MARCH 23, 2003
MALAYSIAN GP - SUNDAY - RACE NOTES
Raikkonen takes first win in Malaysia
Kimi Raikkonen took his first formula 1 victory in his McLaren-Mercedes at today's Malaysian Grand Prix in Sepang.
The race began with a first lap accident when Michael Schumacher collided with Jarno Trulli's Renault in the second corner, causing mayhem throughout the field behind them. Schumacher was charged with a drive-through penalty for causing the accident, and ended up finishing the day in sixth place.
After restarting at the end of the field, Trulli fought his way through the field to finish fifth.
Fernando Alonso capitalized on his pole position to take the early lead in the race until the first round of pit stops. Kimi Raikkonen got ahead of the Spaniard in the first round of stops.
Rubens Barrichello took second place ahead of Alonso at the second round of pit stops and held the position until the finish - with the Renault driver finishing third.
Fourth place went to Ralf Schumacher in his Williams-BMW - a good solid performance after starting the race from 17th on the grid.
Seventh place went to Jenson Button in the BAR-Honda, after a long battle with Trulli, and the final points paying position went to Nick Heidfeld in the Sauber-Petronas.
Rubens Barrichello (2nd): ""After the start I was running almost alongside Michael and then I noticed a car spinning towards me. I had to take avoiding action and then Trulli ran wide and I had to move back inside and that cost me a lot of time. There was a lot of debris from other cars and I was lucky not to hit everything. I found myself behind Heidfeld, but we had good straight line speed and I was able to pass cars. The car set-up was fantastic but having fallen back, I had to catch up and that compromised my race.. After that it was trouble free. When I was running with nothing ahead of me, I could tell that Kimi was managing to pull away a bit. After the second stop, I had a slight misfire, but I kept pushing until, with 15 laps to go, the team told me to hold position. I must thank the stewards for allowing me to race without the HANS system. Sid Watkins checked me out and agreed that I should not use it, as I have got a small hernia which is quite painful. I tried all weekend to make the HANS work and for the next race, we will have a solution which should fix the problem."
Michael Schumacher (6th): "It was a tough race with an unfortunate start. I made a mistake and hit Jarno and I have apologised to him. That was the decisive moment of my race. It came as a big surprise that I was still able to fight for points after I pitted for the drive-through penalty. So, I am happy enough in the circumstances. I have no complaints about my car, which worked very well, thanks to the team. Let's hope the next race will be better."
Jean Todt, Team Principal: "It was a very tough race, as indeed we had expected. The start was the critical moment, when Michael collided with Trulli and Rubens lost a few places. On lap 3,we called Michael into the pits to replace the front wing, damaged in the incident. This same incident also saw Michael given a penalty and he drove through the pit-lane on lap 9, losing ground even more. All things considered, Michael's sixth place is significant for the Drivers' championship. Rubens drove a good race to take second place. We have therefore picked up a total of eleven points, which are important for both championships.We knew our competitors had made progress and this race only serves to confirm that.Now we have to work along with our technical partners Bridgestone and Shell to be as well prepared as possible for the next race in Brazil, where we will continue to race the F2002. In the meantime, we will continue with the development of the F2003-GA, which we know is more competitive than the current car."
Ralf Schumacher (4th): "This race was as demanding as 56 laps of qualifying. Driving at the front as I did last year was obviously much easier. I am happy that I achieved fourth position after I started 17th. The new rules are proving positive. They mix up the field so much that a lot goes on in the race."
Juan Pablo Montoya (12th): "No doubt my race was decided in the first lap. I was hit by Pizzonia's Jaguar and I lost most of the rear wing which forced me to pit. Unfortunately we had a mechanical problem that slowed down the wing change but the mechanics changed it as quick as they could. When I went back to the track I was 3 laps behind the leader. Such a gap was impossible to close! Furthermore my drink bottle stopped working after a dozen laps which made the rest of my race today very, very hard."
Sam Michael, Chief Operations Engineer: "Ralf did a good job by driving from 17th position to fourth and secured valuable points for the championship. It was unfortunate that Juan got hit in the rear right on the first lap. He was well placed regarding the fuel load and strategy he was on. But at this incident he lost his rear wing and after the repair had dropped far behind. His lap times were good, but we don't know were he could have finished. For Brazil we will have some new parts and we are looking forward to the next race."
