24 July 2005
Germany 2005: Raikkonen retirement benefits Alonso
For the third time this season - after Imola and the Nurburgring - Fernando Alonso was in the right place at the right time to pick up a victory discarded by the McLaren team, further increasing his advantage over the luckless Kimi Raikkonen.
After admitting that he would rather have had his engine failures in practice than the race, after salvaging podium finishes from ten-place grid penalties in both France and Britain, the Finn started the German Grand Prix from pole, only to see another mechanical gremlin sideline his MP4-20 just past half distance.
The race holds something of a hex over Raikkonen, as the Finn has yet to finish at Hockenheim in five attempts since graduating to the top flight, but even the most superstitious of team members must have believed that that hoodoo could be laid to rest as their man sprinted away from the field at the start and came though the first round of pit-stops with a healthy advantage over Alonso and third-placed Michael Schumacher.
The race had got underway in typically frenetic Hockenheim fashion, with almost half the field taking advantage of the extra tarmac run-off area at turn one, before indulging in a little extra-curricular contact at both turn two and the hairpin. The biggest losers from the skirmishing were Takuma Sato - who broke a front wing on the back of Giancarlo Fisichella's Renault - and Jarno Trulli and Mark Webber, who came together and joined their Japanese colleague in heading to the pits. Sato and Trulli rejoined quickly after repairs, but Webber's day appeared done after the Williams team diagnosed suspension damage.
The three melees had served to shuffle the field, with front row starter Jenson Button being shuffled back to fourth by the fast-starting Alonso and Schumacher. Fisichella had made a surprisingly slow getaway in the second Renault, putting himself into Sato's sights, while Nick Heidfeld, David Coulthard and Felipe Massa all took advantage of the Italian's misfortune to move up the order on lap one. The biggest winner, however, was the man who lost big on Saturday, Juan Montoya gaining no fewer than nine places by the time he re-crossed the line.
The Colombian continued his forward progress next time around, passing Rubens Barrichello for tenth, and on lap three, as he added Christian Klien's ninth place to his list of scalps. The brought the McLaren on to the tail of Fisichella, who proved a more than able opponent, despite struggling with rear wing damage following his collision with Sato.
The man Sato replaced at BAR two seasons ago was also in the wars early on, Jacques Villeneuve making heavy contact with Barrichello at the hairpin, getting the Sauber airborne, then collecting debutant Robert Doornbos in the stadium section on lap four. The Dutchman was cited by the stewards in that instance, as was Jordan's Tiago Monteiro when the Canadian was left with nowhere to go under breaking on lap 27.
Raikkonen, however, was well clear of the trouble, lapping at around a second a lap quicker than his immediate pursuers as he began to drag his times down in the low 1min 15secs region.
The pit-stops began on lap 15, when Williams' Nick Heidfeld paused for fuel, but the leaders were all intent on running deeper into the race, underlining just how much fuel they were able to carry whilst setting the qualifying pace. Button was the first of the leading quintet to require a top-up, stopping on lap 20 along with fellow Brit Coulthard, but those ahead of him were all able to press on. Alonso and Schumacher waited another two tours before having to pit - the German living up to his insistence that he had not run light in qualifying - while Raikkonen continued until lap 25. Only Barrichello and Montoya ran further, suggesting that the Colombian would have been the real pre-race favourite had he lived up to his front row potential.
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