SOLID RÃ„IKKÃ–NEN RETAINS POINTS LEAD Schumacher wins again but Finn won't give up title quest without a fight Michael Schumacher scored his second consecutive Austrian Grand Prix win at the A1-Ring today -- but this was a success untainted by a...
SOLID RÄIKKÖNEN RETAINS POINTS LEAD
Schumacher wins again but Finn won't give up title quest without a fight
Michael Schumacher scored his second consecutive Austrian Grand Prix win at the A1-Ring today -- but this was a success untainted by a team orders row of the kind that dominated the headlines in last season's corresponding fixture, when his team-mate Rubens Barrichello ceded the lead at the final corner.
The 67th victory of Schumacher's F1 career wasn't entirely clear-cut, however. He struggled on a damp track during a brief rain shower, when the Michelin cars were several seconds per lap faster, and then lost time during his first scheduled pit stop, when a fuel rig problem led to a brief flash-fire.
Although that dropped him to third, behind leading Michelin contenders Juan Pablo Montoya (BMW Williams F1 Team) and Kimi Räikkönen (McLaren-Mercedes), he eventually worked his way back to the front. It might have been a different story, however, had Montoya lasted the distance. Once he had been gifted the lead the Colombian was able to pull away until his engine blew up on lap 31.
"Even when some drizzle came I was catching Michael at a rate of two seconds a lap, which I think clearly shows that the FW25 has potential, the team is going in the right direction and the Michelins are working well." said Juan Pablo.
Räikkönen fought off a late challenge from Schumacher's team-mate Rubens Barrichello to take second place and maintain his world championship lead. He heads Schumacher by two points with 10 races still to go. " I'm pleased that I managed to keep the lead in the Championship even though it is getting smaller. I was a bit slow getting off the line at the start and lost a position to Montoya. " said Kimi.
Five Michelin drivers scored points. David Coulthard (McLaren-Mercedes) fought his way through from 14th on the grid to finish fifth, ahead of Ralf Schumacher (BMW WilliamsF1 Team, sixth), Mark Webber (Jaguar, seventh) and Jarno Trulli (Renault, eighth). Schumacher survived a trip through the gravel at Turn Five. Webber started from the pits and then overcame a stop-go penalty, the result of a pre-race procedural error, to score his second consecutive points finish.
Antonio Pizzonia (Jaguar) finished ninth and Cristiano da Matta (Toyota) survived a fraught day to take 13th. The Brazilian twice caused the start to be aborted when he stalled on the grid. That gave the race a touch of historical symmetry: in 1987, the final Austrian GP at the old Österreichring required three starts. This year's event is likely to be the last at the A1-Ring, for the time being at least, and it, too, took three attempts to get going.
There was no joy for the remaining Michelin runners. Fernando Alonso (Renault) started from the pit lane but made effective use of a one-stop strategy to work his way up to fifth place -- despite briefly being delayed by a spin. After stopping to refuel he was on course to maintain his 100 per cent seasonal points-scoring record, but then spun on his own oil after developing an engine problem.
"The one-stop stategy was right and I was in eighth position when I was forced to retire because of engine problem. It's the first time I haven't finished a race this season -- and hopefully the last!." said Fernando.
Olivier Panis (Toyota) retired on lap 6 after something on the track pierced his barge board and caused suspension damage. "It is another shame and it has not been a fantastic weekend for us, so we have to keep motivated and think about the next race in Monaco in two weeks."
Michelin's day: Pierre Dupasquier -- Michelin Motorsport Director
RÄIKKÖNEN AND MICHELIN RETAIN WORLD TITLE LEAD
Michelin driver Kimi Räikkönen (West McLaren Mercedes) maintained the world championship lead he has held since the start of the season with a stirring drive to second place in today's Austrian Grand Prix, the sixth round of the 2003 FIA Formula One World Championship. Michelin motorsport director Pierre Dupasquier said: "Our main rival's car was at least 1.5 seconds per lap faster than any other using the same type of tyre, so we know how efficient it is."
"As Kimi said afterwards, he had a mechanical problem -- and it would have been nice to see what he might have achieved had he been able to show his full potential. Five of our drivers scored strong points finishes and Juan Pablo Montoya's Williams-BMW was a victory contender until he was forced to retire, so this was a very satisfying performance all round."
SLIP SLIDIN' AWAY
A light rain shower affected the Austrian GP for several laps. Conditions were not slippery enough for drivers to switch to wet-weather tyres -- and during that period cars on Michelin rubber were two to three seconds per lap faster than their rivals.
Pierre Dupasquier: "From a technical viewpoint those few laps were among the most interesting of the race for us. It is obvious that we have adopted a different approach to our rival in terms of construction methods because, as we saw in Melbourne at the start of the year, our tyres are much quicker when a circuit is affected by light drizzle."
THIS COULD BE THE LAST TIME
It is possible that this year's Austrian Grand Prix could be the last -- in the foreseeable future, at least. Michelin has scored four of its 67 Formula One world championship successes in Austria -- and all of them came on the classic, high-speed Österreichring that the current circuit superseded in the mid-1990s. Jean-Pierre Jabouille (Renault, 1980), Jacques Laffite (Ligier-Matra, 1981), Alain Prost (Renault, 1983) and local hero Niki Lauda (McLaren-TAG turbo, 1984) have all won this event for Michelin.
Michelin will be fighting to retain its lead in the world championship for drivers when teams reassemble two weeks from now in Monaco -- the most prestigious of all Formula One races. Michelin scored a memorable victory around the streets of the principality last season, with David Coulthard and McLaren-Mercedes, but teams face a fresh challenge this year.
Pierre Dupasquier: "The Monaco track layout has been changed for the first time in many years, although that won't make overtaking any easier. What's more, a substantial section of the track has been resurfaced and it won't be like the Monaco we have come to know and love. We won't necessarily be able to fall back on the data we have picked up during the past two seasons. Technically and strategically it will be a very interesting weekend."