The slogan of the Malaysian Grand Prix is "the hottest race of the year", and this year's event certainly lived up to its advance billing. With cockpit temperatures climbing to more than 50 deg C, it was a gruelling day for drivers and crew...
The slogan of the Malaysian Grand Prix is "the hottest race of the year", and this year's event certainly lived up to its advance billing. With cockpit temperatures climbing to more than 50 deg C, it was a gruelling day for drivers and crew members alike. The race for European Minardi Cosworth began dramatically, when Jos Verstappen was forced to pit at the end of the first lap to have a new rear wing assembly fitted after his car was hit in a first lap incident.
The hard-charging Dutchman rejoined the race a lap down and then set some very competitive lap times, particularly in the stint up to the first of his two scheduled pit stops. He drove a gritty race and eventually took the chequered flag in 13th place. Team mate, Justin Wilson, made another impressive start, and had rocketed up to seventh place by the third lap.
He was subsequently overtaken by one or two quicker cars, but held a solid 10th place until his first stop for fuel and tyres, on lap 13. His impressive pace then continued through to the second stop, on lap 36. Unfortunately, however, he was forced to withdraw from the race on lap 43, suffering from severe shoulder pain. Notably, both Minardis today carried the slogan "Malaysia for Peace" on their sidepods, a reflection of the "special relationship" the team enjoys with this important Southeast Asian country.
"I had a very good start. I gained quite a lot of places and then, all of a sudden, there was something going on at the front of the field, because everybody went to the outside. I think someone behind hit the side of my car and something flew through the air, taking my rear wing off. I therefore had to come in to change the wing. On the first set of tyres, the car was really well balanced, then on the second set, we developed more and more oversteer, and the handling became very difficult."
"It was the same for the third set. During that final stint, I have to admit that my arms and neck got tired. This is certainly one of the two hardest circuits of the whole season, along with Brazil. I'm very glad to have finished the race, however, and to have brought the car home. That was our goal, and I believe I did the best I could today."
Justin Wilson was unavailable for comment, having been airlifted to hospital in Kuala Lumpur following the race.
Paul Stoddart, Team Principal, European Minardi Cosworth:
"Our congratulations go to Kimi Raikkonen for his first Formula One win and to Fernando Alonso for his first podium. Sadly for Minardi, today's race was hampered by different problems, starting with Jos having to pit at the end of the first lap after he was hit from behind by another competitor and lost the rear wing of his car, and followed by Justin having to retire after having climbed as high as seventh following a great start."
"The cause of his retirement appears to be a trapped nerve in his shoulder. Jos showed grit and determination to complete today's gruelling event, and Justin, who probably stayed out too long in excruciating pain, again drove a great race, but as in Australia, was unfortunately denied the finish he deserved. Finally, I'd like to say a big thank you to all the guys - they have done a fantastic job throughout the weekend in the extreme heat and humidity here at Sepang."
Chassis: (No 19) PS03/01
Best lap 1 min 39.667 secs
Chassis: (No 18) PS03/04
Best lap 1 min 39.752 secs