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Renault Claim Constuctors’ Championship

The Chinese Grand Prix saw the status quo retained for the last race of the Formula One season with Fernando Alonso starting from pole and leading until the flag came down on the 2005 season. Michael Schumacher retired during the second safety car period and Rubens Barrichello finished just outside the points in ninth.

Saturday’s qualifying resulted in an all-Renault front row followed up by the McLaren of Kimi Raikkonen in third and his team mate Juan Pablo Montoya in fifth place - leaving the battle for the FIA Constructors Championship wide open. Michael Schumacher grabbed sixth place and the second Scuderia Ferrari driver, Rubens Barrichello rounded out the fourth row of the grid.

The Shell-powered Ferrari team was looking forward to a good end to what has been a disappointing season, when a freak accident saw the Minardi of Christijan Albers collide with Schumacher’s Ferrari on the way round to the grid. The accident meant both drivers started from the pit lane, Schumacher in the spare car that had never turned a wheel in anger.

The drag to the first corner saw the Renault of newly crowned World Champion, Alonso, make the most of his pole position. Leading into the first corner, Alonso was followed by his team mate, Giancarlo Fisichella, and the McLaren of Raikkonen. Montoya jumped ahead of BAR’s Jenson Button while David Coulthard took fifth place at the first corner. Having started from the pit lane, Michael Schumacher came out of the first lap in 17th place, while the other drivers held their first corner positions.

With only two points separating the Renault and McLaren teams entering the Chinese Grand Prix, both teams’ drivers were under immense pressure to claim as many points as possible. Alonso took the advantage and disappeared in to the distance with an almost three second lead at the end of lap three. At this stage of the race it appeared that the two Renaults were on different strategies, Alonso running light on fuel and looking for three stops while his team mate would be taking a more traditional two stops.

Lap 12 saw Alonso continue to compete with devastating speed, a 12-second lead was being helped by Fisichella running slower and holding up the two fast McLarens. By lap 15, the leaders had yet to pit, and it looked like the McLarens were waiting for the ‘light’ Renaults to stop for fuel and take position during the first pit stop segment of the race.

Red Bull’s David Coulthard was the first of the points positions to pit, while Montoya and Button both entered the pits as the safety car was deployed at the end of lap 18, Montoya changing his right front tyre after hitting a stray drain cover on the track before returning the next lap for fuel. Alonso then took the opportunity to dive in to the pits. After all the jostling under the yellow flags in the pit lane, the positions eventually settled down. Alonso held on to a much reduced lead from his team mate Fisichella and Raikkonen in third. Barrichello had managed to vault up the order during the stops and would restart from fourth place with Ralf Schumacher, Mark Webber, Button and Coulthard completing the top eight.

While under the safety car, Schumacher ended his worst season with the Ferrari team, cold tyres getting the better of him. The safety car eventually came off the track and back in to the pits on lap 24, the drain cover having taken some time to replace. Alonso again took to the lead and set about winning the Constructor’s Championship for Renault, while Montoya’s car sat in the garage with damage from hitting the drain cover before the safety car was deployed.

Only six laps after the first safety car took to the track, Narain Karthikeyan had a massive shunt which caused the safety car to come out again. Even though many cars were running heavy with fuel, the race leaders still dived for the pits - Alonso was first with his team mate coming in slowly behind him. The safety car eventually came in on lap 33 and the racing resumed for the last 22 laps of the 2005 season. Raikkonen didn’t seem to have the pace, and Alonso took off in to the distance.

With 12 laps to go, Barrichello ran wide and let Webber and Button go by, and then came under pressure from the Red Bull of Coulthard - who goes by with 11 laps to go. Rubens then headed for the pits one lap later for a check up, the Ferrari mechanics identified a flat spotted front tyre.

Just as Renault thought they were heading for a solid one-three finish, Fisichella was handed a drive-through penalty from the race stewards for holding up Raikkonen on the way in to the pits during the second safety car period. The trip through the pits meaning he dropped one place to fourth.

The last race of 2005 saw another win for the new World Champion, Fernando Alonso. His main competition Kimi Raikkonen took second, while the last podium spot was taken by Toyota’s Ralf Schumacher. The rest of the points scoring positions went to Giancarlo Fisichella, Christian Klein, 2006 Ferrari driver Filipe Massa, Mark Webber and Jenson Button in eighth.

Commenting on today’s race, Mike Copson, Shell Formula One Technical Manager, said, ‘A very disappointing way to finish 2005. However, the technical partnership between Shell and Ferrari is as strong as ever, and after time to reflect on 2005 we are more than determined to come back strong in 2006.’

With the 2005 FIA Formula One World Championship put to bed with Renault as Constructors’ Champion and Fernando Alonso as the Drivers’ Champion, the teams will head back to their bases and take a well earned break. Shell and Ferrari will work hard towards the 2006 Championship and fully intend to return to fight for both Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championships.

Reflecting on the 2005 season, Alberto Friedrich, Shell Global Sponsorship Manager, said, '2005 has been a tough year for Scuderia Ferrari, however finishing third in the Championship is something many other teams can only dream of in a championship as competitive as Formula One. Ferrari is still the best partner to develop and test Shell's products to the limit, this has been proved with our 100% reliability record this year, of this Shell is very proud. You can be sure that both companies will be working at their maximum over the winter to produce the best possible car for the new V8 regulations in 2006. This year's results motivate us even more to push harder together with Ferrari for next year.'