The dominance of Mercedes is over. How did the hegemony of Ferrari and Schumacher end?
Never before in the hybrid era has Mercedes come so close to losing the season. It is likely that the seven-year hegemony of the German team will end at the end of this year. In honor of the possible appearance of a new champion in F1, we propose to recall how the dominance of another legendary team, Ferrari, was interrupted sixteen years ago.
Tire rule is the main reason for the interrupted hegemony
The first half of the 2000s can be safely called the era of “Ferrari”. Neither before nor after Scuderia was so closely associated with triumph as at the very beginning of the 21st century. The combination of German and Italian hymns after the finish became the main musical theme of that era. In 2004, Ferrari became the first team in F1 history to win five consecutive individual titles and six in the Constructors’ Championship. The 2004 season generally became a kind of quintessence of the dominance of the team from Maranello: in the first thirteen races, Michael Schumacher won twelve victories! At some point, it seemed that Ferrari’s hegemony would last forever. However, the FIA had its own solution to this issue.
Since 2005, a ban on changing tires during the race came into force. That is, according to the tire reform, pilots were given only one set of tires for qualification and race. During the race, it was allowed to change tires only in case of a puncture (it was allowed to change only the damaged wheel), as well as in rain conditions.
The FIA motivated such a radical reform by the desire to increase the level of safety in F1. In such a florid way, the federation tried to increase the rigidity of the rubber compound (otherwise the tires would not be able to withstand the full distance of the race) and, as a result, slow down the cars when passing dangerous turns. Today, the FIA’s logic seems strange and ridiculous. Especially remembering how very “safe” I went to the Räikkönen wall on the Nürburgring because of the suspension broken on the last lap: it could not withstand the vibrations of a heavily worn wheel.
However, in addition to the official statement of the FIA, there is also an unofficial, but at the same time very logical version of the introduction of such a strange rule. There is an opinion that in this way the international federation tried to interrupt the merciless dominance of Ferrari and bring some intrigue to F1. After all, Scuderia used Bridgestone tires, whose Achilles heel was endurance. Therefore, the Japanese manufacturer had to seriously increase the rigidity of its rubber composition. Thus, the tires were able to slow down Ferrari relative to other teams.
The start of the 2005 season for Ferrari was the worst in 12 years
The Ferrari pilots had to start the 2005 season with last year’s race cars. This practice was not something new for Scuderia: in 2002 and 2003, Schumacher and Barrichello also started the season on old models. That is why the results of “Ferrari” at the starting stage in Australia could not be considered indicative.
The first qualification of the season did not become a triumphant one for Scuderia: Barrichello was able to qualify in 11th position, and Schumacher was completely content with 18th place (it was all the fault of the rain that started before Michael’s attempt). The race for the reigning champions was somewhat more successful than the qualification: Rubens managed to win back nine positions and finish second. But Schumacher was much less fortunate than his partner: Nick Heidfeld, in a desperate attempt to overtake his compatriot, simply carried out the Red Baron.
For Ferrari, the Australian leg was neither a failure nor a success. The first race was not so indicative as to make it clear to the Scuderia management what difficulties they will have to face in the 2005 season.
“It’s too early to draw conclusions. The race in Melbourne cannot be called typical, this track almost does not load the tires, and the qualification was spoiled by the rain, “- argued Ross Brown before the second stage of the championship.
To the general disappointment of the tifozi, Brown’s latent optimism proved unjustified. The weekend in Malaysia for Ferrari began with a failed qualification (Barrichello – 12th, Schumacher – 13th). As for the race, the maximum for the team was only the seventh place of Michael.
The disastrous results at the start of the season forced the leadership of Scuderia to bring the F2005 cars to the Bahrain Grand Prix – two stages earlier than planned. The results of the qualification could inspire some optimism: Schumacher was able to qualify for the second position (the abnormal heat, in which the tires worked well, helped a lot). In the race, the Sahir weather also continued to favor Michael. In the first laps, he kept a second behind the leader, Alonso, and even sometimes tried to attack. However, Schumacher did not please the fans of Scuderia for long: on the 12th lap, the Red Baron had to finish the race due to problems with hydraulics.
