Formula One – The Rise Of Renault

By | August 16, 2016

In 2005, Formula One saw Ferrari fade out of sight, as the works Renault team dominated the early part of the season, and Fernando Alonso forged a clear championship lead. In the latter part of the season McLaren were significantly the stronger team, with consistently better results and a win tally of 6 from 7 races. However their early record of poor reliability had meant that catching Renault in either Drivers’ or Constructors’ Championships was a tall order.

For a while it looked close between Rikknen and Alonso, but by Brazil Fernando Alonso had become Formula One’s youngest ever champion. The Constructors’ Championship looked even more likely for McLaren, widely regarded as the faster car and with reliability much improved.

However a retirement for Juan-Pablo Montoya in the season finale at Shanghai secured the Constructors’ title for Renault. One statistic proved the two teams’ dominance: they together won all but one of the races, the controversial US Grand Prix, (in which neither of the two teams participated) which was Schumacher and Ferrari’s only win of the year.

Arguably, the final small specialist racing team disappeared with the September 2005 purchase of Minardi by Red Bull to be renamed as Scuderia Toro Rosso and run as a separate entity alongside Red Bull Racing. Jordan had been bought by Russo-Canadian steel company Midland early in 2005 and was renamed Midland F1 for the 2006 season. In June 2005, BMW bought a majority stake in Sauber, which became their factory entry. The Williams team ceased their partnership with BMW as a result, entering a commercial arrangement with Cosworth instead.

From 2006 manufacturer teams have an unprecedented level of involvement in the sport. Honda also bought BAR. 2006 was the last season with two tyre manufacturers: The two manufacturers at the time were Japanese manufacturer Bridgestone and French company Michelin. In December 2005, the FIA announced that from the 2008 season, there would be only one tyre supplier. Five days later, Michelin announced it would quit Formula One at the end of the 2006 season as it did not want to be in Formula One as the sole tyre supplier, leaving Bridgestone as the sole supplier from 2007.

Renault and Fernando Alonso established early leads in both the Constructors’ and Drivers’ Championships. The Spanish World Champion achieved six wins (including four consecutive victories) in Bahrain, Australia, Spain, Monaco, Britain, and Canada. Teammate Giancarlo Fisichella won his third career race in Malaysia. Schumacher won the United States Grand Prix (his fourth consecutive victory at Indianapolis and fifth career victory there) and the French Grand Prix. He also won the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim, with Alonso finishing 5th.

Jenson Button achieved his first Formula One career victory in the Hungarian Grand Prix. Alonso had a mechanical failure whilst leading in the later stages of the race whilst Michael Schumacher retired after a collision with Nick Heidfeld. However Schumacher was promoted to 8th place in the standings (having been classified 9th following a retirement three laps from the end) because of Robert Kubica’s disqualification in his first race. The Polish driver had finished 7th in the BMW Sauber.

Felipe Massa won the next Grand Prix in Turkey, so for the second race in a row, Formula One had a debut winner. Fernando Alonso extended his lead over Michael Schumacher by two points after he managed to finish a tenth of a second ahead of the German in second place.

Schumacher managed to reduce Alonso’s lead to only two points after winning the Italian Grand Prix, while Alonso suffered an engine failure in the late stages of the race. Despite a fourth-place finish for Alonso’s teammate, Giancarlo Fisichella, and a flat-spotted tyre causing Felipe Massa to score no points, the race also saw Ferrari pull ahead of Renault for the first time in 2006. Polish driver Robert Kubica took his BMW Sauber to his first ever podium finish, in only his third race, but the race results were largely overshadowed by Schumacher announcing, during the post-race press conference, that he would retire at the end of the season. Afterwards he did say that he would hold a position in the Ferrari F1 team for 2007, though he did not disclose what.

Three weeks later, with his victory at Shanghai right ahead of Alonso, Schumacher drew level on points with him him at the head of the championship. Schumacher officially lead the World Championship for the first time in 2006 after the race, as he had won 7 races compared to Alonso’s 6. Massa did not finish the race, and Renault gained again the lead in the constructors’ championship thanks to Fisichella’s third place.

A week later at the Japanese Grand Prix, Felipe Massa took pole ahead of Michael Schumacher in second and Fernando Alonso in fifth. Schumacher quickly took the lead and set about gaining a five second lead, which continued until after the second round of pit stops. However, Schumacher’s engine failed with 17 laps to go, forcing him to retire and handing Alonso the win ahead of Massa.

At the final round, the Brazilian Grand Prix, Massa again took pole. Drama in qualifying saw Michael Schumacher have a fuel pressure problem[24], meaning that he started down in 10th, while Alonso began in 5th. In the race, Schumacher had yet more bad luck, suffering a puncture just a few laps in. He recovered to finish fourth, while teammate Massa became the first Brazilian to win his home Grand Prix since Ayrton Senna, in 1993, and Alonso finished second to secure his second successive championship, adding the record of the youngest man to secure back-to-back titles to his ever-increasing list of records. Fisichella finished 6th for Renault, meaning that the French outfit secured their second successive title.