AUSTRALIAN GP - SUNDAY - RACE NOTES

Schumacher heads Ferrari 1-2

Michael Schumacher, Australian GP 2004

Michael Schumacher, Australian GP 2004 

 © The Cahier Archive

Six time World Champion Michael Schumacher cruised to an easy victory at today's Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne, leading home his Ferrari team mate Rubens Barrichello to win his 71st career win. It is the first 1-2 for Ferrari since the Japanese GP of 2002.

Coming home in third was Renault's Fernando Alonso, followed by Ralf Schumacher in fourth and his Williams-BMW team mate in fifth, with Jenson Button in sixth for BAR-Honda.

Jarno Trulli in the second Renault was seventh and rounding out the final points paying position was David Coulthard in his McLaren-Mercedes - both drivers finishing a lap behind Schumacher.


Ferrari

Michael Schumacher (1st): "A perfect race but a tough one in the early stages, when Rubens was pushing me hard. That made it exciting and I could not afford to make a mistake. The car was going well, it's a step forward and more consistent to drive. It is great to leave Australia with 2 more points than I had after the first three races last year. After the last test at Imola and knowing the characteristics of this track, I was sure we would be competitive but I did not expect such a performance. The backmarkers were well behaved, but two guys tried to do me a favour by braking early which caused me a slight problem. But I am keeping my feet on the ground, because this race and the weather conditions suited us perhaps better than the others. We will have to wait and see what happens in Malaysia where it will be much hotter. I do not want to predict the season based on just one race."

Rubens Barrichello (2nd): "I was happy with my start and it gave me a chance to run deep into the first corner and try and pass Michael, but I decided the move was too risky. Then I tried again at Turn 3, but there was no way round. I kept on pushing him hard and closed up when he got delayed a bit in traffic. But by then, I started having brake problems, although I kept pushing and trying to pass him up to the point of the second pit stop. But after the stop, the brakes did not seem to have cooled very much and I had a very long pedal. Combined with the extra fuel load I was worried that I might crash if I pushed too hard, so from then on I backed off. Apart from that, the car was very good and Bridgestone has done a fantastic job with the tyres."

Jean Todt, Team Principal: "It was a grandiose performance from Ferrari, crowned with an equally grandiose result. The championship has got underway with a dream event. After several years of success obtained after so many battles, to start the season with such a clear superiority, I have above all to thank everyone at Ferrari, from President Montezemolo to every last one of them who has worked hard for this result. Next, I wish to thank our technical partners - first and foremost Bridgestone and Shell - and the Fiat Group, which through Magneti Marelli and the Research Centre plays an important role in producing our cars. This one-two is the result of the ultimate effort in our own work, the cohesion, stability and determination of our team. However, we must not think it will always go this way in such a long season. We know we are up against the giants of the motor industry and we are well aware how quickly they can react. Finally, the drivers: both of them drove a fantastic race and there is not much else to add. As we have said already over the winter, we don't like to say much, preferring our actions to speak for themselves. Next week, while Michael stays away from Europe, Badoer, who was here today will return to base with Barrichello for a week's testing in Mugello and Valencia. The effort put in by our drivers and the whole team is no doubt one of the keys to our success."

Ross Brawn, Technical Director: "We are delighted with this great start to the season. It is a fantastic result, which is down to the work everyone has done. The team is getting even stronger, with everyone working even harder than ever. Having partners like Bridgestone and Shell is a great help. Before the first race, one never knows just how competitive one will be. Despite all our success over the past few years, there is always a little bit of doubt. This win will certainly give us a further incentive to do even better in the forthcoming races."

Williams-BMW

Ralf Schumacher (4th): "Of course I cannot be happy with today's result, even if, after all, I have made up four places from my starting position and I have collected some points for the team. We were on a good strategy and the team did an excellent job in the pits. Worrying is the fact is that at this race,we are missing one second from Ferrari, which I didn't expect and I believe this is down mainly to the design of their car as well as to some tyre graining for us, which we have to overcome. The whole of our package needs to improve slightly and this is going to take maybe a couple of races, but I am confident we can make it."

Juan Pablo Montoya (5th): "I didn't take advantage at all of my third place on the grid, since right after the start I was trying to defend my position from Alonso and I went off track, losing four places. After that, I spent my race trying to find the right moment to overtake the cars in front of me but that was no easy job, since the balance of my car wasn't ideal and on top of that I had quite a lot of tyre graining. I also experienced a problem with my right rear wheel during my third pit-stop which lost me some more time."

Sam Michael, Chief Operations Engineer: "Juan obviously had a big moment in the first corner and lost some positions. Then he spent the rest of the race making up from there. Meanwhile, Ralf gained two places at the start. Our performance today was not really enough compared to Ferrari or Renault but it is far from a bad result either. We have got both cars in the points and we come away from Australia with second place in the championship. Now we are looking forward to the hot tracks in Malaysia and Bahrain."

