2005 was the year when F1 stopped being predictable – Michael Schumacher didn’t win everything and a pair of stellar new talents dominated the season. Even some of the best motor sport commentators were caught out.
Matt Bishop, writing in the F1 Racing monthly subscribers’ letter back in February, was as dismissive of the 2005 season as everyone else. â€œMichael Schumacher will win the drivers’ championship and Ferrari the constructors’â€. Not an unreasonable assumption after six consecutive title wins for Ferrari and five for Schumacher.
But it had to end some time and, to the surprise of so many, it ended in 2005. In the early races it merely seemed as though Ferrari had been too optimistic in thinking they could compete with a modified F-2004. Then we all assumed Bridgestone would get on top of their performance deficit to Michelin.
It was about a third of the way into the season that the penny finally dropped. The F2005, an evolution of every Ferrari since the ground-breaking F2001, was not as aerodynamically effective as an MP4-20 or R25. Nor could Bridgestone produce anything to match Michelin’s exceptionally durable one-race tyres, built with decades of endurance racing expertise.
Back in our first issue so many long months ago, our first headline read, â€œThis time they must be stoppedâ€ with a picture of Schumacher’s new Ferrari. We profiled the seven drivers most likely to challenge Schumacher and concluded they were Kimi Raikkonen, Juan Pablo Montoya and Fernando Alonsoâ€¦in that order. Damn.
â€œHe is rightly tipped as a potential world champion, though you wonder if he has quite enough experience of race leading, and truly sufficient race craft,â€ we said. Well, now we know – he certainly does. Melbourne, Bahrain, Imola, Magny-Cours, Interlagos, Suzuka and Shanghai stand as testament to that.
If we weren’t quite spot on with that one, at least we called the Williams situation a little better. â€œAs [Mark] Webber arrives, BMW are demanding victories and threatening to share the engine deal with Sauber or quit F1 entirely.â€ What we didn’t predict was just how well Nick Heidfeld would fare alongside Webber.
Saddest of all, is what became of Minardi. On profiling the teams at the beginning of last year, we praised their resilient independence while all other teams were bought by or became partnered with major manufacturers or other companies. â€œLong may their brazen cheek and futile quest continue.â€
Alas, it didn’t.