OCTOBER 12, 2003
JAPANESE GP - SUNDAY - RACE NOTES
Schumacher takes historic sixth drivers title (Updated)
Michael Schumacher has won a record breaking sixth World Drivers Championship by virtue of scoring a single point in today's Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka - passing the mark he shared with the late Juan Manuel Fangio, who won his fifth World Championship in 1957.
His Ferrari team mate Rubens Barrichello helped to ensure Schumacher's title by winning the race decisively in damp conditions from title rival Kimi Raikkonen in second. David Coulthard finished in third in his McLaren-Mercedes.
Barrichello's win clinched for Ferrari a record 13th World Constructors' Championship - and their fifth in a row - over Williams-BMW, McLaren-Mercedes and Renault.
It was an action filled race for Schumacher, who started in 14th, when on the seventh lap he clipped the rear end of Takuma Sato's BAR-Honda, and needed to pit to change his front wing - sending him to the back of the field. After working his way back up, in the closing laps of the race, Michael attempted a pass on Cristiano da Matta, but locked up his brakes, causing a chain reaction which saw his brother Ralf breaking his front wing by hitting Michael's rear tire. But Michael continued on to the finish in eighth place, clinching the championship.
Juan Pablo Montoya took the early lead over polesitter Barrichello, but dropped out after nine laps with a mechanical problem and dashing any real hope for Williams-BMW to overtake Ferrari.
Finishing in fourth place, narrowly missing a podium finish once again, was Jenson Button in his BAR-Honda - his new team mate Takuma Sato finishing in sixth place. The strong results for the BAR-Honda team leaped them up to fifth place in the Constructors' Championship, in front of Sauber-Petronas, Jaguar-Cosworth, Toyota and Jordan-Ford.
Fifth place went to Jarno Trulli, who had a strong race - having started the race from the back of the field. Seventh place went to Cristiano da Matta - whose race pace did not live up to his promising third grid position.
POST RACE PRESS CONFERENCE - 12 OCTOBER 2003
1. Rubens BARRICHELLO (FERRARI), 1h25m11.743s
2. Kimi RAIKKONEN (McLAREN), 1h25m22.828s (+ 11.085s)
3. David COULTHARD ( McLAREN ), 1h25m23.357s (+ 11.614s)
Q: You had to win this race and you won it from the pole, but it was difficult in those early laps?
Rubens BARRICHELLO: It was always very difficult because we had a situation that I think helped our competition. It was not damp but some sort of small water in some corners. Going into Spoon, the right hander (before Spoon), especially on the first laps where Montoya overtook me, my car was very twisty so it was hard to keep control and I almost lost it on the first lap. It was difficult and I was praying, even though everyone knows that I love the wet, I was praying for it not to rain because it was our opponent. So basically I fought all the way, hoping that it wasn't going to rain, plus the fact that my visor was really fogged and in all the pit stops, they had to put rubber to keep it open, because it was very difficult. So I had to keep my concentration and I was pushing right through to the end because if we had a situation where it was going to be wet for three laps I knew they could catch me three seconds a lap so I needed to push all the way through.
Q: Rubens, a huge day for Ferrari - Michael has clinched his sixth Drivers' World Championship and this is the fourth consecutive Constructors' Championship you've been a part of at Ferrari.
Barrichello: And I'm so proud because even though all these years Michael has been the one I've been helping for the Constructors' I've been there as well, so to be the fourth year consecutively in Ferrari and win that championship and to clinch this victory - because I think Suzuka is definitely a driver's circuit - so for me to be winning this race makes me a proud man.
Q: Kimi , you were almost there. How big an impact do you think that shunt yesterday have on your weekend?
Kimi RAIKKONEN: No, of course it didn't help us but it's past now and thanks to David for letting me use his car. I tried to get it back in good shape but I think we were a bit unlucky with qualifying yesterday. The last five guys or whatever it was got a little bit of rain and it didn't help us. But, you know, we got second place again. It's not very nice to finish second almost every time but we were just not quick enough to win the title this year. But at least we didn't lose because of bad driving.
Q: David, that was an interesting weekend for you - you had to swap cars halfway through the weekend and then obviously, late in the race, you were sitting behind Kimi . But how was the car for you?
David COULTHARD: We never got the full opportunity in qualifying to know exactly where the T-car was relative to the race car, because of the conditions, but in the race I would say the balance, except on the second set of tires, was pretty good. The second set, for some reason, had a lot of understeer and that was quite difficult for the first eight or nine laps but otherwise I was able to run in clean air and push reasonably hard and try and make a three-stop strategy as best I could.