Dr. Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director: "It was another exciting Grand Prix. The accident right after the start mixed up the field. Ralf took advantage of the situation and managed to reach the midfield. You don't often see a driver achieving fourth place after having started 17th. Ralf really did the very best he could. Shame for Juan Pablo, who was unlucky. After the start somebody hit him from the back and he lost his rear wing."
Kimi Raikkonen (1st): "I'm very pleased with my first ever Formula One victory, but I'm not sure it's really going to sink in until tomorrow. I would like to thank everybody in the team not only here in Malaysia but also the McLaren and Mercedes-Benz people back in Woking, Brixworth, Stuttgart as well as Michelin for all the hard work they have put in. I made a good start and was coming into the second corner when I saw two cars hitting each other. I was going to stay on the outside, but at the last moment I saw one of the cars going backwards and I managed to take the inside line ? it was the right decision. I then overtook Nick Heidfeld to take second. I was taking it easy for the last 20 laps to ensure that I brought the car home and was not pushing. I'm going to fly home to Switzerland tonight so I don't think we will have a big party, but I'm sure we will celebrate a bit. I'm now looking forward to the next race and the rest of the season."
David Coulthard (DNF, Electrical): "I made a good start off the line. I saw that there was going to be a coming together at the second corner and managed to take a wide line to avoid it. However on lap three at turn four the engine started to cut and finally stopped completely at turn nine whilst I was in second place. The team later told me that it was an electrical problem and obviously I'm disappointed as we could have finished on the podium today. Congratulations to Kimi on winning his first Grand Prix which is a very special feeling for every Formula One driver."
Ron Dennis, Team Principal: "Clearly a tremendous result for Kimi and the whole team. Australia had some unusual circumstances clouding our competitiveness, but today we showed the excellent work done by the whole team and especially Michelin who provided us with an outstanding tyre has paid off. A driver's first GP win is his most significant and Kimi will be even better for it. Apologies to David who suffered an electrical fault which stopped his car. We look forward to the remainder of the season, but we are under no illusions about the competitiveness of our principal rivals."
Norbert Haug, Mercedes Motorsport Director: "A fantastic performance by Kimi and the team. Today we had the best package and the Michelin tyres which we have been developing together suited our car perfectly. I'm sorry for David who had to retire with an electrical failure."
Fernando Alonso (3rd): "Today is the best day of my life. It's a great feeling to finish on the podium, especially since halfway through the race I started to have problems with my gearbox and I was forced to shift manually until the end. Frankly, I thought I wasn't going to finish and instead I got this great result! I am sorry for Jarno because he could have had a podium finish as well but we both scored points and that's very good. A big thank you to everyone in the team to whom I dedicate this first podium."
Jarno Trulli (5th): "Honestly I think we missed a good opportunity today. Everything was going smoothly but then Michael pushed me out. He eventually apologised but at that point, my race had been spoiled. I incurred in other problems, such as a long pitstop and I had to fight till the end to keep my position. Certainly my fifth place brings some more points to myself and the team, however, I am disappointed because I feel I could have done better."
Mike Gascoyne, Technical Director: "It's a fantastic result for the team. Jarno's first lap was spoiled by Michael Schumacher. He had also some problems in the pit-stop. Without this, I'm sure he would have finished fourth. Fernando drove a fantastic race considering that he had an electronic problem just before his last stop which meant that he had to shift manually. We had a very strong, competitive weekend and I hope we will achieve with the same good result again this season."
Denis Chevrier, Engine Operations Manager: "Both drivers did a superb job even though they had few problems during the race. The performance of both cars was excellent and it's a very encouraging sign to have scored valuable points in the first two races of the season."
Flavio Briatore, Managing Director: "This was an excellent weekend for us. We proved that our choices in terms of strategy were correct. It's a shame for Jarno, who drove a very good race and, had it not been for his collision caused by Michael Schumacher, we could have a had a double-podium finish. Fernando drove a superb race and I am delighted of the good points that both drivers brought to the team. It's an important day for Renault: it's our first podium since the beginning of our re-entry challenge in Formula One as a full-work team and we are all very proud and happy."
Nick Heidfeld (8th): "I made up one position at the start, and then several cars came together in Turn Two. I reacted quickly and was lucky that I was able to go down the inside of Schumacher and Trulli and avoid everything. For a while I was running third. Unfortunately, when I selected first gear during my first pit stop (on lap 13) the engine stalled, which cost me a lot of time. When I made my second one (on lap 34) I wasn't sure if the problem had been fixed, so I opted to make a manual start. Overall, the car was reasonable today, and at least I scored a point."
