MICHELIN ENDS ITS CAMPAIGN WITH A GLORIOUS 1-2 Juan Pablo Montoya gave the Michelin-shod BMW WilliamsF1 Team the best possible leaving present with a superbly-controlled victory in the season- closing grand prix at Interlagos, Brazil. The ...
MICHELIN ENDS ITS CAMPAIGN WITH A GLORIOUS 1-2
Juan Pablo Montoya gave the Michelin-shod BMW WilliamsF1 Team the best possible leaving present with a superbly-controlled victory in the season- closing grand prix at Interlagos, Brazil. The Colombian fought off a fierce challenge from his 2005 team-mate Kimi Räikkönen (Team McLaren Mercedes/Michelin) to record his first win of the season and the fourth of his Formula One career.
The weather added a degree of uncertainty to the outcome. Light pre-race drizzle persuaded all but three drivers - Michelin runners Fernando Alonso (Renault), David Coulthard (Team McLaren Mercedes) and Jacques Villeneuve (Renault) - to start on intermediate tyres. Home favourite Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari) led away from pole initially, but Räikkönen passed him on the opening lap.
Barrichello regained the lead at the start of lap four, but it was clear by then that the track was starting to dry. Having slipped towards the tail of the field during the first two laps, Alonso was the quickest driver on the track by lap five and the leaders soon peeled into the pits for a tyre change.
Once the order settled down, Alonso - running out of kilter with the rest in terms of strategy - led Montoya (who passed Räikkönen shortly after the two had exited the pits almost side by side), Räikkönen, Ralf Schumacher (BMW WilliamsF1 Team/Michelin), Takuma Sato (B*A*R- Honda/Michelin), Barrichello, Villeneuve and Coulthard.
Montoya swept into the lead when Alonso stopped on lap 18 - and thereafter he only had to worry about Räikkönen. The Colombian retained his lead after the pair had made their final scheduled stops - but only just. The Finn put the leader under constant pressure during the closing stages, but Montoya held on to win by just 1.0s.
"It feels incredible," Montoya said. "The very first laps were difficult because I lost some positions at the start before the tyres got up to temperature, but then I seemed to have more grip than the others. There was real pressure from Kimi and I made one mistake, which made me think, 'Whooah! Be careful'. But after that everything ran smoothly. I have had four great seasons with Williams and this is a great way to finish. I'd like to thank everybody."
The first two finished well clear of the opposition. Barrichello recovered to finish third, after gaining two places at his final scheduled stop, ahead of a tightly-knit group comprising Alonso, Ralf Schumacher (BMW WilliamsF1 Team/Michelin), Takuma Sato (B*A*R-Honda/Michelin) and world champion Michael Schumacher, who started his Ferrari 18th. He picked up a 10-position grid penalty for switching to his spare car after an accident in Saturday morning's free practice session - and also survived an early- race spin.
Sato's team-mate Jenson Button ran with the leading group initially, but was forced to pull off with an engine problem on lap four. Of the remaining Michelin runners, Jacques Villeneuve (Renault) finished 10th ahead of David Coulthard (McLaren Mercedes, 11th), Jarno Trulli (Toyota, 16th), Ricardo Zonta (Toyota, 13th) and Christian Klien (Jaguar, 14th).
Klien survived a clash with team-mate Mark Webber at the start of the 24th lap: the Australian attempted to pass at the first turn and the two cars collided. Webber subsequently retired with a damaged nose section.
Pierre Dupasquier, Michelin motorsport director:
"There are worse ways than this to end a season! I would like to compliment everybody at Williams and McLaren for the way they have finished the campaign - and also Juan Pablo Montoya and Kimi Räikkönen, for the manner in which they conducted themselves in a no-holds-barred battle. It underlines what we have said throughout the season: we provide competitive tyres for all our partner teams, although circumstances have occasionally combined to deny us the results of which we are capable."
"There were some other interesting aspects to today's race, too. In the opening stages, Kimi Räikkönen easily passed Rubens Barrichello when the track was at its wettest, which proved the competitiveness of our intermediates. And Fernando Alonso's spirited performance on dry tyres in wet conditions is also worthy of mention. He lost more time than I thought he would initially, because parts of the track were damper than we had anticipated, but once he took the lead he drove brilliantly to hold onto it."
"We also saw, once again, how Michelin's dry tyres offer our partners a significant advantage when conditions are slippery. This was a fantastic result - but we won't be taking our foot off the throttle as we prepare for the winter break. We are already looking ahead to 2005. Roll on Melbourne."