IRVINE PODIUM BOOST FOR JAGUAR Some aspects of this year's Italian Grand Prix were familiar, others were not. While Ferrari drivers Rubens Barrichello and Michael Schumacher strolled to a beautifully orchestrated one-two that boosted the ...
IRVINE PODIUM BOOST FOR JAGUAR
Some aspects of this year's Italian Grand Prix were familiar, others were not. While Ferrari drivers Rubens Barrichello and Michael Schumacher strolled to a beautifully orchestrated one-two that boosted the Brazilian's chances of securing second place in the championship, Eddie Irvine gave Michelin partner Jaguar a much-needed boost with a sterling driver to third place. It is only the second podium finish in the Ford-owned team's three-year existence.
Irvine lined up fifth, after McLaren driver Kimi Räikkönen was penalised one place on the grid for causing a qualifying accident, and ran strongly all race. His podium finish owed a little to luck, however, because the Michelin-shod Williams-BMWs of Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya were forced to retire when running strongly. From third on the grid Schumacher grabbed the lead at the start but had to pull off with a blown engine at the end of lap three. Montoya was running third behind the Ferraris when he suffered an apparent suspension problem on lap 33. Kimi Räikkönen (McLaren-Mercedes/Michelin) also ran ahead of Irvine early on, but engine failure forced the young Finn to retire just after half-distance.
Jarno Trulli and Jenson Button were best of the remaining Michelin drivers. They took their Renaults to fourth and fifth places while David Coulthard (McLaren-Mercedes) put in a spirited recovery driver to finish seventh. The Scot had to make a pit stop for a new nose at the end of the opening lap after running into team-mate Räikkönen during the first-chicane scramble. Mika Salo (Toyota) might have finished fourth but for a drive-through penalty, imposed for exiting the pit lane a fraction too soon after his scheduled stop. Alex Yoong (KL Minardi-Asiatech) was the only other Michelin driver to finish, although he was six laps adrift because a technical problem forced him to spend a considerable amount of time in the pits.
Of the rest, technical problems forced out Mark Webber (KL Minardi-Asiatech) and Allan McNish (Toyota) in the early stages. McNish made a brilliant start from 13th on the grid and was running sixth when he struck trouble. Pedro de la Rosa lined up eighth, but he lost time at the first chicane and was later rammed off the track by Sauber driver Felipe Massa. The impact damaged the Spaniard's front-left suspension and he was unable to get back to the pits for repairs.
Michelin's day: Pierre Dupasquier, motorsport director
There was a wave of optimism among Michelin teams after yesterday's exceptional qualifying performance, but victory eluded you in the race. Were there any particular problems?
"Not at all. We know in this business that things can always change when the race comes around. We were unlucky that the Williams-BMWs had problems. Ralf Schumacher was leading initially but had to drop out with an engine problem and pole position winner Juan Pablo Montoya had a number of concerns. It happens. We also lost Kimi Räikkönen, who was well placed to give us a strong finish. On the plus side, we were delighted by the performance of Eddie Irvine, who thoroughly deserved to give Jaguar a podium finish. In addition the Renault drivers ran very strongly and David Coulthard was setting fast and consistent lap times in his McLaren. He recovered well after losing so much time with his early, unscheduled stop."
Generally how would you summarise the weekend?
"It was clear that we had a tyre that was fantastic in yesterday's qualifying session and also enabled several of our partner teams to perform exceptionally well today. We didn't add to our F1 victory tally but we picked up more useful data that will be beneficial in future."
The next stop is Indianapolis. How will Michelin approach that race?
"It is a track unlike any other. It has a very technical section, with some Monaco-style corners, and then there is the long straight, which is reminiscent of the circuit here at Monza. It requires quite a delicate balance to produce a tyre that suits both extremes but we managed to do a very good job at Indy last season. We are presently working on new compounds that will be suitable for the United States GP."
Pascal Vasselon, Formula One project chief
"It is a shame that we lost some of our regular front-running cars, but those that completed the distance performed very well. The Jaguars and the Renaults both ran strongly on our tyres. Jaguar has made giant steps forward in recent races and has gained two places in the world championship for constructors, while Renault has consolidated its fourth place. Toyota might have made progress, too, because Mika Salo was well placed to finish in the points until he picked up a drive-through penalty."