Minardi F1 Team drivers Robert Doornbos and Christijan Albers started today's Japanese Grand Prix in strong enough fashion, having climbed to 14th and 12th places respectively by the time they made their first pit stops. Both men picked the pace...
Minardi F1 Team drivers Robert Doornbos and Christijan Albers started today's Japanese Grand Prix in strong enough fashion, having climbed to 14th and 12th places respectively by the time they made their first pit stops.
Both men picked the pace up further during the following stints, but then problems arose during the second round of pits stops that ultimately changed the complexion of the race for the Faenza squad.
First, Doornbos overshot his pit box, with the result that the front jack man sustained a bruised leg, while the following lap, Albers also missed the stop marks as he came into the pits.
This led to a problem locating the refuelling nozzle, with the result that a small amount of fuel spilled on the hot bodywork and immediately burst into flames. The fire was extinguished quickly, and fortunately, no serious injuries resulted, but Albers lost two laps while the situation was sorted out.
In his final stint, Doornbos made amends for his earlier mistake by overtaking Karthikeyan's Jordan at the chicane on lap 43. He claimed 15th place at the chequered flag, while his delayed team mate made up some ground, but finished 17th.
"It was a good race. We brought it to the chequered flag, so I'm happy about that. My rhythm when the Safety Car first came out, though, was not as good as it could have been. I still have to learn a more about how the tyres react in such situations, but the result was that I wasn't able to push as hard as I would have liked once the race restarted."
"After the first pit stop, though, I started to push hard, and was able to pass Karthikeyan's Jordan in the last chicane, which was good motivation. Finally, I have to say sorry to the pit crew, as I lost a bit of concentration, missed my braking point for the second pit stop, and clipped one of my mechanics, Roberto Venturi. I now know that he is okay, if bruised, but I'm relieved for that."
"I was having a really good battle with the Jordans and had a faster car, but unfortunately, I made a mistake when I overshot the marks during my second pit stop. That led to a refuelling problem and the fire, which effectively put paid to my race. Apologies to the team, and in particular, to the front jack man, Sandro Parrini, and the refuellers."
Paul Stoddart, Team Principal, Minardi Cosworth:
"Today really was 'the one that got away', as we clearly had a faster race car than Jordan, but due to mistakes by both drivers in their second pit stops, we weren't able to capitalise on our advantage. The team did derive some satisfaction, however, from the fact that three former Minardi drivers finished in the top four positions of today's race."
Best lap: 1 min 36.574 secs
Best lap: 1 min 36.039 secs