SEPTEMBER 28, 2003
UNITED STATES GP - SUNDAY - RACE NOTES
Schumacher wins at Indy
Michael Schumacher (1st): "This was a great and important win. I am so pleased and it was an emotional and fantastic day, after not such a good qualifying. It means a lot at a crucial stage in the championship and the tifosi have carried us to this position. Tires played a crucial role today. At the first stop, we had decided to stay with dry tires, but the rain got stronger as I came into pit lane and I did suggest changing the choice. But it would have been too much of a mess. So I came straight back in again for wets and they were unbelievable in these conditions. As the two other title contenders had also fitted dries, I knew I could close the gap to them because our tires were good. Before the race, I did think I could get into the top three and I made a very good start and managed to make up some places and get into the fight. There was a lot of pressure but we got the right result. Bridgestone has been criticized this year, so this result will be a good boost for them. As for my move on Panis, I was aware of the yellow flags but I passed him well before them and then backed off early to be safe. Now we are in a good position for the last race, but of course we to finish first, first you have to finish. But we have a reliable car and I will be looking for another win."
Rubens Barrichello (DNF, Accident): "I did not have a good start as I encountered problems selecting second gear as the automatic upshift was not working and I had to select the gears manually. I lost time and people overtook me as I dealt with the problem. With Montoya, we were running side by side. I thought I had left him enough space, but he touched me and I spun. But on the positive side, this was a great day for the whole team which is now ahead in both championships. I am a little bit disappointed about today, but as I am part of the team I can share the delight at Michael's win."
Jean Todt, Team Principal: "This was an incredibly intense race! The changing weather meant it was very easy to make mistakes. Michael performed perfectly and has taken a good step forward towards a sixth world title, while the Scuderia is back in the lead in the Constructors' classification. Rubens was slowed at the start with an electrical problem in the gearbox and then ended up off the track after being hit by Montoya. That left just Michael to defend our colors. Thanks to the Bridgestone tires, his bravura and the work of the whole team, he managed to take a great win. We are very happy and could not be anything but, because, for us, working for Ferrari is something special and work with passion. This victory is the best reward for all the efforts made day in and day out. We are very happy for Bridgestone, who must take much of the credit for this result. I am also very happy for Sauber, who thanks to today's performance, move from ninth to fifth place in the Constructors' Championship. I know how seriously Peter Sauber and his group go about their work, so I can imagine how important is this result for them. We still have two weeks of hard work ahead of us and this win does not change our programme. We must prepare as well as possible for Suzuka, where we will do our utmost to reach the goals we set ourselves at the start of the season."
Ross Brawn, Technical Director: "In the end, it was a fantastic race in which Michael demonstrated his qualities in difficult circumstances. We put him on the wrong tires at his first pit stop as we were expecting only light rain at that time. The tires worked very well, except when the track was very greasy and only a bit wet. For the rest of the time, the Bridgestones were the best tires today. But Michael was really the key to this victory. Now, we go to the last race needing to score one point in the Drivers' Championship and do all we can to also take the Constructors' title. But it is going to be a tough couple of weeks, during which we will work hard and we cannot take anything for granted."
Juan Pablo Montoya (6th): "A very disappointing race, basically decided by the penalty I was given for the accident with Rubens and the moment I had to pay it. Due to the changeable weather conditions, in fact, it started to rain hard just when I was given my ?drive through' penalty, which forced me to delay by one lap my pit-stop to change onto wet tires. It is sad to lose my Drivers' Championship chances in this way, especially knowing that I just needed to finish 5th today, to keep my hopes open."
Ralf Schumacher (DNF, Accident): "When it started to rain quite heavily around lap 20 I stayed out on the track one lap too much which was unfortunately due to a misunderstanding with my engineers on the pit-wall. It was obviously not the right decision and I spun on the track which had become very slippery, hit the barriers and had to retire from the race. The conditions out there were very difficult, very challenging. It was a very disappointing end, especially because I was right up there amongst the leaders and ahead of Michael and Kimi."
