Williams was given a boost at the Japanese Grand Prix with Ralf Schumacher scoring a podium result and the team is aiming for a positive finish to the season in Brazil. It's too late for Williams to catch Renault in the standings but Schumacher's...
Williams was given a boost at the Japanese Grand Prix with Ralf Schumacher scoring a podium result and the team is aiming for a positive finish to the season in Brazil. It's too late for Williams to catch Renault in the standings but Schumacher's second at Suzuka, and Juan Pablo Montoya's seventh, gave the Grove squad 10 points overall to edge away from McLaren.
Conditions at Suzuka were the worst F1 has seen this season; Friday practices were a washout, the rain unrelenting and the teams gaining little in the way of useful information from the sessions. For the first time ever Saturday practices and qualifying were cancelled, due to a typhoon.
"On Saturday, teams and drivers stayed in their hotels but waited in vain for the arrival of typhoon No 22," explained BMW motorsport director Mario Theissen in his race review on the team website. "The storm, however, changed its direction before reaching the Japanese shore and hit the Japanese mainland."
"By the early afternoon, the rain had ceased and the first sunbeams could be seen above the circuit. Some of the teams returned to the paddock on Saturday evening to re-erect what had been taken to shelters the evening before. I'd like to compliment our team, which dealt with the unusual situation in remarkable style."
For all the teams, qualifying, which took place on Sunday morning, was something of a gamble. "As the first two practice sessions had no real significance due to the weather conditions, and with the third and fourth free practice sessions having been cancelled, nobody had the opportunity to acquire a reasonable set-up for one of the most demanding circuits on the calendar," said Theissen.
"As a result of the gamble that was pre-qualifying and qualifying, Juan Pablo had to make do with 13th position on the grid, although Ralf had slightly better luck."
"By the time he performed his pre-qualifying and qualifying laps, the conditions had improved and Ralf made the best use of the situation by taking second position on the grid, directly behind his brother. It was a great feeling for our team that one of our cars made it on to the first row of the grid, again."
Schumacher went on to deliver a fine performance in the race to come home second, his first podium finish of the season. The last time Williams had been on the podium was Montoya's third place back in San Marino. The Colombian struggled from 13th on the grid at Suzuka but managed to collect two points in seventh.
Schumacher was concerned to find himself in traffic after his pit stops but successfully picked his way through. "It all worked out in the end, the car worked pretty well, the team did a great job in all the pit stops, they all went trouble-free and quick, and it was the right strategy for us, so I think it was a good weekend for us," he commented.
It may be too late for Williams to finish in the top three in the constructors' standings but it is pleased to be closing on its rivals at the front. "Everybody is satisfied and delighted with the ten points," said Theissen.
"We are on our way to closing the gap to the front end of the grid. To finish the difficult 2004 season in a positive way, it is now crucial to clinch a similar strong result in the season's last race -- the Brazilian Grand Prix, which takes place in a fortnight."