MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA, March 4, 2001 â€“ Fernando Alonso may have missed the podium at todayâ€™s Qantas Australian Grand Prix by nine positions, but his 12th-place finish nonetheless felt like nothing short of a victory for everyone at European ...
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA, March 4, 2001 – Fernando Alonso may have missed the podium at today’s Qantas Australian Grand Prix by nine positions, but his 12th-place finish nonetheless felt like nothing short of a victory for everyone at European Minardi F1. The Spanish teenager’s assured debut was not without incident, courtesy of a 10-second, stop-and-go penalty for a pitlane speeding violation and a close call with Rubens Barrichello’s Ferrari, but neither incident distracted him from producing a wonderfully polished, mature drive. In common with a number of other drivers in today’s race, Alonso made only a single stop for fuel and tyres. The unfortunate run of bad luck that team mate, Tarso Marques, endured over the first two days of the Australian race weekend continued today, the Brazilian being forced to retire from the race on lap four with a suspected battery problem.
“Today’s objective was to finish the race, and that is what happened, so it couldn’t have turned out better. The team worked flat out over the weekend, and the race result is a clear demonstration of that. My car went really well over the whole race, allowing me to push hard until the end. I am sorry for getting in (Rubens) Barrichello’s way. I was rejoining the track after stopping in the pits and visibility in the rear-view mirrors was really reduced. I only saw him at the very last moment when it was already too late to let him pass. Apart from that, today’s race helped me to understand and test my physical shape, which to me is definitely good. I was not tired at all, even towards the end of the race. The car just went better and better as the fuel load lightened, so much so that in the closing stages of the race, I was even able to improve my lap times. Now we have accumulated more miles on the car, we’ll get ready for Malaysia, and hopefully another good race. I particularly want to thank all the lads on the team for today’s result. They are working together really well, despite having come together as a group only a few weeks ago. They really did a wonderful job.”
“There was a problem with my car from the first lap, I think with the battery. It started to misfire slightly, and then it just became worse and worse, until the engine stopped altogether on lap four. Also, I wasn’t really happy with the brakes all weekend, and after a couple of laps of the race, the pedal developed too much travel and became soft. I think the car is basically very good. We just are suffering from a lack of pre-season testing time. I’m sure things will be better in Malaysia.”
“When we came to Melbourne, just arriving felt like winning a Grand Prix. When we went out on Friday and Saturday, they were our first test sessions. When we qualified, I felt it couldn’t get any better, but to take 12th place on our maiden outing, there are just not the words to describe the feeling. It is down to the huge effort that each and every member of the European Minardi F1 team has put in over the last few weeks that we have been able to achieve what is nothing short of a miracle. Fernando not only showed today what he is capable of, but also proved that the Gustav Brunner-designed European Minardi PS01 chassis will need to be taken seriously this year. I feel for Tarso as, without exception, every technical problem the team encountered this weekend was on his car. I’m certain, though, that we’ll see a lot more of his true potential starting with the Malaysian Grand Prix. It’s a great shame that such a wonderful day for our team should have been marred by the death of a marshal early in the race. We can only add our heartfelt sympathies to those of the other teams in the pit lane.”