OCTOBER 10, 2004
JAPANESE GP - SUNDAY - RACE NOTES
Schumacher wins Japanese GP
Michael Schumacher won the Japanese Grand Prix, at Suzuka, in his Ferrari by 14 seconds, after starting from pole position, to take his 83rd career victory.
The win was Schumacher's 13th of the 17 races held so far this season - with only one race remaining.
Second place went to his brother Ralf Schumacher in his Williams-BMW. Third place went to British driver Jenson Button in his BAR-Honda, 19 seconds behind the leader. His team mate Takuma Sato - in his home Grand Prix - finished in fourth place, 31 seconds behind.
Fifth place went to Fernando Alonso in his Renault, followed by Kimi Raikkonen in his McLaren-Mercedes and Juan Pablo Montoya in the second Williams-BMW.
The final points paying position went to Giancarlo Fisichella in the Sauber-Pertronas.
Rubens Barrichello and David Coulthard collided on lap 39, both having to retire with damage.
Michael Schumacher (1st): "This was a historic day for Formula 1, taking pole and the win on the same day. It was certainly exciting, but I think I prefer the old system! This one is quite stressful for the engineers and mechanics. We wanted to do well for Bridgestone in their home race to thank them for all their efforts. The fact that I did not do well in China, certainly helped my qualifying in terms of when I made my run in pre-qualifying. It was clear to us that we would have a strong race pace, but after the start, I had Ralf in my mirrors for quite a while and the gap between us was not growing as quickly as I had expected and he was certainly hanging on. Because there had been no running yesterday, it was hard to understand what the other teams' race strategies would be and before the race, I was concerned about this. But in the end, it all worked out fine and I had a trouble free race."
Rubens Barrichello (DNF, Damage): "I was certainly penalised in qualifying by being first out in the wet pre-qualifying. It was a shame about the incident with Coulthard. I think I caught him by surprise, he didn't see me, closed the door and we touched. It was a racing incident. I was having a great race, the car was very good and I was doing excellent lap times. In the early stages, I got stuck behind Montoya and Trulli, but then I was able to push very hard. The set-up was really good and the team did a fantastic job of finding the right solution in a rush. Now, I head for Brazil, thinking only of the way things went in Monza and China."
Jean Todt, Team Principal: "Fifteen wins, thirteen of them with Michael, from the seventeen races held so far. The numbers say it all. After taking a fantastic pole this morning, Michael dominated the race, leading from start to finish. The car was perfect, the Bridgestone tyres were perfect, and the team did a perfect job of handling this day which was different to any other, because of what happened yesterday. After qualifying, we knew Rubens would have to make his way through the field and despite having a very competitive car, it was hard for him to overtake. He fought for around half the race, making up several places before retiring with broken front suspension, following a collision with Coulthard. We were targeting the win here and we are happy to have succeeded. We were keen to do so for a variety of reasons, first of all because this is the home race for Bridgestone, a partner that plays a fundamental role in our success. It is good to see that our will to win is as strong as ever, even though we have hit all the targets we set ourselves quite a while ago and our team has set so many new records. Now we want to end the season on a high what has been the longest season in the history of Formula 1 with another win in Brazil."
Ross Brawn, Technical Director: "After China, Michael was determined to do well again and today, we saw him at his best. Everything worked very well and I must congratulate the whole team for putting the car together in a way that was pretty much spot-on for the race, with very little prior practice. Once we saw the others' pit stop strategies, it was just a case of controlling the race. Tyre choice was the proverbial educated guess and I don't know if it was the best choice, but the tyres were excellent, consistent and also quick on the first lap. They worked well with our aggressive strategy. We are so pleased to have won the race in Japan with Bridgestone, at their home grand prix. Rubens was having a good race, driving really quickly and his car was going well, so it was just a shame that he collided with Coulthard, but he had no option but to push hard."
