F1 Blast from the past: Schumacher and Alonso duel at Imola 2005

Background and Qualifying

Round four of the 2005 Formula One World Championship heralded the return of the European season, the San Marino Grand Prix at Imola in Italy.

Fernando Alonso arrived at Imola on a high, hot off the back of two consecutive victories in Malaysia and Bahrain. However, the Spaniard was beaten to pole position by a rejuvenated Kimi Raikkonen.

The Finn utilised the raw pace that the McLaren MP4-20 had shown in winter testing but had not delivered in the flyaway races. McLaren test driver, Alexander Wurz deputised for the injured Juan Pablo Montoya and lined up in seventh place for his first Grand Prix since 2000.

While at Red Bull, 2004 F3000 champion, Vitantonio Liuzzi made his Grand Prix debut in place of Christian Klien, honouring a contract that saw the two drivers sharing the cockpit for the season.

Michael Schumacher produced the biggest surprise of Saturday, as he set the third fastest time. However, the German made a mistake in second qualifying at Rivazza which saw the German slip back to 13th on the grid, much to the dismay of the tifosi.

Race day

At the start, Raikkonen got away first ahead of Alonso, Jenson Button and Jarno Trulli. The McLaren began to pull out a gap of over three seconds in the opening laps.

Down in 11th place, Giancarlo Fisichella’s disastrous run of form continued when he became the first retiree on Lap 6 of 62. The Italian, who had started the season superbly with a win in Australia, lost the car negotiating the Tamburello
chicane.

On Lap 9, hopes of a first 2005 victory for McLaren were shattered when Raikkonen’s driveshaft failed, handing the lead to Alonso. It was not the first time the Finn’s McLaren-Mercedes had let him down when a win looked likely and it would prove not to be the last.

Ferrari’s disappointment continued when Rubens Barrichello retired after 18 laps with a broken gearbox.

Alonso looked set for a comfortable run to victory until Michael Schumacher’s charge began. The German had been on a heavy fuel load and a long first stint helped the seven-time World Champion climb the field.

He set the fastest lap and was up to third before his first pit stop on Lap 27, slick
work from the Ferrari mechanics ensured he re-joined ahead of Wurz’s McLaren in a podium position.

Further down the field, Felipe Massa in the Sauber collided with David Coulthard’s Red Bull for the second time during the race.

After Alonso made his second stop on Lap 42, Schumacher was running at an incredible pace. He was elevated to second and muscled his way past Jenson Button’s BAR into the lead at Variente Alta as the pair came up to lap Mark Webber’s Williams.

The battle

On Lap 50, Schumacher came into the pits for his final stop, emerging just behind Alonso. The scene was now set for a dramatic showdown between
the pair.

Alonso’s Renault had better traction out of corners, but Schumacher’s Ferrari was clearly the faster car. The Spaniard was holding on with all his might, as Schumacher kept threatening to make a move, Alonso was resistant.

As the chequered flag drew closer, the tifosi were willing the Ferrari
on but Schumacher could not find a way past the Renault.

Fernando Alonso brilliantly held the Ferrari off to take his third victory of the season by just 0.215 seconds. Schumacher was gracious in defeat and took his first podium of the season after a torrid start to 2005.

Results

The final podium place was taken by Jenson Button in the BAR Honda, though subsequently he was excluded from the results due to his car been found to be 5.6 kgs underweight.

This promoted Alexander Wurz to third, his highest finish since 1997. Takuma Sato in the second BAR was also excluded, leaving Jacques Villenueve’s Sauber fourth ahead of Trulli.

The two Williams’ of Nick Heidfeld and Mark Webber were P6 and 7, respectively, and Vitantonio Liuzzi took the final point on his debut.

It had been one of the most memorable finishes to a Grand Prix in modern Formula One. Fernando Alonso showed his title aspiration and refusal to crack under the relentless pressure placed upon him by Michael Schumacher.

Schumacher also demonstrated just why he was a seven-time World Champion by lapping two-seconds a lap quicker than the rest of the field, lap after lap.

The finish signalled a changing of the guard as Alonso would go on to take Schumacher’s crown and become the new World Champion five months later.

Video Highlights

If you want to see the battle for the lead for yourself, Formula 1’s YouTube channel uploading it a few years ago:

Grid Talk Podcast

Want more content to preview your Emilia Romagna Grand Prix weekend? Host Louis Edwards with panelists Owain Medford and Garry Sloan stared in Grid Talk’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prixview.

Video and audio versions of the show are linked below:

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