It was Giancarlo Fisichella's weekend in Melbourne, as the Renault driver's triumph in qualifying carried through to victory in the first Formula One race of 2005. Fisichella led in fine style from pole to flag, while teammate Fernando Alonso put...
It was Giancarlo Fisichella's weekend in Melbourne, as the Renault driver's triumph in qualifying carried through to victory in the first Formula One race of 2005. Fisichella led in fine style from pole to flag, while teammate Fernando Alonso put in a stellar drive from 13th on the grid to finish third. Ferrari's Rubens Barrichello had an equally strong drive from 11th to second.McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen stalled on the grid after the formation lap and had to start from the pit lane. Pole sitter Fisichella got away with a great start when the lights finally went green, and gainers at the start were Red Bull's David Coulthard, up to third, and Alonso, up three places.
Those who lost out were Sauber's Jacques Villeneuve, from fourth down to ninth, and Jenson Button's BAR dropped three places. After the initial rush in the first lap or two, the order was: Fisichella, Toyota's Jarno Trulli holding station in second, Coulthard, Williams' Mark Webber losing out one place to fourth and his teammate Nick Heidfeld gained two places to fifth.
Further down the field, Michael Schumacher's Ferrari was coming under some pressure from Raikkonen, in 15th and 16th respectively. Felipe Massa had a good first few laps in the Sauber to climb from 18th to 13th, while the Jordans and Minardis reverted to their usual stations at the back.
Tiago Monterio managed to get past Jordan teammate Narain Karthikeyan and Fisichella started lapping the backmarkers 14 laps in. By that time Michael and Raikkonen were already 38 seconds down on the lead Renault. Coulthard clipped the back of Patrick Friesacher's Minardi and some bodywork flew off one of the cars, Friesacher retiring to the pits just afterwards.
Fisichella pitted for the first time on lap 22, leaving Barrichello in the lead but after the first round of stops had shaken out, the order was Fisichella, Coulthard, Webber, Barrichello, McLaren's Juan Pablo Montoya, Trulli, Alonso and Red Bull's Christian Klien.
Alonso was harassing former teammate Trulli and got the Toyota at turn 13 for sixth.
The BARs were low key, Jenson Button and Takuma Sato 13th and 14th respectively, while Raikkonen was dragging some bodywork on the track behind his right front wheel. Monteiro caused a yellow flag period by spinning, but managed to carry on, and Trulli kicked off the second round of pit stops.
Michael and Heidfeld clashed at turn three and both cars spun off. What exactly happened was unclear but despite Michael pulling his trick of getting the marshals to give him a push back on track, he and Heidfeld had to retire.
Fisichella owned the track from qualifying to the end of the race and deservedly so, for his second career victory. "I was quite conservative. I never pushed to the limit, only at the end when Rubens was catching me and I drove a little bit faster and I drove a quick lap time. The car was great, very good balance, the tyres stayed consistent from the beginning to the end."
Barrichello had a fine time to finish second. "I enjoyed every second and it shows that Ferrari have no crisis. We are here and we are going to fight. We know the teams have made a step up but I want to say congratulations to the team that put a good car together."
Alonso's drive from 13th to third made it a justly rewarded podium all round. "I didn't think I could finish on the podium today, but it was a great feeling to be up there! I was lucky during the race to have some laps without traffic at the end of each stint, which meant I could push really hard to gain positions."
Red Bull held its own and produced a double points finish, Coulthard fourth and Klien a respectable seventh. Coulthard may have been a little disappointed to end up off the podium but considering where Jaguar was last year, it seems doubtful that the team will be complaining.
Williams' results were perhaps disappointing but Webber's fifth at least salvaged some points. After the way McLaren started 2004, Montoya finishing sixth and Raikkonen eighth this time around was a vast improvement, although no doubt below the drivers' expectations.
Button was classified 11th and Sato 14th but both actually retired on the last lap with unspecified problems. BAR chief Nick Fry later admitted it was a ploy so that they could start the next race with fresh engines. Jordan's aim for its first race under new management was to get both cars to the finish, which it duly did, and Friesacher was last to cross the line in 17th.
Nobody suffered from engine or tyre failures, so they were two of the new regulations that caused no problems. It could hardly be described as a thrilling season opener but it at least promised more interesting things to come. Final top eight classification: Fisichella, Barrichello, Alonso, Coulthard, Webber, Montoya, Klien, Raikkonen.