After a prolonged period of Ferrari dominance Formula One had been in the doldrums, while the teams expected to rival the Italian marquee were tying themselves in knots trying to find a technical advantage. It was when the FIA stepped in with new, far reaching rule changes that this pattern was able to change. New rules for aerodynamics, tyres and engines provided new opportunities to get an advantage.
Another factor for the other teams competitiveness this year has been their financial state. Many teams have been on extremely limited budgets, facing closure during the winter of 2004. Also some teams were up for sale, creating uncertainty. As the season progressed over a grueling nineteen races, it has been the teams quickest and best to adapt to the new rules that have succeeded, while other teams perhaps not earmarked for success made a breakthrough and stepped up the order.
In being able to do this, the teams have had to really work at what has been the by-word in Formula One in the new millennium, integration. With rule changes affecting the three critical elements in the car, teams needed the ability to make each one work in unison to provide a balance between speed, tyre wear and engine reliability. Curiously Renault and McLaren are teams with a multi-site approach to chassis and engine design; how this has been possible when the perceived wisdom of an "under one roof" as being best shows how teamwork and communication are at the core of a modern Formula One teams requirements.
As mentioned the FIA brought in three sets of rules changes: two to contain speeds (aero and tyre) and one for cost reduction, as well as some speed containment (engine). Firstly the cars were robbed of about 25% of their downforce by raising the front wing, lowering the diffuse tunnel height and moving the rear wing forwards.