Formula 1 arrived at the Istanbul Park in Turkey for the first time in 2005, the fourteenth round of the World Championship.
Kimi Raikkonen had made small inroads into Fernando Alonso’s lead in the driver’s championship following the Finn’s victory in Hungary. Alonso had failed to score at the previous round, but the Spaniard still had a healthy 26 points lead over the McLaren driver.
The new circuit 30 miles outside Istanbul saw several drivers find the limits of the track throughout practice and qualifying. Jacques Villeneuve, Jenson Button and Takuma Sato were all caught out at the tricky turn eight. Both Schumacher brothers also made mistakes at turn nine.
Michael failed to set a time at all and would start at the back, along with Sato who was stripped of his time after impeding Mark Webber. Kimi Raikkonen produced an excellent lap to take his fifth pole position of the season, ahead of the two Renault’s with Giancarlo Fisichella outqualifying Fernando Alonso. Juan Pablo Montoya in the second McLaren lined up fourth.
The circuit had been critically acclaimed throughout the weekend and 58 laps of the Istanbul Park got underway on Sunday afternoon. Raikkonen was slow off the line, and the Renault’s surrounded the McLaren going into the first corner, Fisichella had the inside line and took the lead.
There was trouble further back as Felipe Massa’s Sauber made contact with Nick Heidfeld’s Williams, the Brazilian was forced to pit to replace his front wing and would retire later with an engine failure. Fisichella didn’t hold the lead for long, as a mistake on the exit of turn ten allowed Raikkonen to retake first place.
The Italian didn’t give up easily though, and Alonso too fancied his chances, but the McLaren was through. Alonso quickly passed his teammate to take second place.
After Jenson Button’s mistake in qualifying, the Brit found himself starting 13th but the opening laps saw the BAR driver scything his way up the order. By Lap 11, he was up to sixth.
Mark Webber in the Williams on the other hand had a disastrous to the race. After an early puncture, he was a lap down on the leaders. Then, trying to make up for lost time on Lap 14, the Australian made a botched attempt at unlapping himself from Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari. The German turned in and contact was made.
Webber was aggrieved that Schumacher left him no space, while Schumacher lay all the blame at the Australian’s feet, saying that it was pointless to try and make up such a deficit. The damage would eventually end Schumacher’s race.
It was to be a miserable day for the Williams team. After pitting to change his front wing, Webber suffered a second right-rear tyre failure and retired on Lap 21. Teammate Nick Heidfeld also sustained two right-rear tyre failures and his race ended on Lap 30.
The championship battle
After the first round of stops, the McLaren vs. Renault duel continued, with Raikkonen holding the lead. Montoya was second, despite a mishap with the fuel rig release at his first stop. Alonso was third and Fisichella, after a fuel rig failure of his own, was fourth and dropping back.
The order remained the same after the second round of stops. Everything looked good for the first McLaren one-two in five years, until Montoya was hit up the back by a lapped Tiago Monteiro with just four laps to go. This was an incident that was reminiscent of his collision with Jos Verstappen in Brazil four years previously.
The incident flat-spotted the Colombian’s tyres and with just two laps to go, trying to fend off a closing Fernando Alonso, ran wide at turn eight. The Spaniard was through to second and crucially giving just two points away to Raikkonen in the fight for the championship.
Kimi Raikkonen took the chequered flag to win the inaugural Turkish Grand Prix after leading every lap of the race. However, McLaren were disappointed to see a one-two slip away with Montoya livid with his mistake and ending up third behind Alonso.
Fisichella’s race never recovered after his early pit stop calamity but salvaged fourth. Jenson Button had an excellent race to finish fifth ahead of Jarno Trulli in the Toyota with the two Red Bulls of David Coulthard and Christian Klien completing the points paying positions after a race long battle.
Kimi Raikkonen had conquered all in an entertaining first Grand Prix in Turkey, but with Fernando Alonso 24 points ahead in the championship with just five races remaining, it was looking tantalising closer for the Spaniard.
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