French Revolution - 2005 Renault R25
Renault has been a part of Formula 1 since the late 70’s and had success in the early 80’s during the early days of the turbo era which the team revolutionized. Although the team had been competitive and was a regular top 3 in teams championship but never accomplished the goal to win a championship. The best they could was 2nd in both championships was in 1983 under the lights of “The Professor” Alain Prost and the RE40 before fading away and disbanded in 1985 with financial problems.
Renault was back in the big stage when they bought the struggling Benetton in 2002 and announced their arrival to challenge the title with other factory teams with other big names such as Ferrari, McLaren (Mercedes), BAR (Honda) and Williams (BMW).
They slowly but surely finding success and recorded their first win with the young Spanish prodigy Fernando Alonso before finishing 3rd in the championship in 2004.
The 2005 season came and Renault was one of the favorite to win the title to end the Ferrari domination by Michael Schumacher since 2000. The team new machine is the R25, the successor of the R24. The R24 was a successful car recording a victory by Jarno Trulli in Monaco and four more podiums.
The car design was similar to the R24 but the most notable change was the front wing and rear wing which was designed to comply the new 2005 rules which reduce the car downforce by one-quarter. It was powered by the V10 Renault RS25 which was the last Renault V10 before the rule change in 2006.
The team lineup was changed as the Italian Giancarlo Fisichella partnering the young Spaniard Alonso while Trulli moved to Toyota for the last 3 races of 2004 and stayed there for 2005.
The team then headed to Australia for the opening round of the championship where Renault showed up their strength with a perfect weekend, where Fisi claims pole and win while Alonso was on the podium in 3rd and recorded the fastest lap.
The next three races was the complete opposite for both drivers. Fisichella retired all three with contacts with Webber in Malaysia, engine problems in Bahrain and crashing out on his own in San Marino.
Opposite to his teammate, Alonso was on a hot streak with three consecutive victories and claims the lead of the championship. At Imola, Alonso held up a charging Ferrari of Michael Schumacher in an epic battle where the German was unable to pass the young Spanish, who play his game when overtaking Schumi in the pit stop phase.
The next race in Spain saw the team off the top step for the first time where they were no match for the McLaren of Kimi Raikkonen which Alonso finishes in 2nd, while Fisi was in 5th behind both the Toyota of Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher.
Although qualified well at Monte Carlo, both Renaults was slow on full fuel load and worn tires caused Alonso to finish 4th behind the Williams. Fisi was in a disappointing 12th. Raikkonen won the race and beginning to be the clear threat to the Renaults for the world titles.
At Nurburgring for the European Grand Prix, although Raikkonen dominated the race but retired on the last lap with a spectacular suspension failure due to the flat spot on his tires. This would handed the victory to Alonso while Fisichella finishes in 6th.
Canada was a horror show for the team. Although qualified on the second row, both cars retired at the half distance where Fisichella had a hydraulics problem on lap 32 while Alonso retired 6 laps later with a suspension issues which hampered his championship run with Raikkonen winning the race. This would be the team first double retirement of the season.
Things didn’t get any better when the team (plus all teams running Michelin tires) was forced to retire before the race due to safety reasons for Ralf Schmacher crash which was contributed by a tire failure at the Turn 13 bend at Indiannapolis. Only team running with Bridgestone tires competed and sparked outrage in the Formula 1 community and the race was later dubbed the “Indygate”.
The next three race at Magny Cours, Silverstone and Hockenheim was business as always for Renualt. Alonso won in France and Germany while finishes 2nd in Britain. Fisichella got some valuable points for the team in the constructor championship with a 6th and two 4th place finishes.
Hungary was another shocker for the team, they were off the pace all weekends. Alonso had to pit early for a new front wing when he tangled with Ralf at the start and put him out of contention and finishes in 11th, Fisi didn’t have the pace and only finishes in a disappointing 9th.
Shaking off the disappointment at Budapest. Alonso again demonstrated his consistency by finishing 2nd at the next three race in Turkey, Italy and Belgium. He was only beaten by the Mclaren boys who was on a charge. Fisichella finishes 4th in Turkey, got a podium in 3rd at his home race before retiring early at Spa. This would put McLaren only 6 points behind the team in the constructor battle.
The 17th race of the season was in Interlagos and Alonso was starting on pole and he just need to finish 3rd to win the title and he did just that. Alonso crosses the finish line in 3rd and therefore became the youngest ever world champion at the time at 24 years and 59 days. But with the McLaren finish the race in first and second, Renault trailed the Woking based team by 2 points with two rounds to go.
At Suzuka, Fisi failed to defend Raikkonen to capture the win on the last lap after the Iceman started in 17th. Alonso finishes an impressive 3rd after starting in 16th. Montoya was forced out wide by Villeneuve when he tried to pass on the first lap and crashed which had a major impact on the championship with Renault now 2 points ahead of McLaren heading to the last race at Shanghai.
China was the last race of the season and the constructor championship was still up for grabs. Disaster strikes for McLaren as Montoya retired on lap 24 with engine issues. Although Kimi tried his best and finish 3rd, Alonso victory and Fisichella 4th sealed the French manufacture their first championship in their history.
In the end, Renault captured both championship. Although slower than the McLarens (8 wins to 10) but with better reliability. The French marque ended the drought since joining F1 in 1977 and winning their first constructor and driver’s championship. Solidifying the team legacy in the history books and the R25 is the first French license car since the Matra MS80 in 1969 to win the championship.
The R25 was also the last V10 powered car to win the championship before the new regulations change at the start of the 2006 season which requires team to run the new V8 engine. This would later be the platform for the team continued success in 2006.