Great final race for Michelin World champion Michael Schumacher scored the 53rd Formula 1 win of his career in the final race of the season at Suzuka, Japan. It was the German's ninth victory of the season, which equals a record he...
Great final race for Michelin
World champion Michael Schumacher scored the 53rd Formula 1 win of his career in the final race of the season at Suzuka, Japan. It was the German's ninth victory of the season, which equals a record he already jointly holds with Nigel Mansell (Schumacher won nine times in 1995, Mansell in 1992). He also set a new record for the highest number of points scored during an F1 career, beating Alain Prost's previous benchmark. Schumacher streaked away from pole position and controlled the race from the front, although Juan Pablo Montoya (BMW WilliamsF1 Team/Michelin) was catching in the closing stages and finished just 3.1 seconds adrift.
Montoya said: "I had a good battle with Rubens Barrichello's Ferrari in the opening stages, but although he passed me once I was able to get back ahead of him and after that it was no problem to stay there. I am pleased with the way things have gone in my first F1 season. This is a good way to finish and but for bad luck with mechanical problems I think we could have scored a few more wins and a lot more points."
David Coulthard (McLaren-Mercedes) took third to secure second place behind Schumacher in the world championship. He finished ahead of team-mate Mika Hakkinen, Barrichello and the second Williams-BMW of Ralf Schumacher. The younger Schumacher, who set the race's fastest lap, might have joined Montoya on the podium had he not been given a 10-second stop-go penalty for cutting the chicane. Stewards adjudged that he had gained an advantage by so doing.
Jenson Button (Benetton Renault Sport) fared best of the remaining Michelin runners and finished just outside the points, in seventh place. Fernando Alonso (European Minardi) concluded his impressive maiden F1 season by beating several more powerful cars in a strong run to 11th. Heinz-Harald Frentzen (Prost-Acer) recovered to finish 12th after making an early stop to replace his nose wing, which came adrift after he ran off the circuit at the chicane. Alex Yoong (European Minardi) was forced to start the race in the team's spare car, set up for Alonso, after his own developed a technical problem before the start. He was the only other Michelin driver to cross the finishing line, in 16th place, although Giancarlo Fisichella (Benetton Renault Sport) was classified 17th despite retiring to the pits with six laps to go.
Jaguar drivers Pedro de la Rosa and Eddie Irvine were both forced out. The Spaniard's car suffered from failing oil pressure while the Ulsterman was unable to refuel at his first stop when his pit equipment malfunctioned. Tomas Enge (Prost-Acer) lost time after coming in too early for his second scheduled stop because had had erroneously read another team's pit board. He dropped out soon afterwards because of a faulty front wheel bearing.
Frenchman Jean Alesi (Jordan-Honda) and Kimi Raikkonen (Sauber-Petronas) escaped unhurt after a violent accident on lap six. It was the only time that Alesi has failed to be classified as a finisher in his final F1 season.