APRIL 4, 2004
BAHRAIN GP - SUNDAY - RACE NOTES
Three in a row for Schumacher
World champion Michael Schumacher dominated the first ever Formula One race in the Middle East, to win the Bahrain Grand Prix - his teammate Rubens Barrichello finishing second to take a Ferrari one-two.
The German took his third victory in the opening three events of the season - the 73rd on his career - taking the lead from pole position which he was only to relinquish during pitstops.
Jenson Button finished third, taking his second successive podium finish for BAR-Honda, 26 seconds behind the leader - while his teammate Takuma Sato finished a strong fifth. Fourth was Jarno Trulli in his Renault, his teammate Fernando Alonso finishing sixth. Seventh was the Williams-BMW of Ralf Schumacher and Mark Webber finished in the final points paying position.
Juan Pablo Montoya ran in a strong third position throughout the race, but in the closing laps experienced a mechanical problem and fell back to finish 13th.
Both McLarens suffered mechanical problems.
Michael Schumacher (1st): "It is the dream result at the end of a superb weekend. We looked good on Friday, struggled a bit on Saturday morning and then took the front row and finished one-two. It was a tough race as we had to manage the brakes and keep an eye on the tyres. At the first corner, with the tyres and brakes still cold, I locked up my front wheel, but I could not come off the brakes and so I had a lot of vibration. You had to be very careful to stay on line, because the track was very slippery off it, which is why I drove just on or slightly below my limit, always driving smoothly. I think the organisers have done a superb job, providing us with a demanding track, excellent organisation and facilities and a warm welcome. The podium ceremony? Usually we smell a bit strange but with this drink, we all seem to smell very nice!"
Rubens Barrichello (2nd): "The car was great, but like in Malaysia, I think the few drops of rain at the start worked against me, as my brakes took time to warm up. Also, just before the start, we had to deal with the problem of oil from the earlier Historic F1 race just under my rear tyres. After Michael outbraked me at the first corner, I thought I could fight back when the brakes warmed up. He had a bit less fuel and I tried to stay with him and the gap was still close at the first pit stop. Then I had a problem when I thought I could go, but the car did not move as it was still up on the rear jack. That lost me time and then I had to brake to avoid Trulli in the pit lane. The team told me to keep pushing in case there was any penalty, but I certainly had no intention of blocking Jarno. By now the gap was bigger and with a champion like Michael there was nothing I could do. As for the rest of the race, like Michael I was driving a bit conservatively as the track was so slippery off line."
Jean Todt, Team Principal: "Impressive! I have to say I had not expected to witness Ferrari put on such a spectacle today, on such a fantastic circuit. Michael was simply majestic and despite the problem which slowed him at his first pit stop, Rubens always held onto second place to help the team record its second one-two of the season. The driver-car- engine-Bridgestone package was excellent. Once again in this championship, our tyre supplier has proved the value of its work, which they always carry out in a methodical and determined fashion. I take this opportunity to thank the Fiat Group for its continued support, which it also gives us through technologically advanced companies like CRF and Magneti Marelli. Our strength comes from our group and the spirit that unites it. This result is down to every link in the Ferrari chain where everyone goes about their work with a down to earth approach and total dedication. After such a fantastic start to the season, it is time to prepare with our usual thoroughness for the European part of the championship, which gets underway in Imola. This is a special race for us, as it takes place just a few dozen kilometres from Maranello."
Ross Brawn, Technical Director: "I thought it would be a much tougher race, but our guys got a great start and then drove a perfect race. Our strategy proved to be just right. It's possible that the cloudy skies and the dust on the track worked a bit in favour of our package. The Bridgestone tyres behaved fantastically. Today's result represents a good step forward, but we are still keeping our feet on the ground, because there are still fifteen races to go. I think this attitude is one of our strengths as we are well aware that things can change quickly in Formula 1. It has been a dream start to the season and I have never been so satisfied with the work we have done after three races."
Ralf Schumacher (7th): "After all that happened in my race I would define my final position as limitation of damages. The collision with Sato was an unfortunate race incident, from my point of view, however, he was a bit optimistic in thinking to get back the position he had simply just lost. All in all, I am not too disappointed because I have seen from the data that I was running close to Ferrari's pace, whenever I had free track ahead. This leaves some room for hope."
Juan Pablo Montoya (13th): "It's clear that we are not quick enough to match Ferrari, at the moment, but today we were the quickest on Michelin tyres and this is very important for us. Maybe I went for the wrong tyres, as they didn't prove as quick in the race as I was expecting but still I had a good pace and would have come third, if I hadn't had a gearbox problem with about 10 laps to go. I first lost the seventh gear and then a few more gears and then I eventually lost all drive. There was nothing else to do but try to finish the race which is why I continued and ultimately it was disappointing, of course, because I couldn't even finish in the points."