Dr. Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director: "The result does not really match our expectations, especially not the size of the gap to Ferrari. Ferrari proved that they remain the leading team. Like we did last year, we will work very hard in order to improve our package during the season. Both the BMW P84 engines have passed with flying colours, the first weekend under the new rules, without any problems. We did not pose any limitation of mileage in free practice. All in all we recorded 1,294 kilometres during this weekend. Neither in qualifying nor in the race did we need to reduce the revs of our engines."

McLaren-Mercedes

David Coulthard (8th): "It has really been an unsatisfying weekend for us and the one point we achieved today is a very small consolation. I made a good start and gained a few places but eighth was all we could do. We are not where we want to be, but we will work very hard on getting there and hopefully should be able to improve for the Malaysian Grand Prix in a few weeks."

Kimi Raikkonen (DNF, Engine): "I'm very disappointed with our performance this weekend, but hopefully we can do better in the next race. I stalled at the start and lost a few places but managed to regain most of them during the first couple of corners. The car felt good, but unfortunately it didn't last very long, and I retired with an engine failure ? definitely not the best way to start the season."

Ron Dennis, Team Principal: "To say it was a difficult weekend for the team would be somewhat of an understatement. Our poor performance was amplified by the low ambient temperatures which certainly didn't favour any of the Michelin runners. We believe we have an understanding of the areas which need to be improved and only a careful analysis and a team driven recovery plan will resolve our problems."

Norbert Haug, Mercedes Motorsport Director: "Our target has been to go for wins from the very first race, and we didn't achieve this today. Our technical package has to be improved and everybody in the team knows what is required. In two weeks in Malaysia we all want to see an upwards trend. Kimi's engine failure will be investigated and we will tell the media the result afterwards."

Renault

Fernando Alonso (3rd): "I made a great start, even though Montoya forced me onto the grass. After he out-braked himself at the first corner, I found myself third and from then on, it was a pretty easy race. I was too slow to be able to fight with the Ferraris, but I managed to pull out a gap to Jenson and the Williams. Our objective for this race was to start scoring points before the start of the European season; to take a podium is everything we could have hoped for."

Jarno Trulli (7th): "Overall, it was a disappointing race from my perspective. I got a very good start, but somebody - Sato I think - hit me and damaged the diffuser. After that, the car just lacked grip and the rest of the race was very tough. It is obviously disappointing to finish seventh after having been as high as fifth, but it is nevertheless positive to have finished in the points with a damaged car."

Pat Symonds, Executive Director of Engineering: "It is satisfying to get the first race under our belt after what seemed like a very short winter. The team performed well throughout the weekend, and the car's level of competitiveness was pretty much what we had expected. I am particularly pleased with the engine: it has more torque, more power and has been 100% reliable over the three days. It is hard to be disappointed with getting a podium at the first race, but hats off to Ferrari: we all have a lot of work to do to catch them. But we will."

Flavio Briatore, Managing Director: "I am very pleased for the whole team. We worked hard over the winter, and this result gives an initial idea of how competitive we can be. We have a good chassis, a good engine and good drivers. Getting on to the podium at the first race puts us on the right track for the rest of the year."

BAR-Honda

Jenson Button (6th): "It's good to finish in the points in the first race and have three points under my belt already. It's the first time I've finished with points in Australia. My start wasn't particularly great and it was very slippery out there, but I managed to hold on to fourth for some time. Ralf was able to get past me in the pitstop when we had a delay with the refuelling nozzle. Then Montoya got by on the circuit. I think we need a little more in the way of race pace but it's a solid start to the season. We had good reliability but then so did everyone else, which was quite surprising given the predictions. It's tough but at least we were up there with the competition throughout. We need to keep the momentum going now and hopefully we can look forward to better things in Malaysia in a couple of weeks."

Takuma Sato (9th): "It was quite a busy race. The start was good but then I was squeezed into the first corner and made contact with the Renault, damaging my nosecone. The team asked me if there was any problem but as it was the first lap and I had no reference for commenting on the car balance. At the first pitstop though, we found some damage to the nose and we changed it at the second stop. Immediately the car felt much better and I was able to consistently lap a second quicker than in the first stint, so it had clearly upset the car. The car felt good throughout the second and third stints but then after the third stop, the gurney started to lift from the rear wing and it was flapping around for the last few laps, upsetting the airflow quite a bit. I'm a little bit disappointed with ninth to be honest, but I'm pleased we got both cars to the finish in the first race. The reliability of all the teams has been quite surprising but everyone has done a lot of work in testing over the winter. Generally, a good start to the year for the team but I'm sure we can do better in Malaysia."