Ralf Schumacher (2nd): "The start went ok and I was surprised I was able to follow Michael. I pitted four laps earlier than he did, so he was obviously heavier. But after the pit stop I got stuck in traffic and when you are fighting at the back it is always difficult. Our car was good today. We chose the right strategy and the result speaks for itself. We had a good overall weekend considering the good starting position I achieved. We also widened the gap to McLaren which is important. Now I am happy to go back home and celebrate with my family."
Juan Pablo Montoya (7th): "My starting position compromised my race today. I got stuck in traffic and I was losing between one and two seconds every lap. The best I could do in that situation was collect some points, and that is what I managed to do. I can only hope my poor position today will maybe give me an advantage so as to get into a good qualifying position at the next race, as Ralf had here."
Sam Michael, Technical Director: "Today we achieved a good result with regards to the FW26 performance and constructors' points. Ralf drove a fantastic race, typical text book style. The fast work of the pit crew at the stops was fundamental to get Ralf's result, to help him avoid traffic. Juan did a good job to come from where he qualified helped by some aggressive overtaking. Both cars were well balanced for the race, which is interesting after the little time we had to look after the set-up. We had no mechanical problems."
Dr. Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director: "Considering the difficult circumstances of this year's Japanese Grand Prix, it has been a very successful weekend for our team. Ralf demonstrated excellent performance in the qualifying and in the race. After he had quite a hard time he achieved a podium again. This means fresh motivation for the entire team after a difficult season. Today's positive result was completed by the fact that Juan Pablo managed to grasp two points after having started 13th. Furthermore regarding the engines everything ran according to plan."
Kimi Raikkonen (6th): "A fairly uneventful race for me. I was struggling with the car and from 12th it's fairly limited what you can do. I didn't make a brilliant start, but I gained one place and that was really it. I had an incident with one of the Jordan cars when I was trying to lap it towards the end of the race at turn nine. Basically I was on the inside and he just turned in on me. He hit me quite hard and damaged my steering a bit, so I was struggling to keep the car on the road. A race to forget to be honest but bring on Brazil."
David Coulthard (DNF, Damage): "It goes without saying that I'm really disappointed with the end to my Japanese Grand Prix. We were looking to score points but unfortunately on lap 38 I had a coming together with Rubens at the Chicane whilst he was trying to pass me. I don't think anybody is to blame; it's just one of those things which happen when you are battling for positions. The incident broke the front right hand suspension and that was it, but it was a good race until then. I gained a place at the start but got stuck behind Webber, however when I finally got past I was immediately able to speed up. It was a shame for things to end this way - it would have been nice to have scored five points or even more."
Ron Dennis, Team Principal: "The finishing positions of the race pretty much reflected qualifying, which unusually took place on a Sunday morning on a drying circuit. David was lying fifth until the collision with Rubens. Kimi's sixth place from 12th on the grid was the result of the team's strategy which served both drivers well. We now all look forward to the final round of the 2004 World Championship in Brazil."
Norbert Haug, Mercedes Motorsport Director: "Not the result that we had hoped for but coming from grid positions eight and 12th your chances are limited. Unfortunately there was a misunderstanding between David and Rubens which cost David a good points scoring position because he was able to keep up with Takuma Sato and Jenson Button. Considering his grid position Kimi did a good job finishing sixth. We now look forward to the last race in Sao Paolo where we want to finish the season on a high."
Fernando Alonso (5th): "It was a good performance in the race today. Qualifying didn't really favour us today: I suppose that sometimes we get lucky with the conditions, like we did in Spa, and sometimes not. From eleventh position, the only thing to do was to go maximum attack. Unfortunately, when you start back in the field, you never have a clear track in the early laps - and it was only at the end of my first stint that I could run at my true pace. That meant I was no longer able to fight for the podium. I think I did the best I could have done today but unfortunately, the points I scored will be more useful in the drivers' championship than the constructors."
Jacques Villeneuve (10th): "When the race started, we quickly found that the set-up was not ideal for the dry conditions. The car was understeering a lot, so we added front downforce at both pit-stops, but I could not increase my pace in the final stint. It's a disappointing result, especially as our main rivals scored points with both cars this afternoon."
