Bahrain 2005: Alonso Invincible in Hottes Ever F1 Race

Renault makes it three wins from three races in 2005

A second consecutive victory, and potential title challengers Michael Schumacher and Giancarlo Fisichella failing to finish, made the Bahrain Grand Prix a perfect race for Fernando Alonso and Renault as they further extended their world championship leads.

With Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari alongside him on the front row of the grid, Bahrain was Fernando Alonso’s sternest test of mettle. But at the start the Spaniard made no mistake, and though Schumacher remained close to him for the first 11 laps the Renault driver was always in control and there was always a suggestion that Schumacher may have been running a lighter fuel load. That became moot on the 12th lap, however, when Schumacher plunged wide in Turn 10 and then pulled into the pits at the end of the lap to retire with an hydraulic problem that affected his gearshifting. It was the champion’s first mechanical retirement for 58 races, and left Alonso unchallenged on the way to the third win of his career.

At the start Jarno Trulli almost took his Toyota round the outside of Schumacher to snatch second place, but had to settle for third initially. As in Malaysia the Italian’s car lacked the outright pace to stay on the Renault’s tail, but it was still there in a strong second place, 13.409s adrift, when the chequered flag fell, boosting Trulli’s second place points score. To make it a wonderful day for the revitalised Toyota team, Ralf Schumacher completed an up and down race by taking fourth place, giving Toyota their best-ever result and maintaining their second place in the constructors’ championship.

Third place fell to Kimi Raikkonen, who was in challenging mood all afternoon in a McLaren that once again came to life in the race. The Finn fought with the two Williams of Nick Heidfeld and Mark Webber, passing the former after their first fuel stops on laps 23 (Heidfeld) and 24 (Raikkonen), and then pressuring Webber into a big spin in Turn 10 on the 34th lap. Various offroad moments for Ralf Schumacher also helped the Finn, who finished a further 32s adrift of Trulli but set the third fastest lap.

The race was run in sweltering conditions, and the result extends Alonso’s title lead over Trulli, 26 points to 16. Fisichella is third with 10, from Ralf Schumacher and David Coulthard on nine apiece and Rubens Barrichello and Juan Pablo Montoya on eight each. Michael Schumacher’s title prospects have taken a huge hit, as the champion trails Alonso by 24 points after the three ‘flyaway’ races.

In the constructors’ stakes, Renault lead Toyota 36 to 25, with McLaren third on 19 ahead of Williams on 13 and Red Bull on 12. Ferrari are sixth with 10, and a mountain to climb.

Fernando Alonso after his race win:
“The R25 was perfect today, and the team has been fantastic all weekend, with no mistakes. To score 26 points out of 30 possible is brilliant, but we need to stay cautious: we have only done three races out of nineteen in a very long season. However, I think that if we stay competitive like we are, and if we can avoid mechanical problems, then we will be hard to beat.”