MAY 30, 2004
EUROPEAN GP - SUNDAY - RACE NOTES
Schumacher cruises to sixth win
Six-times World Champion Michael Schumacher won the European Grand Prix, at the Nurburgring, today, winning his sixth win out of seven races this season. It is the German driver's 76 career win.
His team mate Rubens Barrichello finished second, making it a Ferrari 1-2. Jenson Button finishing third in his BAR-Honda, after his team mate Takuma Sato fell out with an engine failure late in the race.
Up until that point the young Japan driver had driven a strong race, having held second place for much of the race due to fuel strategies. He was battling for second with Barrichello after the final pitstops, but made an over-ambitious late-braking attempt at the first corner and bumped with the Ferrari driver. Sato suffered damage to his front wing and fell back to fourth behind his team mate after pitting for repairs.
Fourth and fifth places went to Monaco winner Jarno Trulli and his Renault team mate Fernando Alonso.
Giancarlo Fisichella finished sixth in his Sauber, Mark Webber was seventh in the Jaguar.
Juan Pablo Montoya took the final points position in his Williams-BMW, after falling to the back of the field after a first turn collision with his team mate Ralf Schumacher which forced his to pit with damage to his front wing. The German was out of the race on the spot - along with the Toyota of Cristiano da Matta, who was also collected in the incident.
While the incident was taking place at the first corner, Jarno Trulli and Takuma Sato were fighting for second place and went wide at the third corner, allowing Kimi Raikkonen to take second place. At the end of the first lap the order was: Schumacher, Raikkonen, Alonso, Sato, Barrichello, Button and Trulli. Over the course of the first stint Raikkonen held up the bunch behind him - allowing Schumacher to go 2-3 seconds a lap faster than his competitors
Schumacher pulled out a 17 second lead on lap 7 just before the first round of stops. At this point the race was effectively won by Schumacher.
Right after the first round of stops, Raikkonen retired with an engine failure. His McLaren-Mercedes team mate David Coulthard started from the back of the field and on a heavy fuel load managed to work his up to fourth place before he too retired with an engine failure on lap 25.
Michael Schumacher (1st): "I dedicate this result to Umberto Agnelli who was a great supporter of our team over the years. As was obvious, I had run quite light on fuel in qualifying. I had a good start and was immediately able to build up a lead as Raikkonen in second was holding up the others. It was fantastic to see how I could pull away and that gave me the edge I needed and I was confident that our strategy would work. I had some problems with traffic, particularly with Mark (Webber) when he came out of the pit lane and I just saw him in time flying towards me and I opened the door. Otherwise he would have crashed into me. We are looking very strong, but generally it was not a clean race and we were helped today because others had difficulties."
Rubens Barrichello (2nd): "Yesterday, we felt Michael was a bit quicker, so rather than aiming to try and get second place on the grid and start on the dirty side, the team offered me another option and I liked it. Running two stops almost worked as I went from seventh to second, but it was not good enough to take first place. I had a good start and took the first corner cleanly with Jenson (Button) but I think I might have touched a Renault. I had to push quite hard when I was in traffic and that was hurting the tyres a bit. I think Sato's move was a bit amateur. Luckily I just saw his nose and moved over. After the incident, I lost part of my bargeboard and it was lucky the race was in its final stages as it affected the handling. It took me a couple of laps to assess what the car was doing and then the team told me to push again as Jenson was closing."
Jean Todt, Team Principal: "On the eve of the race we had hoped to get a one-two finish to dedicate it to the memory of Umberto Agnelli and we are happy to have succeeded. Mr. Agnelli was usually the first to ring to congratulate us after a win, the last time being in Barcelona. So this one is for him. Michael drove some fantastic opening laps, building up a big enough lead to control the race after the first pit stop. Rubens who was on a different strategy to his team-mate, had to fight hard all race long, managing to take a great second place. The one-two is the result of a perfect day for the drivers, cars, tyres and team."
Ross Brawn, Technical Director: "Occasionally it can be difficult to judge how the tyres will develop in the race, so having our drivers on two different strategies allowed the team to cover both bases. This choice paid off in Barcelona and it did again here. Rubens drove perfectly, even though in some stages of the race he was unable to push as hard as he wanted as the tyres did not perform quite as we had expected. Michael was amazing and his opening laps were astonishing! Once again, all I can say is that this year he is incredibly motivated. After the frustration of Monaco, Michael wanted to win again as soon as possible to be certain we were not going into a dip."