Pat Symonds, Executive Director of Engineering: "It was a very different day to normal and we had to choose strategies and tyres with a minimum of information, but of course everybody found themselves in the same situation. Fernando drove a strong race and had he not lost time early in his third stint, he might have been able to beat Sato. Jacques struggled with significant amounts of understeer, owing to the lack of time we had to set up the car, and that penalised him in the race."
Flavio Briatore, Managing Director: "Overall, this was a disappointing result after a difficult weekend for everybody. I think Fernando did the maximum today but the car was not quick enough to allow him to fight the cars in front. Looking to Brazil, it is hard to remain hopeful about our championship chances but as long as we have a possibility of re-gaining second position, then we will be motivated to try and seize it."
Jenson Button (3rd): "Achieving another podium is a fantastic result here as we celebrate BAR's 100th Grand Prix and in the 40th year since Honda's F1 debut, so I'm very happy. It's also a great team result, with Taku finishing 4th and our combined result enabling us to pull even further ahead of Renault. The car was very difficult to drive at first because with a two-stop strategy I was very heavy on fuel. As we got further into the race though, the car felt great and, once again, two-stopping really paid off for me. I think the last few races have demonstrated a great team effort by BAR, with Takuma and I achieving exactly the results we needed to beat Renault. The whole team should be very proud of that. There is still one race remaining though and although Renault will have a very very tough job on their hands to beat us, we'll wait until Brazil before celebrating what has been a pretty amazing year for BAR."
Takuma Sato (4th): "It was great that we managed to have a race this afternoon after yesterday's cancellation, although it was extremely difficult to work out the set-up as we were not able to practice on a dry track. That's why we ran two different strategies to enable us to cope with the widest range of possibilities. As it turned out, I was not able to get the result that I wanted and be on the podium, but at the end of the day, it was a great result for the team and really helps us to secure 2nd in the Constructors' Championship. I felt so much support from my home fans; they were fantastic and really motivated me during the race. We have one more race left in Brazil and I will be doing my best to have another strong race performance there."
David Richards, Team Principal: "Third and fourth is an excellent result; giving us our 11th podium of the season, and for the second race in a row, BAR is the top scoring team. This really shows how consistently the combined efforts of BAR, Honda and Michelin are delivering, and gives us a tremendous foundation on which to build for next year. Taku is achieving very solid results, and despite the pressure of his home Grand Prix, he kept it all together and drove a faultless race. The fact that Jenson was two-stopping really underlined the strength of his fifth place on the grid, and he did well to keep up the pace on heavy fuel. In the end we still have a lot of work to do to take the race to Ferrari, but we are on the right track."
Geoffrey Willis, Technical Director: "In the last three races BAR has scored 33 points with another two- car finish and its 11th podium place at this important 'home' race We ran different race strategies with the two drivers and in the end Takuma was not quite able to make the small advantage of the three- stop work. It was difficult to find a good race set-up without any dry-running and this showed up with both drivers finding the car balance poor and low grip throughout the race. We have recently been working on improving our starts and this start showed the benefits with Takuma jumping Webber and Jenson beating them both. After the first few laps running just in front of Takuma, Jenson let him pass to allow them both to run at their own strategy pace. After that both drivers' races went much to plan. We were not quite quick enough to get ahead of Ralf Schumacher at the second stop and were helped by the collision between Coulthard and Barrichello, but were able to keep ahead of the Renaults throughout most of the race. This is just the result the team needed for the Constructors' Championship 2nd-place battle, allowing us to go to the last race with a 16-point advantage."
Shuhei Nakamoto, Honda Engineering Director: "A tenth podium for Jenson, and Taku's best-ever Suzuka finish is a pleasing result. Both drivers coped really well with qualifying on a drying track and drove very solid races. If I'm being greedy, I'd say it's a shame Taku couldn't join Jenson on the podium at his home race. We'll be aiming to round off the season with a strong performance at Interlagos!"
