JULY 4, 2004
FRENCH GP - SUNDAY - RACE NOTES
Schumacher wins French GP
Ferrari's Michael Schumacher won the French Grand Prix, in Magny-Cours, taking his 79th career victory, winning nine out of the ten races contested this season. Polesitter Fernando Alonso, after leading the first half of the race, finished second in his Renault 8 seconds behind. Rubens Barrichello taking third place on the final lap. The win was Schumacher's seventh French GP win.
From the start Schumacher stalked the Renault of Alonso, until the German pitted first at lap 11. Alonso put the hammer down until he pitted on lap 14, coming out with a 2.8 second lead.
On lap 16 Takuma Sato retired with yet another engine failure. On lap 18, Juan Pablo Montoya spun his Williams-BMW from sixth place, but got going again in ninth place.
At lap 20 the running order was Alonso, Schumacher, Trulli, Button, Coulthard, Barrichello, Raikkonen, Massa, Montoya and Webber.
For the second stint, the gap remained around the same, until Schumacher pitted for the second time on lap 29. After the stop, Schumacher put in several fastest laps, so that when Alonso pitted on lap 32, the German took a 3 second lead.
On lap 32, Zsolt Baumgartner dropped out of the race.
At half-way the order was Schumacher, Alonso, Trulli, Button, Barrichello, Coulthard, Raikkonen, Klien, Montoya and Webber.
On lap 42 with a 5 second lead, Schumacher pitted for his third time, Alonso pitting on lap 46. With the third stops finished, Schumacher regained the lead with a 11 second lead over the Spainard, Trulli running in third just ahead of Button and Barrichello.
With Schumacher making a fast six second pitstop, speculation was whether the Ferrari had enough fuel to run to the finish.
On the Button's third stop he nearly stalling coming out of the pits, and came out right behind Trulli, but lost fourth place to Barrichello on the run down to the hairpin.
With 15 laps left in the race the order was Schumacher, Alonso, Trulli, Barrichello, Button, Coulthard, Raikkonen, Montoya, Webber and Marc Gene, with Schumacher pulling out to a 20 second lead.
On lap 59, Schumacher pitted for a fourth time with a 5.8 second stop, and came out comfortably with a 7.3 second lead over Alonso.
For the final 11 laps, Schumacher cruised to the checked flag.
The battle for third heated up with Barrichello diving past Trulli two corners from the finish line.
At the flag the order was Schumacher from Alonso and Barrichello. Trulli in fourth, the BAR-Honda of Button in fifth, the McLaren-Mercedes of David Coulthard and Kimi Raikkonen in sixth and seventh, and Montoya taking the final points paying position in eighth. Mark Webber finished ninth and Marc Gene - substituting for Ralf Schumacher finished on the lead lap in 10th place.
Michael Schumacher (1st): "The strategy and the precision of the team in the pit stops were fantastic today. Before the start, I was not so optimistic, but it became clear that our Bridgestone tyres were very good at the end of their stints, which was not the case with the opposition, so I was able to close the gap before the stops. Then, after the second stop, we decided to switch to a four stop strategy. There was not much discussion once the team told me I would not be threatened from behind. I had nothing to lose and it was a case of no risk no fun! I only accepted I could win five laps before my final pit stop when the team told me I had enough of a gap to keep the lead. We might have won on a normal three stop, but this would have involved passing cars on the track. Based on last year, I had expected to struggle more here, but this season is proving to be really outstanding. However, the opposition is getting closer which does not surprise us and I expect another tough fight at Silverstone."
Rubens Barrichello (3rd): "From tenth to third - I am very happy and I had a lot of fun today. The car was very fast and the Bridgestone tyres were fantastic, especially at the end of each stint. I had a great race and the other drivers were very fair on the track. It was a shame that I paid the penalty for my pre-qualifying problem, without which I could have had an even better race. I gave it all I had. As for Trulli, although I had better corner speed in Turn 3, it was difficult to follow him through the chicane and then he had better traction. But then, on the final lap, he slowed a bit too much at Turn 13 and so I was able to get alongside at 15. It was risky, but I thought it was worth the risk, even if I was a bit careful not to damage the car as it would have been a shame to get from tenth to fourth and then not finish. So, I was trying 85% and when I saw I had a chance, I added another 20% making it 105% in total!"
Jean Todt, Team Principal: "Once again, this was a dream race, which to describe would involve so many superlatives! The team had to adopt a very aggressive strategy and for 70 laps, the drivers performed at 100% of their ability on a very demanding track. Again today, the Bridgestone tyres performed perfectly. Michael has taken his ninth win of the season, while Rubens continues to be the only driver to have scored points in every race. We could not have asked for a better start to the second half of the season. The way this weekend has gone shows that the next few races will be very closely contested as the opposition is doing all it can to catch up. On a personal note, I can only feel pride for the way the team has worked, demonstrating yet again that it has a great will to win. It is a fantastic group of people!"