Interview of Michael SCHUMACHER (FERRARI)
Q: From the Fuji Television Grand Prix of Japan, congratulations to the 2003 World Champion, Michael Schumacher. Michael, you've broken many records in your career, but you've just broken, perhaps, the big one. In 1957 Juan Manuel Fangio won his fifth world championship and now you've won your sixth. Can you just describe your emotions?
Michael SCHUMACHER: Probably not appropriate, honestly, because it has been a tough year, a tough late stage of the season, and it has been a very tough race, honestly, probably one of my toughest. But I think what is much more worthy of mention, is the team and I can only repeat that every so often because again, today, they have done an incredible job to give both of us a car which we have been competitive with at all times. Rubens has done a fantastic drive, won the Grand Prix, so we won the Constructors' title - five in a row, which I think is the first time it has ever happened - in big style. Myself, I was a little bit messy today after having a little incident and that's why I said it was one of my toughest races because to come back then and go through the traffic and fight your way through, with all the happenings, with what happened with Da Matta , and Ralf hitting me in the back and so on, it was a very, very strange race and therefore the feelings haven't yet sunk in. I can well feel for the team but I can't feel for myself at the moment. I'm empty and exhausted. I'm just proud of what we've all achieved.
Q: What were you feeling during the race? Were they keeping you informed about where Kimi was lying and, equally, how hard were you going in traffic, with Sato, for example, and again with your brother?
Schumacher: Obviously I had to go flat out, especially after I lost my nose on lap seven or eight, that was, and from that moment - it was in the early stages of the race - I knew Montoya was out and I knew the two McLarens were both behind Rubens and you wouldn't know what was going to happen with the weather conditions, with strategy and so on, what could have been the outcome in the end. So I really had to make sure by myself to at least be in eighth position. Thankfully I could rely on Rubens in the late stage of the race but I still had to fight because you never know if the car will finish. We are in Formula One and we have always seen things happening in the past, so you have to think about the worst to be safe and that's what I was trying. The fight with Cristiano and with Ralf and myself in between was quite a tough one and I really had to make sure I stayed and got that eighth position to score the point, just in case.
Q: In the closing laps of the race, when you sitting behind da Matta and wiping your visor as the laps were unwinding, was it difficult to keep you concentration?
Schumacher: It was difficult for the simple reason that when I had the incident with da Matta in the late stage and Ralf, I locked up so heavily to avoid hitting da Matta that I had a huge flat spot and when you may know what it means to run over those very old stones, those ripple stones (he means cobblestones), that's the way I felt in the car. I almost lost vision down the straight because the vibrations were so huge, and you get concerned and you also have the knowledge that Ralf hit you in the back and you don't know how heavily it was, whether you might get a puncture and lose your eighth position. So there were a lot of thoughts going through (my mind) and you just try to carry your car as safe and as easy and as light to the chequered flag.
Q: Well, you did finish in the points, in eighth place, and you did secure your sixth world championship, your ninth with Ferrari including the Constructors' championship. Can you give us some final thoughts on the team and on those achievements?
Schumacher: First of all, I think it is very strange for me because most of my championships I have won with a victory and here and now today I am winning a championship with eighth position which is last of the points, but still winning the championship which is a mixed emotion. But what the team has achieved is just fantastic. If you see what has happened at Hockenheim , in Budapest , how many people wrote us off, how many people wrote things about us, outspoken things. And here we are ,we're back. We never give up, we're always there, we always fight, and I think that's one of the big strengths of the Ferrari team. Everybody in Ferrari is that way. It's just a huge big family and we are all proud to be a part of it.
Q: Rubens, you really only had a hard time from two people - Juan Pablo early on and Fernando Alonso as well - so how much of a hard time was it?
Barrichello: I had a hard time all the way through because even though you think it was 15 seconds or something to Kimi and sometimes to David I felt that if it rained it could ruin everything in one lap so I had to keep on pushing. Okay, we dropped the pace towards the end to be safe but even then I wanted to keep doing high 34s because if it rained on the last lap it was okay but if it rained five laps from the end but did not rain enough to put on wet tires we might have had a problem. If it rained enough everyone would have had to come into the pits but if we had all stayed on the track it would have been a problem for me. Talking about the beginning, I had a problem, a little problem with warming up the tires and as I went through turn 12 going to Spoon it was slightly damp, especially for our tires, so I got sideways and I had to back off and Juan Pablo ran to the outside and overtook me. He was very fast for the first three or four laps but then I was catching up slightly. But then my visor got completely fogged, I couldn't see anything and then I had the problem that somebody had run with a problem on their engine so there was a lot of oil on the track. I almost ran off and Alonso caught me out again so that first stint and the beginning of the second one was quite busy. Afterwards I could run my pace and concentrate on the racetrack.