Sam Michael, Chief Operations Engineer: "Today's result is disappointing for us, in particular due to the gearbox failure on Juan's car. Up until this problem occurred, which was ten laps before the end of the race, it looked like he would finish third. Third place would still not have matched our goals, Ferrari has beaten us fairly here. Ralf had to come into the pits after the early incident with Sato and this compromised the strategy on his car."
Dr. Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director: "After we had a good qualifying we have seen today that Ferrari are again in a class of their own in the race. Juan Pablo was losing about 0.5 sec a lap from Michael Schumacher, before he had a gearbox problem which pushed him down. After his problems, Ralf still made his way up from the back of the field to finish in 7th position. Of course we were expecting to come out of the first three flyaway races more successfully. Now it's all about improving our package."
David Coulthard (DNF, Engine): "A disappointing outcome after an extremely unsatisfying couple of days in Bahrain. I had a few good battles during the race but as has been the case throughout I lacked speed. Another points finish would have been possible but at the end I lost air in the pneumatic system of the engine. I came into the pits to see if we could do something to rectify the situation but it proved impossible and that was the end of that."
Kimi Raikkonen (DNF, Engine): "It's been a difficult weekend for me and the entire team. I started the race from last but made a good start and gained quite a few places during the first couple of laps. I was battling with one of the Jaguars for 11th but all of a sudden I lost power and my engine went. There is not really anything else I can say or do. I just want to forget this weekend and look forward to the rest of the year."
Ron Dennis, Team Principal: "Definitely not the outcome any of us would have liked. Both Kimi and David could have finished in the points today but to do that you have to finish. However the entire team will continue the efforts to optimise our package and whilst we have had a difficult start to the season I'm confident that we will improve."
Norbert Haug, Mercedes Motorsport Director: "The entire team is disappointed with the weekend's performance. We still have to investigate the reason for Kimi's engine failure. David's retirement was caused by loss of air in the pneumatic system of the engine. We now have to work even harder together as a team to put every effort into improving our reliability and competitiveness."
Jarno Trulli (4th): "I'm very pleased with the result, but cannot help feeling it is slightly incomplete: we were capable of getting on to the podium this afternoon. The car was perfect during the first three stints, and I was very quick, but after the final stop, it became harder to drive as I lost grip: it was quite a strange phenomenon. Also, I lost time in traffic on every out-lap after my stops, and that allowed Jenson to get by. It is a shame that we didn't get a podium, but the overall situation after this race is fantastic: Renault is second in the Constructor's Championship, we have finished all three races with both cars and still come away thinking we could have done much better. I'm looking forward to getting to Imola."
Fernando Alonso (6th): "I did the maximum possible today. Quite honestly, I was very surprised by how some cars were being driven today: a Jaguar nearly put me in the wall at the start of the race, and then some other drivers were a little too difficult to overtake. Having said that, given the weekend I have had, three points is still a good score for the championship. In reality, I started this race half a minute behind everybody else after my first stop, and just pushed all the way. The car balance was perfect all the way though. We have some performance evolutions coming at Imola, and I believe that with an even stronger package, and most importantly if we have some weekends without any problems, then we are capable of getting regular podium finishes."
Pat Symonds, Executive Director of Engineering: "We saw a very strong race from Jarno, and he was particularly unfortunate to lose a position to Button when he was held up by a Jordan after his third stop. With this exception, his race was faultless. Fernando knew things would be more of a struggle, and his cause was not helped when he had to stop at the end of the first lap. However, the team reacted well to the changed circumstances and Fernando drove his usual strong race, but did not quite have the performance edge to pass Sato. Nevertheless, the whole team did well at this new circuit, and to move to second in the Constructors' Championship is a just reward for all the work that has been accomplished at Enstone and Viry-Chatillon."
Flavio Briatore, Managing Director: "The entire team had a great race today. Both drivers performed fantastically and without some variables that were out of our control, the result could have been even better. We have achieved our reliability objectives for the first three races, and go into the European part of the season second in the championship. Things will continue to improve."
Jenson Button (3rd): "It's fantastic to be on the podium again so soon after Malaysia. It was a great first race here and a brilliant result for the team. I didn't get a very good start and I was stuck behind Ralf in turn one, so I dropped back to eighth. In the first stint I was suffering quite badly from understeer so I was losing a lot of time in the high-speed corners. At the first stop we made a front wing adjustment and after that the car ran really well. The team has done another fantastic job here this weekend and my thanks to them and Honda for helping to make this result possible again. It's great to be lying equal third in the Constructors' Championship and third in the Drivers' Championship at this stage in the season. We're still only three races into our relationship with Michelin so we're still learning a lot about the package but it's really starting to come together now. We'll be focusing very much on what we now need to do to take that next step forward."
