After an amazing race in Brazil, the team starts to realize what has been achieved... In Brazil 2005, Fernando Alonso took his first world championship under cloudy skies, and the glittering silver confetti never quite sparkled as it rained down...
After an amazing race in Brazil, the team starts to realize what has been achieved...
In Brazil 2005, Fernando Alonso took his first world championship under cloudy skies, and the glittering silver confetti never quite sparkled as it rained down onto the podium. But yesterday afternoon in Sao Paulo the story was quite different, as the sun beamed down on the young Spaniard who had just become the youngest double world champion in history -- and the silver confetti glittered as it soared on the breeze. The race proved a thrilling end to a compelling championship -- and here's the perspective from within the world champion team, after the chequered flag fell...
Finishing it in style...
As Fernando closed his visor on the grid, ahead of the race of his life, his race engineer Rod Nelson gave his usual words of encouragement for the final time: "Muy Buena Suerte". 71 tense laps later and it was Fernando's turn to talk to the team. "Thank you, merci Ã tous, you have done a fantastic job," crackled the team radio as the R26 cruised back to the pits.
"This is my last race with you guys, this was the final race, and we have won both championships again. Thank you for all these years, it has been a pleasure for me to work with you and to have this success, and I wish you the best for the future."
It came from the heart, and left its mark. And Fernando was hardly to know his day was about to get even better. A 2-0 home win for Real Madrid over arch rivals Barcelona meant the new world champion, a fervent Real supporter, had truly enjoyed a perfect day!
One for the history books
As the 2006 season has demonstrated, Formula 1 is so much more than a cold scientific discipline ruled by boffins with computers. It contains human drama, and moments of real history too. And perhaps it was fitting, on the day that Michael Schumacher retired from the sport he has graced, that Fernando Alonso and the Renault F1 Team became the newest members of a very select group -- those who have achieved the 'double double'.
Winning one world championship is hard enough, two is a real challenge -- but two championships in consecutive years, with the same drivers, has rarely been seen. Most recently, it was achieved by Michael Schumacher and Ferrari in 2000/1/2/3/4; before that, Ayrton Senna and McLaren in 1990/1; and the only other example in the sport's history came in 1959/60 with Jack Brabham and Cooper. The Renault team, and Fernando Alonso, are now worthy of being mentioned in the same breath, an achievement to be treasured by every one of the team's 800 members.
The V8 Symphony
They are a musical bunch at the Renault F1 Team's engine development base in Viry-ChÃ¢tillon, and their gift for song brought a novel touch to the traditional end-of-season engine run in the garage. Any championship winning Renault engine undergoes the ordeal, which sees it fired up in the garage and revved to its maximum, surrounded by a crowd of transfixed onlookers. Sunday was no different, as colleagues from other teams piled in to see the sight.
And so Giancarlo's E-spec RS26 engine was revved close to 20,000 rpm, its raucous tones screaming into the Brazilian night. But there was another surprise in store too, as first the Marseillaise, then the Marcha Real followed by God Save the Queen rang out in tribute to the team's international composition -- and its newly crowned double world champion.
Fernando was not the only long-standing member of the team to be leaving after Sunday's race. The 2006 Brazilian Grand Prix was Michelin's final race in this era of the French manufacturer's F1 participation, and it was with great satisfaction that its staff conquered two more world titles, to add to those won with Renault last year. The emotion was reflected by the company's F1 programme director Nick Shorrock, who stood quietly with a tear in his eye as Fernando crossed the line.
And Ferni was quick to pay homage to their sterling work: "Michelin have done a fantastic job all season. They knew they were leaving, and they could have given up if they wanted to, but they never did. And with Renault, they taught me another lesson too: to always remain fair play." Michelin dedicated its title wins to former CEO Edouard Michelin, who died during the 2006 Monaco Grand Prix weekend. As Pat Symonds rightly said, "they can leave Formula 1 with their heads held high."
As Flavio spoke immediately after the race, almost his first words were for Ferrari -- worthy rivals during one of the most closely-fought championships in recent memory. The numbers for this 2006 season bear that out. The Renault F1 Team scored 206 points compared to 191 in 2005 -- which is a scoring percentage of 64% compared to 56% one year ago.
What's more, the Renault F1 Team cars finished 32 times in 36 starts -- a finishing record of 89%. Once again, the numbers show how Renault raised its game for 2006, the figure one year ago was 81% - 29 finishes in 36 starts.
What's more, there was one more noteworthy achievement among Fernando's championship success. Almost uniquely in modern Formula 1, it was achieved with just one car. Chassis R26-03 took to the grid in Bahrain some seven months ago, and the same car crossed the finishing line in Brazil. It did not miss a single race -- and probably has just become the most valuable Renault in history!
Don't forget your roots
Up and down the pit-lane, the Renault F1 Team is known for being both down to earth and approachable -- no matter which set of garages it occupies. And so, after the podium celebrations, the team's mechanics collected a number of bottles of champagne and made the long walk down the pit-lane to Super Aguri. Why? Well, one year ago the team didn't exist -- and even earlier this year, many had written it off.
But the boys in the garage know a job well done when they see it -- and this was one. Aguri have held their heads high, and gone about their racing with a dedication that demands respect. And that respect found its expression today in the boys' congratulations to their friends and some ex-colleagues at Aguri, as they shared a celebratory glass of bubbly.