Q: And Alonso, he was right up behind you.
Barrichello: Well, thanks to the Ferrari engine we were very fast on the straight so I was relying on that basically. He had fantastic traction out of turn 16, the last chicane, but I was able to keep him behind and quite honestly that was okay, I could do that no problem.
Q: Today, obviously, you have helped your team to win the constructors' championship and your team-mate has made history as well. Just give us a few words on their achievements, the team's and also your team-mate's.
Barrichello: Well, I think I have one of the toughest jobs not because I am here sitting in front of the television or the journalists but sometimes just being a team-mate to Michael makes life difficult, what people write or what people say. So I am proud of what I have achieved this year. Even though I didn't achieve as many points as last year or the position that I finished last year I think it has been a much better year for me, much more competitive. I have been on top all the time and I think I have made a step up. That was really good and so the team did a fantastic job to provide both cars with the reliability and the performance they had. My engineers and my mechanics have all been very good and I think everybody has to be proud of the achievement. It is four years in a row that I am part of the team that has won a lot.
Q: Kimi , you did as much as you could. The car, especially in comparison with David's towards the end, didn't seem to be at its best today.
Raikkonen: No. We have been struggling with set-up a little bit this weekend . We just didn't get it right. The first set of tires was pretty much okay but then on the second I was struggling quite a lot with the grip. It wasn't like just understeering or oversteering it was everything. It was quite hard, I was pushing as hard as I could but I was just not very quick.
Q: Earlier on you were right up behind Cristiano da Matta . Were you much quicker than him?
Raikkonen: Yeah, I think so, like a second, but they were quite quick in a straight line and I was not getting very good traction out of the last chicane. I always got very close but not quite close enough to try overtaking him into turn one and it cost me quite a lot of time but that is racing and next time we try to get past.
Q: Second in the world championship was not what you were hoping because everyone aims for first. But what are your feelings after this season?
Raikkonen: I think it has been a good season for us and for me. Okay we really had big expectations before the start of the season and I think we have done very well. We have been quite quick and the car has been much better, much more reliable than last year and we have improved a lot. Thanks to the team, they have worked very hard all season, and to David, to everyone. But this year maybe we were consistent but just not up there on the speed and hopefully we can catch up for next year. I think if we can improve as much as we did over the last winter we should be in a good position to fight for all the wins and to have a good chance to win both titles.
Q: David, nice to see you. The car actually seemed to be quicker than Kimi's today.
Coulthard: Yeah, I think I only had one set of tires which gave me problems, which was the second set, and I can imagine what Kimi's car felt like if each of his tires were like that. So we need to understand what exactly caused that problem. But otherwise the other sets allowed me to push and largely I was in clean air so I didn't really have any problems with traffic.
Q: Well, you were behind Kimi a couple of times and also behind Jarno Trulli and Jenson. I thought it was quite a lively race for you in many ways.
Coulthard: Yeah, but never really in a position to race with anyone so it was just a question of trying to run the strategy and try to be as quick as possible.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: Kimi , did the pit-stop strategy affect your car's performance?
Raikkonen: I think we had a good strategy but it is hard to say really whether it would have been quicker with three stops than two stops but I think overall we would not have been as quick as Rubens and it wouldn't have helped much.
Q: Kimi , did you change the strategy during the race after you saw what happened to Michael?
Raikkonen: No, we were planning a two stop anyway. I think they changed it a little bit for David but we were planning this.
Q: Kimi , did you think you were going to be world champion at any moment in the race?
Raikkonen: I guess there was always a chance until we went over the line to finish the race and there have been many times when people have retired on the last lap. We were pushing until then and hoping for the best and you never know. This time it wasn't enough but we try it again next year.
Q: Can we get a reaction from all three of you of what Michael has achieved now? Six titles, 70 wins - that is an incredible achievement isn't it?
