Justin Wilson's Monaco Grand Prix debut ended in disappointment this afternoon as a fuel pick-up problem resulted in the British rookie's retirement from the demanding street race before half distance. It was a double blow for Justin's Minardi...
Justin Wilson's Monaco Grand Prix debut ended in disappointment this afternoon as a fuel pick-up problem resulted in the British rookie's retirement from the demanding street race before half distance. It was a double blow for Justin's Minardi team as his team-mate Jos Verstappen retired just one lap earlier with exactly the same problem ending what had started off as a promising weekend for the F1 minnows.
Both Wilson and Verstappen had qualified ahead of the works Toyota team in Thursday qualifying and the team had been optimistic of a similar performance in yesterday's final qualifying session. Unable to repeat their form Verstappen and Wilson lined up on the grid for today's 78-lap race in 18th and 19th respectively, Justin fighting oversteer in his PS03 throughout his flying lap.
Wilson once again proved to be a thorn in the side of Toyota as he passed lead driver, Olivier Panis - a previous winner of the Monaco GP, on the opening lap of this afternoon's race around the outside at the Grand Hotel Hairpin, immediately promoting himself up to 17th. A brief safety car period followed at the start of the second lap to remove the stricken Sauber of Heinz Harald Frentzen from the swimming pool complex before racing resumed once again on lap five.
With the majority of the grid opting for a two-stop fuel strategy, Minardi had scheduled one stop for Justin, to allow the 24-year-old to run deeper into the race and hopefully capitalise on the traditionally high attrition rate on the tight twists and turns of the Principality. Unfortunately for Justin and Minardi, approaching mid-race, they were to be added to the growing retirement list.
Successfully keeping Panis in the Toyota at bay and running as high as 15th, thanks to the early exits of Jaguar's Pizzonia and Webber, Justin was forced to retire on lap 30 with a fuel pick-up problem in his Cosworth powered Minardi PS03. The problem manifested itself as Wilson braked before the chicane following his exit from the tunnel, one of the fastest parts of the circuit.
Wilson explained: "I had exited the tunnel and was braking for the chicane and before I knew it the engine had cut out and I was running down the slip road. The marshals had literally just moved Jos' car out of the way and I parked up in the same position. It's frustrating to retire in that manner, especially with both cars out within a lap of each other!"
"It was a pretty mad start to the race and I was trying to find a way through and improve my position. I passed Panis at the Grand Hotel Hairpin and was following Jos just ahead of me. Once the two-stop cars were mixing things up a little I lost position to Jos but we had a good strategy to run further into the race. I had enough fuel to last another ten laps or so. Taking the positives from the weekend, we have some more mileage under our belts and with our lack of testing, all time in the car is important."
Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya, driving the BMW Williams, won the race, Round 7 of the FIA Formula One World Championship. Montoya's victory was the first in Monaco for the British team in 20 years and only his second F1 win since triumphing in Italy in September 2001. World Championship leader Kimi Raikkonen finished second, maintaining his lead at the top of the Driver Standings over Ferrari's Michael Schumacher who completed today's podium celebrations in third.
The series now heads across the Atlantic to Canada and the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve for the Canadian Grand Prix on Sunday 15 June.