David Richards, Team Principal: "Our target for this year was to challenge the top three teams, and this weekend we have successfully demonstrated that BAR is a force to be reckoned with. Of course, it's early days, but it's a good feeling to leave here with some points on the board. Reliability was also a key focus for improvement, so getting both cars home without fault is another important step forward. Taku and Jenson drove strong, confident races and have shown that we have the line up to be consistently in the points. Together with Honda we are clearly on the right track to have by far our most successful year."

Geoffrey Willis, Technical Director: "It is a healthy sign for the team to feel disappointed with a two-car finish, a problem-free race both for engine and chassis with one car in the points. Takuma damaged his front wing at the first corner, but did not realise how much it was hurting his performance. Once we saw the damage at the first stop we debated whether to bring him in early for his next stop and change the wing; it was structurally fine but aerodynamically compromised. Once it was changed he was able to run at a similar pace to Jenson and certainly without the problem would have finished in the points. Jenson raced well against the Williams, losing out to Ralf as a result of a small delay at the second pit stop and finally being passed by Montoya on lap 38. The timing of the first pit stops confirmed our strong qualifying pace. Clearly we need to work more on tyre preparation for the race stints and to identify where we are losing out to the top runners, but this is a solid start."

Shuhei Nakamoto, Honda Engineering Director: "Overall this weekend was an encouraging start to the season. We're satisfied because both engines ran smoothly and the pit stop work was also very good. We need to keep pushing on with the development to further improve our performance throughout the year."

Sauber-Petronas

Giancarlo Fisichella (10th): "I'm disappointed because we had an opportunity to do well today. I lost a lot of time early in the race behind Heidfeld, who was driving very defensively, and I knew I was much quicker. Once I got by I was immediately able to prove this. The balance of the car was really good and my lap times were very encouraging for the future."

Felipe Massa (DNF, Engine): "I had a great fight early in the race with Kimi, and at one stage I was so close behind him that I couldn't even see the brake marker boards. When I saw him brake I just braked a little later and managed to overtake him. My car was pretty good early on but then it picked up some understeer, which made it difficult to drive. That's what caused my spin in Turn Five on lap 19. I understeered wide and caught the kerb, but fortunately I didn't hit anything. I was heading for a finish when I was forced to retire due to an engine problem."

Peter Sauber, Team Principal: "Giancarlo's race was already compromised after he qualified only 14th, because he got stuck behind slower cars after the start. He also lost time with a slow puncture, which is why he made a pit stop earlier than scheduled. When he was on clear track, however, he showed the potential of the C23, which is encouraging for the upcoming races. Felipe had a great fight with Kimi and was able to overtake him, but unfortunately he was unable to finish because of an engine problem."

Jaguar-Cosworth

Christian Klien (11th): "To have finished my first Grand Prix race in 11th position is fantastic. I was frustrated at first to be starting in 19th position, however, it actually allowed me to work my way up a few places and build my confidence. My start was slightly slower than I had hoped but the track was really grippy. I managed to stay out of trouble and when I saw the opportunity to overtake the Toyota of Oliver Panis I took it. I am really pleased with the balance and set-up of the car, Cosworth and Michelin have done a great job and my mechanics prepared the car really well. It's good to have these laps under my belt now as I head to Malaysia for the second race. I will be working hard on my fitness between now and then in order to be as prepared as I can be for the extreme heat that I have been warned about."

Mark Webber (DNF, Gearbox): "Of course I am disappointed not to have finished today at my home race but these things happen and you have to take the rough times with the smooth. The boys did an excellent job in preparing the car for me and it was clear that we were competitive out there as I settled into 8th position and kept on Montoya's tail. The balance of the car was good and to have lost 6th and 7th gears is frustrating since we have not had this problem before given that we have completed over 6000km of testing. At a race where we are at 65% throttle I could not continue with only five gears and we had no choice but to retire. The R5 has been good all weekend and I am pleased with the progress that we have made versus last year. I posted some good aggressive laps out there and there is more to come from us, roll on Malaysia."

Mark Gillan, Head of Vehicle Performance: "It's been a good weekend for us overall but we are of course disappointed not to have had Mark finish his home race. The R5 had been reliable all weekend and we had completed 6000km in testing with 2000km of these being in the last two weeks. The loss of gears that Mark experienced is not something that we have had before so we will be working hard during the next two weeks to ensure that we understand this. Christian has done a good job over the last three days and to see him finish 11th in his first race is very encouraging for us. He has enjoyed good balance and set-up and despite starting at the back of the grid delivered a strong race. Completing the race distance is very important for him at this early stage in the season and again his pace over the course of the race was consistent. We now look ahead to our next race in Malaysia confident that we have a package that we understand and one that is clearly competitive versus the rest of the grid."

