A sleepless night for the Renault F1 Team as they celebrated championship victory in Shanghai, following a dominant win for Fernando Alonso in Sunday’s race. Monday morning was a story of sore heads and big smiles. Here is what you might have missed from yesterday’s post-race celebrations…
“The constructors’ championship is not so important”
It may have sounded strange during the build-up to the Chinese Grand Prix, as Fernando and Flavio played down the significance of the constructors’ championship. If the drivers’ title was the icing on the cake of the 2005 season, then the other title would just be the cherry on top. Come Sunday evening, though, the smiles were broad and hugs sincere as they congratulated every member of their team. So what had the strange build-up been all about?
“We said since the start of the season that the title we wanted to win was the drivers’ crown – the championship that the public care about,” explains Flavio. “We managed our year well, and won the championship. Then some people started building up the constructors’ title as if it was the most important thing in Formula 1. It seemed like if we didn’t win it, people would say we had failed this season. So to come here, and do the right job at the right time, is a fantastic feeling. I think today showed why this team are world champions.” As for Fernando? He was surprised by the emotion of the moment. “I didn’t think there could be anything equal to Brazil,” he explained. “For a driver, winning the championship is the ultimate. But to be on the podium, and look down and see the joy of my people. Well, it is the same feeling again…”
What might have been…
It almost seems churlish to think of what might have been after Sunday’s fantastic victory in Shanghai. But in the midst of the celebrations, the quality of the true team performance on Sunday might have been missed. The race was effectively split into three by the double intervention of the safety car, on laps 19 and 30, and each time this worked against Renault. Fernando led by 20 seconds on lap 19, and five on lap 30, and his advantage was systematically wiped out. Had the field not been bunched up, effectively penalising the Spaniard a total of 25 seconds and allowing Raikkonen to pass Fisichella as the Renault cars queued in the pit-lane, then what result might have been possible?
“The record books will show we finished first and fourth,” explained Pat Symonds. “But without the safety car spoiling our race, first and third were guaranteed, and there was the distinct possibility of scoring a one-two. Indeed, I wish the race had been cleaner, because that would have given a clear idea of the performance our teams in Enstone and Viry found for the final races. Furthermore, a special word of praise should go to Giancarlo. He drove a fabulous race, and fully understood the team’s objectives. It was a selfless drive, as he controlled his pace in the first stint to keep the car in good condition at the end of the race while maintaining a comfortable gap to the McLarens. He came in for some criticism in Suzuka, but we win and lose as a team at Renault, and it was extremely satisfying to see him bounce back with such a great performance.”
The Renault F1 Team symphony
The world heard Fernando as he sang on the radio after Sunday’s victory, ‘We are the champions’. The consensus seemed to be that the Spaniard should stick to the day job, but there was music of a different kind later in the evening as the cars returned to the garage, and an old ritual was performed. It was like an initiation ceremony, as the lights in the garage were turned off, the team massed around Fernando’s car. And then it happened: the engine ticked over, fired, and for one last time, a championship-winning V10 reverberated around a Renault garage as engine mechanic Christophe Niot played with the ‘joystick’, the engine sang up to 18,500 rpm. And it wasn’t just for Renault’s benefit: mechanics from Williams, Red Bull, McLaren, BAR and others crowded in and around the team’s garage to get a closer look.
Head of Engine Operations Denis Chevrier takes up the story… “We wanted to observe our own small tradition yesterday evening, to listen to the engine for one last time. A static car can never transmit the emotion that goes into our work, so to see it running in the garage at racing speeds shows people that the engine isn’t just cold technology, it lives, it breathes, and it is born out of our passion. And to see our friends and rivals join with us for the moment was perfect. It was a communion of our shared passion: some teams have had good seasons, others not, but we are all there for the same thing, and we all share the same enthusiasm for going racing. There is a long winter ahead for everybody, but you have to know when to make the most of the moment. We did that, and gave the engine a fitting tribute.”
And thus, the V10 era closes. Renault introduced the engine in 1989, developed it to championship winning competitiveness from 1992 to 1997, and then returned to do it again. 85 race wins, seven constructors’ titles and six drivers’ world championship. All powered by the men from Viry-Châtillon.