Justin Wilson was cruelly denied his first Formula One top ten finish this afternoon at the Canadian Grand Prix as gearbox failure forced his retirement while running tenth overall with just eight laps of the 70-lap race remaining. Having ...
Justin Wilson was cruelly denied his first Formula One top ten finish this afternoon at the Canadian Grand Prix as gearbox failure forced his retirement while running tenth overall with just eight laps of the 70-lap race remaining.
Having qualified 18th at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Justin, with a light fuel load, stormed through the field on the opening lap, capitalising on the first corner caution of others to pass several cars on the outside line before tucking in behind Sauber's Nick Heidfeld for a useful tow, passing the German to move up to 13th at the start of the second lap. Justin then led Heidfeld and Minardi team-mate Jos Verstappen, who had qualified three places higher than Wilson, moving up the order to 11th by lap three.
The top ten then beckoned for the British rookie as Heinz-Harald Frentzen's retirement on lap eight promoted Justin to tenth with 1997 World Champion and home favourite Jacques Villeneuve in his sight in ninth. Wilson then dropped back down the running order following his first pit-stop, rejoining in 16th, one place behind Verstappen but with the retirement of both Jordan's within a lap of each other, he was soon up to 14th.
As Verstappen pitted for the second time Justin took advantage of the free space ahead of him to up the pace, having had to shadow his team-mate during their middle stint. His pace ultimately allowed him to leap-frog the Dutchman as an ultra-slick stop from the Minardi team switched the running order with Justin pipping Jos as he exited the pits on lap 45.
The retirements of Nick Heidfeld and David Coulthard subsequently promoted Justin to the fringes of the top ten with 20 laps remaining and with BAR's Jenson Button out of the race five laps later Justin hit the top ten for the second time, the only British driver remaining in the race. Unfortunately for Wilson, with his highest race finish just a few laps away, fate stepped in to deny him any reward for what had been one of his strongest performances to date in his short Grand Prix career. Justin's Minardi PS03 succumbed to gearbox failure as he gunned along the back straight, Wilson piloted his ailing car straight into the pits, retiring on lap 62.
"I'm encouraged with our performance here today, " remarked Justin, "To retire from tenth place is very frustrating and I'm disappointed not to finish having enjoyed a great race but the car's been excellent all weekend and I think we proved we could mix it up a little when the circumstances are right."
He continued: "The start of my race was pretty exciting and I was able to seize the initiative and overtake round the outside of the first corner. We were on a two-stop strategy with a short first run, so I was fairly light on fuel, which we had hoped would help in yesterday's qualifying session. It certainly helped early in the race today and I found myself pushing Villeneuve before my first pit stop!"
"As I said, the car's been spot on over the last couple of days and I'm a little disappointed not to have been able to reward the team with a top ten finish. I would have finished ninth if the gearbox hadn't failed and top Brit would have been a bonus!"
Michael Schumacher celebrated his 68th Grand Prix win as he claimed the chequered flag ahead of the BMW Williams duo of Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya. The Ferrari champion's success has pushed him to the top of the Driver Standings for the first time this season, with the German now enjoying a three point lead over McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen.