SCHUMACHER JNR AND BUTTON PUT BIBENDUM ON THE PODIUM World champion Michael Schumacher scored a consummate victory - his 13th success of the year, but his first since Hungary - in the Japanese Grand Prix. The Ferrari star led away from pole ...
SCHUMACHER JNR AND BUTTON PUT BIBENDUM ON THE PODIUM
World champion Michael Schumacher scored a consummate victory - his 13th success of the year, but his first since Hungary - in the Japanese Grand Prix. The Ferrari star led away from pole position - which he annexed on Sunday morning, after the threat of a typhoon persuaded officials to close the circuit the previous day - and was never seriously challenged. His brother Ralf started second and proved to be the leader's nearest rival. The Michelin-shod Williams-BMW star pushed hard in the early stages but eventually slipped back and crossed the line 14 seconds in arrears.
The younger Schumacher returned to the cockpit only recently after an injury layoff and this was his first podium result of the season. "The start went ok and I was surprised I was able to follow Michaël. Our car was good today. We choose the right strategy and the result speaks for itself." and Ralf confirmed that his tyres choice was good. "You are always on the right tyre if you have a Michelin on the car, that's pretty clear."
While the top two opted for three-stop strategies, Jenson Button (B*A*R- Honda/Michelin) pitted just twice - a tactic that allowed him to move up from fifth on the grid to third at the flag - his 10th podium finish of the campaign. The Englishman headed team-mate - and crowd favourite - Takuma Sato across the line. The result has taken B*A*R to within striking distance of clinching second place in the world championship for constructors.
Fernando Alonso (Renault/Michelin) fought his way through the field and worked his way up from 11th on the opening lap to fifth at the end. David Coulthard (McLaren-Mercedes/Michelin) ran ahead of the Spaniard initially, but slipped behind him during the final round of stops. After one of his strongest races of the season, however, the Scot clashed with Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari) as the pair battled for sixth and both drivers were forced to retire.
That allowed Michelin drivers Kimi Räikkönen (McLaren- Mercedes) and Juan Pablo Montoya (BMW WilliamsF1 Team) to move up to sixth and seventh positions. Montoya moved ahead of the Finn early in the race, but he slipped back again after running wide at the chicane.
Jacques Villeneuve (Renault, 10th) was best of the remaining Michelin finishers, ahead of Jarno Trulli (11th on his Toyota debut), Christian Klien (Jaguar, 12th) and Olivier Panis (14th in the last scheduled race of his F1 career).
Mark Webber qualified a brilliant third for Jaguar/Michelin. He ran sixth in the early stages but was forced to retire with a persistent technical problem after 21 laps.
Pierre Dupasquier, Michelin motorsport director:
"This has been an unusual weekend for Formula One, but our engineers and staff coped extremely well with the need to qualify and race on the same day and we had no logistical problems at all. Once again, we saw how Michelin is able to provide F1 tyres that work extremely effectively on a wide range of cars: most of our partner teams were able to run in the top six at some stage - and that was on merit, not just because pit stops shuffled the race order."
"Even though the luck of testing has compromised some car balance during the race, we had the satisfaction of seeing two different Michelin compounds delivering quick, consistent performance at one of the sport's most demanding tracks."