THRILLING DUEL FOR SUPREMACY Title fight wide open after Michelin star Montoya scores eighth straight podium finish Defending world champion Michael Schumacher (Ferrari) and leading challenger Juan Pablo Montoya (BMW WilliamsF1 Team) fought a ...
THRILLING DUEL FOR SUPREMACY
Title fight wide open after Michelin star Montoya scores eighth straight podium finish
Defending world champion Michael Schumacher (Ferrari) and leading challenger Juan Pablo Montoya (BMW WilliamsF1 Team) fought a thrilling duel for supremacy in the early stages of the Italian GP at Monza. The German edged ahead after the two had run side by side through the first couple of corners, but thereafter Montoya pushed ferociously before throttling back and settling for second place in the closing stages.
Schumacher extended his record number of F1 victories to 69 and leads Montoya by three points with two grands prix remaining. This was also the fastest race in F1 history: Schumacher's winning average of 247.585 km/h (153.842mph) eclipsed the benchmark set by BRM driver Peter Gethin at Monza in 1971.
Michelin's second world title challenger Kimi Räikkönen (McLaren-Mercedes) finished fourth, hot on the heels of Schumacher's team-mate Rubens Barrichello, and Michelin drivers took five of the eighth points-scoring positions. Williams stand-in Marc Gené -- deputising for the unfit Ralf Schumacher -- took a career-best fifth, Mark Webber (Jaguar) finished seventh and Fernando Alonso (Renault) survived a startline collision and a trip over the kerbs to take eighth place, despite starting last because he spun off during the final qualifying session.
There was no joy for the remaining Michelin drivers. David Coulthard (McLaren-Mercedes) was heading for fifth when his car ground to a halt in the closing stages. Olivier Panis (Toyota) was forced out with a technical failure. Jarno Trulli (Renault) sprinted from sixth to third on the opening lap, but pulled off with a technical problem before he completed it. Justin Wilson (Jaguar) started late after initially failing to get away from the line and he pulled in to retire with gearbox trouble after a couple of slow laps.
Michelin's day: Pierre Dupasquier -- Michelin Motorsport Director
MONTOYA MAINTAINS TITLE PRESSURE IN F1'S FASTEST RACE
Juan Pablo Montoya (BMW WilliamsF1 Team/Michelin) gave a stirring display in today's Italian Grand Prix and took the fight to local favourite Michael Schumacher. The two world championship leaders set a searing pace -- this was the fastest race in F1 history, beating a record set at Monza in September 1971 -- and Montoya only backed off and settled for second in the closing stages. Unfortunately Juan Pablo was not able to take the lead from the start as might have been expected. With two races to go he trails Schumacher by just three points.
Montoya was the first of five Michelin drivers in the top eight. Third title contender Kimi Räikkönen (Team McLaren Mercedes) was fourth ahead of Marc Gené (BMW WilliamsF1 Team, fifth), Mark Webber (Jaguar, seventh) and Fernando Alonso (Renault, eighth). Michelin drivers Jarno Trulli (Renault) and David Coulthard (Team McLaren Mercedes) were also challenging for points finishes until technical problems forced them to stop.
WIN SOME, LOSE SOME
Michelin motorsport director Pierre Dupasquier was buoyed by his company's performance at Monza. He said: "Juan Pablo Montoya was pushing hard for victory until he lost time behind the Sauber. That's just the way racing goes sometimes. There was a period of today's race where Montoya's car was regularly the fastest out there. Together with all of our partners the overall package proved to be very competitive at this highly specific track but for once we weren't able to convert that into victory."
THE FINAL COUNTDOWN
Michelin has won seven grands prix this season and expects to maintain its competitive streak in the final two races of the season at Indianapolis and Suzuka. Pierre Dupasquier said: "We came to Monza knowing that our main rival Ferrari would be very strong because the circuit suits its car. Today was a case of effective damage limitation and I am optimistic that we will regain the upper hand in the final two grands prix."