Barrichello: It is. I think we are never going to compare drivers and I think it is impossible to compare Michael to Fangio , to Senna or whoever is in the frame, but I think he moves to history with a lot of achievements and it seems he is going to beat all the ones. I mean, everyone thought that the pole positions, he was so far away three years ago and it is not that far as well I think, so it is such an achievement.
Q: David, Kimi , would you add anything? (silence )
Michael Schumacher (8th): "I find it difficult to say what I am feeling at the moment because, honestly, this has been a tough year, a tough last part of the season and today was one of my toughest races. But I can say what I feel about the team: they are more important and again today did an incredible job and Rubens had a fantastic drive winning in great style. After we had been written off earlier in the year, we never gave up. The team is always fighting and that is its strength. We are a big family and we can all be proud to be part of it. Personally, I feel empty and exhausted after this race. I went flat out after I lost my nose, because I knew Montoya was out and the two McLarens were behind Rubens. I was a bit messy after the accident and it was a strange race, cutting through the traffic, especially with Da Matta and Ralf. I knew I had to finish eighth, because although Rubens was in the lead, in Formula 1 you always wonder if the car will finish and think of the worst situation. After the incident with Da Matta, I had a huge flat spot on the tire and the vibration was so bad I had vision problems down the straight. I was also worried about a puncture and was just trying to get the car to the flag. It feels strange, as usually I have won the championship with a victory, but now I am here in eighth place, so there are some mixed emotions."
Jean Todt, Team Principal: "It has been an historic day. Rubens put on a fantastic performance, while Michael drove a defensive and cautious race to bring home the point which would guarantee him the title. We have won both championships, writing another page in the history book of this sport. No team has ever won five consecutive Constructors' titles and no driver has ever had his name at the top of the record books six times. First and foremost, I want to thank Luca di Montezemolo who has always given us his support. Thanks must also go to our shareholders who have always believed in us, even in the really difficult times. I think Gianni Agnelli would have been proud to see the car which bears his name win seven of the twelve races in which it competed. Then there are our technical partners - first and foremost Bridgestone, Shell and AMD and the commercial ones, some of whom have been with us for a long time, like Philip Morris and more recent ones such as Vodafone and Olympus. I am proud to be in charge of this dream team; which is united, determined and never gives up. Now we will enjoy this success, which comes at the end of a very difficult season, up against very strong opposition. I can assure you that we have not lost our hunger for more victories in the future. Enzo Ferrari would have been proud of what we have accomplished."
Ross Brawn, Technical Director: "This was a very tough race, especially with so much at stake. Rubens did a fantastic job at the front, but we wanted to get Michael in the points just to be sure. It was very exciting. That early incident made life more difficult for us but we knew we still had a chance. We had a recovery strategy which worked okay. We did not catch Ralf at the second stop, as he took on less fuel than we did, but we managed to get him at the third one. It was very close and tough today. I think I am getting too old for all this excitement! But you always know with Michael that you have a chance. It was important to get that one point, because you never know what can happen at the front. It was actually tougher to get that point than it was to win the race. We were lucky to get away with the incident at the chicane with Michael and Da Matta. I guess Da Matta must have braked early as Michael almost hit him. This is a dream come true. I am so proud to be part of Ferrari. All the guys and girls have shown what kind of team they are. Our partner Bridgestone also did a great job. Now we go and karaoke!"
Juan Pablo Montoya (DNF, Hydraulics): "It's a true shame as our car has been very reliable this year and the effort that WilliamsF1 and BMW have put into this Championship has been huge. There's nothing you can do, this is motor racing and these things happen. My start today was quite good, the track was a bit damp but I still got past Rubens on the first lap, at my second attempt. I was coming out of the hairpin really slowly and I think Rubens was trying to protect his line and touched the white line, going slightly sideways and had to lift the throttle a little, so I went for it. I had to and it worked. Then I thought I had just to pace myself. I was very pleased with the way the car was performing and we had a really good strategy. Then, bad luck, on lap 9 I felt a loss of some controls and that was it. With hindsight, I'm not that displeased that I was no longer in the battle for the Drivers' Championship, because retiring at the last race, in this way, would have been much harder. If I look back at the season, I am very, very happy with the job I made. I learned a lot from last year and I have matured as a driver."
Sir Frank Williams, Team principal: "It was a disappointing end to a brilliant F1 season, but there remains much encouragement for us for the next year."
