AUGUST 22, 2005
TURKISH GP - SUNDAY - RACE REPORT
McLaren's sweet and sour Turkey
With two laps to go before the end of the Turkish Grand Prix, things were looking as good as they get for McLaren. It was, at that moment, a question of maximum points. Eighteen of them. Amazingly, only one team has scored maximum points at a race this year and Ferrari's 1-2 at Indianapolis is not a chapter that should be remembered fondly in the annals of the sport. If Raikkonen and Montoya had held station then Renault would have ended the day with 128 points and McLaren would have had 123. And in the Drivers' Championship Fernando Alonso would have had 93 points to Raikkonen's 71. It is still a tall order for Raikkonen to win the title this year, too many points have been thrown away but 22 points is easier to get than 24 points.
After the race the McLaren press statements blamed Tiago Monteiro, which is easy, but Monteiro was having none of it. And nor should he. Montoya's habit of doing silly things continued. It was clear from the cloud of tyre smoke that came off the McLaren just after it passed Monteiro that Montoya had stood on the brakes rather dramatically. That was necessary because there was a corner coming up, which Montoya appeared to have forgotten about when he went past the Jordan. Monteiro did what he could to stop the car.
"I was blind and I lost all downforce," he said.
Not surprising really when someone stands on his brakes right in front of you. In the end Montoya was lucky that Monteiro only nudged up the rear and pushed him a little off the road. The incident might have ended his race and that would have been a disastrous result for McLaren. As it was Montoya was still second until the last lap when he went off the road because of damage to his undertray and Fernando must have looked to the heavens and smiled.
Down McLaren way they like to be positive (at least in public) about Montoya's little incidents but right now the team cannot afford to give away anything. Every point counts and with just five races remaining Kimi needs to score five points more than Fernando at each race. If he can do that he will win the World Championship. If Montoya is second on all occasions and Alonso third, the gap at the end of the year will still be four points and so Kimi will have to rely on the kindness of strangers or a little bad luck for Alonso. There might be some hope of a Renault mechanical failure because thus far all the misfortune has befallen Giancarlo Fisichella. It is always possible that Fernando might do what he did in Montreal and make a mistake. And then we will suddenly have a very different story. The one thing that everyone seems to agree is that McLaren currently has the Renault on toast. The fastest race laps in Istanbul told the story: Montoya's fastest lap was seven-tenths faster than Alonso's best and a full second clear of the BARs.
"We know McLaren is faster," said Alonso, "but this was as good a result as I could have hoped for."
"We know we need to find more speed," said Flavio Briatore.
And let us not forget that traditionally at Monza Ferrari will rise from the dead and challenge for victory.
That was certainly not the case in Istanbul. The Ferraris looked horrible all weekend and when Jean Todt says that this was "a race to forget" you know that things are pretty dreadful. Logic dictates that Ferrari should by now have given up trying to polish the lump of coal known as the F2005 and should be concentrating on the F2006 but at Monza there are often miracles of astonishing proportions.
In Istanbul Rubens Barrichello was a lap down at the end and Michael Schumacher was back in the garage and had an irate Mark Webber questioning his integrity. Webber had looked feisty early on but Williams had a major problem with its right rear tyres in the fast corners and soon suffered a tyre failure. So he was down the back and challenging hard to make up ground. A lap behind the Ferrari he may have been but he was also a great deal quicker.
"You cannot sit behind a slow car forever," said Webber. "I was much quicker coming down the straight and pulled out to pass him. We have talked endlessly about drivers not moving in the braking areas but of course he kept coming. As usual. You can bet we will be talking about that at the next meeting of the GPDA."
And so the two men collided. Michael went home with no points for the first time in eight races.
It was really irrelevant for Williams because the Michelin tyre problem, which caused no fewer than four failures in the race: two for Nick Heidfeld and two for Webber meant that the cars had to be parked.
"We had no choice," said technical director Sam Michael.
The problem, Michelin said, was only on the Williams cars.
BAR ended up scoring some points with fifth place for Jenson Button but the errors in qualifying came home to roost. The cars are pretty quick but still not quick enough.
Toyota took some points thanks to a workmanlike effort from Jarno Trulli, who finished sixth. Ralf Schumacher did not go as well. At the start he was caught up in the first corner incident involving Nick Heidfeld and Felipe Massa and so ended up at the back of the field.
"My car was OK," said Ralf, but finishing 12th, one lap behind was nothing to write home about.
It was a good day for Red Bull Racing which took seventh and eighth and so added a few points to help the fight in the Constructors' Championship with BAR-Honda although with BAR now scoring on a regular basis it may be a hopeless battle.
Sauber had a dull race with Felipe Massa trying a little too hard at the start and ending up minus the nose of his car and in the pits. After that it was just a long haul and then his engine gave out after 28 laps. Jacques Villeneuve lost time at the first corner and had to make his way through the chaff and so ended the day 11th.
The battle between Jordan and Minardi was a lively one on this occasion and at the end of the day Minardi could rightly say that it had held off everything that was thrown at them. Robert Doornbos finished 13th ahead of the two Jordans while Christijan Albers had a series of different problems and ended up retiring.
The details of the race were not however the big news. The big point about the Turkish Grand Prix was that it had been a huge success. The track was great. The people were helpful and when a few small problems have been ironed out, this will be a great event for the sport.