BAR clinches second place

BAR-Honda clinched second place in the constructors' championship thanks to Takuma Sato's sixth place finish, and the Renault team's failure to place first and second in the final Formula 1 race of the year in Brazil. Jenson Button had been aiming to close the season out with a victory but stopped early with a blown engine (Click HERE for separate story)

BAR clinches second place

The result capped an extraordinary season for BAR, which comprised 11 podium finishes on its way to 119 points, placing it above Renault, Williams, McLaren and Sauber in the table. And although there were no victories, the team was by far the most consistent Michelin performer through 2004 with its rapid Geoff Willis-designed 006. It marked one of the most spectacular improvements in form of any team in recent history - last year BAR finished fifth in the table and scored 26 points.

"Today we can celebrate BAR's fantastic season and securing second place in the championship," said team principal David Richards afterwards. "In itself the race was rather disappointing, but we came here with the primary goal of containing any threat from Renault, and we achieved it.

"At the start of the year we set ourselves the objective of challenging the top three teams, and I think that now we have earned our place alongside the established elite. Jenson, Taku and Anthony [Davidson] have performed brilliantly all year, and third and eighth in the drivers' championship is just reward."

A tall order it may have been for Renault to finish 1-2, but early in the rain-hit race Renault's decision to start its drivers Fernando Alonso and Jacques Villeneuve on slicks looked to have paid off as the Spaniard stole an early lead and the Canadian stormed through the field. But as the track dried out, so the R24's pace disappeared and Alonso could manage no better than fourth in the end.

"The choice to start on dry tyres was really a big risk: the car was very hard to drive and I went off on the formation lap and the first lap!" said Alonso. "However, it gradually got better and I managed to take the lead, but after the first stop, I didn't have the pace to get on the podium. The car was understeering badly because of the graining during the second stint then we took a risk in leaving the tyres on.

"This meant I ultimately lost more grip but in spite of the problems, I attacked 100 percent all the way through, kept the other cars behind and thanks to that, I am fourth in the drivers' championship. That was my main goal today and I am delighted to have achieved it."

Villeneuve, drafted in to replace Jarno Trulli by the French team three races ago in an attempt to save second place in the contructors' race, perhaps failed to show the pace expected of him in China and Japan, but in Brazil his 10th place result belied a far more competitive performance.

"I think my race pace was actually very good today," said the 1997 world champion. "I was behind Fernando in the first laps and it would have been too much of a risk to try overtaking in the conditions. I lost time when the track was wet but after that, I feel we were quite quick in the second and third stints.

"I didn't manage to score any points at Renault but I think my performances got better and better with each race. It was very tough to adapt."

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