrichello - an the renewal of the contract. But now, the driver of the Toyota is taking a sweet revenge at the wheel of a Japanese car that in his hands is a great car, but what it is driven by Ralf Schumacher it seems that doesn’t work. Just Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya look like two phenomenon until they raced together.
Now that they are apart and they have team-mates of value - Jarno Trulli and Kimi Raikkonen - they show embarrassing limits. The Ferrari miss the miracle, even if the confirm the signs of recovery: Michael Schumacher rises in third position, to 0.160 seconds of detachment from Fernando Alonso, Rubens Barrichello will start from the fifth place. They pay that they both had smudges on the crucial lap. The new aerodynamic package, the special tires made by Bridgestone, with few more horsepower on the engine, excite the drivers. The cars of Maranello are competitive on the single lap again. But on the race they will improve as usually? Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello ensure that they are not in Magny-Cours for a holiday but to win. The one of Fernando Alonso it’s the third pole of the season and the sixth of his career. We were saying about his lucky: only one time the tires betrayed him. It was in Monte-Carlo. In any other circuit he would be reached by the Minardi, while on the narrow paths of the Principato managed to defend even a fourth place. At the Nurburgring it was Kimi Raikkinen to run out the tires before the time and to ends up off track during the next lap. Above that, Fernando Alonso and the Renault deserve the primacy. The Spanish driver explains:
"There are only two circuits where the blue flag overtake the red one: one is Barcelona, the other one is that. I have a great opportunity to gain important points for the racking and I don’t want to let it go".
His advantage is of 22 points on Kimi Raikkonen and 25 on Michael Schumacher. In France he dream of a victory to gift to his team - French - in front of the French audience, but he would settle for a good placement. Unlike, the rivals have no choice. Michael Schumacher hopes to win a true race.
"In any case the best strategy will pay. On one side I’m happy for the qualify, because from the beginning of the season few times we were in the back of the grid. From the other side I can’t hide a a bit of disappointment because the pole was within our reach, there were all the conditions to conquer it. Something did not work perfectly. But it’s difficult to understand why. But the fact is that we believe that we are very competitive. Obviously I will give my best to win, also because we can keep a good race pace. It will be an hard and interesting race".
Where by interesting the World Champion means to be able to fight for the first place. The intention to focus on the podium, eventually to the first place, its also on the thought of Rubens Barrichello:
"I’m satisfied about my performance. I could also aim to the pole, but from the turn 13 till the finish line my car had a understeer, because the compound of the anterior tires was it is slightly grainy. But this will not be a problem during the race. I said that we could have play a great race if we were able to start on the first three row. Here we are. Why I’m optimistic? The car is very good, has improved in every sector. For me is the most valid Ferrari of this year. It’s balanced, the engine push strong. And the tires, with the warm, could give us some advantages. I mean, we keep moving forward".
A think that the two drivers in red suit do not tell that they want to repeat the double of Indianapolis. But this time with all the rivals on track. And if that will happen, then the World Championship will be truly reopened. The bad luck that seems that it is following Giancarlo Fisichella that are expensive for the Renault, that has only 13 points of advantage on the Scuderia Ferrari. And about the American Grand Prix, the Formula 1 keeps continues to dwell on the controversy. While the public has already forgiven - in Magny-Cours the spectators are 30.000, on Sunday are expected 110.000 - six team Michelin they discuss every day.
On Saturday afternoon they gather on the motor home of the Renault, they darken doors and windows, summon drivers and team managers and they talk for over an hour. What they said ? The answer is agreed:
"To the drivers we explained what happened at Indy".
Sunday 3 July 2005, at the start of the France Grand Prix Fernando Alonso starts well, that in the first few laps and manages to get away from the group leaving Jarno Trulli, under attack by Michael Schumacher, while Rubens Barrichello overtakes Takuma Sato and he rises up to the fourth place. Kimi Räikkönen is able to overtake both Mark Webber and Ralf Schumacher, reaching the eleventh place within the end of the first lap. At the end of the second lap Fernando Alonso increase his advantage taking it to almost three seconds, while Kimi Räikkönen pass in tenth position, overtaking Jacques Villeneuve. Christian Klien retired during the second lap due to a loss of pressure of the fuel. Fernando Alonso continues to break away from the group scoring several fastest laps in sequence. Rubens Barrichello is the first of the leading group to do a pit stop. Then, both Jarno Trulli and Michael Schumacher stopped at the box, on the way back to the track the German driver of the Scuderia Ferrari manages to take the Italian driver. Fernando Alonso return to the box during the lap 20, using an advantage of almost 30 seconds towards of Michael Schumacher, keeping the first position. The series of Pit-stop allows, to the two McLaren drivers, to reach the second and the third position with Juan Pablo Montoya ahead of Kimi Räikkonen. Both the McLaren drivers extend their first stint till the lap 25, when Juan Pablo Montoya returns to the box and he goes out in third place.
