MONTOYA AND BUTTON GRAB PODIUM DOUBLE FOR MICHELIN Defending world champion Michael Schumacher maintained his winning start to the Formula One season with a lights-to-flag victory in the second race of the season in Sepang, Malaysia. The German...
MONTOYA AND BUTTON GRAB PODIUM DOUBLE FOR MICHELIN
Defending world champion Michael Schumacher maintained his winning start to the Formula One season with a lights-to-flag victory in the second race of the season in Sepang, Malaysia. The German qualified on pole position but was never able to relax en route to his 72nd grand prix win, thanks to pressure from Juan Pablo Montoya (BMW WilliamsF1 Team/Michelin). The Colombian set fastest lap of the afternoon during his energetic pursuit of the eventual winner, but he eased up in the closing stages to make sure of second place. Jenson Button (BAR Honda) made it a successful day for Michelin by finishing third.
For Jenson it was the first F1 podium finish in 68 starts. He earned it the hard way, fighting fiercely with Jarno Trulli (Renault/Michelin) in the early stages and later fending off a fierce challenge from Kimi Räikkönen (Team McLaren Mercedes/Michelin). Button's path to the podium was eventually eased when the Finn was forced to retire with a gearbox problem. "There are no words to describe the feeling of your first podium and this one has been a long time to coming. It's a fantastic result for the team in only our second race of the season and I'm delighted for everyone - the team, Honda and all our partners." said Jenson.
Schumacher's team-mate Rubens Barrichello finished fourth, ahead of Trulli, David Coulthard (Team McLaren Mercedes/Michelin), Fernando Alonso (Renault/Michelin) and Felipe Massa (Sauber). Alonso fought his way all the way through the field. He started at the back of the grid after spinning off during qualifying. "I am pleased to score two points after what happened yesterday. Obviously, everything changed for us after qualifying and in that perspective this is pretty positive result. However, our strategy didn't really work out and I think I could have finished even higher up." said Fernando.
There was no joy for Michelin-shod Jaguar driver Mark Webber, who qualified on the front row for the first time in his F1 career. The Australian was engulfed by the pack on the opening lap and dropped to 10th place. He was beginning to recover when he had to make a pit stop to replace a damaged right rear tyre. He was then penalised for speeding in the pits and had dropped almost to the tail of the field by the time he spun irretrievably into the gravel. His fellow Michelin drivers Ralf Schumacher (BMW WilliamsF1 Team) and Takuma Sato were also denied likely points finishes. The German stopped with an engine problem halfway through the 56-lap race and Sato dropped out for similar reasons in the closing stages while lying eighth.
The other Michelin drivers all reached the chequered flag. Toyota team-mates Cristiano da Matta and Olivier Panis were ninth and 12th while Jaguar rookie Christian Klien maintained his 100 per cent finishing record by crossing the line in 10th place.
Pierre Dupasquier, Michelin motorsport director
"I would like to pay tribute to Juan Pablo Montoya and Jenson Button for the way they drove today. Neither put a foot wrong. Juan Pablo chased hard after the leader and set the quickest lap of the race, more than two seconds faster than any driver went in last season's corresponding fixture. Button faced fierce pressure all race and fully deserved his first F1 podium finish. This event illustrated the close, competitive nature of grand prix racing and it was pleasing to see four of our partner teams record strong points finishes."
Pascal Vasselon, Michelin F1 programme manager:
"Temperatures in the race were not quite as high as we had anticipated but the two dry-weather compounds we chose continued to deliver consistent performance, just as they have all weekend. As for the damage to the right rear tyre of Mark Webber's Jaguar, there is clear evidence that this was caused by contact with another competitor."