Juan Pablo Montoya (8th): "Even though I was starting from 8th I had a good start, but the accident at the first corner obviously compromised my race. When I made it to the first corner Rubens Barrichello, who was in front of me, braked quite early and both Ralf and I locked the tyres. Then Ralf went for the outside and I stayed behind Rubens but when I was going around the corner Panis dived up the inside hitting my front tyre which threw me straight into Ralf. A hairpin is always going to cause problems in a racing start. After that I had obviously a tough race, having to recover from 18th place. I still could collect one point, but I know there was more in the car."
Ralf Schumacher (DNF, Accident): "What happened is obviously a shame. Being taken out of the race at the first corner is definitely not what I was expecting. It was a very unfortunate accident with Juan who just braked a bit too late since he was trying to gain some places at the end of the straight. I am 100% sure Juan didn't do it on purpose therefore I am not going to blame him for this. It was a very normal start accident. Shame I hit Cristiano Da Matta too, but I was just a passenger on my car at that time, since Juan had hit me in the back and then in the front and I had no longer control on the car. I am sorry for Cristiano but there was nothing I could do to avoid taking him out. This accident is frustrating, of course, but I can guarantee we'll fight all our way back and I am sure we'll soon be in racing again"
Sam Michael, Technical Director: "We lost one car right after the start which looked like a racing incident and caused a damaged front wing on Juan's car. He needed to pit after the first lap to pick up a new nose and then started the race 35 seconds behind. The fight for the rest of the race was to get into the points, which we achieved with some great overtaking from Juan and good strategy. We would have been much more competitive if both our cars had come through the first corner without incident."
Dr. Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director: "Start positions 8 and 9 were of course not the best to start a race from, and the accident right after the start proved it. Such a situation is annoying for the team. This is happening for the second time after Indianapolis, and this is two times too much. Anyway, it is clear that this is exactly what happens having a hairpin as first corner, since it allows four, even five different lines in and out but in the narrowest part there's room just for two cars."
David Coulthard (DNF, Engine): "The race was going well. I had a good start from the back of the grid making the most of other people getting in trouble on the first lap and went from 20th to ninth. As we were on a two stop strategy the car was heavy with fuel, but I believe we would have been in a good position to score some points. It's disappointing and nobody in the team is enjoying the situation at the moment, but we will all continue to work hard to make things better, and I'm confident that we will fight back."
Kimi Raikkonen (DNF, Engine): "Obviously I'm extremely frustrated and disappointed. I was at the front after getting past Sato and Trulli on the first lap and there was no doubt that things were looking good. We are making progress, but it's clear that we have to improve our reliability dramatically."
Ron Dennis, Team Principal: "The reliability problems we are experiencing at the moment are linked with our efforts to increase the team's competitiveness as fast as possible. Our qualifying and the early part of the race certainly demonstrated that we are getting there. Of course it's painful not to finish races, but the most constructive way forward for the team is to analyse the problems and execute the engineering solutions."
Norbert Haug, Mercedes Motorsport Director: "A disappointing outcome to the race. Kimi and David did everything right and were in good positions during the opening laps. The engines will go back to Mercedes-Ilmor tonight to investigate the source of the failures which we suspect was a problem with a batch of pistons from which all the engines for this race have been built."
Jarno Trulli (4th): "I made a good start but the race was nearly over at the first corner - if I hadn't opened the door, Sato would have taken me out. I was third behind him and Michael when, two corners later, he made a mistake so I took the inside line through turn 4 but he closed the door. His right front wheel hit my front left and I nearly lost the car - in the confusion, I pressed the pit-lane speed limiter button and that cost me a number of positions. Afterwards, I was stuck first in the traffic behind Raikkonen, then behind slower cars after my first stop. I just pushed for the rest of the race in order to make up positions, and the car balance was good all the way through. I'm pleased with the job I did today: after finishing the first lap seventh, to be fourth at the end of the race is not so bad."
Fernando Alonso (5th): "It's frustrating to finish fifth having been third on the first lap. Raikkonen held me up a lot during the first stint, which meant that after I pitted I came out among the cars on two stops. Then, the steering became very vague; it caused me to run wide in turn 4, and it took a while to get used to it. After that, I couldn't do anything but protect my position, which I managed to do."
Pat Symonds, Executive Director of Engineering: "This was certainly a very difficult race for us. Jarno lost position on the opening lap, putting him in the gaggles of cars stuck behind Raikkonen, and both drivers then lost a lot of time behind slower competitors after their first stop. Fernando had a problem with the steering rack on lap 14, which caused him to run wide. This problem slowed him down throughout the remained of the race. Overall, this is not a satisfying result, but getting two cars to the finish has allowed us to increase the gap to our pursuers in the championship."
Flavio Briatore, Managing Director: "Our reason to be pleased today is that we scored nine more points and confirmed our excellent reliability with two cars making it to the finish. The course was solid, rather than spectacular, and the way the race unfolded did us no favours. But overall, we can be reassured that we reinforced our second position in the championship."