Sam Michael, Chief Operations Engineer: "It was obviously a bad day for both championships from our point of view. We have made quite a lot of mistakes as a team today which we have to address for the next race in Japan."
Dr. Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director: "Our race has actually been decided by the weather conditions. When the rain came, the order got mixed up and changed again when the track dried out. Due to this Ralf spun and damaged the rear suspension. Juan Pablo dropped far behind when he served his drive through penalty and had a fuel rig problem and especially for him the result is disappointing as he is now out of the fight for the Driver's title. The Constructors? Championship is not decided yet, and we just hope weather will not be the crucial factor again in Suzuka. Congratulations to Michael and Ferrari, they made the most out of it today."
Kimi Raikkonen (2nd): "The weather basically lost us the race victory today as we were not as quick in the wet conditions as Michael. The good news is that we still have a chance in Japan, but it's more difficult now. I made a good start from pole and was pretty much in control and had a good battle with Ralf Schumacher before he crashed out. Once the rain started things changed. We came in at the right times and didn't put a foot wrong but there was nothing we could do. Now I look forward to the final race at Suzuka in two weeks time where I know we will give it all and anything can happen in racing."
David Coulthard (DNF, Gearbox): "I made a good start where I gained a couple of positions and was running strongly during the opening stages of the race even leading at one point. When it began to rain we took a risk and decided to stay out on slicks, but obviously it didn't work and I was really struggling to keep the car on the track. My gearbox developed a problem and eventually I had to retire."
Ron Dennis, Team Principal: "As you would expect we come to every Grand Prix with the intention of winning. However Kimi's second place still gives us a chance to win the World Championship and our sights are firmly on that objective."
Norbert Haug, Mercedes Motorsport Director: "A brilliant performance by Kimi under difficult circumstances. He was the best Michelin runner no matter what the conditions were. There is still a tiny chance to win the World Championship and that means that we will continue to fight in the last round at Suzuka."
Jarno Trulli (4th): "The car became more and more competitive during the race and, towards the end, it was really fantastic. The conditions made things more complicated today, but as a driver, you need to attack whatever the conditions, and that is what I did today. We were quick in both the dry and the wet, but I think the real damage was done by my mistake in the warm-up yesterday. I should have got pole yesterday and, had I done so, we could have looked for a much better result. I'm pleased with the performance today, but it could have been better."
Fernando Alonso (DNF, Engine): "It's only the fourth time I have retired this year, but it is particularly frustrating because, with Ralf and Rubens both going out as well, I could have taken fourth place in the championship. We were competitive today, but I still wasn't happy with the car: it has been difficult to drive since the start of the weekend. We now have to look towards Suzuka, which should suit our package well."
Pat Symonds, Executive Director of Engineering: "Today was not so much about strategy in the normal sense, but rather about trying to make the right decision at the right time. Things were difficult for us when the track was wet but in dry conditions, our cars were extremely quick and a fully dry race should have brought a more satisfying result."
Flavio Briatore, Managing Director: "Jarno drove an impressive race, and his lap-times right up until the finish demonstrated our real level of competitiveness this weekend. In view of that, we can only be disappointed to get a single car to the finish in fourth place. We will now work hard to get the best from our package in Japan, and finish the season on a high."
Heinz-Harald Frentzen (3rd): "I'm very happy! It's fantastic! Especially in our situation! We have had a very difficult season and podium finishes have definitely not been our regular targets. Today the weather and track conditions were just perfect for us. I was about to come into the pits anyway, so I decided to ask the team to change to wet tires just as it started to rain. As it showed, this was a crucial decision. The team did a great job and it seems that our car is more competitive in wet conditions. This was our joker. However, we had a similar situation in Monza two weeks ago when it looked very promising for us too regarding points. But today I just thought of enjoying my position as much as I could and was not so much thinking of finishing on the podium. Tonight we're going on to the streets to have a party! I'll invite the whole team. We definitely have a reason to celebrate. We made a big jump in the championship. My third place gives a lot of motivation to the team. ! I wish it all the best for the future."
