Alonso takes title as Schumacher struggles

first_img “I will remember Brazil especially because I won the championship. But the race itself, probably Suzuka would be fun to remember,” he said, pointing to the next-to-last race of the season, the Japanese GP, where he had already clinched the title and was free to race without pressure, finishing third. Alonso said the French GP at Magny Cours was probably the most significant — winning on Renault’s home turf. Renault won the team championship for the first time in a fierce duel with McLaren, which has won it eight times. Renault built a big early lead as the McLarens failed. McLaren rebounded to go ahead by two points entering the Japanese Grand Prix, but Renault won when McLaren’s Juan Pablo Montoya failed to finish the final two races. “It’s frustrating not to achieve the result we want at the end of a season where we have finished on the podium 18 times and claimed 10 victories,” said McLaren head Ron Dennis. The U.S. Grand Prix in Indianapolis marked the low point of the season. After two cars had Michelin tires blow out on a banked turn, the teams and Michelin tried in vain to get the track or rules changed for the race. The sport’s governing body refused to back down, so polesitter Jarno Trulli led 14 Michelin cars into the pits after the warmup lap and the race was run with only six cars. Teams could be allowed to change tires in 2006, one of several proposed rule changes. Among them is a a new qualifying format, with a knockout system that would require racing throughout the one-hour qualifying period. Schumacher said the constant changes in qualifying procedures is confusing to the public. “There are a lot of people watching F1 racing that are not as deeply into the details as we are,” he said. “And as soon as you don’t understand the sport, it is more difficult to follow it and you lose interest. That is to me a factor that should be highly considered before you go and just feel you have to change it for the sake of changing it.” Schumacher has other things to worry about. He struggled all season and ended up third in the standings, and Ferrari lost its spot atop the team standings for the first time since 1998. As the Ferrari era ended, it also marked the end for independent teams Jordan, Sauber and Minardi, all of which raced their final events in China and will be taken over by conglomerates next year. Some drivers will be missing or in new homes next season. Rubens Barrichello will move from Ferrari to the Honda team. Jenson Button, after an extended contract dispute, remained with Honda after buying out his Williams deal. Felipe Massa replaces Barrichello as Schumacher’s teammate at Ferrari. And the top drivers already are looking ahead. “I am always optimistic,” Schumacher said. “I am very happy and confident for next year as well,” Alonso said, “because the potential is here in the team.” 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Fernando Alonso and his Renault team had a remarkable season in Formula One. The same cannot be said of Michael Schumacher and Ferrari. The F1 season ended in China with Alonso and McLaren’s Kimi Raikkonen first and second, much as it was all year. As for Schumacher, his Shanghai race exemplified the season for the seven-time world champion — he crashed in the warmup then became the first to leave the race. Rules changes helped bring Ferrari back to the field in 2005. What will additional changes for the 2006 season do to Alonso? Alonso rushed to an early lead this year, winning six of the first 12 races. Then he played it safe, and McLaren won six in a row after Raikkonen straightened out his car problems. center_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week “At the beginning I had a better car, in the middle of the season he had a better car with more mechanical problems than me, so I won the drivers championship a little bit before the end,” Alonso said. Alonso, F1’s youngest world champion at 24, remembers his humble beginnings in 2001 with arguably the sport’s weakest team. “It was a little bit depressing at the beginning of my career because I arrived having won all the categories before Formula One and then at Minardi I was last in all races and it was a little bit frustrating,” Alonso said. “After that I thought I was able to be in a competitive car after one year learning at Minardi but, unfortunately, there was no place for me at Renault, so I was test driver for one year. “And then from 2003 to now I developed myself, my driving style, and I grew up with the team to be in this position.” He had a hard time picking the best moment of 2005. last_img

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