AUGUST 29, 2004
BELGIAN GP - SUNDAY - RACE NOTES
Raikkonen wins, Schumacher takes seventh title
In an action packed Belgian Grand Prix, Kimi Raikkonen in his McLaren-Mercedes held off Michael Schumacher by 3.1 seconds to take his first victory of the 2004 season.
Schumacher clinched his seventh Drivers World Championship in his Ferrari, his Brazilian team mate Rubens Barrichello finished third.
At the start Jarno Trulli led from pole, with both Fernando Alonso and David Coulthard getting around Michael Schumacher, but the Safety Car was called out when Takuma Sato and Mark Webber collided at Rau Rouge. Barrichello had banged with Webber at the first corner, and had to come in to the pits to replace his rear wing, and was running in last at the first restart.
Trulli led the opening laps until his first pit stop, but was punted by Montoya in the Bus Stop chicane and fell back after that. Alonso then led, until spinning out on his own oil leaking from his Renault.
Raikkonen held a 12 second led with 14 laps to go until the second of three safety car periods occurred when Jenson Button's BAR-Honda suffered a tyre failure and took himself and Zsolt Baumgartner out of the race.
Antonio Pizzonia and Juan Pablo Montoya were running in third and fourth places late in the race, when first Pizzonia fell out with a gearbox problem, and then Montoya retired with a tyre puncture.
David Coulthard brought out the third Safety Car period when he touched Christian Klien at 180 mph, breaking his front wing. Coulthard was able to rejoin the race without losing a lap to finish in the points.
Fourth and Fifth places went to the Saubers of Felipe Massa and Giancarlo Fisichella.
Christian Klien scored his first ever points, coming home in sixth in his Jaguar. Coulthard was seventh and picking up the final point was Olivier Panis in his Toyota.
Michael Schumacher (2nd): "Every title has felt different and has given me different emotions. This one is very special, coming here in Spa which means so much to me and to do it for the seventh time at Ferrari's seven hundredth grand prix is also something special. I am very proud to have done it with such an exceptional team, who have done an amazing job - look at the way they got Rubens back on track. In fact Rubens drove a great race today. This is what makes our team so strong. Of course, I would have preferred to have taken the title with a win, but it was not possible. The better man won today, but I am quite happy with what I have achieved. All three of us on the podium today have reason to celebrate. On the track I struggled to get my tyres up to the right temperature and pressure when we were behind the Safety Car, but it was not a surprise for us, especially as it was quite cool today."
Rubens Barrichello (3rd): "At the moment, it is hard for me to think straight, finishing third after what happened at the start. It is a magic feeling. The team were speaking to me as though we were chatting in a living room, telling me to keep calm and explaining what they were doing. If I was unlucky with the accident, I was lucky with the Safety Car. I was not sure what happened, but I felt the car weaving from side to side and it turned out I had a puncture and also a damaged wing and the team made the right decision to change the tyre and then to bring me in again for the wing. After the restarts I found it hard to follow other cars. The team did a superb job and I kept pushing hard all the time. My car was actually very good apart from the small problem with warming up the tyres."
Jean Todt, Team Principal: "It was an incredible and action packed race, with the safety car on track no less than three times following accidents. In the end, we took second place with Michael and third with Rubens. This result means that Michael takes a fifth consecutive Drivers' title with Ferrari, the seventh of his career, while Rubens consolidates his second place in the classification. Once again, the race highlighted that the Bridgestone tyres are very reliable. I am also pleased that Massa and Fisichella finished fourth and fifth which is a cause for satisfaction for my friend Peter Sauber and means that four of our engines finished in the top five. Obviously, we have got used to the taste of victory this season, but I have to say that today's fourteen points are particularly satisfying and significant. In Budapest we won the Constructors' title and here, Michael has clinched the Drivers.' This team is writing a unique chapter in the history of Ferrari and for that, I want to thank president Montezemolo, our drivers, our shareholders and our partners, without whose support and efforts we would not have been able to achieve what we have done."
