Michael Schumacher might not have been a major factor in the season-closing Japanese Grand Prix, but the German did enough to become the first driver ever to win six Formula One world championship titles. He had to make an early stop for a fresh...
Michael Schumacher might not have been a major factor in the season-closing Japanese Grand Prix, but the German did enough to become the first driver ever to win six Formula One world championship titles. He had to make an early stop for a fresh nose after clipping B.A.R driver Takuma Sato and he also later skated off at the chicane -- taking his brother Ralf with him. He came through unscathed, however, to finish eighth -- and with that the crown was his. Kimi Raikkonen started the afternoon with a chance of beating Schumacher to the crown, but he had to win and hope that his rival failed to score a point. Raikkonen lost touch with the leaders in the early stage of the race, when he was boxed behind Cristiano da Matta (Toyota/Michelin), but he finished seco nd and recovered to take his 10th podium finish of the season.
Schumacher's team-mate Rubens Barrichello won the race -- the seventh F1 victory of his career -- but he inherited first place when a technical problem forced Juan Pablo Montoya (BMW WilliamsF1 Team/Michelin) to retire. The Colombian streaked past Barriche llo on the opening lap, on a track that was still greasy in parts following morning rain, and he raced away to establish a comfortable lead that he maintained until slowing suddenly on lap nine. Barrichello then faced a stern challenge from Fernando Alonso (Renault/Michelin), but engine failure ended the Spaniard's challenge on lap 18. Barrichello was subsequently able to stroke home.
The Brazilian finished 11 seconds clear of leading Michelin runners Kimi Raikkonen and David Coulthard (Team McLaren Mercedes).
Jarno Trulli (Renault) was best of the remaining Michelin runners. After starting last because rain washed out his qualifying lap, he staged a dramatic recovery to finish fifth. After running fourth in the early stages, rookie da Matta ended his season on a high by taking seventh place -- his fourth points finish of the season.
The Brazilian's team-mate Olivier Panis (10th) was best placed of the remaining Michelin runners, ahead of Mark Webber (Jaguar, 11th), Ralf Schumacher (BMW WilliamsF1 Team, 12th) and Justin Wilson (Jaguar, 13th). Schumacher Jnr was delayed by an early spin and a collision with Heinz-Harald Frentzen before later tangling with his brother. Local hero Takuma Sato finished a crowd-pleasing sixth in his first start for the B.A.R-Honda team.
Although Michelin and its partner teams narrowly failed to win either F1 title this season, they have emerged with great credit. Michelin drivers scored seven victories, took eight pole positions, achieved 30 podium finishes (from a maximum 48) and scored 408 of the 624 championship points allocated during the year.
Pierre Dupasquier , Michelin Motorsport Director
POWER WITHOUT THE GLORY
Michelin ended its 2003 season on a positive note at Suzuka with yet another powerful, pace-setting performance. Juan Pablo Montoya (BMW WilliamsF1 Team/Michelin) dominated the early stages of the race until a technical failure forced him to retire. Fernan do Alonso (Renault/Michelin) was also challenging for victory until an engine problem brought his afternoon to a premature halt. Michelin motorsport director Pierre Dupasquier said: "We might not have won today's race but we can leave Japan with our heads held high. Two of our leading cars were eliminated from the race for technical reasons and two more were effectively sidelined yesterday, when a rain shower ruined their qualifying session and consigned them to the back row of the grid. Suzuka wasn't our s trongest track last season, but we definitely had the upper hand in terms of tyre performance this weekend. The season might be over but we will continue to work at full throttle. The company has achieved some excellent results this season and I am absolut ely confident that we can maintain and surpass the standard that we have set this year. "
GET A GRIP. GET A MICHELIN
Michelin has narrowly failed to add to its tally of Formula One world titles this season but the final statistics reveal that it has enjoyed a significant performance advantage over its competitor. During the 16-race season Michelin have scored 408 points against 216 for his competitor. Michelin achieved 30 podium finishes from a possible 48 (62*5 per cent). Pierre Dupasquier says: "Our target is to supply our partners with tyres that provide the best performance in the discipline. The fact we have come clo se to winning both world titles delights me, because our partners have scored points off each other throughout the campaign. I have to thank all our partner teams and the factory staff for their brilliant work."