Takuma Sato (5th): "First of all I would like to say thank you to the team and the fantastic result we achieved together today. From a personal point of view I was quite disappointed with my race because I was on the pace and could have achieved a stronger position than fifth today. On the other hand, I'm happy to deliver a points-finish for the team because every point counts in the end. I also really enjoyed racing here, so I'm taking away a lot of good things from this weekend. The tangle with Ralf Schumacher was disappointing because we should have got through turn two side by side but he just closed the door on me and turned in. After that, I ran wide, damaging the front wing on the kerb and I was forced to do an earlier pitstop. In my middle stint, the gurney came loose and we had to adjust it in my next pitstop, so I lost a bit of time there. Generally though, the car was working superbly and I was able to race alongside Coulthard and Alonso towards the end which was great. Things are looking very encouraging for the rest of the season and I can't wait for Imola in three weeks' time."
David Richards, Team Principal: "Another fantastic weekend for everyone at BAR, not just here in Bahrain, but also everyone behind the scenes in Brackley and all those at Honda and BAT who have supported us in our rebuilding of the team. Even I didn't expect to be where we are in the championship as we head back to Europe; and now Taku has a good result under his belt we can expect even more of him. Jenson was simply incredible this afternoon, and now we must aim for that first win."
Geoffrey Willis, Technical Director: "This is an excellent result for the team; not only our consecutive podium place for Jenson but two cars in the points. It has been a demanding weekend for us. While strong on Saturday morning we showed our lack of experience with the tyres in qualifying. The cars performed well in the race and Jenson was able to race the Williams throughout, eventually benefiting from our pace and reliability. Takuma recovered well from a mistake in which he damaged the under tray and held off Alonso from that point onwards. We now go to the next test to work on engine and chassis developments for the next round at Imola."
Shuhei Nakamoto, Honda Engineering Director: "It's a great feeling to score two podiums in a row. Jenson drove a superb race and Taku did well to finish fifth. I'm particularly pleased that both cars finished in strong positions today. The benefits of the hard work we've been doing are starting to be seen, however it's crucial that we keep the momentum going to close the gap between ourselves and the top team."
Giancarlo Fisichella (11th): "At the beginning my car felt fine, but after the first stop it developed huge understeer, and later it felt like the engine lost power a little. I also had problems in my last two stops when I called for first gear but each time got second. And, of course, Ralf Schumacher spun me on lap 31. Without these problems, especially Ralf, I think we could have challenged for a point today."
Felipe Massa (12th): "I lost a bit of ground in the first corner because things got very tight, and in the first part of the race I was really struggling for grip and had a big vibration, possibly from the tyres. The car felt very unstable. It was a lot better on the last set but, overall, this was a very tough race for us."
Peter Sauber, Team Principal: "As great a venue and event as the first Bahrain Grand Prix undoubtedly was, unfortunately this was not our race. We have to work on the performance side, and on improving our speed during out laps after pit stops. We look forward to Bahrain 2005!"
Mark Webber (8th): "It was really good to get our first point today. The team has worked incredibly hard towards this and it is well deserved. I started well and was up to tenth position on my first lap, which to be honest is where I should have qualified. During my first pitstop we made a slight flap change but it was perhaps too much and I had a minor off on turn 13. It made no real difference in the end but I was lucky to catch it. Michelin did a good job today as did Cosworth Racing, the R5 has been reliable all weekend and I am generally happy with how things have gone. We know we still have a few areas to work on but we are making good progress and these days you need a perfect weekend to score points. We have learnt a lot here and we will be taking this with us to Imola where again we will be looking to challenge for points. All in all, I enjoyed the race on this new track made all the better by scoring a point."
Christian Klien (14th): "There was a lot going on in the race today and for me there were highs and lows. My start was ok and despite the difficult first two corners all was well until I has a slight coming together with the Renault of Fernando Alonso on the third hairpin. The car suffered only minor damage and I continued with good balance. I then enjoyed racing with the McLaren Mercedes of Kimi Raikkonen. The R5 felt really good and I was making the most of its pace. I then made an error and I spun at corner 11. This cost me a few places and after this I was really just pleased to finish. The track was still quite dirty off-line although it was still good fun to at least try to overtake. I am now really looking forward to the next race in Imola as this is one of my favourite tracks and it's going to be good to be racing at a circuit where I have some experience."
