HONDA-POWERED DRIVER SCORES TOP TEN FINISH Panis and Villeneuve finishninth and 12th at the NÃ¼rburgring Lucky Strike B.A.R Honda's Olivier Panis crossed the line in ninth position in today's European Grand Prix and team-mate Jacques Villeneuve...
HONDA-POWERED DRIVER SCORES TOP TEN FINISH
Panis and Villeneuve finishninth and 12th at the Nürburgring
Lucky Strike B.A.R Honda's Olivier Panis crossed the line in ninth position in today's European Grand Prix and team-mate Jacques Villeneuve finished 12th. DHL Jordan Honda's Takuma Sato finished 16th while Giancarlo Fisichella (Jordan Honda) retired from the action on lap 28 due to damage sustained in his first lap accident.
B.A.R Honda's Olivier Panis started from 12th on the grid and although he got away well he ended up in 13th place at the end of the first lap as the mid-field pack had a frantic start through the additional tight corners at the redesigned Nürburgring. He regained 12th position by passing Toyota's Mika Salo on lap four and by the fifth lap the Frenchman was fighting with Renault's Jarno Trulli for 11th position.
Panis remained in 12th and could do nothing to stop the two-stopping Trulli pulling away as the Italian almost immediately passed Allan McNish (Toyota) who then became Panis' next target. During the first set of pit stops the B.A.R Honda driver progressed three places to ninth position to end up behind Sauber's Nick Heidfeld and he subsequently gained another two positions when the Williams of Juan Pablo Montoya collided with McLaren's David Coulthard as they fought for fourth place on lap 28.
Panis came in for his one scheduled pit stop on lap 29 and rejoined the fray in 10th, gaining another place seven laps later as the pit stop sequence was completed. The Frenchman continued to put in a solid performance in the second half of the race but didn't manage to lessen the gap between himself and Trulli, going on to finish the race in ninth position from 12th on the grid.
B.A.R Honda's Jacques Villeneuve meanwhile had a better start from 19th on the grid and fought his way up to 15th place by the end of lap six. He then went on to take the Arrows of Heinz Harald Frentzen and Enrique Bernoldi to get up to 13th place. The Honda-powered driver came in for his first of two scheduled pit stops on lap 20, rejoining in 16th place and subsequently moved up to 14th when Montoya and Coulthard retired from the action on lap 28.
In the course of the first set of pit stops Villeneuve made his way up into 10th place, the Canadian taking his second pit stop on lap 45 and rejoining in 12th position, getting out ahead of McNish and Frentzen. During the final 15 laps Villeneuve battled to catch the Jaguar of Pedro De La Rosa but could not pass him and remained in 12th position having progressed from 19th on the grid.
The Jordan Honda duo however didn't have such a good start to the race when Giancarlo Fisichella collided with team-mate Takuma Sato on the first lap resulting in both drivers returning to the pits to repair the damage to their Honda-powered EJ12s. Fisichella needed a new front wing and was back out on track on the same lap while team-mate Sato came in right behind him for a new set of tyres and rejoined one lap down.
The Japanese driver moved up to 19th position on lap 28 as he benefited from the exit of Montoya and Coulthard, going on to pit 10 laps later. Sato gained three places by lap 55 due to the retirements of Eddie Irvine (Jaguar), Minardi's Alex Yoong and Salo, finishing the race in 16th position. His Jordan Honda team-mate Fisichella pitted on lap 21 for fuel and to try to repair some of the damage sustained in his first lap accident, rejoining in 21st position where he remained until he retired from the race seven laps later as the damage had made the car undriveable.
The fine weather continued (21 degrees) as Ferrari's Rubens Barrichello took the chequered flag, finishing ahead of team-mate Michael Schumacher and McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen. Ralf Schumacher (Williams) and Jenson Button (Renault) finished fourth and fifth while Sauber's Felipe Massa completes the point scoring positions.
Shuhei Nakamoto Race and Test Team Manager, Honda Racing Development
"The first lap incident with Giancarlo and Takuma was really unfortunate because the Honda-powered cars were definitely in better shape in morning warm up. Olivier and Jacques both finished the race which I'm pleased about because it shows we're making progress with the reliability and Takuma did well to bring his car home under difficult circumstances. I'm encouraged that we didn't have any engine problems in the race but also aware that we have to push to improve our performance."
Olivier Panis Position: 9th
"After warm-up this morning I said that points were possible but, in the end, the Nürburgring is a fast track and we didn't have the speed to do the job. I don't want to say I'm disappointed because I've finished the last two races in the top 10, so this definitely has to be seen as a progression. Before you can finish in the points, you have to be able to consistently make the top 10. I drove a hard race and I think the strategy I adopted proved to be the right one for me."
"I had a hard time trying to keep the two-stoppers behind me at the same time as trying to preserve my tyres, but the car stayed reliable under pressure and we got both cars to the finish. Today's race was always going to be difficult for us but we demonstrated a strong team performance and we have to take some encouragement from that. As always, we have to keep working hard and see what Silverstone will bring."
Jacques Villeneuve Position: 12th
"I had a problem which started on the formation lap when I felt something strange with the car. Off the start, I went through the first two gears OK and then the engine bogged down. At the first corner, I had to step out to avoid Frentzen, who was trying to avoid the two Jordans, and both of these problems allowed other cars to pass me. I was stuck with the problem for a while and then it seemed to recover but maybe not fully. From 19th on the grid, this was always going to be a tough race. I think today we did the best job we could under the circumstances."
Takuma Sato Position: 16th
"I made a reasonable start and I was side by side with the two Toyotas and Olivier Panis, when Giancarlo hit me. It's a bit disappointing but these things happen. It is a very tight corner with everybody turning in, so I can't blame him. After the accident I decided to get on with the race and do my best, fighting hard even though everybody was lapping me. It was important for me to finish and bring the car back in one piece."
Giancarlo Fisichella Position: DNF
"I'm not sure exactly what happened, but after the start I was braking into the first corner, and I think somebody pushed me out a little bit. I lost grip and went into Takuma's car, which I'm very sorry about. Unfortunately there was so much damage to my car that it was undriveable and there was no possibility to be quick and continue racing. It is a disappointment to end my 100th Grand Prix this way, but I hope to forget it and I am looking forward to the next race."