MICHELIN TRIO SCORE POINTS IN FINALE Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello gave Ferrari its ninth one-two finish of the year. Kimi RÃ¤ikkÃ¶nen (West McLaren Mercedes) came third today in the last race of 2002 season, the Japanese Grand Prix...
MICHELIN TRIO SCORE POINTS IN FINALE
Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello gave Ferrari its ninth one-two finish of the year. Kimi Räikkönen (West McLaren Mercedes) came third today in the last race of 2002 season, the Japanese Grand Prix in Suzuka. Juan Pablo Montoya finished fourth and secured his third place in the Drivers' Championnship. The BMW WilliamsF1 Team -- Michelin had previously secured second place in the Constructors' Championship two weeks ago.
Michelin maintained its strong end-of-season form -- although an engine failure robbed Ralf Schumacher (BMW WilliamsF1 Team) of an apparently certain third place with four laps to go. Although the German was left disappointed, three Michelin drivers scored points. Kimi Räikkönen (McLaren-Mercedes) inherited third, Juan Pablo Montoya (BMW WilliamsF1 Team) took fourth and Jenson Button (Renault) was sixth, behind local favourite Takuma Sato's Jordan-Honda. The crowd gave Sato's first-ever F1 points finish a rapturous reception. Juan Pablo finished the season in third position: "The strategy for me today was really bringing the car home and this is what I did. I am obviously delighted that I achieved third place in the Drivers' Championship in my second season in F1." said the Colombian.
Only 10 cars were still running at the end of a punishing race that took its toll on several engines. Mika Salo (Toyota, eighth) was best of the remaining Michelin survivors, from Eddie Irvine (Jaguar, ninth) and Mark Webber (KL Minardi-Asiatech, 10th).
Of the remaining Michelin drivers, Pedro de la Rosa (Jaguar) pulled off with a technical problem when running 11th, Jarno Trulli (Renault) did likewise when lying fifth and Alex Yoong (KL Minardi-Asiatech) ran ahead of Webber initially before the second of two spins left him axle-deep in the gravel. David Coulthard (McLaren-Mercedes) ran a strong third in the opening stages before being forced to pull into the pits when his car developed a fault. "I would have liked to finish the season with a podium which I think would have been possible today, so obviously I'm disappointed." he said
Scot Allan McNish (Toyota) did not take the start. Although he took part in the morning warm-up, FIA medical officials decided it would be unwise to risk aggravating a knee injury he sustained in his spectacular qualifying accident yesterday. He was thus forced to watch what was scheduled to be his final race for the team.
Michelin's day: Pierre Dupasquier - Michelin Motorsport Director
This was another good race for Michelin in terms of tyre performance. What did you make of it?
"As we have come to expect, our tyres proved to be quick, durable and consistent. This is an abrasive track but we had no tyre wear concerns at all, which is something we have come to expect during the course of this season. We are happy to join in with the Japanese crowd's pleasure with Takuma Sato's performance and also we are very pleased for Max Biaggi who won the Moto GP 500 race at Sepang with Michelin."
How did your primary (A) and option (B) tyres differ in terms of performance today?
"Very little. Both of them were very suitable for the conditions, but the primary proved to be perhaps a little bit better than the option. Eight of our partner teams' drivers opted for that one."
Looking back on 2002 as a whole, what have been the most positive aspects for Michelin?
"Last year we were very much taking our first steps back in F1 and this season we have spent time fine-tuning our working methods and the way we develop our products. The result has been a series of solid, quick and reliable tyre compounds that have served our partner teams well. We might not have scored as many wins as we did last year, but generally our tyres were much more competitive. We scored 24 podium finishes in all and had at least one driver in the top three at every event. Furthermore, seven of the top nine drivers in the final championship standings ran on Michelin tyres. I have to thank all our partner teams and the factory staff for their brilliant work."
What developments will we see next?
"We have lots of interesting ideas and will be pressing ahead with our 2003 development programme immediately. We think we have identified areas where we can make small but significant gains. We'll be back on track in mid-November with some new compounds and constructions. The season might be over but we are highly motivated about next season and raring to go."