Renault’s Giancarlo Fisichella may have owed his Australian Grand Prix pole position to good fortune, but the diminutive Italian delivered a near-perfect performance to win the opening race of the 2005 F1 season at Albert Park on Sunday.
Renault’s Giancarlo Fisichella may have owed his Australian Grand Prix pole position to good fortune, but the diminutive Italian delivered a near-perfect performance to win the opening race of the 2005 F1 season at Albert Park on Sunday. The veteran briefly relinquished the lead of the race during his two pit stops and finished ahead of the ever-consistent Rubens Barrichello, in a Ferrari, and Renault team-mate Fernando Alonso.
Another veteran driver, David Coulthard, was an impressive fourth in his first race outing for new team Red Bull Racing after duelling with home-town favourite and Williams-BMW star Mark Webber, who finished fifth.
Much had been expected of Juan-Pablo Montoya’s McLaren-Mercedes, but the Colombian lost out on a potential podium finish when he slid onto the grass late in the race. His team-mate, Kimi Raikkonen, had an indifferent afternoon and managed to salvage eighth place, behind Coulthard’s team-mate Christian Klien.
Raikkonen started from the pit lane after stalling on the grid and spent the first part of the grand prix behind Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher, whose race weekend was compromised when a monsoon-like downpour ruined his qualifying lap on Saturday. The Finn damaged an aerodynamic component on his car by running off the circuit while trying to make up ground on the leading pack and Schumacher, who had battled to ninth after qualifying 18th, crashed out of the race on lap 42.
As the seven-time world champion’s Ferrari headed into Turn Three, Schumacher veered at Nick Heidfeld’s Williams-BMW. Heidfeld was forced on to the grass, where he lost grip and skidded into Schumacher, eliminating both drivers from the race.
Schumacher denies blame for accident
“It is impossible to blame either of us,” said Schumacher. “I saw him behind me just as I came out of the pits and I made it clear I was defending my position.
“At one point I lost sight of him in my mirrors and went into the corner when I felt I’d been hit. I can’t blame him for trying to overtake me,” the German added.
Heidfeld said it was clearly Schumacher’s fault: “I think that I made a good move. Michael just came out of the pits and obviously he had a bad exit from the first chicane because he wasn’t on the ideal line.
“I went alongside him and I could have out-braked him but he didn’t leave me any space and pushed me on to the grass, where braking is impossible,” he added.
ITV-F1 commentator Martin Brundle agreed with the Williams driver: “It was Michael’s fault. He tried to squeeze Heidfeld and forced an inevitable incident.”
Fisichella’s pole position was virtually secured when he completed his qualifying lap in near-perfect conditions during Saturday’s qualifying session. Even though the changeable weather conditions had worked in his favour, the Italian was nevertheless untroubled on his way to victory, nursing his Michelin tyres and controlling the gap to his pursuers with ease throughout the race.
Alonso was equally impressive as he made his way through the field from 13th on the grid. The Spaniard’s performance, highlighted by a brilliant duel with Sauber’s Jacques Villeneuve early in the race, underlined the fact that either Renault driver could have won the race and the French team will undoubtedly be a major force in this year’s constructors’ championship.
Meanwhile, Barrichello, who had qualified 11th, salvaged some pride for Ferrari, which seemed rather mediocre by its own lofty F1 standards. The Brazilian worked his way into the lower reaches of the top six gradually, but turned on the pace to leapfrog Coulthard, Webber and Montoya at the second and final pit stops.
Coulthard, who qualified fifth and, at one point, held second position in the race, gave Cosworth-powered Red Bull Racing a better-than-expected F1 début. The team formerly known as Jaguar Racing now finds itself third in the constructors’ title race!