Giancarlo Fisichella (8th): "For me it was an excellent race. The car was really good, and my only problem came on lap 16 when I ran off the road briefly in the Spoon Curve. There was a sensor problem with the fuel alarm and I was just radioing the pits for a report; unfortunately I left my braking a little bit too late as I lost concentration, but I recovered quite well. The best I could have hoped for without that was seventh, so I'm happy. It was great to push hard all the way and do lots of overtaking. A point today was our target, and we achieved that."
Felipe Massa (9th): "I wasn't very happy with myself after my mistake in qualifying, but I think I made up for that in the race today! It was fantastic! I really enjoyed myself. I was able to push hard right from the start and I did a lot of overtaking. I pulled some really good moves, so it was really, really satisfying."
Peter Sauber, Team Principal: "Apart from the extra point we scored, the highlight of today's race was the performance of Giancarlo and Felipe. Giancarlo proved his complete professionalism by recovering strongly from his moment and pushing hard all the way, while Felipe's drive demonstrated once more his great fighting spirit. Together, they proved that overtaking is possible in Formula One. My compliments to the team, who once again underlined the reliability and speed of the Sauber Petronas C23."
Christian Klien (12th): "My start was ok today and I did my best to maintain my position although with a Ferrari behind me this was not do-able. I was also in an unfortunate position in that I had not had any dry practice on this track and so the race was really my first opportunity to learn the track. As the race progressed I became more comfortable with the track and the car and although we had not had any time to set-up the car the balance was ok. The circuit is incredibly challenging on the car and driver and I was pleased that my race went smoothly and I was able to finish. It's disappointing for us not to have scored points but the pace of the car was really good and I am now really looking forward to the race in Brazil."
Mark Webber (DNF, Retired): "Starting from third position on the grid today was a good result after all the hard work that has been carried out at Jaguar Racing during this season. The team did an excellent job in preparing the car for this weekend, despite the lack of practice that we experienced in the run up to today. Unfortunately my start was not as good as I would have liked and I lost three places. Then I was being held up by the Toyota of Jarno Trulli so that was frustrating for us. It was then on lap seven that I noticed that the cockpit was becoming increasingly hot and in particular my right-hand side. I pitted as planned on lap eleven and the team tried to cool me down and solve the problem. We could not find the cause for the heat and so I carried on in the hope that it would cool down or at least remain static. It didn't and the heat soon became excruciatingly hot and I had no option but to retire. You need to be completed focused on the race and when the temperature is so high that you are being physically affected and thus distracted then you need to take the decision to stop. I am of course disappointed that I could not have continued with the race and finished in the points. We enjoyed a good morning today and I hope that by securing third in qualifying goes some way to rewarding the team for their unwavering commitment and in addition highlights the pace and future potential of our car."
Mark Gillan, Head of Vehicle Performance: "Mark's start was not good and he lost three places by the first corner. He then started to fight back and was being held up by Jarno Trulli. On lap seven he mentioned the increase in temperature in his cockpit area and when he first pitted we tried to sort it. A forced pit stop later to further investigate the problem and it was clear that the heat was only getting worse. Eventually on lap twenty-one he had to stop racing due to the dangerous conditions being generated by the heat. This is of course frustrating for us all, but the pace of the car was excellent this morning and given the lap numbers when other teams carried out their first-stop you know that his pace in qualifying was impressive. Christian did a good job today since he has had no dry practice on this circuit and actually only twelve laps in total before the race. He brought the car home and drove solidly. It's been a bit of a roller-coaster ride of emotions today but we know what we are capable of and we will travel to Brazil focused on the task ahead and upbeat about our potential as a team."
