Suzuka — 9 Oct. 2005
Demonstrating again how wet conditions are the ultimate equalizer in Formula One, the Japanese Grand Prix of 2005 delivered. Many fans expected a processional race after Fernando Alonso clinched the World Championship two weeks earlier in Brazil. But in qualifying the circuit was subject to heavy downpours, leaving the familiar faces well down the order, with Ralf Schumacher scoring an unlikely pole — the final of his career. By Sunday, the weather was warm and sunny, a nice fast track and a good circuit for the McLarens to excel. Yet with teammates Kimi Räikkönen and Juan Pablo Montoya both stranded far back on the grid (17th and 18th) a win seemed to be a difficult thing even to imagine. At the start, it was chaos. Alonso, in his Renault, went flying through the field from 16th. Alonso was already up to 8th at the end of the first lap while Räikkönen was taking a look at Jacques Villeneuve’s Sauber when both missed an apex, bumping over the greencrete and rejoining in the path of Montoya. As the Colombian pulled left to sweep past Villeneuve, the Sauber driver moved the same way, pitching the McLaren straight into a retaining wall and wiping off the left side of the car. Cue the Safety Car for six laps.
Midway through the race, after the typical series of confusing pit stops and refueling, it was actually Giancarlo Fisichella who looked like the favorite to win the Grand Prix, as he was 20 seconds ahead. The other stops meant that Fisichella had risen into the lead with a clear track from which he could surely now dominate proceedings. But Fisichella pitted, rejoined behind Jenson Button, Mark Webber and Räikkönen, and fell back quite quickly doing slow laps. After Button and Webber pitted together, Räikkönen had only two laps to press his advantage over the pair but did so expertly, pulling out of the pits with nine laps to go in 2nd to Fisichella, having somehow cut the Italian’s lead to just 9s. The Iceman then set the fastest lap of the race at 1:31.540, only 5s behind Fisichella and closing. Fisichella was told to “push, push and push” by his team on the radio, but to no avail. With Räikkönen bearing down on him at over a second per lap, Fisichella went to pieces, going defensive for the last two laps and allowing Kimi a tow on pit straight. As they began the final lap, Räikkönen tucked up behind the Renault down the main straight, darted to the left — missing the rear of the leader by mere inches — and swept stunningly by around the outside of the first corner to take an amazing win. Peter Windsor described Räikkönen’s move on Fisichella as “a sharp Finnish knife cutting through a tender piece of Italian Salami.” Kimi prevailed by just under 2s, despite having led for only six laps in total, scoring his final victory for McLaren. Classifications.
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