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From Winning to Losing
The 2005 season was a season of contrasts for the Ferrari team. Their transformation from an invincible image in the 2004 season to practically a back marker was sudden and unexpected. The change in regulations that had been intended to put an end to Ferrari’s domination seemed to have worked. Of course, F1 had to be fair to the minnows, too, who couldn’t spend as much money in the sport as the big fish.
So, here’s what happened.
The 2005 regulations required teams to drive the full race on the same tyres. This was something the Michelin powered teams could easily do, while the Bridgestone teams struggled. To add to this, each car had to use the same engine for at least two races. Now, if we read these two regulatory changes, it does sound made for the minnows, but no one expected the Ferraris to suffer the most. In fact, the BAR-Honda team, the other front runner of the 2004 season, was impacted too.
Such was the 2004 season that until the US Grand Prix, Michael had just two podium finishes, and those were in second position. By the time the race came to the U. S., Michael had more retirements than podium finishes. The championship leaders were Fernando Alonso driving the Renault and Kimi Raikkonen in the McLaren.
To Michael’s credit, he was still one of the drivers in the top four, but how good was that?
Well, in comparison, Rubens was struggling to keep his place in the top tens, and that’s how intense the races were. Winning a Grand Prix among this competition seemed way out of range. Could Michael still do it?
Let’s find out.
The 2005 United States GP: Qualifying
There wasn't much hopes of a Ferrari in the front row, no matter how hard Michael tried.
The session though had one aberration. The car on pole wasn’t the usual Renault or McLaren car, but a Toyota. Jarno Trulli beat all leading cars to make it to the pole, and with that set up a difficult time to beat. Well, Kimi did try but to no avail.
Have a look at Kimi’s pole attempt:
And Kimi didn’t make it. It was close but not good enough. That P2 brought about Toyota’s first-ever pole run. Lower down the order, Michael Schumacher qualified on P5. Not a bad position considering the championship leader, Fernando Alonso, was on P6.
Even a diehard Ferrari fan would know that Michael winning was as difficult as flying a Boeing 747 through a tunnel, but everyone was just hopeful. Could Michael pull a rabbit out of his hat?
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The answer was no. But all the Michelin constructors worked out a plan to make Ferrari win. Let’s find out what happened on race day.
The 2005 United States GP: Race Day
The 2005 United States GP would be remembered for all the wrong reasons. Cars on Bridgestone tyres were well set to run on race day but not the Michelin ones. In fact, Ralf Schumacher’s crash in his Toyota, on turn 13, was eerily close to the crash at the same circuit in 2004. Back then he had a broken spine and suffered a concussion. This time he was lucky. Take a look at both crashes, from the 2004 and 2005 seasons.
Note: The first crash was from 2004. The second one from 1:15 minute mark was from the 2005 season. Both happened at the same turn at the U.S. GP.
The crash forced Michelin to admit to all the constructors that it could not provide a safe tyre for the race. Michelin could only guarantee about ten laps of run before the cars should change their tyres. That meant that all Michelin cars would have to pit every ten laps. The other solution would be to slow down turn 13.
But Ferrari was not in agreement with that. Since the 2005 season regulation changes had impacted Ferrari the most, they found no reason to give up a race where they had an advantage. Besides, if changing tyres was to be allowed for the U.S. GP, then why not allow it for the entire year? Had it been allowed for the entire year, then Ferrari would have stayed competitive and strong in the 2005 season. It was Ferrari’s and the FIA’s view that Michelin was responsible for getting the right set of tyres, and not expecting the competition to dole out concessions.
All these arguments and counter-arguments meant that U.S. fans and the world would witness an unprecedented start to the 2005 season. Here is how the U.S. Grand Prix started.
See that? Only six cars in the race, and the fans, who had no idea what was going to happen, were visibly angry. Nonetheless, the race concluded with Michael winning and the Jordans and the Minardis ending in points.
Now, Michael would have expected questions about the race in the post-race press conference. Here is what he had to say:
There is nothing much we can refute of what Michael had to say. It just made sense. So, it also made sense that he could take his eighty-fourth career victory with the right feelings [no guilt].
How Did the Season Conclude?
The 2005 season was one that tested Ferrari the most, more than the 1996 season when Michael moved from Benetton to the ailing Ferraris. That said, the season allowed teams without deep pockets to run on equal terms.
Fernando Alonso went on to win his maiden championship, and Renault became the constructors' champion. In doing so, they dethroned Ferrari as the reigning constructors’ champion while Michael as the drivers’ champion. Kimi put up a feisty display to finish second on the points table. Michael finished third.
Much of Schumacher’s third-place finish was attributed to the U.S. GP win, because, without that, Michael just had four podium finishes. Contrast that with the 2004 season, where Michael had thirteen wins and fifteen podium finishes from eighteen races. So, it was a big slide for Michael and the Ferrari team.
In any case, the conclusion of the season opened new possibilities for the new one. Ferrari might well come back fighting!
Back to the Pits
So Michael Schumacher won yet another race. He didn't win the way that his fans would have expected, but he couldn’t be faulted for that. The 2005 season did not finish without a Schumacher win, and now that the formalities were done, Michael would be keen to look at the 2006 season.
The Next Win..
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