The closing laps of the 2005 San Marino Grand Prix marked a seismic shift in Formula 1 power. Renault’s Fernando Alonso narrowly held off Michael Schumacher’s challenge to win in Ferrari heartland and confirm a new superstar. That was Alonso’s third win in a row and another four followed as he ended Schumacher’s five-year reign to become the youngest World Champion to date. Giancarlo Fisichella returned to Renault and dominated the opening race in Australia from pole position but he would not win again – losing the Japanese GP on the last lap.
Kimi Raikkonen won seven times for McLaren but could not recover from a slow start to the year when hampered by crucial technical failures. That including crashing out of the lead on the last lap of the European GP when his suspension failed. Juan Pablo Montoya finally began his tempestuous and ultimately short McLaren career almost two years after signing with the team. He missed a couple of races after injuring his shoulder playing tennis (or riding a mountain bike depending on who you chose to believe) but scored three high quality wins and came from the back of the grid to finish second in Germany.
The end of Ferrari’s dominance was spectacular. Michael Schumacher showed undiminished motivation and focus but he only won once and that was a controversial affair. The 2005 United States GP was an F1 nadir for all the Michelin-shod teams withdrew on safety grounds at the end of the parade lap leaving just six cars to race. Ferrari finished 1-2 ahead of a couple of Jordans and Minardis amid boos from the dissatisfied American crowd.
New Williams-BMW drivers Nick Heidfeld and Mark Webber finished second and third at Monaco in an otherwise frustrating campaign. Furthermore, BMW decided to buy the Sauber team rather than continue its partnership with the nine-time constructors’ champions. Felipe Massa outperformed Jacques Villeneuve for the Swiss privateers to earn a Ferrari drive for 2006.
Now wholly owned by Honda, BAR were unable to build on its promising 2004 form. Worse still, they were banned for two races after the BAR 007’s fuel system was deemed illegal at the San Marino GP. For Jenson Button, who qualified on pole in Canada and scored a couple of third place finishes, the Williams/BMW split prompted further expensive contract negotiations. He eventually bought his way out of his future with Williams to remain loyal to Honda.
Perennial underachievers Toyota invested heavily in Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher and the Italian finished second in Malaysia and Bahrain. He also qualified on pole in America when fuelled light in the knowledge that he would not start the race. Schumacher’s second successive crash at Indy was again caused by a puncture and prompted Michelin’s embarrassing mass withdrawal come raceday.
This was a period of change for F1’s midfield. Dietrich Mateschitz’s Red Bull energy drink company bought Jaguar Racing and signed David Coulthard as team leader who only lost a possible podium at the Nurburgring due to a drive through penalty. Christian Klien and Tonio Liuzzi shared the second car and both scored points – the Italian on his debut at Imola. Russian born steel magnet Alex Shnaider acquired Jordan for whom rookie Tiago Monteiro finished third in the farce that was the US GP.