Räikkönen’s greatest drive

In a new series, Mark Hughes uses the pause in racing to select F1’s finest and most influential races, starting with a clash of the titans at Suzuka

05JapStart

Ralf Schumacher leads from pole, with Renault’s Fisichella in pursuit. The Italian would famously endure a race-deciding, last-lap duel with Kimi Räikkönen at Suzuka

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It was the greatest grand prix of the 21st century to date. Suzuka 2005 could make a serious claim to the best of all time. Decided going into the last of 53 laps as Kimi Räikkönen, from 17th on the grid, squeezed his McLaren- Mercedes past the Renault of long-time leader Giancarlo Fisichella at 200mph, engines on the rev limiters in top gear, wheels almost touching, as the silver car strained against the air to take advantage of Renault’s slower entry onto the pit straight. It was magnificent, but merely the sign-off denouement of an incredible tapestry of greatness from Räikkönen, Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher, all of whom had been obliged to start from the last few rows and fight their way through the pack – sometimes together, sometimes against each other – the world’s three best drivers around F1’s greatest circuit, trying to get to the front before time ran out. It was a race that included the highly symbolic moment of Alonso passing Schumacher at 208mph around the outside of the flat-in-top 130R, a move he did not need to make, having clinched the title at the previous round in Brazil, and which would almost certainly have been fatal had it gone wrong. It was a race where the raw gladiatorial essence of grand prix racing was laid bare – and it was breathtaking.How did it come together? It was a multitude of factors all converging at a crucial time

 

What put Schumacher, Alonso and Räikkönen in their respective 14th, 16th and 17th starting places – the very root of the incredible spectacle that was to follow – was the system of single-car qualifying on a rainy day.

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