Ross Brawn, Technical Director: "Our drivers had an exceptional race. Before the race we had already planned to go for either three of four stops and when we saw the way things were going, we opted to switch to four pit stops for Michael, taking into consideration the great performance of the Bridgestone tyres. I have to give credit to Luca Baldisserri, who came up with the idea this weekend and I just supported him on that. Rubens did a great job to go from tenth to third. He made the most of every opportunity that came his way and his move on Trulli was simply brilliant. A few laps before the end of the race, I told him it would really suit him to be on the podium today and he should give it his best. We were able to breathe a sigh of relief when we saw that Michael had built up a big enough advantage over Alonso. When you have a quicker car it is worth trying an aggressive strategy. Otherwise we risked getting stuck behind the Renault driver."
Juan Pablo Montoya (8th): "It has been a very difficult race for me, especially because of an intense pain in my neck, which nearly prevented me from being able to keep my head up. I hurt my neck on Friday, when I crashed, but I didn?t expect the pain to become so sharp in the race. With regards to the race, I maintained my grid position at the start but after 20 laps or so hit a kerb too hard and spun, losing three places. After that I tried to close the gap with Kimi Raikkonen in front, but I wasn?t able to get close enough to pass him because I just wasn?t quick enough. Also the balance of my car wasn?t ideal, especially in the first part of the race, which caused me to make a few mistakes. I really hoped I could get much more than one single point today."
Marc Gene (10th): "Tenth place is not what I had hoped for. I had a problem with the clutch on the grid but since I didn?t want to jump the start I released it very slowly and lost three positions. This is when I lost 50% of my chances to get good finish. Then Mark Webber and I touched on turn 3 and I nearly spun. Two of my sets of tyres were very good and allowed me to catch up with the drivers in front, like Mark Webber or Juan Pablo, but even though I tried my best, those in front were too fast. Both my car and I just needed more speed, today!"
Sam Michael, Technical Director: "Our pace in the race was disappointing today. We would have finished a little bit further up if Juan had not spun. It did cost us one or maybe two places, but even without this the result would not have been what we are aiming for. Since our race strategy, tyres and pit stops were fine, we obviously need to keep pushing to improve the pace of the car."
Dr. Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director: "Juan lost some positions due to his spin and Marc lost three places in the heat of the start but drove a proper race afterward. A fifth and a seventh place would have been possible today and would have mirrored our performance over the rest of the weekend. Both drivers were not happy with the handling of the car. There wasn?t a chance to do any proper testing of the new parts prior to this race weekend and it did not help either that set-up work on Friday was hampered by Juan?s crash and bad weather. We need to exploit the full potential of this further developed package in the next races. Enginewise we didn?t experience any problems during the weekend."
David Coulthard (6th): "At the start I lost two positions to be fifth after the first corner. This was a shame as the race showed that both Kimi and I were able to have the same speed as the three cars ahead of me who were fighting for third. I lost some grip during the middle of the race and had a few problems with traffic. However an encouraging and reliable race debut for the 19B and I'm looking forward to my home grand prix at Silverstone next weekend and the rest of the season."
Kimi Raikkonen (7th): "It's always difficult starting from ninth, and I think if I had not messed up in qualifying yesterday we would have done much better. I made a good start and gained two places but it was not enough. The speed of the 19B is good, and I'm confident for the rest of the season particularly as we have further developments coming."
Ron Dennis, Team Principal: "It might not be apparent from our finishing positions but the MP4-19B is definitely a significant step in the right direction. We don't know why David lost two positions at the start, but that definitely penalised his race and allowed the leaders to get away. There will be continuous development on the 19B for the rest of the season, and we should be able to improve further for McLaren's home race next weekend."
Norbert Haug, Mercedes Motorsport Director: "We had the speed for third place today but David lost two positions at the start whilst Kimi gained two. The competition between the Michelin teams has increased which can be seen from today's laptimes. The race's laptimes also showed that we have improved our performance, and we are pleased that both MP4-19Bs ran reliably during their race debut. We will now continue to further improve our package."
Fernando Alonso (2nd): "I have been waiting for this podium for a long time: I could have had it at each of the last two races were it not for mechanical problems, so I am really happy to be here! I had a good race, and fought as hard as possible, but I think Michael was just stronger today. To score my best result of the year at Renault's home Grand Prix is a great feeling; the only disappointment I feel is for Jarno, because it would have been great to be on the podium together."
Jarno Trulli (4th): "I am gutted for myself and the team to have lost third place at the very end of the race. I made a fantastic start to get in front of Button and Coulthard, and the car seemed pretty competitive; even so, I couldn't keep up with Fernando because the car was quite nervous to drive. The race was going to plan until the last stint, when the car had less traction and was oversteering a lot. I defended against Rubens as much as possible, but on the last lap, he was quicker on the exit of turn 13 and passed me under braking for the next corner - I tried to close the door, but couldn't. At the moment, all I feel is disappointment, but I will have to get over it and come back stronger at the next races."
