BUTTON NETS FIFTH PODIUM OF THE SEASON Local favourite Michael Schumacher scored a popular victory for Ferrari at the packed NÃ¼rburgring after controlling the Grand Prix of Europe from start to finish. His team-mate Rubens Barrichello finished...
BUTTON NETS FIFTH PODIUM OF THE SEASON
Local favourite Michael Schumacher scored a popular victory for Ferrari at the packed Nürburgring after controlling the Grand Prix of Europe from start to finish. His team-mate Rubens Barrichello finished second after seeing off the threat of leading Michelin challenger Takuma Sato (B*A*R- Honda), who damaged his front wing while trying to wrest second place from the Brazilian.
Sato, who became the first Japanese driver to start a Formula One world championship race from the front row of the grid, pitted for repairs and was on course to finish in the top five until an engine problem forced him to stop.
Sato's misfortunes handed third place to team-mate Jenson Button. The Englishman hadn't recorded an F1 podium finish prior to this season but has picked up fifth in the past six races and holds a solid third place in the world championship. Although Button was confident that he would be able to join Sato at the front of the grid, he started only fifth after running wide on his qualifying lap. "
In addition to B*A*R-Honda, three other Michelin partners scored strong points finishes. Monaco GP winner Jarno Trulli (Renault F1) and team-mate Fernando Alonso took fourth and fifth, Mark Webber was seventh for Jaguar and Juan Pablo Montoya (BMW WilliamsF1 Team) stormed through the field to finish eighth after recovering from a first-corner collision.
Olivier Panis (Panasonic Toyota Racing, 11th) and Jaguar rookie Christian Klien (12th) also completed the 60-lap distance, but there was no joy for the remaining Michelin runners. Kimi Räikkönen (Team McLaren Mercedes) ran second in the early stages but retired because of an engine-related problem.
His team-mate David Coulthard started at the back after being penalised for a pre-race engine change. Having worked his way though the field to challenge for points, however, he pulled off when the rear of his car became enveloped in smoke. Ralf Schumacher (BMW WilliamsF1 Team) dropped out after clashing with team-mate Montoya on the opening lap and Cristiano da Matta (Panasonic Toyota Racing) was forced off the track as he tried to avoid Schumacher Jnr's spinning Williams.
Pierre Dupasquier, Michelin motorsport director:
"It's rewarding to see Jenson Button maintain his strong run of early- season form - but a pity that one or two things put a different complexion on today's race. Takuma Sato and Jarno Trulli both lost a considerable amount of time, for instance, after they were involved in an incident on the opening lap. Overall our tyres provided their trademark speed and consistency - Jenson was able to lap comfortably in the 1m 30s in the closing stages of the race."
"It's a shame that Takuma didn't finish because he showed great spirit and that bodes well for future races. This week we will start evaluating tyres for the forthcoming Canadian GP, where we gave our partner teams a clear technical advantage in 2003. We will settle for nothing less two weeks from now."