Heinz-Harald Frentzen (9th): "Right from the start I had a problem when I couldn't get first gear on the grid, so I was very slow away. At least I avoided the second corner melee. Then I lost more time when the engine cut out during my first pit stop (on lap 17), and after that I was just trying to catch up. It was not an easy race for us today, and we didn't get the best from the car. But I did pass Ralph Firman in Turn Three on the last lap."
Peter Sauber, Team Principal: "Honestly, we had expected more points today, especially here in front of our partner PETRONAS and our loyal Malaysian fans. Unfortunately the race started with Heinz-Harald's problem, and then both engines cut out in the first stops due to fuel evaporation. Luckily we were able to solve that for the second stops and to secure eighth and ninth places and another championship point. Congratulations to our former driver Kimi Raikkonen, on his first Grand Prix victory."
Ralph Firman (10th): "It was a good race with the car showing reliability. It was very very hard work but I had some good battles and it's great to finish. In the pit stop the car wouldn't pull away with the normal system, I don't know why, but we did a manual start and that was okay, but I lost a bit of time and it is a shame I ran out of fuel on the last lap. The team has done an excellent job this weekend and I'm looking forward to Brazil."
Giancarlo Fisichella (DNF, Electronics): "I had a problem with launch control. We don't know what was wrong as we are still investigating. I have to look ahead to the next race."
Eddie Jordan, Team Principal: "This is just what Ralph needed as it's all about confidence at this stage. It will make him feel better and more confident in himself, and so he should because he'll never get a more hostile environment in his racing career than a Grand Prix in this heat. We made it more arduous by asking him to do a one stop strategy and he came through it. He did it like a man with a lot of spirit and speed."
Gary Anderson, Director of Race and Test Engineering: "The way the race turned out for us was quite disappointing because there were points to be had and in the end we didn't get them. Giancarlo made a bit of a mistake at the start when he got in the wrong grid slot and had to do a bit of manoeuvring. After that the clutch got too hot and the launch control wouldn't work correctly. Ralph drove very well and his one stop strategy worked but unfortunately we didn't get all the fuel in during the stop. He had to drive the last stint, which was the long stint, with a lean mixture and low revs to make it to the end, and on the last lap we noticed a couple of fuel pressure spikes, before he lost a place to Frentzen. There was a problem getting away from the pit stop and we won't know exactly what it was until we see the data. Ralph did a good race - he learned a lot about the car and a lot about racing. It bodes well for the future."
Martin Whitaker, Ford Director of Motorsport: "A strong performance by the team, and in particular Ralph, in these energy-sapping conditions. Ralph's application throughout the race was professional and to have finished his first Grand Prix in such heat and humidity will have done his confidence a power of good."
Antonio Pizzonia (DNF, Spin): "My race effectively ended after the first corner incident. I was hit from behind and pushed into another car that caused the front wing damage. Coming into the pits on lap one cost me too much time to make any real impact on the race. Nonetheless, race experience is something that I am short of and it was important to keep pushing and getting mileage under my belt. The balance and feel of the Jaguar R4 was quite good but on lap 43, it all ended with what felt like a brake problem. The back end of the car snapped and I was a passenger as it spun into the gravel. My home race is next and given how much work is going into solving the niggles from this weekend, I am confident of making better progress at Interlagos."
Mark Webber (DNF, Engine): "Disappointing, yes, but there is a lot to be encouraged about when it comes to the pace of our race car. The fuel pick-up problem that has plagued us all weekend came and went throughout my race but nonetheless, the speed and balance were very good given the fuel strategy we employed. I managed to squeeze my way through the first corner incident and then began pushing as hard as I could. The Michelin tyre worked very well today and we could have got points from this race today ? even after the delay in the pit-lane after my first pit stop. That probably cost me around 30 seconds but once back out, the performance of the car shone through, albeit until lap 35 when we had no choice but to call it a day. The potential of this car is clear and we must remain calm, get our heads down and get on with the task of tapping into the car's true capability."