Ross Brawn, Technical Director: "It was a busy race with not a moment's peace on the pit wall. I think Michael drove a very cautious race, trying not to take any unnecessary risks. He knew that he had to finish ahead of Rubens and so he did. Furthermore, the three safety car periods did not help us, because at the restarts, our tyres did not get up to temperature immediately. Rubens drove a really great race: finishing on the podium after what happened at the start and his two consecutive pit stops is fantastic. McLaren were very strong today, but it would have been interesting to see what would have happened in a straight fight without the safety cars. In any case, we cannot be unhappy with a second and third place. I am very proud of this team. What it has won over the past six years represents something incredible."
Juan Pablo Montoya (DNF, Retired): "Bad luck again, today. The car was really good and I was having a good race and running third with a few laps to go, but then the right rear tyre failed, and some other parts of the car were damaged forcing me to retire. That's racing, what can you do? It's not the first time that this has happened and probably not the last, but one has to accept it. Still, it was a good race. In spite of my poor grid position I had a good start and gained several places, helped by the accidents on the first lap. I'd climbed up to fifth by lap five and basically battled all race in the top positions. The team helped me by doing very good pit-stops and coming up with a good strategy so it's a real shame what happened to me and Antonio today."
Antonio Pizzonia (DNF, Gearbox): "What a shame! I hadn't had the smallest problem with my car all race and then, suddenly, I lost all the gears when I was running third. Bad day for the team and it's a true pity that Juan Pablo failed to finish too, but this is motor racing, isn't it? I came to Spa thinking that I could achieve my first podium in F1 here and I proved this was possible, but I was hoping for a better outcome. Still, today we showed a strong performance and this is what we have to take away form here."
Sam Michael, Technical Director: "For us, it was obviously a disappointing race in terms of the final results. However, it was encouraging competing at the front again, while our cars where running. Antonio drove well and Juan Pablo showed his overtaking skills again. Antonio lost drive on his car and had to stop on the track. On Juan's car, we had a tyre failure which damaged the rear suspension and the rear wing. He managed to drive the car back to the pits but could not continue."
Dr. Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director: "This was more than an eventful race today, with all the dramas that one would normally see in half a season and a very unfortunate outcome for us. When our drivers were running in third and fourth positions, Antonio suddenly lost drive. A bit later, Juan Pablo had a tyre failure, the rear of his car got damaged and he had to retire. The remarkable number of tyre failures today needs to be carefully analysed for safety reasons. Congratulations to Kimi Raikkonen for a convincing victory and to Michael Schumacher for winning his seventh Drivers' Title."
Kimi Raikkonen (1st): "I could not hope for a better result today. It has been a tough season this year, we have been close to a good result a couple of times already, and finally the good work of the entire team on track, in Woking, Brixworth and Stuttgart has been rewarded with a win. The race itself was tough as I suffered a little damage to the floor of the car after the start when Felipe Massa hit me from behind, but that did not hamper my performance. Then from lap eight onwards I experienced problems with the downshift throughout the race, which affected the breaking at the hairpin, however despite all this we achieved an exceptional result."
David Coulthard (7th): "It was a good result for the team today. From my side it was quite an eventful race having lost a tyre before going in for my first pitstop from third position. I had a lot of work to do to get back in the points. I had managed to move up to be in eighth position when I lost my front wing, colliding with Klien. So all in all seventh place is a reasonable result from the day"
Ron Dennis, Team Principal: "A tremendous result for the team, the whole day speaks for itself. It was particularly satisfying when taking into account the safety car deployment on three occasions. Kimi's fastest lap on the penultimate lap of the race was absolutely sensational. David's puncture meant that he did not achieve the result he should have today, but seventh in the difficult circumstances was worth having."
Norbert Haug, Mercedes Motorsport Director: "Congratulations to Kimi for a great race. Despite having a gear selection problem from the beginning he managed to achieve the fastest lap of today. The whole team have worked so hard to make this win possible. It's a pity that David didn't have the chance to finish higher up following his tyre damage early on, but speed wise he definitely was a candidate for the podium. Well done to everyone in the team, and thank you for all your efforts in Woking, Brixworth and Stuttgart. Congratulations to Michael Schumacher and Ferrari for winning the World Championship."
