12 June 2005
Canada 2005: Raikkonen amid chaos and controversy.
Kimi Raikkonen got his world championship challenge back on track with a win in an incident-packed Canadian Grand Prix that saw several leading runners forced to retire, and one more excluded after a pit-lane misdemeanour.
The Finn was only seventh on the grid after qualifying at Montreal's Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, but that mattered little as those ahead of him - including both Renaults - self-destructed on a hot and humid day.
Renault appeared odds-on for victory in the opening stages, with both Giancarlo Fisichella and Fernando Alonso vaulting past the front row pairing of Jenson Button and Michael Schumacher to lead by the first corner. Button had reported a gear selection problem on the warm-up lap, and appeared cautious at the getaway, while the BAR's slow formation pace did for Schumacher, as the Ferrari's Bridgestone tyres cooled below the ideal temperature for a slingshot start.
Such was the world champion's laggardly reaction to the lights, Juan Montoya was able to muscle his way through between turns one and two, and Raikkonen not long afterwards. Schumacher eventually settled into sixth, with Jarno Trulli, Takuma Sato and the fast-starting Felipe Massa keeping him honest.
Out front, the two blue-and-yellow R25s began to stretch away, with Fisichella and Alonso taking it in turns to set fastest laps, while Button also enjoyed a couple of seconds' advantage over the chasing McLarens, courtesy of their having to get around Schumacher. The order remained the same through the first ten laps, but the question of qualifying fuel loads was soon to be answered.
Already visiting the pits - and causing thousands of local hearts to sink - was Jacques Villeneuve, the Sauber driver asking for a new front wing, despite his original part not looking too damaged. Mark Webber delayed his attempt to move up the order by running too deep into the hairpin while trying to replicate Ralf Schumacher's early pass on David Coulthard, while Narain Karthikeyan continued his Montreal spin-fest with another rotation, this time at turn one, causing Jordan team-mate Tiago Monteiro to take avoiding action.
The first scheduled pit-stop came on lap twelve, and it was no surprise to see Schumacher Sr the man to set the klaxons blaring. Ferrari's gamble in running the world champion light to try and give him a good starting spot to overcome Bridgestone's qualifying woes dropped the German to eleventh, but with much of the race to unwind, still in with the chance of points.
Polewinner Button wasn't far behind Schumacher, stopping three laps later and rejoining in seventh, handing the battle for the race to Renault and McLaren, as many had expected to be the case from the start of the weekend. Fisichella continued to lead, despite Alonso appearing to have the quicker Renault, but refused to let his team-mate past as he sought to exorcise the bad luck that has plagued him since Melbourne.
The pair continued to run in tandem, Alonso closing in unless delayed by backmarkers - particularly Christian Klien after the Austrian exited the pits in front of the championship leader - until lap 24, when the Spaniard finally pitted for fuel. His edge in pace was not only down to a lighter car, however, as Fisichella pitted a lap later, but Alonso was unable to make the most of stopping first as he resumed in second once the window had unwound.
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