2005 (part two)
Back to Europe, Trulli went back to his early season form, winning at Magny Cours. Montoya was now 31 points down, but he finally started to win races at Silverstone and Hockenheim, both times in front of Fisichella. While Schumacher and Barrichello continued gathering points, Trulli had a disastrous race at Germany, where he didn't score. The Williams team fell behind during the summer, but with such a close season, they remained within streaking distance: Trulli (59), Barrichello (57), Schumacher (51), Fisichella (46), Montoya (44), Webber (38), Heidfeld (37), Coulthard (36).
Toyota scored a 1-2 at Hungary, their second of the season, with Fisichella only 6th, Barrichello 7th and Montoya retiring. The Colombian managed to score another couple of wins at Istanbul and Monza, where Trulli was 3rd and 2nd and therefore didn't lose too much ground. In fact, with 4 races to go, he remained in the lead (where he had been since the second round) with 81 points, and teammate Schumacher was second, but down to 68. Montoya (64), Barrichello (63) and Fisichella (62) remained on the fight, but no-one gave a chance to the Brazilian, as the Ferrari was clearly slower (Barrichello had four 7th place finishes in a row).
Spa was chaotic. The rain took out Trulli and Fisichella, while Montoya was leading with 4 laps to go but collided against Pizzonia (deputising for Heidfeld in the Williams) and didn't score a single point either. Webber scored his maiden win, Barrichello finished 2nd and Schumacher 3rd.
The Brazilian crowd were excited about Barrichello's chances, as the circus arrived at Sao Paulo. Driving only the 4th best car, Rubens was just 10 points adrift of Trulli. And the torcida left Interlagos reasonably satisfied: Barrichello managed to finish 3rd, taking points away from both Toyotas, as Montoya won and Fisichella was 2nd. It was a poor race for Trulli, who only scored one point. Ralf Schumacher was 4th, and two races from the end, the championship couldn't be much closer:
Rain-affected qualifyind at Suzuka saw Schumacher take pole. Fisichella joined him in the front row. Barrichello could only manage 8th, but the rain moved Trulli and Montoya to the last row! Trying to pass as many people as possible at the beginning of the race, Montoya crashed out! Trulli followed a bit later, the Italian not looking any more the solid driver he was before Spa. Fisichella won for only the second time of the year, with a tremendous drive, with Schumacher down to 4th and Barrichello 7th. And so, before the final showdown at Shanghai...
Five drivers still stood a chance!
Just in case it wasn't close enough, Saturday qualifying had Fisichella taking pole, in front of Montoya, while Barrichello started 4th, Schumacher 5th and Trulli 8th! If they finished in that order, Fisichella would win.
The Italian had a good start and led, Montoya right on his tail. The other three candidates just hadn't the pace to follow them; after 10 laps, they laid 4th (Barrichello), 5th (Schumacher) and 7th (Trulli). Fisi knew a second place would make it as long as Schumacher was 5th, but couldn't relax.
Montoya was the first man to drop the ball, and it wasn't his fault: he collided with a loose manhole cover, and had to change his front wing. The SC was deployed; he rejoined in 10th, right in front of Trulli, who had already pitted, but had to retire shortly after because of the damage. Fisichella, Barrichello and Schumacher took the chance to pit as well, and were running 1st, 2nd and 3rd; with that result, Fisichella would win on countback.
An accident of Karthikeyan brought out again the SC at half distance. Fisichella, Barrichello and Trulli went into the pits again; Schumacher didn't! That was a brave move, but probably his only chance to jump Barrichello. For how much longer would he be able to stay out?
The SC left the track again, and Ralf started to open a big gap. It was looking very good for him: Massa and Klien were on the same strategy as him, pitted earlier and rejoined in front of Barrichello. When he finally pitted, in lap 47, he came back in 2nd position: the championship was his! But it was even better: Fisichella got penalised for speeding in the pits and had to fulfill a drive-through penalty. He came back behind Schumacher, who won the race...
...and the championship!!!
Ralf Schumacher 94 (2 wins, 2 2nds, 4 3rds)
Giancarlo Fisichella 88 (2 wins, 6 2nds, 1 3rd)
Jarno Trulli 82 (4 wins, 3 2nds, 1 3rd)
Rubens Barrichello 80 (2 wins, 3 2nds, 2 3rds)
Juan Pablo Montoya 74 (5 wins, 2 3rds)
Mark Webber 65 (1 win, 2 2nds, 1 3rd)
David Coulthard 50 (3 3rds)
Nick Heidfeld 43 (2 wins, 1 2nd, 2 3rds)
Felipe Massa 43 (1 2nd)
Christian Klien 35 (1 3rd)
Tiago Monteiro 22 (1 2nd)
Takuma Sato 12 (1 5th)
Alexander Wurz 10 (1 win)
Narain Karthikeyan 10 (1 3rd)
Christijan Albers 7 (1 4th)
Pedro de la Rosa 6 (1 3rd)
Vitantonio Liuzzi 6 (1 5th)
Patrick Friesacher 4 (1 5th)
Antonio Pizzonia 4 (1 5th)
I really didn't see this one coming. I was expecting a Montoya vs. Fisichella fight, but the Toyotas scored in most of the races, while Montoya only finished 10 times and Fisichella 13.
The Toyotas heavily benefitted from the fact that Michael Schumacher, Villeneuve and Button had a lot of medium-to-low finishing positions.
Eight different drivers won races and fourteen went to the podium.
Go home, Bernie Ecclestone!
"Adrian, stay off the kerbs during the run, stay off the kerbs."
"So, no KERS?"
"No kerbs, KERBS, as in the side of the circuit."
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