Patrick Head, Technical Director: "We fought very hard all year but we started too weakly and that put a lot of pressure on us at the end, which I don't think was really the problem but ultimately the results in our last few races of the year have been very poor, although the car speed has been very good. We will be going home now and analyzing what has happened and we'll try to make sure we do much better next year. I want to give credit to all the people in the team, both in Grove and Munich and the support from our partners and sponsors because everybody has worked very hard this year. Second in the Constructor's Championship isn't first but still the team has improved enormously through the year and that's pleasing to see. Well done to Michael and Ferrari!"
Dr. Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director: "This last race reflected the whole season for our team, it was just like a rollercoaster. After a weak start to the season we had the Constructor's Championship within reach but in the last few races we have to acknowledge that our team is still not quite strong enough. There were too many mistakes and this includes today's race. It is a small comfort to us that the P83 engine did not experience any failures in all of the 16 races. With hindsight, we can still say that it is clear that this year we made a big jump forward. With four victories, including two one-two finishes, this was our strongest season so far. We managed to keep the Constructors' title undecided until the last race. The developments for 2004 should ensure that we will be competitive from the start of the season. Congratulations to Michael Schumacher and Ferrari for having won both titles. They have been a little too strong for us, this time."
David Coulthard (3rd): "I was able to run at a reasonable pace today and was pushing as hard as I could to make the best from my three-stop strategy. I experienced a few handling problems with my second set of tires, but at the end of the day third was what we could do today. I had a relatively unexciting race and was not really involved in any battles, but I was pleased that we were on the pace. Congratulations to Kimi on finishing second in the Championship and I'm sure that next year we will be back with an even stronger challenge."
Ron Dennis, Team Principal: "It was quite close and anything was possible in the race. Kimi and David performed well, and we had a good strategy for both cars. However it's the combined result of the 16 races which decide the World Championship but we were able to fight until the very end. The entire team is already working hard on planning our 2004 season."
Norbert Haug, Mercedes Motorsport Director: "Kimi is runner-up in the World Championship two points behind, which is a good result at the end of an exciting season. The whole team did a great job and worked very hard to keep Kimi in contention for the title until the last race. David showed a strong drive coming home in third today. Congratulations to Michael Schumacher on his sixth World Championship title at least he can't say we made it easy for him. Thanks to all our team members for their hard work during 2003. We will all continue our efforts in order to finish one better in 2004"
Fernando Alonso (DNF, Engine): "It's a big disappointment to retire: I was fighting for the victory, and we were probably going to make one less stop than Rubens. We have had a great season, but the opportunity was there to win at the last race, and it's not a nice feeling to lose it."
Pat Symonds, Executive Director of Engineering: "A mixed final race for us. Jarno drove an absolutely superb race today and starting from nineteenth, to finish fifth in a race with few retirements is remarkable; indeed, were it not for bad luck with traffic, it could have been fourth. Fernando's early laps were extremely impressive, and he was able to hold on to Barrichello who we knew was on three stops. We slightly extended the second stint in order to give the possibility of converting to two stops, and beating the Ferrari this way. Unfortunately, an engine problem intervened and didn't allow us to reap the benefits of this. We also congratulate Michael and Ferrari: this has been a fitting end to a great season."
Flavio Briatore, Managing Director: "The results don't show it fully, but the team did a very good job this weekend. Both drivers put in excellent performances, especially Jarno from the back of the grid, and it was frustrating to see Fernando retire. It is a shame to end the season like this, but it has been a fantastic year for Renault and the whole team. The winter will be spent working hard, and we should be even stronger in Melbourne next March."
Heinz-Harald Frentzen (DNF, Engine): "It's a shame that I couldn't finish my race, but at least Nick was able to have a good one and to catch up after the chaos after the start. Ralf Schumacher hit the rear of my car quite hard so I had to go to the pits, where we discovered that oil was leaking from a damaged cooler. Later the engine broke, so that was it."
Peter Sauber, Team Principal: "Of course we all are disappointed that we couldn't keep our fifth place in the World Championship for Constructors, but we must not be ungrateful. Before the last race in Indianapolis we were only ninth in the Championship and only climbed to fifth thanks to the fantastic performance of the drivers, the team and, of course, Bridgestone. We thank Nick Heidfeld and Heinz-Harald Frentzen for a good and professional job in a very difficult season for us. Hats off to BAR-Honda for a great result today and for taking fifth place in the Championship. And congratulations to Ferrari and Michael Schumacher. With this unique success they write themselves into a completely new chapter of motorsport history."
