It was a day when motor racing history was made, as Michael Schumacher clinched a record sixth Formula One World Championship at the conclusion of this afternoon's Japanese Grand Prix. At the other end of the Suzuka pit lane, though, there was...
It was a day when motor racing history was made, as Michael Schumacher clinched a record sixth Formula One World Championship at the conclusion of this afternoon's Japanese Grand Prix. At the other end of the Suzuka pit lane, though, there was also quiet satisfaction in the European Minardi Cosworth garage. For the seventh time this season, both the Faenza squad's cars had taken the chequered flag, Jos Verstappen in 15th place and Nicolas Kiesa in 16th. For Kiesa, it also continued a record-setting streak for an F1 'rookie', of five finishes in five Grand Prix starts. Verstappen opted for an unorthodox pit-stop strategy, stopping for fuel at the end of the formation lap and then starting the race from the pit lane. He then followed this up with two further stops. By comparison, his team mate called at the pits twice for fuel and tyres
"From my point of view, I think we were consistent today, although the grip was pretty low throughout the race. I came in at the end of the formation lap, as we had decided to take a gamble in qualifying to see what we could do with a very light fuel load. Nicolas was on a normal two-stopper, and I finished ahead of him, so I think ours was the right strategy. The season is over now and we will be concentrating on next year. It is absolutely my goal to stay in Formula One, as I am not finished with the sport yet, but it would be nice to have a little bit more competitive car next season. I would like to say a special thank you to my crew, who have done a very, very good job all year. I think they are the best mechanics I have worked with in my career, and I would like to thank them very much."
"It has been great to finish all five F1 races in which I've competed, and I'd like to thank everyone at Minardi who has made this possible. It is incredible, with the very limited resources available to this team, how it is able to keep the cars running so reliably. It would just be nice to find a bit more pace over the winter, as the motivation and commitment of everyone here is amazing, and the guys really deserve some decent results for the tremendous effort they put in. I really admire them. As for today's race, it was hard physically, but I think I also encountered an aerodynamic problem after about 10 laps that made the situation a bit more difficult. It didn't get any worse as the race wore on, but basically, the car lost grip in the high-speed corners. Changing from fifth to sixth gear at Spoon, the back end was stepping out at 280 km/h! I had no choice, though, but to live with the problem through to the end of the race. Otherwise, I didn't have any difficulties this afternoon. I would like to say thank you to everyone on the team, and especially to Paul Stoddart, for giving me the chance to be in Formula One. It has been the most amazing experience of my life, and I really hope to be back here again next year."
Team Principal, European Minardi Cosworth
"First of all, congratulations to Michael Schumacher and to Ferrari for a job well done. As for Minardi, the year ended on a positive note, with both cars yet again taking the chequered flag. Overall, though, 'frustrating' is the way I would describe the season, in that our engine and driver line-up deserved more, but the lack of funds to develop the car cost us dearly, despite a fantastic effort from all our staff throughout what has been a most difficult year. I'd like to thank all our personnel, not only on the race team, but also in the factories at Faenza and Ledbury. Together with our technical and commercial partners, they have given 110 per cent throughout 2003."
Best lap 1 min 37.869 secs
Best lap 1 min 38.754 secs