Toyota

Cristiano Da Matta (12th): "It was a difficult race for us today. The car's performance was not good at all, but at least we are under no illusions now. We know where we are and we have to work really hard to make progress up the field. There are few positive things to take away from this first race of the season, but at least we showed that the car was reliable in the race and we will be able to benefit from that as the season goes on."

Olivier Panis (13th): "It was a disappointing start to the season in Melbourne today. After our pre-season testing in Europe, I really expected us to be in a better position today. At least now we know where we stand in comparison to everybody else. We are far away from the top teams and there is a long road in front of us, but we are all determined to work harder than ever before. I fully trust Mike Gascoyne and the technical team and I would like to say thanks to all the guys who have been doing their utmost all weekend."

Mike Gascoyne, Technical Director: "On a positive note, the reliability of the car was excellent and we got both cars to the finish. Performance-wise, the race was very disappointing with both drivers suffering from a general lack of grip from the tyres. We experienced no particular problems with the balance of the car, just a lack of grip throughout the race. Cristiano stalled the car on his first pitstop, which lost him a couple of positions, but overall this weekend just shows the size of the task in front of us. We need to make the car quicker, however the programmes to do that have already been put in place, so I am sure we will achieve that during the course of the season. Looking ahead to Malaysia, we already have some aero improvements for that race and I am sure that the nature of the Sepang circuit and the higher track temperatures will mean we have a more competitive package than we had here in Australia."

Jordan-Ford

Giorgio Pantano (14th): "I enjoyed my first Grand Prix and am very glad that we made it to the end. We kept ourselves relatively close to the field and finished just two laps down from Michael Schumacher which I think isn't too bad for our first race. I'm learning about the car very quickly and it will all keep coming together. Finishing the race was the target for this, my first Grand Prix, and I did it."

Nick Heidfeld (DNF, Clutch): "What happened in the pit stop has never happened to me before and I was pretty afraid for the mechanics. Luckily they are fine and that is the most important thing. It's not a problem we have had before but we noticed something wrong with the clutch and at the pit stop it didn't work at all so the car just kept pushing whilst stuck in first gear. It was the same problem that forced me to retire. In terms of our performance, I actually expected we would be better in race conditions, however I struggled with tyre graining throughout most of the race. We definitely have a good basis to improve the package and find that performance level for the next couple of races."

James Robinson, Head of Race and Test Engineering: "It's good to get one car home at the first race of the season and it's been good for Giorgio to get some miles under his belt - that's the longest distance he has ever done in the EJ14. There were some very good pit stops by the boys and it was great to beat Fisichella out on Heidfeld's second stop. More admirable was the good recovery from the problem in Nick's last pit stop, staying solidly at their posts and doing the job. We've got plenty of homework to do now and we are eager to see how we can get the most out of the next race."

Eddie Jordan, Team Principal: "It was great for Giorgio to finish his first Grand Prix and it was in tough circumstances so well done to him. Nick was pushing on but he had a problem that caused an incident in his last pit stop and I'm glad to see that the guys who got run over are safe and in good shape. As we've seen, this year is not going to be easy and I expect a tough season but I think that for the team and our "fightback", this is a good start and promising for the future."

Minardi-Cosworth

Gianmaria Bruni (Not Classified): "It was good for the first 15 laps or so. I made a good start, passing Zsolt, Panis and Klien early on in the first lap, and then Pantano under braking near the end of the lap. At that point, the car and engine felt good, but then, around lap 20, the car started to misfire and lose power. I carried on through one more pit stop, but the problem was getting worse, so the team decided to bring the car in and try to repair it, which they did. I then went back out for the last 10 laps. It was a shame because, in the end, we found a good chassis balance for the race, but that is the luck of racing. Despite the problem, I really enjoyed overtaking people who had a lot more power available than me, and it also feels good to have finished my first Grand Prix. Now I'm looking forward to Malaysia."

Zsolt Baumgartner (DNF, Electronics): "Our basic strategy today was to keep the car on the track and avoid trouble. Things were going well until lap eight, when I started to have a problem with the engine, and after that, I was struggling. I came into the pits a lap early for my first stop to see if the guys could do anything. They tried to fix it, and I went back out, but then the engine stopped altogether on lap 16. It's sad, but up to that point, the car had been going well and my lap times had not been bad."

Paul Stoddart, Team Principal: "It's sad that we were not able to get both cars home today, but I'm proud of the way the mechanics worked to get Gimmi back out in the race after he encountered a problem. It's fair to say that, because of the way qualifying is now conducted, getting cars to the finish will become a high priority this season, as the qualifying order is determined by your finishing position at the previous race. I'm extremely proud of both our drivers today, although sad that we were not able to deliver the reliability we have strived so hard to achieve."

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