Jarno Trulli (11th): "I do not think that we could have achieved anything better today. After a good qualifying, which put me sixth on the grid; I got a good start and was up to fifth place at the end of the first lap. Unfortunately, during the race, there was a big tyre drop-off, which compromised the car balance and grip levels and made it a tough afternoon for me. However, there are only positives to take away from this weekend; it was my race debut for Panasonic Toyota Racing and I gathered a lot of valuable experience, which was my priority here in Suzuka this weekend."
Olivier Panis (14th): "Although I am not satisfied with the result, we did our best in today's race. We took a risk with the tyre choice after the bad weather restricted our running on Friday, but I had a lot of graining this afternoon and I simply could not push. I am very happy that I could complete my last F1 race in front of all the Japanese fans. To stop racing after eleven years is a special moment. I would like to thank everyone in Panasonic Toyota Racing for two enjoyable years, all the support and for the F1 car that has been generously given to me as a gift. Although I have stopped racing, this is not the end because I have signed a two-year contract as third driver. Now we have to continue the challenge."
Tsutomu Tomita, Team Principal: "I think it was always going to be a difficult race for us today. Both drivers did a good job in qualifying this morning to put both cars in the top ten. In the race, Olivier did not have a good start and then struggled on the softer compound Michelin tyre for the whole race. Jarno, on the harder compound, fought very strongly and was racing near the front for some time. Unfortunately, he also had difficulty with tyre degradation and ended up in 11th place at the chequered flag. Overall, I am impressed with how easily Jarno has settled into Toyota. It was a hard race debut for him, but I think we have worked well together as a team. I would like to thank all the Toyota fans and employees who turned up to support us this weekend in our 50th Grand Prix. Their level of enthusiasm is highly appreciated as we look to great achievements in the future. On behalf of the whole team, I also thank Olivier for his contribution over the last two seasons. We are all looking forward to working with him for the next two years."
Nick Heidfeld (13th): "I got a good start and gained a position or two. For the first part of the race I had quite a loose rear and we made some adjustments at the first pit stop, which certainly helped. I had one or two small electronic issues, maybe something on the gearbox as on one of the pit stops I couldn't get into neutral. Also at one point suddenly the pit lane speed limiter was on while I was on the circuit and I lost a couple of seconds there. Otherwise, I think in the circumstances, given that we did not have a lot of time to practice here, I'm happy with our starting set-up and what we achieved in the race."
Timo Glock (15th): "My start and first couple of laps were not too bad but overall it was difficult today. The car set-up was not that good and I had everything: oversteering, understeering, changes in the pit stops didn't seem to help much and the car didn't feel easy to drive. I had big problems and couldn't find a rhythm. Added to that I had gear problems and a crash with Kimi Raikkonen that I didn't see coming ? all in all it was a bad race for me."
James Robinson, Director of Race and Test Engineering: "It was a hard race and we had a number of technical problems. We had to limit Timo's performance because of an engine problem, which was unfortunate, and although Nick had a good hard race, from where we qualified it was tough to make any impression. It was a challenging day for Timo but given his first lap around here in the dry was lap one of the race today, we feel he came through okay. We are all looking forward now to the last race in Brazil."
Gianmaria Bruni (16th): "It turned out to be quite an uneventful race, but it was good to finish here at Suzuka, as that is always the first ambition of the team. We struggled with the package we have, though, and in particular today with oversteer, but I'm looking forward to Brazil now and hoping to get another solid finish there."
Zsolt Baumgartner (DNF, Spin): "Overall, it was not my weekend here at Suzuka, although my pace in the race wasn't too bad, especially considering I had never driven in the dry here before. I like high-speed circuits, which is probably why I got used to this one quite quickly. Unfortunately, I made a mistake while pushing really hard after my final stop and went off the track. I'm upset not to have finished, particularly for the guys, as I caused them quite a lot of work this weekend. I'd like to thank them for their efforts."
Paul Stoddart, Team Principal: "In what proved to be a difficult weekend for Minardi, it was satisfying at least to get one car home, with Gimmi taking the chequered flag. Both drivers drove solid races, although Zsolt unfortunately spun off just after making his final pit stop of the afternoon and failed to finish."