Pat Symonds, Executive Director of Engineering: "Although this is our best team result of the year, it is hard not to feel frustrated because we could so easily have had two drivers on the podium today. We had suspected the race pace of Ferrari would be strong after practice, and we therefore tried to counter their strategy by adjusting ours, with Fernando running a shorter third stint than originally intended. But, quite simply, they were faster today. Fernando understood the race well and reacted as he needed to at every key moment. Jarno was under severe pressure for a long part of the race, but unfortunately succumbed at the last."
Flavio Briatore, Managing Director: "Before the race, we thought that Ferrari were quicker than us and they demonstrated it today. Even so, it is a great accomplishment to score our best result of the year here in France. Fernando was excellent throughout the race and deserves his second place. It was, though, very disappointing to see Jarno miss out on a podium by just several tenths of a second."
Jenson Button (5th): "I'm very disappointed because we expected to do a lot better here and fifth is not good enough. The strategy was working well for us but at the last pit stop the engine went into anti-stall mode and cost me the time advantage that could have put us on the podium. We lost a possible third place today and, with Taku's problem, two much-needed points finishes, having worked so hard to close the gap to Renault. They had a good result today so we really have to have solved these problems going into our home race."
Takuma Sato (DNF, Engine): "It is a shame that I could not finish the race after our performance in Indy. The lap times were very close and everybody was competitive, so it was a tough race. I immediately felt a loss of power after the pitstop and we knew there was a problem down the main straight but there was nothing we could do. It was a different problem than before - not sudden but gradual. We have only a week to look into the problem before the team's home race at Silverstone which is one of the most important races on the calendar."
David Richards, Team Principal: "Consolidating our third place in the Constructors' Championship and Jenson retaining third place in the Drivers' standings would, on the face of it, appear to be a solid weekend's work. However one can't help but feel disappointed that we didn't make the most of our potential here in Magny-Cours. As for Taku, even I don't believe that bad luck stretches this far and the most rigorous of investigations now has to take place in order to find a solution in time for our home race in just seven days' time."
Geoffrey Willis, Technical Director: "A disappointing result at a circuit where we should have been quicker. Jenson raced strongly and the team responded well to the high-pressure pitstops, but in the end the car wasn't quite quick enough. We worked hard with our strategy throughout the race and we had a good chance of recovering third place at the last stop. However as Jenson pulled away, the anti-stall cut in, delaying him by less than a second, but enough to let Jarno and Rubens through turn two. It is also extremely frustrating to have another engine failure on Taku's car shortly after his first stop and this level of unreliability is unacceptable. We have to ensure that our investigations into the problem are conclusive in order to find a proper solution."
Shuhei Nakamoto, Honda Engineering Director: "It was a good battle between Jenson, Jarno and Rubens but I am of course disappointed we missed out on the podium place. It is a shame that Taku's engine failed again so we will work very hard this week to find the cause and put a counter measure in place for the next race at Silverstone."
Giancarlo Fisichella (12th): "It was a difficult race for us, as we expected. Our original strategy was to run two stops, but then we decided to go to three as our pace was not fast enough and we were struggling for rear-end grip. After that it was better, but now lets look forward to Silverstone, where we will get the next batch of our new aerodynamic components and be able to fight harder."
Felipe Massa (13th): "Looking at the last two races we figured it might be better for me to stay with a two-stop race here, and I think it was a good idea to try both strategies by switching Giancarlo to three. The tyre degradation is so high here that I had a really tough afternoon. It was a real struggle for me all the way through."
Peter Sauber, Team Principal: "Magny-Cours: a difficult race and no points for us, but none for our direct competitors either. Have a safe journey home and see you next week at Silverstone!"
Mark Webber (9th): "Today's race was incredibly competitive with most teams both reliable and fast. The team has done an amazing job all weekend and to see us finishing both cars in 9th and 11th after only one retirement is really testament to the hard work we have been undertaking here at the track and back in the factory. Michelin has done a good job as always and we are very pleased with our progress with them. Their is no doubt that the R5 package is competitive and worthy of points finishes, you now just need to be perfect all weekend to get them since the competition is so tough. I am very motivated going into the team's home race and I am excited about getting back behind the wheel as soon as possible."
Christian Klien (11th): "This weekend has really been a good step-forward for me as I feel everything is coming together. I have been gradually improving all weekend in my pace and to start 13th and finish 11th with a problem-free race is fantastic. The car was very well-balanced for me and I got a good start. I certainly raced hard and I was very pleased to be able to stay with my team-mate through most of the race. We both need to be finishing in the points and this is my goal. I was held up marginally by the Minardi cars and the Jordans, and the blue flags slowed me down a little bit. However, overall this has been one of my best racing weekends so far and I hope that there will be more like these to come."