Nick Heidfeld (5th): "A fantastic result for the team! And congratulations to Heinz-Harald for his third place. I am happy with my own race. I made a good start and made up places, and though Button and I touched in Turn Four there was no damage. In my first stop I changed to dry tires, which meant I had to come back in for wets soon afterwards, but that was the luck of the game today. We achieved the maximum this afternoon as a team, helped greatly by our Bridgestone tires which worked perfectly in the conditions."
Peter Sauber, Team Principal: "10 points in a single race - after the sort of season we have been having in 2003 - well, it's very difficult for me to find the right words. Under demanding weather conditions our strategy, the skills of the drivers, and the Bridgestone tires, played decisive roles. The result is a well deserved reward for the mechanics, the engineers, the drivers and Bridgestone, and in particular for our sponsors Credit Suisse and Red Bull, and Petronas who supplies us with the engine that also served us so well."
Giancarlo Fisichella (7th): "A good result. We didn't expect to score points so it's great considering our pace and our grid position. We did very well, despite some problems in both pit stops. Without those there was definitely the possibility to finish 6th."
Ralph Firman (DNF, Spin): "The conditions were wet and slippery and unfortunately at the beginning I touched with another car and lost my front wing. Later I had to change to wet then dry tires and when I wanted to pit for wets again Giancarlo was going into the box so I had to do another lap and come back. I retired when I touched one of those plastic kerbs and the car spun round. We're not used to racing with them but it was my mistake. All round it's been a tough day."
Gary Anderson, Director of Race and Test Engineering: "The race was quite exciting and the rain affected the outcome dramatically but we didn't take as much advantage of it as we should have. Our stops were at the right time but unfortunately Giancarlo had problems in both pit stops, one was a right front wheel and the other was a fuel rig problem. We believed fuel didn't go in on the second stop but it had, so we refuelled twice and he did his final stint full of fuel which obviously slowed him down significantly as well as making the pit stop far too long. There was another point or two in it for us but we missed out and we have to look at why that happened because these opportunities don't come along very often and when they do you have to make the most of them. Ralph's race was difficult from the start when he ran into someone on the first lap and knocked the front wing. We replaced that and shortly afterwards brought him in early for wet tires, as he was at the back anyway and we took a gamble to see if we could recover - but the rain didn't stay, it dried out, and we didn't benefit from the decision. There was a bit of back and forth with wet and dry tires but we were not able to make up any places and he retired after spinning off the track."
Eddie Jordan, Team Principal: "It's a relief to score points, just a shame we didn't get one more. It was a good race for everybody, really exciting and great for us to be back in the points."
Justin Wilson (8th): "That was by no means an easy race and I was more than happy to see the checkered flag. The start of the race was fairly clean but as the conditions kept changing it became increasingly difficult to achieve good long runs. The team did a great job today to support me and a combination of our race strategy and well-oiled pit stops certainly helped me secure eighth place. I am of course very pleased to have achieved my first Championship point here at Ford's home race and at this time in the calendar. It has been a tough few months for me but I knew that my luck would change at some point. My weekend overall has been a good learning curve for me and I am only too pleased to add to the points tally in our bid to fight for fifth in the Constructors Championship. It was unfortunate that we could not have scored more but to be honest I was trying hard just to stay on track and to have secured a point is a real bonus."
