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Friday favourite: Renault's original F1 title-winner that began the Alonso era

A stalwart of 229 Formula 1 starts, the clear high point of Giancarlo Fisichella's top-flight career was his second spell at 'Team Enstone', when Renault won back-to-back constructors' world championships and powered Fernando Alonso to the drivers' crown in 2005 and 2006. The first of these Anglo-French title-winners, the R25, retains a special place in Fisichella's heart

Giancarlo Fisichella, Renault R25.

Giancarlo Fisichella, Renault R25.

Motorsport Images

When you’ve raced over a dozen different Formula 1 cars from Minardi to Ferrari, and enjoyed a lengthy GT racing career in the Prancing Horse’s machinery, choosing a favourite is going to be tough.

Post-F1, Giancarlo Fisichella has notched up two class victories at the Le Mans 24 Hours with AF Corse, in 2012 and 2014. Naturally, he considers the Ferrari 458 GTE with which he took those GTE Pro wins alongside Gianmaria Bruni and Toni Vilander among his favourites, citing “great memories with this car,” as well as the Risi Competizione-run 488 GTE he took GTLM honours at Petit Le Mans in 2016 with Vilander and James Calado. He says the “step forward” of the 488 makes it his preferred choice of the two.

But there is one car that for Fisichella stands out above all others. It's the machine that took Renault to its first F1 constructors’ championship in 2005 and helped his team-mate Fernando Alonso to his first drivers’ title – the R25.

Having made his F1 debut with Minardi in 1996 before stints at Jordan and Benetton, Fisichella had notched up over 120 starts by the time he joined Sauber for 2004. The 2003 Brazilian Grand Prix winner exploited this experience to comfortably outperform team-mate Felipe Massa, with 22 points to the Brazilian’s 12, including a strong fourth in Canada. That piqued the interest of his former Benetton boss Flavio Briatore and Fisichella duly rejoined the renamed Enstone team, now known as Renault, for 2005 alongside Alonso.

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The mighty yellow-and-blue V10 machine was quick off the blocks, enthuses Fisichella, who proclaims it as “the best car I drove in my life” and in which he claimed his second F1 win at the 2005 season opener in Australia.

Sneaking in before the rain fell, in the first appearance of F1's short-lived dalliance with two-part aggregate qualifying, Fisichella took his first pole since the 1998 Austrian Grand Prix with Benetton while team-mate Alonso lingered in 13th. The Italian remained firmly in command during the race, leading all but three laps following stops to refuel, as fellow front-row starter Jarno Trulli's Toyota dropped back with tyre issues. It was a dominant second victory for Fisichella, who was joined on the podium by Ferrari's Rubens Barrichello with Alonso third. 

Fisichella would only win once more in Malaysia the following year - again after snaring pole - but led several more races in the R25, denied a potential victory by a hydraulics failure in Canada and losing out to Kimi Raikkonen's McLaren on the final lap at Suzuka.

Fisichella enjoyed a dream return to Team Enstone by winning first time out with the R25 in Australia

Fisichella enjoyed a dream return to Team Enstone by winning first time out with the R25 in Australia

Photo by: Lorenzo Bellanca / Motorsport Images

“I remember already the first time I drove the car in winter testing, I felt fantastic,” he recalls of the R25. “Grip, handling of the car, I was so comfortable. The engine was fantastic, so powerful.

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“Straight away I said we can win with this car and with a good team, good strategy, I think we can do a good season and that was true. Straight away the first race, pole position and I won! From the beginning to the end, I was leading. It was a great time, it was a great start.”

"You go into the race weekend and mentally you know you go there for a win or to get on the podium" Giancarlo Fisichella

Fisichella has fond memories of 2005 and 2006, when he contributed to two title doubles, and says he shared “many, many good moments” with Alonso: “We worked together, that was very important for the team. We did well, but also there was a very good atmosphere between me and him – sharing dinner, sometimes before the race we were playing cards with Flavio Briatore. So that was a good mix, to have a good atmosphere and working together.”

Fisichella says those two seasons, prior to Michelin's withdrawal at the end of 2006, were “my best moments” in F1. He adds: “It’s nice when you are in a good team, and you’ve got a good car. You go into the race weekend and mentally you know you go there for a win or to get on the podium.”

Fisichella enjoyed the prospect of regularly challenging for wins and podiums during the 2005 and 2006 seasons before Michelin withdrew

Fisichella enjoyed the prospect of regularly challenging for wins and podiums during the 2005 and 2006 seasons before Michelin withdrew

Photo by: Sutton Images

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