Kimi Räikkönen rests on track until the lap 28, managed so to overtake Juan Pablo Montoya. During the lap 34 Patrick Friesacher is forced to the retire due to a problem on a tyre. During the lap 37 his team-mate, Christijan Albers, it’s the author, with his Minardi, of an accident, after he spin in turn 2. Fernando Alonso stops for the second time during the lap 41 returning with a margin of 14 seconds towards Kimi Räikkönen. In the meantime, Juan Pablo Montoya try to recover the second position, but during the lap 46 the Colombian is forced to the retire due to a hydraulic failure. This allows Michael Schumacher to climb to the third position. The German driver keeps the third position also after his last pit-stop, made during the lap 51. Then, Nick Heidfeld complained via radio and he says that his car is impossible to drive, while the car of Giancarlo Fisichella turns off when he was trying to leave the box during the lap 58. The mechanics of the Renault restart quickly the engine, but the Italian driver loses two position. Eight laps to go, Fernando Alonso lap Jenson Button, that is fourth, and then he cross the finish line winning the French Grand Prix. The Spanish Grand Prix gain the fifth victory of the season, the sixth for the team Renault. Kimi Räikkönen arrive second, by 11.8 seconds from Fernando Alonso, while Michael Schumacher gets an important podium for the Scuderia Ferrari. Jenson Button ends at the fourth place and he achieves the first points of the year for the BAR, followed by Jarno Trulli, Giancarlo Fisichella, Ralf Schumacher and Jacques Villeneuve.
That’s what the French public is yelling. Monsieur Fernando crosses the finish line and passes at tourist speed under a blue and yellow grandstand, waving with a well open hand indicating that until now he won five races.
"In every lap I saw them cheer, I want to thanked them".
The Renault win in France after twenty two years from the victory of Alain Prost at Le Castellet. In the stands there are Carlos Ghosn, new president of the French company, one who likes Formula 1 only with one condition: win. He come in Magny-Cours to verify that his will was done and he was satisfied. Kimi Raikkonen is a fury. In qualify he obtained the third time with the full tank, but he had been demoted to the thirteen place because the engine has been replaced after the free practice. During the race he recovered till the second place. When the Bad luck will leave him maybe it will be too late: Fernando Alonso is 24 points away, there are still 90 up for grabs, the McLaren is an amazing car but the Renault doesn't miss a beat. Then Michael Schumacher to complete the podium of the greatest three drivers of the Formula 1. The Ferrari is the third force of the Championship. A half disappointment after the promises and hopes of the eve. The comment of the men of the Maranello team is disarming:
"We are slower. There’s no explanation. We are slower and nothing else".
It’s not about a specific problem on which to focus efforts, is no longer the tires to blame that on Saturday were not working or the aerodynamics that makes the car understeer. Or, better, it’s all a bit. The podium of Michael Schumacher gives some satisfaction and if the brakes had held up more than five laps probably also Barrichello would have entered the points, so that Ferrari would have kept pace with McLaren in the standings of the Constructors' World Championship. All good speeches: stopwatch in hand, the Ferrari take more than a second in a lap. It’s in the élite, but is not yet able to fight for the title. From Magny-Cours comes back winning especially the Michelin, after the sad American Grand Prix. And Fernando Alonso on the podium, during the Marseillaise indicates, with the finger, the text on the cap that advertises the French tire manufacturer. The parties of Flavio Briatore always succeed. He needed to win because the big boss of the Renault, Carlos Ghosn, was here. And to the big bosses you had to prove that the money is well spent. Better than that... Alonso conquered the pole position and he never gave up the first position. The Michelin tires They did very well and Ferrari stayed at a safe distance. Kimi Raikkonen could have ruined the party, but he was forced into a handicap race. Everything was perfect. Nothing out of place. Aside the poor Giancarlo Fisichella. On the podium the notes of the the Marseillaise, in front of the Spanish Fernando Alonso the central grandstand is a sea of blue and yellow flags waved by the Six thousand fans Renault guests. Fernando Alonso says:
"It’s an amazing day".
