Grand Prix Formula 1 Monaco 2005

Start: Mark Webber and Nick Heidfeld
F1 > Monaco GP, 2005-05-22 (Monte Carlo): Sunday race

Start: Kimi Raikkonen leads the field
F1 > Monaco GP, 2005-05-22 (Monte Carlo): Sunday race

David Coulthard
F1 > Monaco GP, 2005-05-22 (Monte Carlo): Sunday race
Image by Red Bull Racing

Kimi Raikkonen
F1 > Monaco GP, 2005-05-22 (Monte Carlo): Sunday race

Monaco Grand Prix
Raikkonen lays down world title challenge

Alan Henry in Monte Carlo
Monday May 23, 2005


Kimi Raikkonen raised the world championship stakes in dramatic fashion yesterday. Proving yet again that the McLaren-Mercedes MP4-20 is now the fastest car in formula one, he scored an imposing victory in the most glamorous grand prix on the international calendar.
The tortuous streets of Monte Carlo, with their tight corners and high kerbs, could hardly offer more of a contrast to the wide open spaces of Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya where he had won the Spanish grand prix a fortnight before. Yet the Finn’s performance here was similarly flawless, with a crushing run to pole position, a blistering opening lap and the sheer speed to dictate the pace of the race, even when the cards appeared briefly to be stacked against him.

Raikkonen had almost broken Fernando Alonso’s challenge by the end of the opening lap when he was already 1.2sec ahead of the Spaniard, with Alonso’s Renault team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella up to third.

With 20 laps completed the McLaren was 5.9sec ahead, but when Christijan Albers spun his Minardi at the tricky downhill Mirabeau right-hander on lap 24, causing cars behind him to stop, the safety car was deployed just too late for Raikkonen to dive into the pits to refuel, a tactical option which both Renault drivers, both the Williams-BMWs and Felipe Massa’s Sauber promptly took advantage of.

Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari tapped the back of David Coulthard’s Red Bull in the same incident, breaking the nose of the Italian machine and the rear suspension of its rival. Schumacher continued after a stop for a replacement nose cone but Coulthard limped back to his pit to retire.

"There’s not much to say," shrugged the Scot. "Albers spun his car going into the corner so I slowed down to avoid him. However, Michael couldn’t see me and he hit my car, which damaged the rear wing and suspension."

It was the second time Coulthard had been involved in such an incident over the weekend. In Saturday free practice Juan Pablo Montoya’s McLaren suddenly slowed in front of Ralf Schumacher’s Toyota going up the hill to Casino Square, causing Coulthard to back off to avoid the two of them, only for Jacques Villeneuve to slam his Sauber into the back of the Red Bull, which in turn threw the Scot into the younger Schumacher’s Toyota, spinning it firmly into the barrier.

After corroborating this evidence with data downloaded from Montoya’s car, the stewards deleted his qualifying time, thereby consigning him to the back of the grid. Irony of ironies, he was joined there by Ralf Schumacher after the German driver crashed heavily at Tabac on his qualifying run, scattering oil and debris across the track.

Albers’ spin left Raikkonen fearful. "I was a bit worried when the safety car came out because I’d just missed the entry to the pit lane as my team was telling me to come in," he said. "But the team told me I’d just have to build up a lead of 20 seconds before I made my refuelling stop. This was the crucial period for us, and the car really worked well this weekend."

The safety car came in at the end of lap 28 and Raikkonen burst into action. With Jarno Trulli’s Toyota between him and Alonso he stretched his advantage to a remarkable 37.3sec by the time he made his single, 11sec stop at the end of lap 42. This was the defining moment and saw the Finn resume still 15.4sec ahead of the Renault.

Alonso had his hands full because his hard-compound Michelin rear tyres were losing grip and wearing heavily, his lap times dropping away as a result as he fell back into the clutches of the two Williams drivers.

Raikkonen won by 13.87sec from Nick Heidfeld’s Williams-BMW, the German driver’s best formula one result. He crossed the line ahead of his team-mate Mark Webber, for whom the satisfaction of a similar career-best result was tempered by the fact that the Williams squad had called Heidfeld in for his second refuelling stop first even though he was running fourth at the time behind Alonso’s Renault and the Australian driver. This enabled Heidfeld to leapfrog Webber, who was clearly unamused.

The manner in which Heidfeld dislodged Alonso from second place under braking for the waterfront chicane on lap 72 was as impressive as it was decisive. It gained the German driver some breathing space for the next couple of laps until Webber also squeezed ahead of Alonso after they both made a mess at the chicane, the issue eventually being resolved as the tough Australian fought it out wheel-to-wheel with Alonso going down to the next corner, where the Spaniard had no choice but to concede the line.

"It’s my first podium finish in formula one and it’s very good to have two cars on the podium here," said Webber. "Apart from McLaren today we were much faster than anybody else but I was stuck behind Jarno Trulli’s Toyota in the opening stages of the race, then unfortunately Nick passed me at the second pit stop and we were again held up by Alonso, who was struggling with his tyres. I just wish I could have driven in some clean air today."

Alonso scrabbled home in fourth, a few feet ahead of Montoya’s McLaren, Ralf Schumacher and his brother Michael, who forced his way past his Ferrari team-mate Rubens Barrichello to take seventh place on the last lap. Seldom can he have put so much effort into a tally of two points on this epic track.

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005


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