Mark Gillan, Head of Vehicle Performance: "Both cars got reasonable starts here and I was pleased with their pace on track. Mark was up to tenth position at the end of lap one and his first pitstop was really good. Despite his slight off, he had a good race and to finish with our first point is just reward. We have been working towards this and thanks to the hard work of the team, Jaguar Racing, Cosworth Racing, Pi Research and Michelin we have achieved it. Christian has had a really good weekend here and despite his momentary off he has done a great job. He was lapping very fast near the end and he was enjoying his battles on-track. I am pleased with the weekend overall, we were not sure what to expect here and we have been happy with the results. We have learnt a lot over the three days thanks to our three drivers and we will now go to Barcelona next week to test in preparation for our first European race. Mark and Christian both know San Marino so we will be working towards a strong weekend."
Olivier Panis (9th): "It has been a positive weekend for everyone at Toyota. We opted for an aggressive three-stop strategy, which I think was the best for us today. Although it is frustrating to finish ninth, we have all worked hard to perform as well as we could. I must say thanks to Michelin, who provided us with some invaluable support and competitive tyres this weekend. We have shown another increase in our overall level of performance and we have to keep putting in our best combined effort to improve on this even more in Imola."
Cristiano Da Matta (10th): "It was a difficult race and quite disappointing after our relatively strong performances in free practice and qualifying this weekend. I suffered from a lack of grip throughout most of the race, which prevented me of making any significant gains. Generally, it was frustrating because I thought we were capable of more than tenth place today. Now, we have to continue to work hard before the European season starts in Imola in three weeks."
Tsutomu Tomita, Team Principal: "Obviously we are not satisfied with the final result in Bahrain today, but we have to admit that with the current performance of the car, we were not in a position to do any better. On the positive side, the engineers, mechanics, the pit stop crew and the drivers did an excellent job, with no mistakes during the entire weekend. I believe we got the most out of our package in Bahrain with the correct choice of Michelin tyre and race strategy. At the next race in Imola, we will have a new aerodynamic package and we are confident we will make a step ahead compared to our current status."
Nick Heidfeld (15th): "I was on a two stop strategy and my first stop was late so at one stage I was up to P6 or P5. I'm happy to finish the race, that's the best thing about the weekend for me. It was not a perfect race, though with the biggest problem being not getting on top of the car balance. It was the first time we used the new Bridgestone tyres and they are definitely better but we need to work more to understand them. There were some other minor things like a small brake problem and being held up for two laps by a blue-flagged Minardi. I don't know if he was penalised but he should have been. We have a test in Silverstone before the San Marino Grand Prix in three weeks time where we will do a lot of tyre testing and hopefully get some new things on the car."
Giorgio Pantano (16th): "I did my best today. We had a small problem with the braking and differential on the last 10 laps and during the second stint I had more understeer on the car. It's good that I have finished my first three races and I think I have started making improvements on qualifying so now I also have to improve race performance. I want to be a little bit closer to Nick with my lap times. I have more time in the car before Imola with a Silverstone test and I'm feeling more confident so I'm looking forward to the next race."
James Robinson, Director of Race and Test Engineering: "It was a great race for Bridgestone and an excellent effort by them in winning today, given all the problems and unknowns of a new track. We switched Nick's strategy to a two stop as the tyres were holding up and we had to start at the back due to the engine change. Both drivers drove a solid race, but with other people's reliability as it is, we could only pick up 15th and 16th positions. Towards the end Giorgio had a small hydraulic leak but managed to get to the finish."
Eddie Jordan, Team Principal: "It's great to have established Formula One in a new region of the world and I have to say the atmosphere and hospitality of the people here has made the first Bahrain Grand Prix quite sensational. It has been a major success and a huge boost to the Middle East region. It's positive for Jordan to have both our cars finish here."
Gianmaria Bruni (17th): "The mechanics did a fantastic job today, and despite the fact my car wouldn't leave the grid, they got me going in the pits. During the race, I struggled with the car, which was good in the corners but felt like it was down on power on the straights. That prevented me from being able to race as well as I know I could have. Anyway, we'll work on our problems, and aim to have a better race at Imola."
Zsolt Baumgartner (DNF, Engine): "Straightaway, I was struggling with an electronic problem, like Gimmi, but I was able to reset the software from the cockpit and fix the problem. I think my pace was good during the race - my fastest lap was the same as Gimmi's qualifying time and I was able to set times not too far off the Jordans - which made up for the problems I had in qualifying yesterday. I'm upset not to have finished the last 10 laps, but sometimes races are like that. I'd like to thank everyone on the team, who gave maximum effort today, and I hope, both for them and for me, that I can get a better result at the next race."
Paul Stoddart, Team Principal: "After a grid incident that saw Gimmi unable to leave on the formation lap, both drivers did all they could during what was a very difficult race. Sadly, Zsolt wasn't able to take the chequered flag, but both he and Gimmi produced encouraging lap times given their individual circumstances in the race. We now look forward to one of our ?home' races, at Imola, in three weeks time."