ALONSO ON THE PODIUM FOR MICHELIN Defending world champion Michael Schumacher got off to a flying start in the opening Formula One race of the season in Melbourne, Australia. The German qualified on pole position and he was never headed in the...
ALONSO ON THE PODIUM FOR MICHELIN
Defending world champion Michael Schumacher got off to a flying start in the opening Formula One race of the season in Melbourne, Australia. The German qualified on pole position and he was never headed in the race as he and team-mate Rubens Barrichello swept to a one-two. Fernando Alonso (Mild Seven Renault F1) finished an encouraging third.
Michelin drivers made their presence felt at the picturesque Albert Park track. Fernando Alonso (Mild Seven Renault F1) was only third fastest of the Michelin contingent in qualifying, but he made a terrific start from fifth on the grid to pass Juan Pablo Montoya (BMW WilliamsF1 Team) and Jenson Button (B*A*R Honda) at the first corner. "I made a great start, even though Montoya forced me onto the grass. After he out-braked himself at the first corner, I found myself third and from then on, it was pretty easy race."
Fernando calmly slotted into third position and held it all the way to the flag. Montoya lost time with a relatively slow first pit stop and slipped back to an eventual fifth, behind team-mate Ralf Schumacher, while Button finished an encouraging sixth to complete a satisfactory weekend for B*A*R, which was competing on Michelins for the first time.
Michelin drivers Jarno Trulli (Mild Seven Renault F1) and David Coulthard (West McLaren Mercedes) - the highest-placed driver to opt for a two-stop strategy rather than three - completed the points scorers. There was no joy, however, for local hero Mark Webber, who ran in a points position early on but eventually had to park his Jaguar with a technical problem. Last year's world championship runner-up Kimi Räikkönen (West McLaren Mercedes) was equally out of luck. He posted the afternoon's first retirement when he spun off following a water pump failure.
The other Michelin drivers all lasted the distance. Takuma Sato (B*A*R Honda, ninth) led home Christian Klien (Jaguar, 11th - and best-placed rookie), Cristiano da Matta (Panasonic Toyota Racing, 12th) and Olivier Panis (Panasonic Toyota Racing, 13th). Although Australia is usually a race of real attrition, the new one-engine-per-weekend rule didn't cause teams any serious reliability concerns and 14 of the 20 starters reached the finish.
Pierre Dupasquier, Michelin motorsport director:
"We might not have won today but the season is in its formative stages and it will take a few races for the full picture to become clear. The next few grands prix will be very important and we are working flat out with our partner teams in the never-ending quest for greater performance. I was encouraged by Fernando Alonso's performance today - he was fast and consistent once again and Renault has promised that there are significant developments to come, which bodes well for the future. "
Pascal Vasselon, Michelin Formula One programme manager:
"The pace of the race was much faster this season than it was in 2003, to the tune of about two seconds per lap. The top four Michelin finishers used three different tyre compounds, which underlines that all our options were well suited to the conditions. "