Jenson Button (3rd): "Considering the problem I've had with grip throughout the weekend, 3rd place is a great result for me. Obviously this podium was slightly more lucky than the other four but a podium nonetheless. It was a tough race and I had problems with traffic again. I had to get past David (Coulthard) because he was holding me up by 2 seconds a lap. Fortunately for me he made a mistake in the last corner and I was able to pass him on the outside - a little bit brave maybe but it paid off. This was obviously Taku's shot at the podium but it is good that we have one trophy to celebrate Honda's 40th Anniversary Race."
Takuma Sato (DNF, Engine): "I am extremely disappointed, ending the way I did with engine failure. Today the car was very strong and although I lost my position at the start, I regained it again at turn one. Throughout the race I was fighting all the time, and when I came out of my last pit stop on new tyres I had a lot of grip and felt confident that I could challenge Rubens in the Ferrari, but I saw the opportunity to get past Rubens but unfortunately we touched. At least I had a strong race, the pace of the car was good and it could have been a very good result for me. Now we have to look forward. I am expecting a good test at Silverstone and am looking forward to Montreal and Indianapolis."
David Richards, Team Principal: "On a day when Honda celebrates its 40th Anniversary race, with one car on the podium and everyone sharing a glass of champagne, it was interesting to note a rather sombre atmosphere amongst the team at the end of the race. Everyone shared in Taku's disappointment at what was surely his first podium. But then Jenson has consolidated his third position, and so has the team, so not such a bad weekend after all."
Geoffrey Willis, Technical Director: "This was a tough race for the team with a mixed outcome. Takuma raced superbly from his front row position and with excellent pit stops and strategy, challenged throughout for second place. The incident with Barrichello shortly after the last stops necessitated an extra stop to change the front wing but we do not yet have any information for the cause of the engine failure. This weekend we were not able to take the race to Michael Schumacher who got away in the queue of cars behind Raikkonen. Jenson benefited from Takuma's retirement picking up a solid third. This gives us the 5th podium finish in 6 races but the failure to finish both cars is hurting us in the championship as Renault continue to pull away in 2nd."
Shuhei Nakamoto, Honda Engineering Director: "Another bitter sweet day for us. We showed real strength today and seemed to be in a position to get a better result. Congratulations to Jenson for another podium and commiserations to Takuma. We must continue to challenge as hard as we can if we are to get the wins we want."
Giancarlo Fisichella (6th): "After all the problems I had over the weekend it is wonderful to score points for sixth place! Our target was to score points, but I never believed that sixth was possible. The car was fantastic today, the balance and behaviour were impeccable. I made a good start, our strategy was perfect, and we did a great job as a team. The C23 is improving with every race, so we will keep getting better and better."
Felipe Massa (9th): "When I let out the clutch at the start nothing happened, and I had to call for it again before I could get going. Running behind the Minardis after that ruined my race because I lost so much time. I'm not sure where I damaged my front wing - maybe when I was close to Bruni, maybe later with Klien - but after that I just had massive understeer and the car was really difficult to drive. A shame, because this was a race where I could have scored more points."
Willy Rampf, Technical Director: "Our race went exactly as we planned. Starting at the back we gave Giancarlo a high fuel load for a long first stint, and because the Bridgestone tyres were so consistent today we were able to execute our chosen strategy. Congratulations to Giancarlo, who drove a fast and consistent race to finish sixth on the lead lap, consolidating our fifth place in the constructors' championship. Felipe's race was hampered by a problem at the start, and then loss of downforce due to a damaged front wing, and his car was very difficult to drive."
Mark Webber (7th): "I had a good race today and a seventh position finish and two points in the bag is exactly what the Doctor ordered. My start was slightly slower than we had expected as I suffered a clutch engagement problem. I then went on to work my way up the grid and I am pleased to say that our strategy worked really well today and despite my one second penalty on my qualfying time I don't think it cost me too much. As the race wore on the balance of the car got even better and it was good fun to drive. The team has been working incredibly hard since Monaco and well before that but there was no reward, now there is just reward for all our efforts. I am already excited about Canada but before that I will be back out in the R5 at Silverstone testing for the team."
Christian Klien (12th): "The start was great for me as I managed to overtake two cars by the first corner. The balance was good and the car was going really well. After my first pit stop though the balance was slightly more difficult for me so I think I may have lost a bit of time in my second session. I enjoyed my battle with Montoya, that's what we are about. The cars were really reliable today and they felt good. I am very pleased to have finished the race, albeit it, without points. We are learning more with every lap and the team is so focused on what we have to do and where we are going. I am looking forward to testing and I can't wait to be racing again."