Mark Webber (DNF, Accident): "I was really looking forward to today's race despite starting in 14th and I am naturally disappointed not to have finished. I had a good start and the first twenty laps were tough under the conditions but we made a tremendous leap forward to the extent that I was leading the race by lap twenty. As the conditions were so mixed I was not actually too sure about where I was in the order so I was quite shocked to find myself up there. The car's handling was generally good and the pace of the car evident. Unfortunately as the conditions deteriorated I was heading in for my first pit stop and a change of tires on to shallow wets when I lost the car on corner eight. There was little I could do and of course that was the end of the race for me. We have generally had a good weekend so it is always de- motivating not to finish on a high. However, well done to Justin who scored his first point and finished the race. It was not easy out there so it was good to see that the R4 handled the conditions and secured us another point."
Mark Gillan, Head of Vehicle Performance: "Mark and Justin both went to the grid in shallow wets but it soon became clear that they would need only grooves, so we made this change just prior to the start. The pace of the car was good over the first few laps and it was not long before both cars were racing in the top ten. However, typical to Indianapolis the temperamental weather changed for the worse and we were lucky with Justin timing it just right to come in and change onto shallow wets as the heavens opened. Unfortunately Mark was leading the race when the rain was at its worse and as he struggled for grip he spun and that was the end of his race. Justin continued despite also fighting against a lack grip and he did well to move his R4 into eighth position. Justin held his own in the field and did an admiral job to bring the car home in one piece to finish not only his first race with the team but to secure a well deserved point for both him and the rest of us. The race for fifth has heated up even more as we go to Suzuka and of course with all to play for we will be aiming for a bit more on-track success for the last race. The team have done a sterling job this weekend and we will continue with this determination in Japan."
Jenson Button (DNF, Engine): "Leading the US Grand Prix was a great feeling and a fantastic moment in my career, but it's massively disappointing to lose out on the best chance I've had at my first podium. The team were aware for a few laps that I was losing hydraulic pressure but there was nothing they could do about it. Before this affected the car we had an engine problem and as I came round the last corner the engine gave way. It was a really tough race generally. The changing weather made any strategic decision a gamble and we were waiting and waiting to be sure that stopping and changing to wets was the best move. We held on a bit too long and I went off as things got really slippery out there. The car was pretty much undriveable; I had a lot of oversteer and after my pitstop the car was really twitchy. Realistically Michael was going to get past me sooner or later but I was hanging in well behind him and I'm confident that, all things being equal, we could have stayed there for the rest of the race."
Jacques Villeneuve (DNF, Engine): "There was no grip off the start or during the first lap but then the car improved and we were really quick on wet tires. When it started raining we came in first to put on wets but it stopped raining at the same time, which was really bad luck. It was havoc out there. One lap too many and you're on ice and can lose 30 seconds, one lap too early and you overheat your rain tires. We took the risk and it didn't pay off. We recovered later in the race and I was pushing hard in ninth, so we would have been there if any opportunities came our way but then the engine let go and that was the end of our race."
David Richards, Team Principal: "There can be no hiding our disappointment after an outstanding performance from Jenson which promised so much. He held on exceptionally well in tough conditions, leading the race for 15 laps and looking very strong until his engine failed. We always knew that we would be competitive in wet conditions and both Jacques and Jenson proved this point. The fight for fifth place in the Championship now goes down to the wire with only one point separating three teams and everything to fight for in Suzuka two week's time."
Geoffrey Willis, Technical Director: "This was a very disappointing outcome from a very exciting race which was dominated by changing weather conditions. Jenson made a good start and our qualifying strategy enabled us to run long enough to choose the best time to change to wet tires. Following his first stop he led the race for 15 laps before giving way to Michael, and despite the difficult conditions Jenson was able to stay with him until he was forced out with engine failure. Although it is always difficult to predict the race outcome, the evidence suggests that, had we continued, we would have been on target for second and the team's best podium finish. Jacques suffered a bad start from the other side of the grid and when the first rain came we decided to split the strategies and bring him in for wet tires whilst covering the Toyotas. In the end, this was the wrong decision and we soon had to revert to dry tires, which penalized the rest of Jacques race. Despite this, he too was running strongly when he was also forced to retire with engine failure. We had pushed hard to bring the new Bridgestone wet tire compound, having tested it at Monza, and the car was clearly very competitive in fully wet conditions. This result makes our task even more difficult in terms of securing fifth place in the Championship, but we will just have to fight even harder in Suzuka."
