Montoya wins Brazilian GP
|Sunday, October 24th 2004, 18:26 GMT|
Juan Pablo Montoya ended his Williams career on a high with a hard fought victory in the rain affected Brazilian Grand Prix, holding off McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen by just one second. Local hero Rubens Barrichello finished a distant third.
Front row starter Montoya recovered from a poor start on a damp track to play his strategy perfectly as he overtook Raikkonen for the lead on lap six immediately after the first round of pit-stops – following a side-by-side dice out of the pits. The future McLaren team-mates pushed each other hard right until the finish.
Pole man Barrichello was hampered by his Bridgestone tyres not performing to their best in the early damp conditions as his Ferrari lacked the pace of the Michelin-shod front-runners as he slipped back in the early part of the race. His recovery was still good enough to land him a place on the podium.
Renault's Fernando Alonso, who took a gamble by starting the race on dry tyres, grabbed a well earned fourth place but it was not enough to prevent sixth placed Takuma Sato sealing the runners-up spot in the constructors' championship for his BAR team.
Ralf Schumacher finished fifth, two places ahead of brother Michael Schumacher who recovered from his 18th position on the grid slot. The final points position went to Sauber's Felipe Massa.
With drizzle coming down before the race, it was ultra slippery for the start and the conditions clearly favoured the Bridgestone intermediates – although Alonso, David Coulthard and Jacques Villeneuve all took the gamble of starting on Michelin's dry weather tyres.
Barrichello got away cleanly at the start but Raikkonen grabbed the lead on the run down the backstraight into Turn 4. Behind the leading two cars Massa had briefly got up to third, but Michelin's intermediates seemed to be performing better than expected. That helped Button and Montoya to slip past Massa on the first lap
Raikkonen could not pull clear of Barrichello as there was drama further back on the third lap as Michael Schumacher, who had leap-frogged from 18th on the grid to 12th, spun at Turn 2 as he battled with Christian Klien.
Barrichello dived past Raikkonen for the lead at the first turn on lap four after a brilliant run down the start-finish straight, just as Jenson Button's Honda engine expired – having thrown out plumes of smoke on the starting grid.
"It is very disappointing to have something happen before you start the race," said Button. "I thought as soon as I got going I could put it out, but we sat there so long. The engine was down on power for the three laps I completed, which is a pity because the car was working well and it could have been an interesting race."
By the start of lap five, Barrichello was more than one second clear as the Bridgestone intermediates appeared to be coming into form – while Alonso set a fastest lap more than two seconds faster than everyone else to prove that it was time for dry Michelins.
Raikkonen and Montoya duly pitted at the end of the lap for dry tyres, leaving Barrichello in front of Massa for a Brazilian 1-2. Michael Schumacher also stopped for dry Bridgestones.
The McLaren and Williams drivers battled it out side-by-side coming out of the pits and it was Montoya who edged ahead of his Finnish rival on the run into Turn 4.
At the end of lap six, Barrichello pitted – handing the lead briefly to Massa – but the Ferrari ace could not get out ahead of those cars that had stopped a lap earlier. Massa pitted at the end of the lap and that left Alonso at the front of the field, with his early gamble on tyres clearly having paid off, ahead of Montoya, Raikkonen, Ralf Schumacher and Takuma Sato. Barrichello was down in sixth.
Alonso began extending his advantage at the front of the field, pulling clear of Montoya by around eight seconds after 10 laps, with Raikkonen just one second further back.
Coulthard pitted from eighth at the end of lap 14 for his first scheduled stop, with Alonso coming in at the end of lap 17. The Spaniard's stop of 9.0 seconds was swift but it dropped him to sixth, about two seconds behind Barrichello but he did not have the pace to keep up with the speedy Brazilian.
Montoya continued to lap quickly at the front, having edged closer to the lead Renault over the previous laps, to try and build up an advantage at the front of the field. Raikkonen, now running second, had little in reserve as he fell away from the Williams.
Mark Webber's career with Jaguar came to an end at the first corner on lap 24 when he collided with team-mate Klien in their fight for tenth place. The Austrian rookie, who is without a drive for next season, had to pit at the end of the lap for a new nosecone.
Third placed Ralf Schumacher came in for this second stop at the end of lap 26, with Sato and Barrichello coming in one lap later. Race leader Montoya made his stop at the end of lap 28 – with him requiring the team to clean the inside of his visor which was steaming up in the humid weather conditions. Michael Schumacher also pitted that lap.
Raikkonen moved into the lead until the end of lap 29, and he resumed about six seconds behind Montoya. Alonso, whose early race tyre gamble left him out of synch with the other cars, moved up to third place, ahead of Ralf Schumacher, Sato and Barrichello – just as the rain started to fall again.
The greasy track caught out Sato at the first corner on lap 33 as he ran slightly wide, handing fifth place to Barrichello who was desperate to fight his way back to the front. Sato kept it together though, thankfully only losing time.
The circuit conditions did not deteriorate too much, though, and by the time Coulthard came in to stop from ninth at the end of lap 42 the drivers were having little dramas out on the track.
Alonso stopped from third at the end of lap 47 with Montoya at the front enjoying a five second advantage over Raikkonen. Ralf Schumacher was a further 15 seconds adrift, just ahead of Barrichello, before he stopped at the end of the following lap – although he lost time when he tried to leave the pits too early.
Barrichello stopped at the end of lap 49 before race leader Montoya made his final stop a lap later. His stop was troublefree and although it seemed he was set for victory, Williams was kept on the edge of its feet as Raikkonen pulled off a series of quick laps to try and cut the deficit.
Raikkonen eventually came in for his 6.8 second stop at the end of lap 55 but it was just not quick enough for him to get past Montoya as he resumed more than one second adrift of the lead.
With the lead guys now holding station, and Barrichello running an untroubled third, all attention shifted to the thrilling battle for fourth place. Alonso was at the head of a train of cars featuring Sato, Ralf Schumacher and Michael Schumacher – and it stayed that way until two laps from home with Ralf slipped past Sato.
Sauber's Felipe Massa took the final points scoring position, ahead of team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella and Renault's Jacques Villeneuve. Coulthard signed off his McLaren career with a disappointing 11th place.