Formula One Racing Season


A taste of things to come?

2005-03-14 F1
Nikki Reynolds

The 2005 season is finally here and while the Australian Grand Prix was not exactly a thriller, the results were rather interesting. Australia has produced a fair number of soap operas over the years and the Ferrari/Minardi/FIA saga was just as much rubbish as the rest of them. I’m not even going to go there; it’s just too annoying to waste any more time on.

See large picture Red Bull Racing team members watch qualifying. Photo by Red Bull Racing.

The new qualifying format was pretty much brown, smelly and slightly steaming, or to quote David Coulthard, it was shit. It was pointless — the second session barely made any difference to the grid line-up, leaving it much as it had been after the first. It was the rain that caused the jumbled-up positions, not the way qualifying was run.

So much for supposedly spicing up the show — it was about as spicy as wallpaper paste. Some drivers who got caught by the rain in the Saturday session didn’t even bother setting a time on Sunday, because on aggregate it wasn’t worth the effort. Why put more wear on tyres and engines if you’re going to be at the back anyway?

The drivers who went out first on Saturday and missed the rain had the advantage on Sunday morning: the top four didn’t even change position. The grid was practically decided after the first session so the second was just a waste of time. Mark Webber was actually fastest on Sunday but hardly anybody noticed due to the aggregate times.

Giancarlo Fisichella was the king of Albert Park over the weekend. He hit the sweet spot in Saturday qualifying to set a good lap just seconds before the downpour commenced. With a two-second advantage for Sunday morning, there was hardly any doubt that he would be on pole position. And he duly was.

He led the race from pole to flag and managed to celebrate his second career victory on the podium. Fisi was very ‘appy and so was Renault. While Giancarlo’s win was well deserved, Fernando Alonso’s drive from 13th on the grid to third was pretty impressive. Renault has lived up to its promise in winter testing and looks bloody fast.

Fernando had not expected to end up on the podium and his amazed "I’m on P3?!" over the radio in the closing stages was rather amusing. Ferrari and McLaren had both named Renault as a likely threat this season, and for Melbourne at least, the French squad was indeed in fine form.

Rubens Barrichello held Ferrari’s hopes together while Michael Schumacher, after being caught out by the qualifying rain, faffed about in the midfield. Barrichello’s efforts were as commendable as Alonso’s with his 11th to second drive. The interim F2004M looked good in Ruby’s hands and rather like a combine harvester in Michael’s.

See large picture End of the day for Michael Schumacher. Photo by

Michael thrashed about aimlessly, his expected charge through the pack from the back not really materialising. Eventually he clanked and wheezed his way into the top ten, only to bang heads with Nick Heidfeld and both of them went off. Michael flapped like an agitated chicken until the marshals pushed him back on track, but then had to retire anyway.

Who was at fault, if either of them, seems to depend which faction you belong to in regard to incidents where Michael is involved. One side thinks that any accident involving the champ automatically means he’s to blame, and the other automatically thinks he isn’t. It was unnecessary for Michael to put Nick on the grass but shit happens — but let’s not start on qualifying again.

Red Bull was impressive, very impressive indeed, compared to last year’s Jaguar. For a while Coulthard looked like he was heading for the podium but eventually finished fourth, which was nothing to complain about. Christian Klien put in a creditable performance for seventh but one has to wonder if the team can continue with that kind of competitiveness.

Coulthard and Klien had top-six grid positions after being on track at the right time in Saturday qualifying. Had they been farther down the field I find it hard to imagine that both would have been in the points. But good stuff from Red Bull all the same, and Ron Dennis’ po-faced look when DC finished ahead of the McLarens showed he didn’t appreciate the irony.

Williams and McLaren were rather disappointing overall. Webber equalled his previous best finish of fifth but it’s a bit strange to think that his last fifth, also in Melbourne, was in a Minardi. Williams needs to have a bit of a scratchy-beard meeting to figure that one out. Heidfeld was doing reasonably well until the incident with the combine harvester.

Juan Pablo Montoya and Kimi Raikkonen were a bit lacklustre in sixth and eighth. Raikkonen didn’t do himself any favours by stalling on the grid and having to start from the pitlane, although working his way back to the points was not a bad effort. Montoya was rather quiet and kept out of trouble, which, considering how he seems to like trouble so much, must have been difficult for him.

See large picture Juan Pablo Montoya. Photo by

Just to go off at a slight tangent for a moment, I don’t know what McLaren has been doing to Montoya but I hope it continues. Juan looked exceptionally hot in Melbourne — and I don’t mean overheated. There are very few drivers I find better looking than their cars but Montoya could have driven a tractor ’round Albert Park and I wouldn’t have noticed.

Maybe it was the new orange team t-shirts but Juan certainly made my temperature rise, much to my husband’s amusement — he does like to get my goat. "What? Him? He’s a fat bastard! A troll with a squint!" This, or variations thereof, applies to any driver I cast an appreciative eye on, I should point out, not just Montoya.

Anyway, back to racing. Jarno Trulli started on the front row and went backwards to finish outside the points. Ralf Schumacher started 15th and had a tremendous drive all the way to 12th. Trulli’s performance was as mystifying as Ralf’s was unnoticeable. Jarno really should have been in the points after starting second but the Toyota just couldn’t hack it.

Jacques Villeneuve has apparently been reading Trulli’s handbook, as he started fourth and went backwards to 13th. He blamed the car. Sauber teammate Felipe Massa, a victim of the rain in qualifying, started from the back and finished three places ahead of Villeneuve. He said the car was good.

They were on different strategies but it’s hardly a stretch of the imagination to think that Jacques should have been in front of Massa if he was fourth on the grid and Felipe was 18th. Perhaps if Villeneuve had concentrated on racing instead of getting in Fisichella’s way, he might have scored some points.

Last year’s heroes, BAR, looked about as competitive as sludge. Jenson Button and Takuma Sato, outside the points at the end, retired to the pits on the last lap. This was so they could take advantage of the rule that says if a driver does not finish the race he can have a new engine for the next one.

Gosh, I bet you never thought someone would do that, eh? It seems to me that the two-race engine rule is going to be as pointless as two-session qualifying unless it’s sorted out. Getting an engine change if you start from the back or ending a race in the pits to get a new engine for the next race is making it too easy to get around the rule.

The Jordan rookies, Narain Karthikeyan and Tiago Monteiro, both reached the chequered flag, which was the team’s aim and probably the best they could hope for. Minardi’s Christijan Albers retired with a gearbox problem while teammate Patrick Friesacher came home 17th. Both teams performed pretty much as you would expect.

See large picture Race winner Giancarlo Fisichella celebrates with Fernando Alonso, Flavio Briatore and Renault team members. Photo by

So, was Melbourne a taste of things to come? Well, for Renault I would think so. The Ferdy ‘n’ Fisi show is likely to be one of the most watched on the grid and the car certainly performed better than the rest in Melbourne. But — and there’s always a but — without the rain in qualifying I think it would have been a different picture.

Renault would have been at the sharp end anyway, but if Ferrari and McLaren had been up there too it would probably have been a harder fight. Michael will presumably exchange the agricultural machinery for his race car come Malaysia, while McLaren, Williams and BAR will be out to make amends for the walk in the park last weekend.

Melbourne was not very exciting. The new regulations don’t seem to have made any difference at all; it was the rain that shook things up. However, it was a relief for many fans — not to mention the other teams — that Ferrari has already been proved beatable. If that’s a taste of things to come, I’ll have a bigger spoonful, thanks.

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