And in world vision he gives credit to the rivals:
"Race after race, the three in front are always us, Kimi Räikkönen and Michael Schumacher are the rivals that I fear".
When the cameras turn off, is abandoned to the FairPlay:
"Schumi? It’s on the podium tanks to the retire of the rivals".
But on the first laps it has been slowed down by Jarno Trulli.
"Really? So, instead of 80 seconds I would have gave him only 70".
Here one of the reasons why at Maranello they like Kimi Räikkönen for the after Schumacher. Anyway the courtesy does not help to go fast and this young driver of 24 years with shameless ways, he have talent and means to win the title of World Championship.
"After the third pit-stop I was sure that I’d make it. But the last ten laps never went by. I couldn’t wait to celebrate with the team and the public. I don’t know why, but we were fast during all the weekend. Räikkönen? We knew that maybe he had a different strategy than mine, based on only two pit-stop and I understood, during the practice, how much he was fast. I expected that he recovered. Moreover, I expected also Montoya on the podium. Next Sunday in Silverstone will be another story".
What do you mean?
"On our calendar we made a cross on the British Grand Prix. I’m honest: it’s a track that is not for us, in the past in that track we have always gone wrong. We must invent new solutions and we must work hard on Friday to find a good set-up".
The concept is well explained by Flávio Briatore:
"All in defence with the target of taking at home few points. We talk about Magny-Cours? Fantastic, a fantastic race, a fantastic team".
"It’s a real shame. The team tried everything to help him. It’s absurd not to be able to take on the podium two drivers with a car that is so competitive".
"Today we can say that we eliminated one of our rivals for the driver a World Championship: Schumacher is off. It’s a race in a double between Fernando and Räikkönen. In Canada we lost points, in Indianapolis we tied with the McLaren, here we recovered".
Between a lot of champagne, Giancarlo Fisichella is the only that is sad:
"I need to go in Paris, then I’ll swing by in Lourdes".
It happened everything to him: at the first pit-stop he had a problem with the petrol dispenser, then he gave up the flat bottom, which touched the asphalt making it lose aerodynamic load on the front wheels. Icing on the cake: at the third refueling, the engine stopped. A mistake of the driver?
"What mistake. We have a system anti-stall, even if I was wrong, the engine would remain in movement. I don’t understand what happened, I only know that I lost other seconds. The sixth place is good after a race like this. I’m happy that I took important points for the Constructors Championship, as well as for the victory of Fernando. I always drew the bad luck, in this way to him it’s all right. It’s the life".
Carlos Ghosn celebrate Chairman-General Manager of Renault in the best way. On the charger since the 29 April 2005, in Magny-Cours took the message of the headquarters to the team of Flávio Briatore:
"We are not in Formula 1 to do good works, for culture, sporting spirit or habit. We are in Formula 1 to win and to offer show. The Motorsport is an investment in case of success, otherwise it is a cost. The teams are emtitled to more revenue because they are the protagonists, but we need to pursue, in parallel, the road to the reduction of the costs. Now the question is: how to convert the technical show to a commercial show?"
Lebanese origin, already the number one of the Nissan, Goshn has the reputation of not being an admirer of the Formula 1 and of the competitions in general. He retired the Nissan at the 24 hours of Le Mans to the lack of results.
"We will back when we will be able to put on a show again".
And he announce that a super-car derived by a Formula 1. At the end of the Grand Prix he congratulates:
"We have a great car and great drivers. That means that we are investing well and probably we will keep doing it".
Flavio Briatore feel the danger:
"In terms of budget we are the fifth team, while on the ranking we are first. This is a evidence of efficiency. Since the 2001, the year of our return in Formula 1, we have respected the program that we had set ourselves".
Kimi Raikkonen, pragmatic, des not celebrate his feat: from the thirteenth place on the grid to the second at the finish line. And even if he scored the third place in qualify with, at least, 20 kg of extra fuel in the tank without offering consolation to the Finnish:
"The engine failure on my McLaren on Friday has prejudiced our weekend. Because we wanted to win. OK, the placement it’s good for the day, we only lost 2 points and we made a good race. But my direct opponent has extended his advantage on the ranking. And that is what I don’t like. We also guessed the tactic of the two pit-stop. But it didn’t help to get the first place, as I hoped".