Ralph Firman (14th): "That was an unfortunate end to the season. I had a fuel rig problem in the pit stop and a pick-up problem in the fuel tank, which meant in my second stint I had to carry a lot more fuel than planned. Nevertheless, the team have done a good job all year and I've really enjoyed working with them - hopefully I can look forward to a long future with them."
Giancarlo Fisichella (DNF, Fuel): "The car just cut out, it seemed to be a fuel problem. It wasn't going too badly before that, in fact I was having quite a good race as the car balance was quite reasonable. Unfortunately it was my last race with Jordan and we didn't get to the end so I'm a bit disappointed, but that's life. I'd like to say thank you very much to the team and I wish every one of them all the best and I hope we both have better seasons next year."
Gary Anderson, Director of Race and Test Engineering: "I can't deny that was a disappointment. In Ralph's first pit stop we had a problem with the fuel rig connector which lost a lot of time for him. We were forced to pit early as well because he had a fuel pick-up problem - we think one of the pumps in the tank failed - and he had to run with quite a high fuel load to the end, to try and keep it from cutting out. In Giancarlo's first stop we didn't get the quantity of fuel we thought we had during refuelling, so he was a lap short and ran out of fuel just before his second stop. There have been a lot of lessons learnt this year and the whole team is already working very hard to ensure we come back next year with a much more competitive package. On a personal note I'd like to thank the team and all my friends in Formula One, for some very memorable years. As I'm now heading to semi-retirement I won't see everyone as often but I'll certainly pop up now and again and hopefully I'll have a little bit more time for that little glass of red wine I've enjoyed with many of you over the years!"
Justin Wilson (13th): "A difficult race and one which didn't go our way today but we gave it everything under the circumstances. The team did an excellent job all weekend but the outright pace wasn't there. The grip levels were not what we expected and the opposition took full advantage. After my third pit-stop, I suffered from an engine problem but given how far from the points I was, it didn't really make a big impact on my race. I have very much enjoyed my five races with Jaguar and I of course hope to continue with the team in 2004. For now, however, I am going back to the UK to relax and take stock of what has been a very intense few months, albeit ones which I have enjoyed a lot."
Mark Gillan, Head of Vehicle Performance: "A disappointing end to a weekend that has been very good for us in terms of preparation and reliability. The balance of the car has also been good but we were simply off the pace today versus our immediate competition. The track was somewhat green given the rain that fell overnight and these conditions didn't suit our exploitation of the tires. Degradation was a problem for both drivers but on the whole our performance wasn't enough on the day. Our strategy was right and was executed very well and the only issue we suffered was an engine- related problem on Justin's car after his third pit stop. We made the necessary changes to the settings in an effort to get the car across the finishing line and in the end both cars came home, albeit out of the points. Our partners and suppliers have done an outstanding job this year and we thank them for their support and look forward to working with them in 2004."
Tony Purnell, Head of Premier Performance Division: "We began the season with a fast car but one which was unreliable at times and with the benefit of hindsight, we lost points as a consequence. As the season progressed, however, our competition got quicker and reliable to the extent that today's race was out of our reach. That's motor racing and while we have lost out today, I take a lot of pride in the fact that we have achieved the target we began the season with - 'respectability.' That was the objective and I'd say we have achieved that. Sauber were fortunate to have bagged ten points in Indianapolis by being out on the right wet tires at the right time otherwise we would have finished the season in 6th place. Nonetheless, the work and effort that has gone into turning this team around must be recognized and the fact that we are on the right path leaves us with a lot to look forward to next year. It is going to be a tough winter but we will come out kicking and fighting in 2004."
Takuma Sato (6th): "I'm absolutely thrilled. Racing here this weekend came as a total surprise but to finish sixth and play a part in securing fifth place in the Championship is just amazing. And all in front of my home crowd! I made a great start and jumped two places off the grid, then I managed to pass Wilson and Webber, which was important for the team. I had a close call with Michael in the chicane, but I had the line and he came up on the inside of me. This is a great way to start my racing career with BAR and now I can't wait for the start of the next season. I'd like to thank everyone from the team and Honda for making my return to racing so successful."
David Richards, Team Principal: "This is just fantastic! To have this result at Honda's home track, with Taku driving his first race with us is amazing. Jenson had one of his best races, driving with real maturity, and showed he had the pace of the top teams. We had an excellent race set-up and a perfect fuel strategy, which leapfrogged us over Saturday's light fuel teams. I like to think that this weekend's performance is significant in a number of ways, and going into the winter break, gives us the confidence that the changes we have made are all positive. Both Honda and ourselves have ambitious plans for next year and we will be pushing very hard when testing resumes in November."
