The acquisition of Jordan Grand Prix in January by Alex Shnaider, Chairman of the Midland Group, meant that the 2005 FIA Formula One World Championship was going to be a transition year for the team before it is renamed Midland in 2006. 2005 has therefore been a particularly challenging final season for the Silverstone-based team.
The whole adventure started in Moscow on February 25, when Jordan Grand Prix presented its familiar yellow car with its 2005 driver lineup, Tiago Monteiro and Narain Karthikeyan, on Red Square, Moscow’s oldest and most famous landmark. Just a day after braving snow and temperatures of -10° C, both drivers flew to Melbourne, Australia, for the start of their first ever season in Formula One, comprising many challenges, as they had to learn most of the tracks. Karthikeyan, the first Indian driver ever to participate in the F1 Championship, made a remarkable debut in qualifying 12th on the grid.
Indianapolis was a turning point for the team, where it was able to score 11 precious points and a podium for Monteiro, the first ever for a Portuguese driver in the sport. Although these points were due to the withdrawal from the race of the Michelin-shod teams for safety reasons, the drivers had still the hard task of finishing the race. The summer was fairly quiet for Jordan until the race at the notorious circuit of Spa Francorchamps where, in very difficult weather conditions, both drivers had terrific races and Monteiro scored a point – finishing 8th.
Throughout the season, the team had the advantage of running a third car on Fridays and benefited from young and talented drivers such as Robert Doornbos, Franck Montagny, Nicolas Kiesa and Sakon Yamamoto to help gather some crucial information and data.
Unfortunately, there was also a downside to the season. Monaco was a very difficult weekend for the team from both a sporting and media point of view. The car had been slow the whole weekend and rumours were circulating that Alex Shnaider was going to sell the team. The departure of a few key personnel people within the team did not help, and only reinforced the rumours. However, after a few weeks, things calmed down and the rumours proved unfounded. Alex Shnaider had no intention of selling Jordan and, despite the uncertainties, the team emerged stronger and more unified.
The lack of testing over the winter and during the year, added to the late introduction of the EJ15B at Monza, also made things difficult for the team. Once introduced, however, the EJ15B proved to be a real improvement.
Thanks to the tremendous support of Toyota and Bridgestone throughout the season, Jordan Grand Prix has been one of the most reliable teams of the Championship with a 84% percentage of race finishes and 97% mechanical reliability. Hopefully, the team will be able to maintain its incredible reliability record, with the continuous collaboration of these partners in 2006.
The Chinese Grand Prix marked the end of an era for the yellow cars and now all the team’s efforts are turned towards the 2006 season, which will see the introduction of Midland F1 whose complete new car, the M16, will be run in February.
Alex Shnaider, Co-founder and Chairman of the Board, Midland Group:
“We knew this was going to be a difficult season as we took over a team in financial disarray and had very little time to prepare for the first race in Australia. Despite these obstacles, we met our objectives of learning and improving as much as possible. The team showed tremendous dedication at each race and did a great job with the resources that were available: The car proved reliable, its development progressed steadily over the course of the season and our drivers showed impressive speed. So even though we expected to struggle during this transition period, our first season can be viewed as an overall success. Now we are looking forward to competing in 2006 under the Midland banner and improving our team even further.”
Narain Karthikeyan: “2005 has been a challenging first season in Formula One for me but I have learnt a lot. Most of the tracks were unfamiliar to me, so I had to spend a considerable amount of time learning the layout and getting used the car’s handling. I have great memories of my first race qualifying in Australia, where I was 12th. I particularly enjoyed driving there, as there is a large Indian community in Melbourne and it was an amazing feeling to see all the Indian flags around the circuit. Imola was also a great race for me as I was battling with Coulthard and was setting some good lap times. Then there was Indy. We had an opportunity to score points and I am delighted I was able to get some World Championship points; being the first Indian driver ever to do so. I really enjoyed Spa as well, as the conditions were tricky and I was running the EJ15B for the first time in the race. Unfortunately, my choice to go on slick tyres was a bit too early. Qualifying 11th in Japan, the best qualifying place for Jordan Grand Prix this season, was great too. The bad times were obviously the five races I did not finish. I made a few mistakes like at Monaco, Canada and China, but I was also a bit unlucky, having experienced technical problems in Bahrain and at Silverstone, which unfortunately happens. Now let’s see what the future brings.”
“I could not have dreamed of a better first season in Formula One. Having finished 95 % of the 19 races was a great team achievement. I completed the most race mileage of all the drivers and hold the record of 16 consecutive race finishes for a rookie. The car has been amazingly reliable this year, which was essential for me to be able to learn as much as possible and gather as much information as I could. The podium at Indianapolis was unexpected and a great moment for us. It was fantastic to be on the podium and see all my mechanics and engineers so happy, cheering for me. The point scored at Spa was also a great moment, especially as it was a tough race in difficult weather conditions. I really enjoyed the Nurbrugring, as I was fighting with the teams ahead of us. Monaco was tough, but it was very satisfactory to be able to finish such a long and challenging race. I particularly enjoyed the tracks in Turkey and at Suzuka. There were also a couple of low points during the season, such as Imola and Monza, where the car was really difficult to drive. Sao Paulo was very disappointing; as it was the first and only time I had to retire during the season and this only 15 laps from the end. It was very frustrating, as otherwise we may have finished all 19 races, which would have been unbelievable. However, that’s racing and it will unfortunately happen again. The high points of the year have been so great that they outweigh the bad ones. Once again, I would like to thank the whole team for a fantastic season.”
James Key, Technical Co-ordinator:
“Although we have not been as competitive as we would have liked during 2005, there have been a number of strong points to the season. The highlight is undoubtedly our reliability, which has been extremely good throughout, a credit to our engineers here at Silverstone and our partners at Toyota. We have also made some positive developments throughout the season, a number of which form the basis of the 2006 car. In the early part of the season some suspension development work improved the balance, stability and mechanical grip of the EJ15. The EJ15B, introduced towards the latter half of the season, has proved a good step forward. This was an aero-development programme, which not only improved the cars “headline figures” but also further improved stability and handling. We have learned a lot from the 15B and the aero concepts behind it will carry through the next year’s car. Obviously it is sad to see the name of Jordan go from F1, as it is a team which has enjoyed a fair amount of success over the last 15 years. However, recent seasons have been tough and this year was compromised by not being able to design an entirely new car. With the change to Midland F1, we now have a new opportunity ahead of us, and, with a new car for the 2006 season, a fresh platform on which to develop. We have to be realistic, as where we are coming from requires a significant step in performance for us to be in the points on a regular basis. Many team members – myself included – are confident that we can once again become a competitive and successful team, as in the past. The M16 (2006 car) will see a lot of development work during the 2006 season and, with the continued improvement of the facilities at the Silverstone HQ, we have a very positive outlook for the future.”
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