The bad mood of Kimi Raikkonen it’s dissolved by the fact that he knows that his car is the fastest.
"This is the only good thing now. I will leave for Silverstone with the knowledge that I can win. The British track is positive for us. During the test we were fast enough; I hope not to have problem with the car anymore: after it created me a lot of problems in France, I hope that helps me in England. We have available a good technical package, see to use it. Unfortunately, the battle for the title is becoming more difficult race after race. It depends on what will happen on the second half of the season. A little bit of lucky would be great. The rest the team and the drivers are gonna put in".
Between the many that dreamed of winning there was also Michael Schumacher. This strange victory of Indianapolis needed to have a follow-up, however it seemed the start of a new season. The waking up of the World Champion in France, instead, was rude. Not so much for the position, but for the performance, definitely below the expectations. The same German driver does not seem able to provide of an technical explanation to explain the disappointed result. Michael, what happened after a brilliant qualify and the promising times obtained during the qualify?
"At the start I was behind the Toyota of Trulli for 18 laps. Then behind Montoya. I lost many seconds and I was stuck in the traffic. But, in any case also with a perfect strategy, adapted promptly by the team to circumstances, the third place was the maximum I could aspire to this time".
So it’s stronger the happiness for the podium, of the position behind Alonso and Raikkonen and for the heavy detachment suffered?
"It was stronger the joy. The race it looked bad and it could go even worse. If Fisichella didn’t have problems maybe I would have stayed also behind him. We didn’t have the possibility to be fastest".
You are alarmed by the proof of strength of Alonso, by taking the difference of the lap times between the best rivals and the Ferrari?
"In the heat I have not yet reviewed the data collected in the race. Obviously we were slower than we expected and how we wanted to go. But, in normal circumstances, I believe that Räikkönen could have won. So, if anything, the alarm is double".
There were particular problems on the race?
"No. Few difficult breaking and, as I said, the time that I lost behind the other drivers that, in that moment, were slower".
And next Sunday is expected o be a difficult race in Silverstone.
"I want to repeat, once again, that in Formula 1 the development of the cars is very fast. We need to remember that in 2003 in Hungary we were lapped and soon after we were back to the victory. We have to believe in ourselves and to work. The things can change".
The Championship has passed the half of the season, ten races played and nine to held again. The battle for the World Title is compromised?
"I’ll never be tired to say that until we will not be convicted mathematically we will continue to fight with all our strength. It’s too soon to bury the ambitions. Few things are missing and there’s always the possibility to recover".
The rivals shown to be in a perfect shape. Particularly Alonso, with pole position and victory.
"I remember that it was amazing. But impressed me more the performance of Kimi Räikkönen. If on Friday had not broken the engine and he had not lost ten positions on the grid, he would have gained the first place. But I don’t want to exclude the battle: all the three drivers on the podium of the French Grand Prix are still in the running".
But did you have fun in Magny-Cours?
"Honestly I had more fun in other occasions".
Rubens Barrichello has the long beard, but he is not tired. His race was anonymous, with only a flash at the start, when he overtook the BAR-Honda of Takuma Sato. On the calculation of the problems that have prevented me to be competitive, the Brazilian says that his bad result it has been affected the 20% by the warm and the 80% by the irregular operation of the brakes. He would have liked to make happy the Ferrari fans, many in the grandstand, a much larger group the one of the Renault that they also invited 6.000 employees to celebrate the return to the victory at the French Grand Prix, after the great one obtained by Alain Prost at the 1983 at Le Castellet. It was not possible.
"When I breaked the rear wheels of my F2005 were locked. The problem already showed up at the fifth lap. I tried to change the distribution but it was useless. And when I was too near to the car of Trulli, the discs were raging. Needless to say it was a terrible race for me. Also, after the first series of pit-stop, I was stuck behind the slower rivals that has complicated the situation. I’m very disappointed".
The optimistic statements of the eve, the hope of a recovery on momentum of the improvements of the qualify, all to forget. They need to restart from zero.
"Even if we were not up to our expectations the third and the fourth place were possible, since at the start I was able to place me behind Michael. It was the occasion to take at home few more points. Unfortunately this doesn’t happened. But I do not give up the hope. This is a different Championship from the one of the years before. In any race it could happened something unexpected. Like what happened until now".