Mark Gillan, Head of Vehicle Performance: "We had a mixed start today with Christian getting a good start and getting off the line well, while Mark had a slight clutch engagement problem. Both drivers did well in our first stint leading up to the pitstop and the pace of the car was encouraging. Our two-stop strategy worked well and to have them both finish and Mark in seventh place with two points is just reward and testament to all the hard work and man hours that we spend working towards this end. Mark was held up my Montoya after his first stop which may have cost him a place in front of the Sauber of Fisichella but despite that we are of course pleased with the result. We are now focusing on our four day test ahead of us at Silverstone when we will be working on several test parts. The team is always motivated but sometimes you need a weekend like this to give the team a well-deserved boost."
Olivier Panis (11th): "I got a fantastic start and took some risk heading into the first corner, but I managed to gain two places in the process. Everything was going well and I was retaining eighth place, but it became rather difficult to hold onto the group in front of me. The tyres dropped off quite quickly and it was clear that the race was going to be tough. I am very disappointed for myself and the whole team, but at least we finished the race, so from here we will continue to keep pushing to produce a quicker racing car."
Cristiano da Matta (DNF, Accident): "I didn't really see what happened, only a Williams locking its wheels quite badly approaching the first corner. After that, there was not a great deal I could do about the situation. I tried to carry on to the left to make my way around, but there was nowhere for me to go. Obviously it is not nice to retire from a race through no fault of my own, but it was a racing incident and these things occur from time to time. I have a three-day test in Silverstone next week where we will work hard on preparing the cars for the next back-to-back races in Canada and the US."
Tsutomu Tomita, Team Principal: "Overall, it was a frustrating race for Panasonic Toyota Racing. On the softer of the Michelin tyre compounds, we struggled for consistency. With our general lack of grip, it seems that we were affected more in terms of race pace as the tyres went off and the car began to slide. Cristiano was pushed off at the start, which was not his fault. Olivier made a good start, but was not able to maintain the speed of the group in front of him. We were simply not able to keep up with the two-stopping cars, but we will continue to put all of our efforts into making developments for the rest of the season."
Nick Heidfeld (10th): "I'm really happy with our performance over the weekend especially in the race. Finishing 10th, only two positions off the points, is positive - as was actually being able to fight and beat some other cars. I was pushing Felipe hard at the end, which was really good fun. With one more lap I might have overtaken him! I didn't have a great start, so that is something we need to improve and practise, and then I was held up by Klien for a long time in the race, but that's just racing. Our race performance is good but we need to see if we can improve qualifying. A big thanks to all the team as they are really doing a good job at the moment. If we keep improving at this rate I'm very pleased."
Giorgio Pantano (13th): "I was lucky to finish the race, to be honest, because for the last 25 laps I had a problem with the downshift. The first part of the race was not going badly and we were doing our maximum but after that this problem started and that was it. There's not much else to say. I'm not very happy really as this has happened to me a few times."
James Robinson, Director of Race and Test Engineering: "It was a tough race for Jordan Ford today with Nick driving a very good, hard race. Some slower cars in the first part of the race cost him any chance of getting in the points. Once he got past those we were running on target and the Bridgestone tyres were performing consistently, but he had just lost too much time in the early part of the race. Giorgio drove well, and was up there with Nick but unfortunately he had a car problem that basically slowed his race and at the end he was driving to get the car over the line."
Eddie Jordan, Team Principal: "I'm glad that both our cars finished. Unfortunately we had a problem with Giorgio's car but I think that was Nick's best race drive for us. We seem to be making a bit of progress. Thanks to everyone in the team for their continued hard work."
Gianmaria Bruni (14th): "I'm satisfied with the result, as I had to try and maintain good lap times, but also conserve the rear tyres - if I pushed too hard I risked blistering them. In fact, I'm happy with the tyres Bridgestone has provided us with this weekend. If we had had a better balance in the car this afternoon, I think I could have made better use of the tyres and we might have had a stronger result. Even so, I am very pleased to have finished the race."
Zsolt Baumgartner (15th): "Generally, we had a good, solid race today. The first stint was difficult, because the car was really oversteering, but then we altered the differential and the tyre pressures at the first stop, and I also adjusted the brake balance. After that, the car just got better every lap and was really good in the last two stints. I could go quicker and quicker and was able to bring the gap down to Gimmi. The biggest problem for me this afternoon was actually the amount of time I lost with blue flags letting other drivers through. I'm very happy that we had a reliable car in the race and that I was able to take the chequered flag today. I'd also like to wish Gimmi a happy birthday - it was good to present him with his birthday cake."
Paul Stoddart, Team Principal: "It's always good to get two cars home. Both Gimmi and Zsolt did all that could be asked of them today, and overall, it has been a reasonable weekend for the Minardi team here at the Nurburgring."