Mark Gillan, Head of Vehicle Performance: "It's been a tough weekend right from the beginning. We have suffered several issues this weekend with the most prominent being the fuel pick-up problem. This raised its head again during the race but our strategy looked as if it had compensated for it. The first corner incident affected several cars but it was certainly no fault of Antonio who ended up the victim. His front wing was damaged and having to pit at the end of the first lap effectively cost him his race. Mark, however, drove a storming race today but his points reward was robbed by a loss of engine oil problem. We were monitoring the problem throughout but it soon became clear that Mark was not going to finish the race and in an effort to avoid serious damage to the engine, we took pre-emptive action and called him in. We are not entirely sure what caused Antonio to spin out of the race but it appears to be a brake problem. The pace of the Jaguar R4 was again very encouraging and upon examination of Mark's sector times, it is clear to see that he was right on the pace today, particularly in sectors one and two. Very impressive given the handicap he was carrying versus the fuel load. Both drivers have worked hard this weekend and their approach, despite the retirements, remains very professional and positive. It's Antonio's home race next at Interlagos in Brazil and everyone at Jaguar Racing will be working tirelessly to correct the frustrating issues that have affected us here this weekend. The pace is clearly there, no doubt. Making it reliable will, I'm sure, generate points and that's obviously what we are all now focused on doing."
Jenson Button (7th): "It was a very tiring race and the car was so difficult to drive. We were a lot slower than the Renault today and when the car is that hard to handle it's very difficult to stay in front. I had very low grip, not just on the rear but also on the front, and the oversteer got progressively worse towards the end; it just destroyed the tyres. I held off Jarno for as long as I could, then on the last corner I braked where I normally would and the rear just locked up. I went straight on and Michael was able to get through. It's very disappointing because I was fighting hard to hold on to 5th. We got some points though and that's the main thing so I'm optimistic for Brazil."
Jacques Villeneuve (DNF, Electrical): "A big disappointment as we concentrated all weekend on the race set-up and fuel strategy. We didn't look too good in qualifying but we were confident for the race. We couldn't show it though because of an electrical problem from the start. Bad luck, but that's life."
David Richards, Team Principal: "A weekend of mixed emotions; clearly very disappointing for Jacques because I'm sure his race strategy would have led to a very solid result, but on the other hand the team can take encouragement from the overall performance of both cars. Jenson battled with the balance of his car throughout the race and was unfortunate to drop a couple of places on the last lap. But then again, we have a couple of points in the bag and a car that is clearly improving with every race."
Geoffrey Willis, Technical Director: "A good result for the team in getting our first points of the season in a very tough race. Jenson put in a determined drive despite struggling with a difficult car. It was however very disappointing that Jacques was unable to start the race. Just before his car left the garage we had an electrical problem and then, at the start of the parade lap, the problem returned and damaged the gearbox so he was unable to make it off the grid. Although we've had excellent reliability for most of the weekend, we have struggled to get the best out of the car and tyres in these hot conditions. However, we go to Brazil optimistic that we can realise more of our potential."
Shuhei Nakamoto, Honda Engineering Director: "What a frustrating day! I think Jenson did a very good job battling in the high temperatures right to the end and I'm very pleased that we have scored our first points of the year. I'm also encouraged for the future by the race pace we showed today. As always, it is a very tough race on the engine and I'm glad it made it to the end. This was obviously not a good day for Jacques but we're looking ahead to Brazil now where we know we can do better."
Jos Verstappen (13th): "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 (DNF, Retired):
Paul Stoddart, Team Principal: "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."
Cristiano Da Matta (11th): "It was a very tough race today. On the way to the grid I had a problem with the race car, so I had to jump in the T-car and start from the pitlane. We then had a problem with the fuel pressure running on a lighter fuel load, so I had to run the whole race on a full tank, which made overtaking impossible. It is very frustrating, but as the race started I had to forget about it and just do my best. Obviously, it is disappointing, as I feel we could have finished in the points today, but hopefully we can do just that in my first home F1 race in Brazil in two weeks' time."
Olivier Panis (DNF, Fuel Pressure): "I had a really good start in the race and was up into the top five, having a good battle early on with Barrichello. Things were looking really promising for us and the car was very competitive. I came in for my scheduled pit stop and we put in some fuel, but after three corners the fuel pressure suddenly went down and the engine died. The problem was very similar to what we experienced in Melbourne, but at the moment we don't know if it is exactly the same. Right now, I am quite angry and I am disappointed for the team, because everybody has done a very good job this weekend. The car still has a lot left to give and I am not the type of guy to give up, so we will get results soon."
Ove Andersson, Team Principal: "I am very disappointed because we were in a strong position to get very good results today, with a competitive car and a good strategy, but we have had the same problem as we had in Melbourne on both cars. We at least have a specific problem to deal with now, and simply have to get it fixed for the next race. Competitiveness is one thing, but we now have to focus on the most important thing, which is reliability."