After the first three races, Ferrari only had 10 points – the worst result for an Italian team since 1993!
Vivid episodes of a disastrous season: Schumacher almost won in Imola, and took pole at the Hungaroring
In the disastrous 2005 season, the team from Maranello managed to win only one victory. Although the double won at the scandalous stage in the United States cannot be called a real success. The finish ahead of four outsiders for a team that has dominated the previous five years is not a reason for joy.
However, despite the scattering of unsuccessful stages, there were really bright races on the account of Ferrari. The first of them took place on the track, which is essentially home for Scuderia, in Imola.
Before the San Marino Grand Prix, the Scuderia camp did not hide their optimism regarding the new F2005 car, which was tested at the last stage in Bahrain. The high pace of Schumacher throughout the entire Grand Prix unambiguously instilled hope in the Italian team.
Although the start of the racing weekend in Imola for Ferrari was not very optimistic: due to an error in qualifying, Schumacher had to start the race from 13th position. However, the start from the second ten did not prevent the seven-time champion from enthralling local fans. Thanks to the tactics of a late pit stop, Schumacher managed to win back a lot of positions and climb to third place. After the second refueling Michael took the second place and approached Alonso. For the remaining thirteen laps, the Red Baron pressed Fernando furiously. Schumacher was obviously faster than the Renault pilot, but the Spaniard’s brilliant defense did not allow Michael to win that day.
The stages in Bahrain and Imola could have inspired Scuderia with some hope – after all, Ferrari had no problems with the pace. However, the next Grand Prix in Spain brought the Reds back to earth. Inexpressive qualification, Schumacher’s retirement due to a puncture and zero points scored as a result of the stage on the Catalunya circuit.
After the race, Luca di Montezemolo could not resist and issued a tirade about the ill-fated tire reform: “It looks more like a world championship in tires than in cars. We have a very competitive car, but we have big problems with the tires. “
However, tire reform was not the only reason for Ferrari’s weak season. It should be admitted that the F2005 car was not the most successful and had a number of drawbacks. In general, the Scuderia camp did not plan to radically update the car for the 2005 season. Even Ross Brown called the F2005 an evolutionary rather than a revolutionary car, emphasizing that the main task is to adapt the car to changes in regulations. First of all, Maranello sought to make the car lighter to reduce rubber wear in new conditions.
Also in the camp “Ferrari” could not prepare for changes in regulations regarding aerodynamics. In particular, the designers of “Scuderia” did not design the front spoiler in the best way, which became one of the weak points of the car.
The next spoonful of honey in the barrel of the nightmare season for Ferrari was the Canadian Grand Prix. After all, it was in Montreal that Scuderia managed to reach the podium with two cars – for the first time in the season. Thanks to the retirements of two Renault cars and self-elimination by Montoya (he was disqualified for leaving the pit lane under a red traffic light), Schumacher managed to finish second. Also worth noting is the brilliant race performed by Rubens Barrichello , who, having started from the pit lane, managed to reach the podium.
Another striking episode of that season for Ferrari was the pole position of Schumacher, won at the Hungaroring. To the great regret of tifozi, the Red Baron failed to convert the first position on the starting grid into a victory. For most of the race, the Schumacher-Raikkonen-Montoya trio fought for the lead, returning fans to 2003 along the way. In the end, Kimi emerged victorious from this battle – McLaren was too good on the Hungarian track.
At the end of the season, “Ferrari” managed to take only third place in the Constructors’ Cup, and that is largely due to the winning double won at the scandalous stage in the United States. After five years of dominance, the 2005 result can be regarded as a real failure. Fortunately for Scuderia, the next season the FIA lifted the absolutely stupid ban on changing tires during the race. Thanks to the counter-reform, the whole world saw an exciting title battle between Schumacher and Alonso – the latest in the Red Baron’s formulaic career.