Juan Pablo Montoya and Ralf Schumacher (BMW WilliamsF1 Team-Michelin) on the podium Juan Pablo Montoya (BMW WilliamsF1 Team/Michelin) finally scored his first Formula One victory in the 15th round of this year's world championship - and it was...
Juan Pablo Montoya and Ralf Schumacher (BMW WilliamsF1 Team-Michelin) on the podium
Juan Pablo Montoya (BMW WilliamsF1 Team/Michelin) finally scored his first Formula One victory in the 15th round of this year's world championship - and it was one of the most exciting races of the season to date. Although the Colombian started from pole position and led the early stages of the race, the result was in doubt until the closing moments because of the different strategies employed by the leading runners. In the end, Montoya's traditional one-stop tactics - with a fuel and tyre stop at half-distance - were just enough to give him the edge on Rubens Barrichello's nimble Ferrari, which stopped twice to refuel and ran in lightweight trim from the start.
Montoya, the first Colombian ever to have won a world championship grand prix, said: "I am so happy. The team and Michelin has done a fantastic job for me."
Montoya's team-mate Ralf Schumacher took third place - comfortably ahead of the Ferrari driven by his brother Michael, this year's world champion. To complete a fine day for Michelin, Pedro de la Rosa (Jaguar Racing) came home fifth - his second points finish of the season.
Three other Michelin-shod drivers finished the race. Giancarlo Fisichella (Benetton Renault Sport) overcame a few difficulties to take 10th place. The Italian was forced to race his team's spare car, because his designated race chassis developed a fuel leak shortly before the start. Tomas Enge (Prost-Acer, 12th), the first Czech to start a grand prix, achieved his objective by going the distance. Fernando Alonso (European Minardi, 13th) recorded his eighth finish of the campaign.
The remaining Michelin drivers were all forced to retire. Alex Yoong (European Minardi) survived a spin early in the race, but later spun again and had to retire on his F1 debut. Heinz-Harald Frentzen (Prost-Acer) ran as high as ninth before dropping out. Eddie Irvine (Jaguar Racing) was unable to make an impression before a technical problem brought him into the pits on lap 15. Jenson Button (Benetton Renault Sport) made a great start from 11th on the grid, but ran into fifth-fastest qualifier Jarno Trulli (Jordan-Honda) at the first turn and lost his front wing. He rejoined after a pit stop, but his engine blew up shortly afterwards.
Pierre Dupasquier (Motorsport Director):
Michelin won this race despite the Williams-BMWs suffering a blistering problem with their rear tyres. Did you expect such a problem?
"When you consider whether our performance is good or bad, you can't make a judgement based on one tyre alone. This is something we have to explain fairly frequently. For instance, certain Michelin teams began today's race on tyres that were less durable than those used by Williams - yet they didn't encounter such problems. Tyre wear and performance are the consequence of the way various elements interact. No matter, the fact remains that we had a very positive result, no matter how tough a race this was. The BMW WilliamsF1 Team opted for a one-stop strategy that worked a treat. I would like to congratulate Juan Pablo Montoya on scoring his first win in grand prix racing, he drove superbly. The most competitive cars using our rival's tyres opted to stop twice. With less weight and shorter stints, their tyres were under less strain than ours."
Pedro de la Rosa's fifth place was also a good result, wasn't it?
"Yes, they made a sound choice and utilised their strategy to perfection."
Mission accomplished this weekend, then?
"Yes. Given Juan Pablo Montoya's win, Ralf Schumacher's third place and his fastest race lap time, Pedro de la Rosa's fifth, I'd say we have been well rewarded for all the hard work put in by the Michelin staff during the past few weeks."