Juan Pablo Montoya and Michelin secured the third place Ferrari maintained its run of form in Austria by scoring its fifth Formula One grand prix win of the season and its fourth in succession. Michael Schumacher took the chequered flag - but...
Juan Pablo Montoya and Michelin secured the third place
Ferrari maintained its run of form in Austria by scoring its fifth Formula One grand prix win of the season and its fourth in succession. Michael Schumacher took the chequered flag - but only after team-mate Rubens Barrichello, who had spearheaded the Ital ian team's challenge for the past two days, obeyed team orders and allowed Schumacher to pass as the cars exited the final corner. Juan Pablo Montoya was the best Michelin finisher in third place.
Rubens Barrichello led away from pole position and was never seriously threatened until he ceded his lead in the closing moments of the race. Both drivers constantly broke the lap record during the afternoon and Schumacher eventually left it at 1m 09.298s, more than 2.5 seconds quicker than the previous best established last season by McLaren driver David Coulthard. Victory in Austria completed a set for Schumacher: it was the only GP on the calendar the German had not previously won.
Williams-BMW team-mates Juan Pablo Montoya and Ralf Schumacher were the best Michelin finishers in third and fourth places. Schumacher Junior ran second in the early stages but dropped behind both his elder brother and Montoya following his only scheduled refuelling stop on lap 47 of 71. Williams was the only team not to make an early refuelling stop when the race was neutralised for several laps following an accident between Nick Heidfeld (Sauber-Petronas) and Takuma Sato (Jordan-Honda), but the team's pac e was such that it was able to stop later during racing conditions without losing too much ground. Montoya and Schumacher remain second and third in the world championship standings and the Colombian maintained his record of having scored points in every race this year.
Coulthard (McLaren-Mercedes, 6th) led the remaining Michelin finishers ahead of Jenson Button (Renault, seventh), Mika Salo (Toyota, 8th), Allan McNish (Toyota, 9th) and Mark Webber (KL Minardi-Asiatech, 12th). Webber was delayed early in the race when he was given a drive-through penalty for failing to observe blue flags.
There was little joy for the other Michelin drivers in a race of real attrition. Jarno Trulli (Renault) dropped out when his engine suddenly stopped when he was lying seventh, Alex Yoong (KL Minardi-Asiatech) and Kimi Räikkönen (McLaren-Mercedes) dropped o ut with engine failures, Eddie Irvine (Jaguar) pitted with a technical problem and Pedro de la Rosa dropped out on the opening lap when his car lost drive.
Michelin's day Pierre Dupasquier (Motorsport Director)
Three Michelin cars finished in the top six but you still finished behind the Ferraris. What conclusions have you drawn from the weekend?
"We might not have assessed correctly the penalty for weight, principally in terms of the demand placed on tyres. But if you notice that Juan Pablo Montoya ran the 71 laps with the same set of tyres, you would agree that we can be extremely pleased with ou r performance."
We saw the FIA having a close look at your tyres after the race ? "Yes, for some reason, they spent a great deal of attention to our cars' tyres, much more than those of the winner. It might be hard for them to believe that Juan Pablo's tyres lasted so well."
Juan Pablo Montoya started on the 'harder' of your two soft compounds and they lasted the whole race without any problem. Does that indicate that you approached this event a little too conservatively?
"I don't think so. His tyres lasted extremely well and, when you look at his lap times, he wasn't that much slower than Ralf. I thought that was quite interesting. If he had finished about eighth I might have a different opinion, but overall I was pleased with the way his tyres performed."
Which of your other cars used those tyres?
"Only one - Allan McNish's Toyota. And if you compare his pace to that of his team-mate Mika Salo he was quite close, too. We have some precious and interesting data to pore over in the days ahead."
The next race is in Monaco - a track like no other. Have you any idea what to expect there?
"Not really, because it really is a circuit apart and one never knows what might happen. Last year I remember that our rear tyres were really suffering because traction control had only recently been introduced to the sport but cars were producing much mor e wheel spin than had been anticipated. Technology has moved on, however, and I'm sure things will be different this year. There is as much chance of tyres being damaged by kerbs and guardrails as there is by the track and we shall look closely to see what compounds will be most appropriate for the conditions. This weekend we have picked up more valuable information to help us plan for the future, just as we do at every race."