Also Jean Todt do not hide his regret, and with quiet voice says:
"We expected to be the protagonists, with better performances. Instead, despite all efforts, ours and of the Bridgestone, we were too slow. Michael only obtained the seven time on the lap. With high gaps from the best. The cars had no grip, what we had gained in qualifying we lost in the race. And we are not only talking about the tires, it’s also a problem of set-up of the cars. There are two teams that are stronger than us and are making our lives very difficult".
The sport director, of the Ferrari does not accept the alibi of limiting the damage. Basically the team lost few points.
"The problem is that we need to gain, if we want to recover, catch more than the others. But we will restart the hunting".
In this moment of big troubles it may seem weird, but Bernard Charles Ecclestone, called Bernie, is a very quiet man. He lost the battle with the banks that hold the majority of the shares of the company that manages the affairs of Formula 1, but continues to be the benchmark of this sport. And, despite he is near the 75 years (he was born at Ipswich, on the Suffolk the 28 October 1930) is always very combative. Now, under the threat of a probable and future split of seven teams of the ten currently engaged on the World Championship, is preparing a resounding countermove. Mister E is seriously considering bringing on track glorious names of Formula 1 of the past. Teams to support the Scuderia Ferrari and to who wants to follow him to continue to organize a championship that is able to have a large following of fans. Brands that made the history of the motorsport, forced to abandon due to economics problem and just for the advent of large manufacturers who began to invest in the circus of huge capital engines to emerge. Between the teams that Ecclestone wants to reclaim there is the iconic Lotus, the Tyrrel and the Brabham, that was of his property. There are only three, but others you could add, there is plenty of choice: Ligier, Matra, Maserati, B.R.M., Cooper. Not to mention that few teams, as for example the Williams, could abandon the now indigestible company of builders to return to be totally independent. It’s difficult to know what are the plans of Ecclestone on the practical plan. But he does not lack ideas and means. And in addition he has under contract the majority of circuits and organizers around the world. The decisive weapon is that of the presence of the Ferrari. The most lovable, prestigious and followed team all over the world. Also in Magny-Cours, at home of the Renault, with 6.000 guests, the t-shirts, the cap and the flags of red color overwhelming between the yellow-blue ones that were on the grandstand. It’s clear that the battle, now declared, between the five big constructors- BMW, Mercedes, Honda, Toyota and Renault - present in Formula 1, on one side the team are under their control and, on the other, the Federation become huge. The facts of Indy, but not only those, take a direct attack to the heart of the manager of the motorsport. First goal: the dismissal of the president Max Mosley. Second: if they can’t put a loved character instead of the English manager - the election will occur in October - it’s ready a program to organise a different championship since 2008 when the Concorde agreement will expired that prevents all teams from freeing themselves from signed contracts. Using as spokesperson a character of the caliber of Paul Stoddart, owner of the Minardi, the group of dissidents try to undermine the credibility of Mosley that, just in Magny-Cours, receives a certificate of solidarity from Jean Todt on behalf of Ferrari:
"The FIA president deserves respect. I have much regard for him, he worked well in this years especially on the in the field of safety, I appraise positive his work, even if sometimes, as it can happen, I didn’t share his thoughts and his decisions. The thing is that is becoming purely political and there are people who ask for his resignation and who do not reappear as a candidate. Moves that will achieve the opposite effect because Mosley has the intention to move forward".
In this situation Ecclestone will become the the balance of the difficult challenge. Those who want to go against him will be forced to deal with him too. In the meantime, the World Council of the FIA approve as his proposal to amend the Regulation of the Formula 1 from the 2008. The document that it has been spread in Indianapolis and which included the only tyre dealer, less aerodynamic and savings in every sector. The FIA decides to spread the entire document. To increase the role of the driver the gearbox will be mechanic, operated by a draft, while the clutch will be controlled by a pedal as in most production cars. While the Formula 1 circus is moving in England, where on Sunday 10 July 2005 it will take place the British Grand Prix on a track that could be favourable to the McLaren. The Renault announces:
"We’ll think about defending ourselves".
While the Scuderia Ferrari is optimistic:
"During the tests of the last month in Silverstone we were good".
The rain could help the team of Maranello, or favour the adversaries more, starting from Fernando Alonso and the Renault team.