Jarno Trulli (9th): "I don't know what happened today. Things seemed quite good in the first stint, but then after my first stop, the car became undriveable. I lost grip at the rear, and had no confidence through the high-speed corners, which penalises you all the way round the circuit here at Spa. I am very upset with this performance, but right now, I just want to understand what happened."
Fernando Alonso (DNF, Spin): "To retire from the lead of a race is never good, and especially at this stage of the season. We looked competitive compared to Raikkonen and the other cars, and I was just beginning to run at my full pace when the car spun round on the entry to turn 5. I got going again, but then it happened again into turn 8, and when I got out, I could see the left rear was covered in oil. I'm just disappointed, because it was a good chance for a strong result today."
Pat Symonds, Executive Director of Engineering: "After an extremely promising day yesterday, this is a very disappointing result. Fernando spun off with what appeared to be an oil leak on the rear tyres. Jarno struggled with the balance of his car throughout the race, and we need to check our data in order to try and find out why."
Flavio Briatore, Managing Director: "This result is a major disappointment for the team. We had a great chance to score points today and strengthen our position in the championship, even after Fernando had retired, but instead we came away empty-handed. Fernando suffered from a reliability problem, and we need to resolve this before the final four races of the season. As for Jarno's loss in performance, we are at a loss to explain what happened. It is only a small consolation that BAR failed to score points today either."
Jenson Button (DNF, Accident): "I got a bad start when I was hit by Pizzonia and went wide and into the back of Massa at turn one. I lost my front wing and had to pit at the end of the first lap. After that, the car was running reasonably well, we had a good fuel load and I felt pretty pleased with the balance of car. Towards the end of my race I felt that I had a problem on the rear and then the tyre let go, so I am very disappointed as we were confident that we would have been on the podium with our strategy. We now look forward to testing again in Monza next week and maintaining our challenge against Renault at the next race."
Takuma Sato (DNF, Accident): "What a race today! We could have finished in a strong position and personally I was extremely disappointed after we had a really good start and I was running in 8th position. I then saw Mark Webber going downhill towards Eau Rouge extremely slowly with his front wing missing and the problem was that he was in the middle of the racing line, so that is why I had to hit the brakes quite hard to avoid him. Montoya was overtaking me on the right-hand side at the top of the hill whilst I was passing Webber on his right, and I became sandwiched between the two cars. I didn't know what happened at the time, but Webber then hit me. We were confident that we could have delivered a strong result today, however, we have maintained our position in the Championship and will return to testing next week in Monza to prepare for the Italian Grand Prix in two weeks' time."
David Richards, Team Principal: "Well what can you say about a day like that? In fact, this has been a weekend that has thrown virtually everything at us! One has to look on the positive side, however, and with our nearest rivals also failing to score, we have preserved the status quo in terms of Championship position and there is everything to fight for in the remaining four races of the season."
Geoffrey Willis, Technical Director: "This is a obviously a disappointing result with the team failing to score points for the first time this year. Takuma's race was stopped on lap one when he was hit by Webber in Eau Rouge. Jenson had to pit to replace his front wing and with good pit work by the team we were able to use the resulting safety car without losing places. By keeping to our original plan and running a long first stint we had made a very good recovery from our qualifying position. Unfortunately when running in fifth place, shortly before his second stop, a sudden puncture at 200mph into Les Combs spun him into a collision with Baumgartner, but thankfully neither driver was hurt in the high-speed impact. It is a shame that we didn't finish because Jenson had a good chance of being on the podium, but fortunately the results mean that we haven't lost our relative position in the Championship and we are confident that we will be competitive in the last four races."
