McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen took his fifth win of the season at the inaugural Turkish Grand Prix after losing and then regaining the lead on the first lap. It was very nearly a McLaren one-two but Juan Pablo Montoya, struggling with a flat-spotted ...
McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen took his fifth win of the season at the inaugural Turkish Grand Prix after losing and then regaining the lead on the first lap. It was very nearly a McLaren one-two but Juan Pablo Montoya, struggling with a flat-spotted tyre, went wide at the already infamous turn eight on the second to last lap and Renault's Fernando Alonso shot past into second. A disappointed Montoya came home third.
It was hot but perhaps not as hot as expected on race day, with the track temperature in the high forties and the air around 30 degrees. At the start Renault's Giancarlo Fisichella took the lead from pole-sitter Raikkonen and Alonso had a look as well but decided against it. Behind them Sauber's Felipe Massa bounced off a couple of kerbs and had a bit of contact with Nick Heidfeld's Williams, and had to pit for a new front wing.
Takuma Sato, who was on the back row due to a penalty, had dived into the pits at the end of the formation lap to top up the BAR with fuel ready for a long first stint. The Red Bulls were gainers at the start, Christian Klien up to seventh from tenth and David Coulthard to eighth from 12th. Jordan's Tiago Monterio and Ferrari's Rubens Barrichello both gained a place but the second Williams of Mark Webber dropped to ninth.
At the front Fisichella went a bit wide through turns nine and 10 and Raikkonen was quick to take advantage, retaking the lead at turn 12. Meanwhile, Ralf Schumacher's Toyota dropped to 19th trying to avoid Massa, while Michael Schumacher, another back row starter, got his Ferrari up to 11th by the end of the first lap. Alonso sailed past Fisichella rather easily to take second behind title rival Raikkonen.
BAR's Jenson Button, who started 13th, was making his way quickly through the field, dispatching both Ferraris to get up to tenth. Webber got past Coulthard for eighth but it was to be a difficult race for Williams. Heidfeld was the first in trouble when a right rear puncture forced him into the pits for a tyre change and a couple of laps later Webber suffered the same thing, also having to pit.
Button was now up to ninth and homed in on Coulthard along the pit straight, then dived up the inside of the first corner to take eighth. At the front, Raikkonen was about a second and a half ahead of Alonso but not really getting away. Klien was next to fall to Button's charge, the Red Bull losing seventh at turn 13. Sato was also making headway through the pack and was up to 11th after passing Monteiro.
Alonso was the first to pit, quite early on lap 13, followed by Heidfeld and Fisichella. It was another unlucky stop for Fisichella as the fuel hose got stuck, which cost him a lot of time. Webber and Michael were next to come to grief; Webber went down the inside of the Ferrari at the turn but there was contact and both had to make a pit stop, Webber for a nose change and a rear left tyre change for Michael.
Unsurpisingly, they had different opinions on the incident. "I saw him closing on me and he moved to the right," said Michael. "As I began to brake, I could no longer see him and, when I was in mid-corner, I felt a bang at the back as he hit me with his nose. He was one lap down, so I don't understand why he tried this move."
Webber was unrepentant. "I was a lap behind Michael Schumacher but I was much quicker than him. I thought it was strange that he was moving around the braking area as all the drivers agree to try not to do this. Michael seemed quite keen to do it though so I didn't show much respect in the end when I went round the corner. We then made contact."
Button was harassing Alonso in third but Fernando wasn't having it and held the BAR off for quite some time. However, the Renault was heavy after the first stop, while Button was yet to pit and when Alonso lost time behind a backmarker Button made his move. Sensibly, Alonso didn't fight him too hard and the BAR moved up to third. Meanwhile, Michael's car was crawling round, obviously suffering after the Webber incident.
Montoya took his first stop on lap 21 and a stuck fuel hose also caused him some problems, although it didn't lose him as much time as Fisichella. Button and Raikkonen came in for their first stops and Webber suffered another right rear puncture and this time Williams retired him. A few laps later Heidfeld spun off, another right rear puncture for him too. He also retired.
"Two on mine, two on Mark's, it's obviously something not working properly between our car and the tyres, as I don't think anyone else had any problems," said Heidfeld. Williams technical director Sam Michael couldn't shed any light on the problem but said they and Michelin would be investigating.
After the pit stop shake out it was Raikkonen leading from Montoya, who had managed to clear Alonso in the stops, followed by Fernando, then Fisichella and Toyota's Jarno Trulli, who was having a rather quiet time. Button was sixth and after Sato took his first stop the Red Bulls were both in the points, Coulthard seventh and Klien eighth.
Massa was the next retiree, in the pits with smoke billowing from the Sauber, some kind of engine problem. "We changed our strategy (after the incident at the start) to a one stop refuelling and even with a lot of fuel aboard I could do very competitive lap times," said the Brazilian. "It might even have been possible to do something good despite the crash but then I started to lose power, and my race was over."