Geoffrey Willis, Technical Director: "I am very pleased that in the closing race of the season we have been able to demonstrate the real potential of the team. Both Takuma and Jenson drove perfect races, the team's strategy was perfect and both cars ran faultlessly. I would also thank Bridgestone for providing a strong tire this weekend. Although we have lost far too many points this year, this race has allowed us to take 5th place in the championship, which is a true reflection of the performance of the package. This has given everyone at BAR and Honda just the boost that we need to drive us hard over the winter and prepare for the 2004 season."
Shuhei Nakamoto, Honda Engineering Director: "A great way to end the season, especially in front of our home crowd. Both our guys were really strong out there and our strategy worked perfectly. Jenson pushed hard and showed good pace throughout the race and Taku coped brilliantly with the pressure of a home debut. I'm also very pleased that we secured fifth in the constructors' championship today - the car worked really well and the boys did a great job on all the stops. I want to use this as a springboard for next season."
Jos Verstappen (15th): "From my point of view, I think we were consistent today, although the grip was pretty low throughout the race. I came in at the end of the formation lap, as we had decided to take a gamble in qualifying to see what we could do with a very light fuel load. Nicolas was on a normal two-stopper, and I finished ahead of him, so I think ours was the right strategy. The season is over now and we will be concentrating on next year. It is absolutely my goal to stay in Formula One, as I am not finished with the sport yet, but it would be nice to have a little bit more competitive car next season. I would like to say a special thank you to my crew, who have done a very, very good job all year. I think they are the best mechanics I have worked with in my career, and I would like to thank them very much."
Nicolas Kiesa (16th): "It has been great to finish all five F1 races in which I've competed, and I'd like to thank everyone at Minardi who has made this possible. It is incredible, with the very limited resources available to this team, how it is able to keep the cars running so reliably. It would just be nice to find a bit more pace over the winter, as the motivation and commitment of everyone here is amazing, and the guys really deserve some decent results for the tremendous effort they put in. I really admire them. As for today's race, it was hard physically, but I think I also encountered an aerodynamic problem after about 10 laps that made the situation a bit more difficult. It didn't get any worse as the race wore on, but basically, the car lost grip in the high-speed corners. Changing from fifth to sixth gear at Spoon, the back end was stepping out at 280 km/h! I had no choice, though, but to live with the problem through to the end of the race. Otherwise, I didn't have any difficulties this afternoon. I would like to say thank you to everyone on the team, and especially to Paul Stoddart, for giving me the chance to be in Formula One. It has been the most amazing experience of my life, and I really hope to be back here again next year."
Paul Stoddart, Team Principal: "First of all, congratulations to Michael Schumacher and to Ferrari for a job well done. As for Minardi, the year ended on a positive note, with both cars yet again taking the chequered flag. Overall, though, 'frustrating' is the way I would describe the season, in that our engine and driver line-up deserved more, but the lack of funds to develop the car cost us dearly, despite a fantastic effort from all our staff throughout what has been a most difficult year. I'd like to thank all our personnel, not only on the race team, but also in the factories at Faenza and Ledbury. Together with our technical and commercial partners, they have given 110 per cent throughout 2003."
Olivier Panis (10th): "I think we deserved more from today's race. We decided to do three stops and try to maintain our excellent qualifying positions, but ultimately we couldn't match the pace of the teams who opted to stop twice. On a positive note, we were able to get both cars past the chequered flag in front of the Japanese fans. We must now look ahead to next year with big confidence. I continue to be impressed by the work of the whole team. Together, we have grown a lot throughout the season and we have made really big progress with the car. We can remember the 2003 season with some good memories and look to more highlights next year, with a faster car, strong grid positions, more points, and who knows what else?"
Ove Andersson, Team Principal: "To take two points in our home grand prix is a very nice feeling and we can return to Cologne with our heads held high. We finish the season in eighth position in the constructors' championship, which is where we probably should be after only our second season in Formula 1. My ambition tells me that I would have liked to be further up, but it was a more difficult year than our debut season, and one from which we have learned a huge amount. I want to thank the team for the hard work and effort that every single person has put into this season. We will back racing next year with a better car and even more determination to be successful and to give our competitors an even harder time."