It's just about here: the final Formula One race of 2005. Where did the year go? So much for a long, long season, it's gone like nobody's business! But then doesn't it always? Last weekend we had such a thriller of a race in Japan that it seems...
It's just about here: the final Formula One race of 2005. Where did the year go? So much for a long, long season, it's gone like nobody's business! But then doesn't it always? Last weekend we had such a thriller of a race in Japan that it seems hard to imagine China could match up. However, Renault and McLaren are still locked in battle for the constructors' title so Shanghai will hopefully be equally exciting.
The Herman Tilke designed Shanghai International Circuit saw its inaugural Grand Prix last year. The five and a half kilometre track, with a longest straight that reaches speeds of around 325 kmph, is demanding. Aside from the fast sections there is a tight, twisty part with tricky corners so set up needs a compromise between cornering and straight line speed.
"The track has some interesting characteristics, most notably the complex at turn one with the seemingly never-ending tightening first corner with the tight left-hander immediately following," said Toyota's technical director Mike Gascoyne. "That is a real challenge for the drivers."
It's a challenge they enjoy. "The Chinese Grand Prix has become one of my favourites, so it's great to be heading there this week for the final race of the season," BAR's Jenson Button commented. "The Shanghai circuit is quite challenging and fun to drive. We were on the podium last year and we know it's a track that should suit this year's car."
As usual at the end of the season, it's a race of a few "lasts", including the last time F1 will run with V10 engines. Perhaps it's not wise to say the last time ever, as we all know that things can change, but V8s are the way forward for the foreseeable future, starting next season. The demise of the V10 is sad for the engineers.
"I think it will be an emotional moment when we are on the grid, or hearing it cross the finish line for the final time," Renault's head of engine operations Denis Chevrier said of the V10. "It will be the end of an era. The noise of the V8 is very different, and it means our daily routine of fire-ups, hearing the engine in the garage, will change quite significantly."
Some others on the "last" list are China 2004 winner Rubens Barrichello's last race for Ferrari, Takuma Sato's for BAR, and Felipe Massa's for Sauber. It will also be the last race for Minardi, Jordan and Sauber; in 2006 they will be taken over by Red Bull, Midland and BMW respectively, although there is a campaign going to get Red Bull to keep the Minardi name.
"This will be a special weekend because it marks the last race for the Sauber Petronas Team in its current form and for Peter Sauber as a team principal, and my last race with Sauber," said Massa. "I have many fond memories of both because my whole F1 racing career has been spent here. I hope I can do a good job and leave Peter with a nice parting gift, and I will be trying my very best for him this weekend."
So, on to the constructors' championship. Kimi Raikkonen has the dubious honour of winning the most races this season without winning the drivers' title, currently seven. Of the teams McLaren has won the most with 10 victories, including the last six in a row. With those achievements one would have to say that McLaren is probably the favourite for the race win this weekend.
"I am hoping for a less eventful race this weekend in China!" Raikkonen remarked. "However, I am prepared to battle together with the team as much as we did in Japan, and more if necessary, to get the result we need. It is going to be an exciting race and we will all do what we can to take the title."
Juan Pablo Montoya, who crashed out of Japan, will be out first in qualifying while the Renault pair of Fernando Alonso and Giancarlo Fisichella will be out last, along with Raikkonen. Renault, currently two points in the lead, may not have had the pace of McLaren in the latter half of the season but had both cars on the podium at Suzuka -- really the constructors' title could go either way.
"Shanghai is a special type of circuit, and quite different to Japan," said Alonso. "But we have a new engine there, so I think we can be maybe a bit closer. I quite enjoy the circuit, it has some challenging corners and for sure, the R25 will be better there than our car was last year. I am going there to help win a championship."
2005 has been a good season for racing and the showdown at Shanghai promises to be a fitting finale. Will we see Renault do the double and take both titles or will we see McLaren's Ron Dennis doing a happy little jig on the podium again? Either way the two teams, like Alonso and Raikkonen, have been worthy opponents.