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Sun, 2005-Oct-30

The 2005 Formula 1 Season

Hugh Blemings, I think you've been out of touch for the entire F1 season. Michael didn't ever look like a chance. He (and Ferrari) won only the US grand prix, but even that was under special circumstances. During the early races the Ferrari media engine fairly succesfully pinned the blame on their Bridgestone tyres that proved to not at all give them the advtantage they had in 2004, perhaps because of the 2005 one tyre rule. Later in the season as Bridgestone seemed to improve it became clear that the car as a whole was underperforming in a field that included vastly improved Renault and MacLaren-Mercedes teams. Even the legendary Ferrari reliability seemed to fail them.

I made two predictions after the 2004 season finshed. I said that Michael and Ferrari would countinue their dominance in 2005. I was wrong about that, but I still think it was a fair call given the powerhouse that was Ferrari last year. The second was that Renault would win out over BAR-Honda, who they seemed to be racing last year. Honda was building mid-range cars with good horsepower. Renault were building mid-range cars with good mechanical grip. In 2004 it was clear that Renaults focus was starting to really pay off. They were starting to be able to drive around Hondas as they were coming out of corners, even though they couldn't match Honda's straight-line speed. I thought Honda wouldn't be able to follow Renault, and at least on that one I was right.

Between them, Renault and MacLaren took every first place other than that available for the US grand prix. Unfortunately Michelan had serious technical problems with their tyres that weekend which culminated in every Michelan-clad team refusing to start the race. The US ran with only three teams and six cars. Michael scored ten (10) points that day compared to Fernando Alonso and Kimi Räikkönen's zero. If that race's points are excluded Michael's ranking drops to number five in a field of twenty. If you also exclude the eight (8) points earned by his teammate Rubens Barrichello Ferrari drops below Toyota into fourth position out of ten on the constructors' championship.

Mark Webber's team BMW-Williams was also a much bigger force in last year's formual one than this time around. Twelve months earlier I think you would have heard derision at the idea that BAR-Honda could beat them. In fact, Williams didn't break out of the double figures in the drivers championship. I've heard some suggestion that Mark has been let down by a team that promised to be a lot better than it has been, but I've also seen something of a lack of subtlety to Mark's driving that doesn't put him in my highest regard. He seemed to end up with his and someone else's cars wrapped together a bit more often then I would expect of a such a promising driver. His passing moves seem more to me like pure aggression and hope rather than the skillfully executed manouvers of a clearly thinking sportsperson.

Overall I wasn't greatly impressed by the season. The aerodymanic rules were clearly not working. Race after race we saw faster cars packed up behind slower ones because they couldn't grip the road once they were close enough to try anything. Formula one is a form or motor racing that emphaises qualifying position and pit strategy over passing, however discouting the vehicle's engineering solution as deeply as these rules have done is ridiculous.

The 2005 tyre rules look like they'll be reversed for 2006. It think this is a good thing. The 2005 tyres seemed to wear well enough through a race, and that is a credit to both Bridgestone and Michelan engineering. I just felt that for a sport that is so focused on pit strategy that not having the option to use a new set of tyres on the way out of the pit meant the variation in strategy was poor. I think the racing will be more exciting once tyre changes are once again allowed.

I don't have any predictions for next year except that it will be even more political than this year and that the racing will be a little better. I can't pick who'll win. You have to back both Williams and Renault for their performance this year, but it would be foolish to discount a continually improving Toyota team or the money that could still be sunk into Ferrari or Williams. You can find 2005 was well as older results on the F1 website by racetrack, driver, or team.