Malaysian Grand Prix Race, sunday 17 march 2002 Michelin drivers first and second on the podium Michelin drivers finished first and second in the Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang, the French company's first 1-2 since it returned to Formula One...
Malaysian Grand Prix Race, sunday 17 march 2002
Michelin drivers first and second on the podium
Michelin drivers finished first and second in the Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang, the French company's first 1-2 since it returned to Formula One racing little more than 12 months ago. Track temperatures exceeded 40 degrees, but Williams-BMW driver Ralf Schumacher put in a faultless drive in the searing conditions to record the fourth F1 victory of his career and Michelin's first of the year. The German made just a single pit stop for fresh fuel and tyres, a shrewd tactic that put him ahead of closest rival Rubens Barrichello's Ferrari. The Brazilian eventually retired from the race with engine failure.
Schumacher's team-mate Juan Pablo Montoya put in a storming recovery drive to finish second, despite being penalised by stewards for causing a first-corner collision with world championship leader Michael Schumacher. The Colombian dropped to 11th place after the incident and was fighting his way back through the field when he was ordered to drive through the pits at slow speed by way of a time penalty. He returned to the track and set a new lap record, 1m 38.049s, as he charged to second place.
Michael Schumacher pitted for a new front wing after his collision with Montoya, but he too recovered strongly to finish in the top three and retain his series lead. The German edged past Jenson Button (Renault F1/Michelin) on the final lap when the Englishman's car slowed with a technical problem.
Of the other Michelin runners to finish, Scot Allan McNish (Toyota) would have scored a point in only his second world championship grand prix but for a delay at his second scheduled pit stop, when his team lost time fitting a new set of wheels. Jaguar Racing driver Pedro de la Rosa had to pit for a new nose after colliding with Olivier Panis (BAR-Honda), but the Spaniard recovered to finish 10th. McNish's team-mate Mika Salo worked his way into the top six in the early stages, but an electronic problem forced him to make a lengthy stop and he dropped to 12th.
West McLaren-Mercedes drivers Kimi Räikkönen and David Coulthard ran strongly in the early stages before engine problems forced them to retire. Technical glitches also accounted for Jarno Trulli (Renault F1) and KL Minardi Asiatech drivers Mark Webber and Alex Yoong. Eddie Irvine (Jaguar Racing) dropped out after running into the back of Yoong and damaging the front of his car.
Pierre Dupasquier (Motorsport Director)
This was Michelin's first 1-2 since you came back to grand prix racing
and but for Jenson Button's suspension problem at the end it was
almost a 1-2-3. How do you feel?
"It was a very pleasing performance, all in all. The Williams-BMW team did a superb job and Renault showed a great turn of speed, too. And we mustn't forget that both McLarens were right on the pace before they retired. Juan Pablo Montoya's new lap record was a source of satisfaction, too."
There has been a lot of talk about how tyre wear might cause a few
problems this weekend. How worried were you before the start?
"I wasn't too concerned because I didn't think any of our teams would have a problem, even those who were planning to stop only once. That said, hot conditions such as this are always going to place a strain on tyres and you can never be absolutely sure w hat might happen. After looking around at the end of the race I think our tyres stood up pretty well. Things were probably less marginal for drivers who stopped twice, but you have to remember that those guys were generally pushing harder on lighter fuel l oads, so overall the wear rate wasn't that different."
The incident at the first corner denied us a chance to see whether Juan
Pablo Montoya's two stops might have been more effective than Ralf
"I don't think there was a great deal to choose between them, to be honest. But for Juan Pablo's incident with Michael Schumacher, which was a classic racing accident, I think things would have been very close."
Are you ready to challenge Ferrari on a regular basis from now on?
"The current Ferrari is a well developed and very fast car but even if we aren't ultimately able to pip them to the world title I'd like to think our teams are going to give them a very hard time every weekend."
What did you learn in Malaysia?
"Quite a lot, because we were running new tyres for the first time and picked up a lot of valuable data that will aid our future development programme. Much of what we gleaned this weekend will help us settle our tyre choice for the next race in Brazil."
Is it true that all your partner teams ran on your softer, option (B)
"I think it's fair to say that."