Shuhei Nakamoto, Honda Engineering Director: "At the moment we're all clearly very disappointed by having two engine failures and this is obviously heightened by the fact that we were running in second. I am, however, determined that today's disappointment will not stop us from pushing as hard as we can to close the gap to the front runners."
Jos Verstappen (10th): "I had a bad start to the race, when (Ralph) Firman hit me from behind and punctured my right rear tire, forcing me to pit at the end of the opening lap for a replacement set. It really spoiled our race, because I think we had the strategy and the car to have gained a World Championship point this afternoon. The conditions in the race were tricky, and it was difficult to know when the optimum point was to come in and change tires. Even so, I think we had the strategy about right, and there wasn't much more in the car today, so we did pretty much the maximum we could."
Nicolas Kiesa (11th): "I got a really good start, and after there was a bit of action between Jos and Ralph Firman on the first lap, I overtook them. I pushed hard after that and was able to catch up with a Jordan and a BAR, and then have a good fight with them. At the first pit stop, the team put me out on wets, which was unfortunate, as the rain then stopped and I lost time as a result. I pitted again five laps later for dry tires and then had a good stint, the highlight of which was my first-ever F1 overtaking manoeuvre, when I passed Ralph Firman. I then had to make an extra pit stop late in the race, when not all the fuel was delivered to my car. It was a difficult day for everyone, but on the positive side, I was very pleasantly surprised by the performance of the car in the damp conditions. In addition, I was able to put the knowledge gained in my first three races to good use, while having my first experience of running a Grand Prix in wet conditions. The balance of the car remained good throughout, despite the changeable conditions. Overall, it was a good result and I'm happy for the team."
Paul Stoddart, Team Principal: "What a day! In changing conditions that saw the F1 pit lane busier than in many a long year, European Minardi Cosworth not only scored a top-10 finish, but also got both its cars to the checkered flag. But for a first-lap incident, there is no doubt Jos would have scored the team's first point of the season. By the same token, the extra pit- stop probably cost Nicolas 10th place today. Overall, though, well done to both drivers and to the team for their efforts in what was a very busy afternoon."
Cristiano Da Matta (9th): "When the rain came down early in the race, we took a risk to come in for a change of tires. Unfortunately, it didn't stay wet as long as we thought it would and the track dried up quickly, so we had to switch back to slicks. Even at this early point, we were one lap down and our race was effectively over, when it started to rain again. After we stopped again, I got a drive-through penalty for speeding in the pitlane, but we were so far back that it made little difference. We have had a competitive package at this track all weekend and we had the pace to score good points today."
Olivier Panis (DNF, Spin): "We worked really well on Friday and did a fabulous job to claim third on the grid. My start was brilliant and I exited the first corner in second place. I think our original strategy would have put us in a strong position to get a good result today. We planned to stop on lap 19 for the first of our two scheduled stops, but it began to rain and we decided to change our approach. We risked running wet tires, but unfortunately this turned out to be the wrong way to go. I was forced to pit for a nosecone change after another car hit me, but we were already way back. I stopped shortly afterwards when the car spun in the slippery conditions. Despite the race result, we can draw some positive aspects from this weekend and we will certainly learn from today's experience."
Ove Andersson, Team Principal: "I would sum up today's US Grand Prix as a character-building day for Panasonic Toyota Racing. We took a risk when the rain started, but it didn't pay off. It is the first time we have been faced with such unpredictable and varied weather in a race and it is all part of our continued learning curve. We now head to Suzuka and the Japanese Grand Prix, where we will do all we can to end the season in style in front of Toyota's home crowd."