Mark Gillan, Head of Vehicle Performance: "This has been a very strong weekend for us here in France, both from a reliabilty as well as a pace point of view. The team arrived here very well prepared and also straight from a test in Barcelona (Spain). We are continually developing the car and I am very pleased to see it all coming together during the race. Both Mark and Christian made good starts and their pace on track was more than competitive. To see both drivers racing the two BMW-Williams drivers was fantastic and to see just how close our pace was to that of the McLarens is a real boost. We are certainly starting to see the fruits of our hard labour. I, of course, would have liked to have achieved points but given there was no attrition and only one retirement our final positions are really encouraging. We are now very focused going into our home race and I am looking forward to seeing the R5's racing on their home turf."
Cristiano da Matta (14th): "I think the hot weather was detrimental to us in today's race, particularly in the way our car was set up. The situation was the same for everyone, but it is apparent from the final results that we suffered a lot more. I cannot really pinpoint a specific reason, but the car was simply a lot slower compared to what we showed it could do on Friday and Saturday. The only thing that has been different today is the temperature, but we have to look deeply into the data to see what caused such a big drop off in performance."
Olivier Panis (15th): "I had a problem at the very start of the race when the clutch got stuck and the antistall was activated, which is why I lost all the places. That was very painful for me and I am sure also for the team. There was one main problem today, namely that we were not quick enough to fight with the cars in front of us. However disappointing today's results are for everyone at Toyota, we must immediately look ahead to Silverstone to keep concentrated, motivated and continue to do our best."
Tsutomu Tomita, Team Principal: "A very disappointing race performance given our level of competitiveness in qualifying. Olivier's race was compromised at the start when the antistall came in unexpectedly, which dropped him to the back of the field and meant that he got caught up in traffic. Cristiano also got caught up in traffic in the first round of pit stops, which lost him a lot of time. But overall, the cars were not quick enough today. We have to investigate the reasons why our race pace was so far off the levels we achieved in practice and qualifying. On a positive note, we got two cars to the finish, so the reliability of the TF104 remains good and we look forward to the improvements of the car that are coming soon."
Nick Heidfeld (16th): "It was not a good race for us today but it's easier to handle as there was no chance for points anyway with most of the cars finishing. Unfortunately I had a poorer start than my teammate again and I have tried to analyse that over the last weeks. I overtook him after the first pit stop and then later there was a misunderstanding with my engineer so I went through the pit lane once too often and I was behind Giorgio again then passed him again. Overall the balance of the car has been better at most other races so far. With new tyres the rears were good for a few laps and then dropped off and I had a lot of graining on the front. Added to that there was a lot of lapping and blue flags. A difficult race."
Giorgio Pantano (17th): "It was good that we finished the race as it's quite a long time since I did that. I had a really good start then I felt some problems with the car especially with braking. Finishing reliably is the positive thing to take from here and then let's get going to the next race."
James Robinson, Director of Race and Test Engineering: "This has been a weekend we would like to pass over and move on from. In terms of reliability it was clearly good to get two cars to the end, but performance-wise, from where we started on the grid we couldn't make much impression and with only two cars dropping out we couldn't move forward. We're looking ahead to Silverstone, our home race, where we will be in a few days' time and hopefully we will get a better result there."
Gianmaria Bruni (18th): "I had a good start and was really thinking we might have a good race, but the performance was compromised during the first 20 or 30 laps by some problems with the set-up of the car. In the last stint, however, we reset the tyre pressures and found the right balance. Mechanically, the car was fine, but unfortunately, right close to the end of the race the telemetry indicated there was a gearbox oil leak and the team asked me to come into the pits on the very last lap rather than risk some expensive damage. It's a shame not to have been able to take the chequered flag today, but we did the most we could."
Zsolt Baumgartner (DNF, Spin): "I made a good start and it was clear the car was nicely balanced. I was able to pass Gimmi straightaway, and although he re-passed me at Adelaide, I was able to push him hard after that. Unfortunately, though, I made a small mistake at turn three, soon after my second stop, and the car went into the gravel. I'm upset not to have been able to finish the race today. We'll just have to aim to do better in the next race, at Silverstone."
Paul Stoddart, Team Principal: "Today's race was all about reliability and sadly, from Minardi's point of view, with only one mechanical retirement - that of Sato - the finish proved reasonably predictable. Both Minardi drivers were having a good scrap, with nothing much between them in terms of lap times, until Zsolt ended up in the gravel shortly after making his second pit stop. Gimmi, on the other hand, drove a solid race to get to the end. The team is now looking forward to Silverstone, which will pose a quite different set of technical challenges compared with Magny-Cours."