US GP: Honda race notes

B.A.R HONDA'S SATO SCORES FIRST CAREER PODIUM IN THRILLING US GP Sato races to sensational third place at the Brickyard as Button retires on lap 26 Lucky Strike B.A.R Honda's Takuma Sato made history this afternoon when he raced to a brilliant...

Sato races to sensational third place at the Brickyard as Button retires on lap 26

Lucky Strike B.A.R Honda's Takuma Sato made history this afternoon when he raced to a brilliant third place in the US Grand Prix to score the first podium finish of his F1 career. Honda-powered team-mate Jenson Button, who started from fourth on the grid, showed great pace early on but was forced out of the action on lap 26 with a gearbox problem.

The excitement started early at Indy, Juan Pablo Montoya sprinting back to the Williams garage to get into the T-car just 30 seconds before the formation lap, leaving a space on the grid behind Sato. When the lights went out, the B.A.R Honda star darted off the grid from P3 but Renault's Fernando Alonso got him at turn one, pushing the Japanese driver back to fourth. Moments later the safety car was deployed as five cars were involved in an incident at turn one, four of which retired.

The pack was racing again on lap five and four laps later Alonso lost it at the end of the main straight, putting the Spaniard out of the race and moving Sato back up into third position. Just one lap later Ralf Schumacher's Williams hit the wall at the final turn, bringing out the safety car for the second time. The Ferraris both used this opportunity to pit, as did the majority of the field. Race leader Michael Schumacher led Sato, Button and Montoya around the circuit for nine laps until the pace car returned to pit lane on lap 19 with only 13 cars still running.

The top three showed stunning pace, a lot quicker than fourth placed Montoya, Sato staying close to the German with just 0.5 seconds separating him and the race leader. After his first scheduled pit stop on lap 25, Honda-powered Sato rejoined the action in 10th place ahead of Button and quickly started to pick his way through the field, passing McLaren's David Coulthard on lap 26, then Sauber's Giancarlo Fisichella and the Jordan of Nick Heidfeld on lap 29 and 30 for P7. The B.A.R Honda driver was the fastest man on track at this point and moved up into sixth position as Raikkonen pitted.

Montoya finally pitted on lap 35 from P2, rejoining the action in sixth place behind Sato. The Japanese racer was all over the back of Olivier Panis, muscling past the Toyota driver on lap 40 to take fourth position. After his second pit stop on lap 45, Sato was back on track in P6, seven seconds behind Jarno Trulli's Renault, moving up to fifth place when Panis pitted on the next lap. Sato continued to show excellent pace in his B.A.R Honda 006, putting in consistently quick laps and reeling in the Italian to within three seconds by lap 57. Two laps later Montoya retired to the garage to accept his black flag penalty, moving the Trulli and Sato battle up into a thrilling fight for third place, the Japanese star making it past the Renault driver on lap 62.

With a podium finish firmly in his sight, Sato settled in to enjoy fine form during the last 11 laps, and went on to cross the line in third place to score his maiden podium and B.A.R Honda's seventh this season. The last time a Japanese driver was on the podium was the 1990 Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka when Aguri Suzuki finished third in a Lola.

It was not such a good day at the Brickyard for British team-mate Jenson Button. The B.A.R Honda driver fell back two places to P6 at the start but was up into third place behind his team-mate by lap 10 due to the various incidents that occurred early on. After a clean 6.7 second stop on lap 24, the Briton rejoined in 11th position and showed great pace but just two laps later he lost seventh gear and was forced to park his B.A.R Honda 006 in the garage.

In perfect weather conditions (24 degrees) Michael Schumacher won the 73 lap United States Grand Prix and was joined on the podium by Ferrari team-mate Rubens Barrichello and B.A.R Honda's Takuma Sato. Jarno Trulli (Renault), Toyota's Olivier Panis and McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen crossed the line fourth, fifth and sixth while David Coulthard (McLaren) and Minardi's Zsolt Baumgartner finished seventh and eighth.

Takuma Sato Position: 3rd

"This is an incredible feeling. A result we have worked hard for and pushed so hard to achieve for so long. I feel very proud for the team, Honda and all the partners. They have been pushing so hard to try to resolve the problems I have been experiencing. I had a strong race and the car just felt beautiful. It was so consistent so I have to thank Michelin for all their efforts too."

"I was a little surprised by what happened at the start and then losing my position to Alonso. Then the very concerning circumstances on track made things very confusing. After the two safety cars I felt I had the car to fight to get my position back. I had a good battle with a few drivers, then later in the race saw Jarno hesitate on the oil flag so I took my opportunity. The last few races have been very tough for the team with the back-to-backs and our problems, so I'm absolutely thrilled to have this way of thanking everyone."

Jenson Button Position: DNF

"It was a pretty dramatic race, but my start wasn't very good and I lost two places to Alonso and Raikkonen. After the first safety car our car was working very well, but I was stuck behind Raikkonen. Then we had the second safety car, when Ralf had his big accident. We decided to stay out, instead of pitting under the safety car, and I support the team's decision to do that - it was the right thing to do. Then we sat behind Michael for about six laps before our pitstop. The car was working well and was very stable, especially under braking. The traction was exceptional, so it was disappointing that we were not able to finish the race because I think that it could have been a very interesting result."

Shuhei Nakamoto - Engineering Director, Honda Racing Development:

"I have to say congratulations to Takuma for his drive today - he battled hard for the whole race and really deserves his first podium finish. I feel for Jenson as he could have had a strong result as well. I am also particularly pleased to hear that Ralf is OK."


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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Ferrari , Sauber , McLaren , Williams , Minardi , Jordan