Olivier Panis collected two championship points for Lucky Strike BAR Honda and continued Honda-powered teams' points-scoring run today when he finished fifth in the Austrian Grand Prix at the A1-Ring, Spielberg, in a race of attrition which saw...
Olivier Panis collected two championship points for Lucky Strike BAR Honda and continued Honda-powered teams' points-scoring run today when he finished fifth in the Austrian Grand Prix at the A1-Ring, Spielberg, in a race of attrition which saw half the field retire and David Coulthard narrow Michael Schumacher's lead in the drivers' world championship. Panis' BAR Honda team-mate Jacques Villeneuve finished eighth, although Benson and Hedges Jordan Honda ended its impressive run of points-scoring finishes as the team endured the frustration of seeing both Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Jarno Trulli retire from the race.
When the lights extinguished at the start, the two yellow Jordan Hondas, together with McLaren's Mika Hakkinen and Sauber's Nick Heidfeld were left sitting on the grid, Frentzen when his gearbox seized and Trulli when his launch control system failed. Both the Williams of Juan Pablo Montoya and Ralf Schumacher passed the Ferrari of polesitter Michael Schumacher who had a surprisingly slow getaway. Meanwhile Coulthard had taken full advantage of his team-mate's and the Jordan Honda pair's lack of motion to move up to fifth.
With so many cars stranded on the grid, the safety car was put out for two laps while they were recovered and Frentzen was retired while Trulli restarted from the pitlane. It was here that he passed the red light at the exit, a misdemenour that was to result in his disqualification. Panis by now was running ninth with Villeneuve behind him in 10th, both held up by the slower Jaguar of Eddie Irvine. While Panis swept by on lap 7 to take eighth position his team-mate found it more difficult to get past and a few laps later spun while trying a move down the inside, dropping to 11th as a result.
On the same lap Ralf Schumacher retired with brake problems leaving Montoya to fend off his elder brother's Ferrari, which was clearly quicker. The lead six cars were beginning to queue up behind when Montoya and Schumacher tangled as the latter made an attempt to overtake under braking on the outside, dropping both down the order and behind Panis, who moved up to fourth when Arrows' Jos Verstappen made the first of his pitstops. Coulthard was now second and eyed his chance when the race-leading Ferrari of Rubens Barrichello made his one and only pitstop on lap 45. By staying out longer the McLaren stole the advantage and from rejoining the race in the lead after his stop, Coulthard controlled the gap to take victory.
While Montoya retired before the pitstops with hydraulic problems, Schumacher had fought his way back to third behind his team-mate, where he stayed until the last few metres of the race, when Barrichello pulled over under team orders to promote him to second. Olivier Panis, after a strong first half of the race, couldn't make an impression on the Sauber of Kimi Raikkonen for fourth place and drove a steady, experienced race to cross the line in fifth place.
Olivier Panis 5th "I am very happy for the team and myself with the result today. The two points are very important to us as we look to close the gap in the championship. Jacques had a podium in the last race and I collected points today so I am happy with the progress we are making. Next week we will be in Valencia testing and we will be looking to make some improvements as we prepare for the next round in Monaco."
Kazutoshi Nishizawa - Technical Director, Honda Racing Development "Overall it was a disappointing day but we are pleased for Olivier, who drove well and made the most of his race, particularly in the first half. Jordan Honda's problems were a shame as they had good race potential but we look ahead now and continue to push forward."
Craig Pollock, Team Principal and Managing Director, BAR Honda "It was a good result for us. Olivier drove an absolutely fantastic race and he deserved the two points, if not more, by the way he was racing. The whole weekend has been exceptional and it gives us confidence going into the next race."
Eddie Jordan, Chief Executive, Jordan Honda "After warm-up I really felt that we were in good shape for the race as both cars ran well with good balance. Unfortunately it wasn't to be as Heinz had a gearbox problem that jammed the gears at the start so his car couldn't move, and Jarno's engine stalled after launch control failed. It would appear that the revs were possibly too low for the launch control to activate, which is a fault by the team and not Honda. Jarno had to retire after being shown a black flag for leaving the pitlane to join the race when the pit exit light was red. It's very disappointing for both drivers and the team and we will be having a thorough de-brief to establish the reasons for our lack of performance today."