The Renault F1 Team's third double podium finish of the year (Giancarlo P2, Fernando P3) left them leading the constructors' championship ahead of the last round in China. The Mild Seven Renault F1 Team finished a thrilling Japanese Grand...
The Renault F1 Team's third double podium finish of the year (Giancarlo P2, Fernando P3) left them leading the constructors' championship ahead of the last round in China.
The Mild Seven Renault F1 Team finished a thrilling Japanese Grand Prix in second and third positions this afternoon with Giancarlo Fisichella leading home team-mate Fernando Alonso.
After starting third, Giancarlo Fisichella took second place at the start and led much of the race once early leader Ralf Schumacher had pitted for his first stop. He continued to lead the race into the final stint, and when Kimi Raikkonen exited the pits for the final time just five seconds behind the Italian, it was clear that the scene was set for a tense battle.
Giancarlo defended his position stoutly, but lost the lead to the Finn into the first corner on the final lap. Fernando Alonso started sixteenth, and after a stunning opening lap was running eighth. He lost seven seconds in the middle of the second stint, when he was obliged by the FIA to concede a position to Klien for the second time, and then drove aggressively throughout, making up positions with some of the season's most dramatic overtaking manoeuvres.
He ran a short middle stint but the time lost during the opening stint had cost him track position, and left him with too much to do to fight for the lead at the end of the race. Nevertheless, he finished third -- his fourteenth podium of the year -- and helped the Mild Seven Renault F1 Team re-take the lead in the Constructors' Championship by two points, with one round remaining in China.
The team now has 176 points; Fernando Alonso leads the drivers' championship on 123 points; while Giancarlo Fisichella remains fifth, on 53 points.
Giancarlo Fisichella, 2nd position:
"That was a tough race this afternoon. I got a good start, but the early safety car period certainly cost me -- it kept the field very close together in the early stages, and I wasn't able to pull out the kind of gap over the quick cars at the back of the field that I would have hoped for. Even so, the strategy worked well to get me out in front of Ralf and Jenson, and after that I just concentrated on doing my race, and trying to lap quickly and consistently."
"The team told me Kimi was close after the last stop, and he caught me up quite quickly -- especially when I got chopped by a backmarker into 130R, which cost me a lot of time. He was very fast in the final part of the lap, and I did my best to hold him off, but he held the line into the first corner and that was that. I am disappointed, of course, but this is still a good result for the team in the championship.
Fernando Alonso, 3rd position:
"It sounds strange, but I am quite disappointed with third: the car felt just fantastic today, and I thought that we were probably a match for McLaren for the first time since the start of the season. So after starting ahead of them and having the opportunity to beat them, it didn't really work out for us today."
"There was a strange incident with Klien, when I was seven seconds ahead and told to give the position back, which surprised me a little bit. And then with the strategy today, I just seemed to end up in traffic behind slower cars all the time. But for the first time at Suzuka, I had a car that was good enough to overtake, and there were some special moments -- especially with Schumacher and Webber."
"I think I have done maybe two or three overtaking manoeuvres all year up to now, and today there were about fourteen, but I could afford to take the risks because there was nothing to lose. It was good to get my fourteenth podium of the year this afternoon, and I want number fifteen in China.
Flavio Briatore, Managing Director:
"What a fantastic race! It was a great spectacle for all the fans here at Suzuka, and watching on television. We had overtaking, dramatic incidents and a battle for the lead that went down to the final lap."
"Honestly, I think the key moment of this race was not at the end, but in the first stint when Fernando was forced to give his position back to Klien. We didn't understand why, because he had already done it once, but the FIA asked him to do it again. That cost him nine seconds, and meant he was in much more traffic during the rest of the race. Without that delay, he could have been in front of Raikkonen after the second stop, and maybe we would have seen a different result."
"As for Fisico, he led for much of the way but couldn't hold Raikkonen off at the end. But honestly, we must look at the positives now. We have one race left, we are leading the constructors' championship again, and there is a new engine upgrade to come in China. There is everything still to play for there.
Pat Symonds, Executive Director of Engineering:
"After securing our third double podium finish of the season, it is strange to come away with a slight feeling of disappointment, but losing the lead so close to the end of a race we had led for much of the way, is hard to stomach. Undoubtedly, this was one of the most exciting races of the year, but things didn't go our way."
"Fernando drove fantastically well from sixteenth position, but the curious decision by the FIA to let Klien regain his position twice certainly cost him time, and left him battling traffic for much of the race. Even so, it was a great sight to see him cut close and put in the kind of aggressive race he had promised us."
"As for Giancarlo, he had executed his planned strategy perfectly, and it gave him a comfortable lead over the cars that started around him on the grid. However, he couldn't find the pace at the end to hold off Raikkonen. Even so, we have done a great job today: McLaren only finished with one car, and we took advantage of the situation to reclaim the championship lead. We will be looking to finish the job in China.