MICHELIN EXTENDS WINNING RUN TO NINE RACES Four Michelin drivers set a searing pace in the opening stages of the Canadian Grand Prix & ...
MICHELIN EXTENDS WINNING RUN TO NINE RACES
Four Michelin drivers set a searing pace in the opening stages of the Canadian Grand Prix but only one of them survived 70 gruelling laps. Initially at the tail of the leading group, Kimi Räikkönen (Team McLaren Mercedes) capitalised as a variety of problems struck his rivals and was able to ease to his third win of the campaign, more than a second clear of world champion Michael Schumachers Ferrari.
Renault/Michelin drivers Giancarlo Fisichella and Fernando Alonso swamped front-row qualifiers Jenson Button (B*A*R-Honda/Michelin) and Schumacher at the start. Button clung on to third initially, but the German was swiftly barged aside by McLaren team- mates Juan Pablo Montoya and Räikkönen. The McLarens moved ahead of Button when the Englishman made his first scheduled stop on lap 15, and thereafter any of the top four looked capable of victory.
Montoya threatened to get ahead of Alonso when the first four came in for fuel but although the Colombian rejoined a few inches ahead at the start of the 26th lap, he ran wide onto the grass and dropped immediately back behind the Spaniard. And then the leading group began to crumble
On lap 33, Fisichella slowed with a hydraulic problem and gifted the lead to Alonso. The Spaniard only lasted six laps, however, before clipping a wall and retiring to the pits with suspension damage. Montoya remained ahead of Räikkönen who was struggling with a slight steering problem until lap 47, when third-placed Button crashed heavily at the final chicane.
The Safety Car was deployed but not in time for Montoya to make the pit entrance at the end of his 48th lap. Räikkönen and almost every other driver took advantage of the situation to make their final pit stops. Montoya came in on lap 49 and rejoined just behind Räikkönen but he jumped a red light at the pit lane exit and was promptly disqualified.
That left Räikkönen to hold off Schumacher to the flag and despite concerns about his skewed steering wheel he was still more than a second clear at the flag. I have gained what I lost at the last race and my championship battle is back on. I came here to get ten points and we got them and Im really pleased.
Ron Dennis, McLaren Group chairman, added : . Weve had no problems at all with our Michelin tyres they gave us an opportunity to pace ourselves and win comfortably. Id like to extend my thanks to Michelin for another great job.
The high rate of attrition allowed Rubens Barrichello who started from the pits after a gearbox problem wiped out his qualifying run on Saturday to take third place. That had looked almost certain to go to Jarno Trulli (Toyota/Michelin), but a suspected front brake problem forced the Italian out with only seven laps remaining.
Felipe Massa (Sauber-Petronas/Michelin) took fourth, ahead of Mark Webber (BMW WilliamsF1 Team/Michelin, fifth), Ralf Schumacher (Toyota/Michelin, seventh), David Coulthard (Red Bull Racing/Michelin, seventh), Christian Klien (Red Bull Racing/Michelin, eighth) and Jacques Villeneuve (Sauber-Petronas/Michelin, ninth).
Local favourite Villeneuve qualified a promising eighth, but first-lap contact with Takuma Sato (B*A*R-Honda) damaged his nose section and he lost time pitting for a replacement. Of the other Michelin runners, Nick Heidfeld (BMW WilliamsF1 Team) was running ninth when his engine failed and Sato struggled after being hit by Villeneuve. He eventually pitted for gearbox repairs, but rejoined on the 47th lap just as Button crashed. He soldiered on for a while before his rear brakes locked and pitched him into a spin.
Pierre Dupasquier, Michelin motorsport director:
Despite losing four of our front-running cars through a variety of problems, we maintained our impressive run of F1 form today. The Renaults and McLarens were untouchable in the early stages and all four drivers looked like potential winners, with Jenson Buttons B*A*R-Honda comfortably holding the leading Ferrari at bay not far behind."
"In the end, a number of race incidents forced out several of our fastest cars but Kimi Räikkönen did an excellent job to stay ahead all the way to the flag. In terms of tyre performance, everything has gone absolutely to plan this weekend.
Nick Shorrock, director of Michelin F1 activities:
The three compounds used in this race performed as expected and all of them completed a full race distance. We wondered what effect the late Safety Car period might have, with pressures dropping off at slower lap speeds, but a fair bit of rubber had worn off the tread by that stage and the tyres returned very quickly to full operating temperature as lap speeds indicated."
"After losing a bit of our Saturday morning pace in qualifying largely, we think, because of the way the track had evolved it was very pleasing to see that we were back to our full potential in the race.
Last but not least, Id like to congratulate McLaren-Mercedes for emerging on top in an incident-packed, fiercely-contested grand prix.