Michael's Ferrari had managed to get back to the pits for some repairs and eventually re-emerged several laps later. Michael did just enough to unlap himself up to the three retired cars, to get a better qualifying run at Monza, then quit for the afternoon. "We have not been quick enough all weekend," he said. "Even before the start, I did not expect to get any points and that is how it turned out."
Alonso pitted for the second time on lap 34, another fairly lengthy stop so he evidently wasn't coming in again. He rejoined fourth behind teammate Fisichella and Giancarlo then took his second stop, which returned Alonso to third. The McLarens were flying at the front, Raikkonen and Montoya trading fastest laps, while Button was homing in on Trulli. Montoya nipped in and out for his second stop with no problems.
Monteiro nearly hit the back of Robert Doornbos' Minardi and had to jump on the brakes which made him run wide but they both escaped unscathed. Fisichella also went a bit wide, which allowed Coulthard to close in but the Red Bull wasn't up to the pace of the Renault. Raikkonen and Klein took their second stops and Button managed to clear Trulli for fifth in his last visit to the pits.
Further down the field, Ralf was closing on the Sauber of Jacques Villeneuve but was not really near enough to do anything about him. Button was edging up on Fisichella but was likewise not about to give him any trouble. Raikkonen had a little moment in the dust, which allowed Sato to unlap himself but it appeared to be a fairly sedate last few laps.
However, it all went a bit pear-shaped for Montoya. Comfortably in second, he was coming up to lap Monteiro. The Jordan got slightly ragged and braked hard but clipped the back of the McLaren when Montoya got past. The McLaren spun and Juan Pablo managed to wrestle it back on track but the incident allowed Alonso to close right in.
With only two laps to go it was by no means certain that Alonso could get past Montoya, or if he was even going to try. But next time around at turn eight the McLaren briefly escaped Montoya at the first apex and went very wide; all Alonso had to do was keep going, which he duly did. A very nice present for Fernando and it bought Raikkonen's advantage down to two points rather than four.
Raikkonen duly took the chequered flag as the first winner in Istanbul and his fifth victory of 2005. He and Alonso have dominated this season, Fernando having six wins, but with Alonso's second place today the status quo between them is barely disturbed. Alonso leads by 24 points with five races remaining. However, it's not over yet and the McLaren is still the faster car.
"I think we were a bit unlucky as a team," said Raikkonen. "It would have been nice to have a one-two but what can you do? Sometimes it goes on like this. It also would have helped me and the team, but anyhow, two points are two points and they can make a big difference at the end of the season. We did the best we could do and we just need to keep working hard and win more races and see where we end up."
Alonso's two extra points were a gift, as he had settled for third until Montoya's problems, but he drove well and once again was there to take advantage when McLaren faltered. The hoped for battle between Renault and McLaren never really happened, there was just too much space between them. Fisichella did well to come home fourth after his fuel rig gremlin and Renault stays nine points ahead of McLaren.
"I nearly overtook Montoya (when he spun) but it was not possible and then it came to turn eight and I think he had damage in his car, he didn't have the perfect car in turn eight so went wide and I overtook him," Alonso summed up. "So it was a nice surprise at the end but it is a little bit disappointing because we were not fighting with the McLarens, we were a bit slower than them, but this result is much better."
If not for Montoya's problems the gap between McLaren and Renault would only be five points but such is racing. Montoya was obviously disappointed to lose second but he not only had the tyre problem but his diffuser was damaged in the incident with Monteiro. He has moved up to fourth in drivers' standings, 15 points behind Michael.
Montoya was not too happy. "At the end we were just cruising to the end, passed Monteiro and he did just a bit like what Verstappen did to me a few years back. I did the first few corners fine then went into turn eight and had no rear grip and I could not keep on line," he said. "It was disappointing because it would have been an easy one-two for the team and we were looking quite strong."
Button had a very aggressive and determined drive to finish fifth after starting 13th. The BAR evidently has the speed and if not for his low grid spot he could well have been on the podium. Sato crossed the line ninth which was reasonable after starting from the pits but he did himself no favours with his performance in qualifying. BAR is now three points behind Red Bull.
Trulli had a rather anonymous race to come home sixth and Ralf was equally quiet in 12th. Red Bull had a pretty good day with Coulthard seventh and Klien eighth. Both drivers did a solid job and looked to have a trouble-free race. Barrichello struggled to the line in 10th; a dismal day for Ferrari. Villeneuve lost a couple of places at the start and 11th was the best he could manage.
Doornbos got his Minardi to the finish ahead of the Jordans in 13th and Narain Karthikeyan led Monteiro in 14th and 15th. Christijan Albers had a puzzling time -- including four pit stops -- and eventually gave it up as a bad job 10 laps from the end when the gremlins got the better of the Minardi. Fuel rig and gear selection problems were just two of his woes.
Turkey was not exactly a thriller but it was an interesting race with the incidents and unexpected moments. With only five races left and the distance between Alonso and Raikkonen barely any different, something drastic is going to have to happen if the situation is to change. Final top eight classification: Raikkonen, Alonso, Montoya, Fisichella, Button, Trulli, Coulthard, Klien.