Shuhei Nakamoto, Honda Engineering Director: "It seems extraordinary that after a race like that our championship position has not changed at all in relation to our nearest competitors. This is the first race this year where we haven't scored any points and it is disappointing that our record has been broken by a couple of accidents but sometimes you have days like this in racing. We must work hard at the Monza test this weeek."
Felipe Massa (4th): "After two laps I was feeling so disappointed! I locked up at La Source at the start and didn't see Kimi on the outside until we touched, then Sato really hit the back of my car. I pitted for a new rear wing, but stopped again a lap later because the steering was vibrating really badly. After that the car was still shaking but I was able to attack. You might say I was lucky in the circumstances, but I believe that today I was recompensed for all the bad luck I have had in the last five races. The team did a fantastic job for me. Perhaps I could have had my first podium here today, but I prefer to see fourth as my best ever result. What made it more special was to have my family here this weekend, and I want to dedicate this result to my maternal grandfather Fernando Coelho dos Santos, who died yesterday."
Giancarlo Fisichella (5th): "At the start somebody ran into the back of my car at La Source, and I lost some downforce because of damage to the rear wing and diffuser as a result. I was able to fight for points, but it was difficult and on lap 20 I momentarily went off the road in Turn 12 and lost a little more downforce by damaging a front wing endplate. It was also tough on the restarts keeping sufficient temperature in the tyres, so I really had my hands full with Klien. But to see our cars finish fourth and fifth was great. We deserved this."
Peter Sauber, Team Principal: "A fantastic race, very exciting for everyone. Our result shows what you can do with determination, a strong heart and a refusal to give in no matter what the odds. Felipe drove a beautiful race to recover from his early delays and thoroughly deserved to shake off his bad luck, while Giancarlo coped very well with a lot of handling problems resulting from the first corner damage and defended well in the closing stages. My thanks to both drivers, and to everyone for their team spirit and a strong and reliable car."
Christian Klien (6th): "What an amazing race for me! My start was fine as I managed to avoid a few incidents and also the debris on the track. I kept going when the safety car came out and pitted as normal. My three-stop strategy worked well and the guys in the team did a great job. When the safety car came out the second time I was behind the Toyota of Panis and as soon as it came in I managed to overtake him. The car is feeling great and I really enjoyed racing today. I could not believe the amount of action on-track and at times I was really concerned about the debris. I did my best to avoid it and then to have finished in 6th is just great. They are my first points and I am so pleased to be able to thank the team in this way for all their hard work. I am now going to focus very hard on the last four races and see what I can do to add to that tally. A fantastic weekend all-round."
Mark Webber (DNF, Accident): "I made a good start off the grid today and I was flying into La Source - the first corner. Unfortunately I made a mistake and braked too late. I was struggling to slow the car and I hit the Ferrari of Rubens Barrichello causing me to lose my front wing. I was making my way up eau-rouge and aiming to get back to the pits when I lost the steering and unfortunately through not fault of his own, Sato hit me and that was the end of my race. I am disappointed not to have completed the race as I really enjoy this circuit and I was very much looking forward to racing. The car has felt good all weekend and I am sorry not to have scored some points for the team. They have done an excellent job this weekend and we will now go to Monza for a three-day test when we will be looking to learn more about the car and prepare it in advance of our last European race."
Mark Gillan, Head of Vehicle Performance: "Mark made a good start and it was unfortunate that he clipped the Ferrari of Rubens on the first corner. That was really the end of his race as he had damaged his suspension. Christian also made a good start and he managed to steer clear of a lot of the debris on track. His pit-stops went as planned and he managed a good over-taking move on the Toyota of Panis. I am really delighted that he finished sixth and has scored his first points and to have scored three is just fantastic for the team. We are now seventh in the Constructors Championship so will be going to the remaining four races with the intention of scoring more points and retaining that position. A great weekend all round and one that accurately reflects the pace and reliability of the R5."
Olivier Panis (8th): "At the start, I hit one of the Saubers in front of me and I had to go back to the pits for a front wing and tyre change. After that I was at the back of the field, but I tried my best to recover the positions. The car ran quite well in the race with no big issues and I was able to make up ground. After the safety car periods, it was difficult to heat up the hard compound tyre we had opted to use, so I lost places to Klien and Coulthard. I took one point, which is the positive thing, but it was a day when we really could have scored more. I am disappointed for Ricardo and for everyone at Toyota. This was our first engine failure of the year, but at a time when we really didn't need it."
Ricardo Zonta (10th): "After the difficult qualifying session yesterday, it was very good for me to be running in fourth place in today's race before my engine blew. With three laps to go, I was certain that we had the car to hold on to that position. This was the chance that I have been waiting for many years, so I am obviously disappointed. I was pushing really hard throughout the race and it was nice to see a Toyota racing with a Ferrari towards the end. In my opinion, the team really demonstrated their potential here in Spa and I am happy with the job that everyone has done all weekend."
Tsutomu Tomita, Team Principal: "Today's Belgian Grand Prix was an encouraging, strong race for Panasonic Toyota Racing. We made all the right decisions regarding our Michelin tyre choice and race strategy, so it was a disappointing final result. To have been in a strong fourth position with just three laps to go and then have an engine failure was extremely cruel. Our engine reliability has been strong all season, so we will look into what caused the failure today. We have to remain positive. In the race, the strategy developed exactly as we expected it to. After a highly professional job from the team this weekend, we have to be pleased to go back to Cologne with Olivier's hard-earned championship point and look ahead to Monza with optimism."
Nick Heidfeld (11th): "My start was good but then there were a lot of things going on at the first corner and I was pushed to the outside, lost my front wing, and came in to change that and check the rest of the car. I had lost part of the barge boards on the right side but I guess there was no time to change them. After that I felt the balance of the car was very poor, with huge understeer and a lot of 'bottoming'. That's why I nearly went off once at Eau Rouge. We tried to compensate for the understeer with some wing changes, but I think the damage to the aero parts was just too much. The team called me in the lap after my first stop for another tyre and fuel stop, I'm not really sure why yet. On top of that I got more problems with the engine cutting out. So although I was scheduled to drive to the end I pitted again and switched off the engine for a very long stop while the team changed a part to fix the engine cut-outs and that worked out. Although at that stage there were only 4 or 5 more laps to go."
Giorgio Pantano (DNF, Accident): "I came out of the start and first corner quite well, but something was happening with a few other cars. As I arrived at the top of Eau Rouge, I saw Sato's car going off so I slowed down but then a Minardi appeared from the back and spun in front of me - there was nowhere for me to go. It was a bit scary! It's disappointing because I had a good start and with the number of people that retired I had the chance of doing a really good race today."
James Robinson, Director of Race and Test Engineering: "Once again Spa gave us a great race; it's unfortunate that we were not in the frame. The accidents and subsequent damage we suffered with both cars meant we were spectators to the day."
Zsolt Baumgartner (DNF, Accident): "We had a very good race and were consistently quicker than the Jordans. As a result, I was extremely happy with our race performance while we were running. I was really unlucky with the situation that developed with Button when he was right next to me and his tyre exploded, but it happened. I could not have done more today, but I would like to congratulate Michael for taking his seventh World Championship and Kimi for winning today's Belgian Grand Prix."
Gianmaria Bruni (DNF, Accident): "I made a very good start, was able to pass lots of cars, and was 14th going through Eau Rouge. Then Sato spun, and as he was coming back on the circuit, I lifted off a little and my team mate hit me from behind. That knocked me into the barrier and ended my race. It was a very unfortunate incident."
Paul Stoddart, Team Principal: "This was another case of the team deserving a better result than it actually achieved, especially as this was clearly Minardi's best-performing weekend of the year. To be involved in someone else's accident on the first lap, which eliminated Gimmi, and then for Zsolt to be the victim of what looks like a tyre blow-out on Jenson's car and taken out of the race, it's just really a sad way to finish the day. Both race drivers, our Friday test driver, Bas, and the whole team, have performed excellently this weekend. It's a shame the results don't reflect just how good a performance it was."