Japanese GP: Schuey strolls to 11th win

Any suggestion that Ferrari might rest on its laurels and allow the opposition a chance of victory in the season-ending Japanese Grand Prix was shot down in style as Michael Schumacher led home Rubens Barrichello by 0.5s to take Ferrari's ninth one-two of a dominant season. But it was Takuma Sato who made the headlines, with a great run to a well-deserved fifth place to secure sixth place in the Constructors' Championship for Jordan

Japanese GP: Schuey strolls to 11th win

Michael Schumacher made a superb start to lead comfortably from pole position, with his team-mate riding shotgun after holding off the challenge of David Coulthard on the inside of the first corner.

Williams driver Ralf Schumacher, who along with Coulthard is one of only two non-Ferrari drivers to win in 2002, settled into fourth place from fifth on the grid ahead of Kimi Raikkonen and team-mate Juan-Pablo Montoya. Qualifying sensation Sato held his impressive seventh place ahead of the fast-starting Renaults of Jarno Trulli and Jenson Button, and had a tough job on his hands to hold back the French manufacturer's charge.

Back at the front, Michael Schumacher stretched his legs, leading Barrichello by 2.2s at the end of lap one, the closest that anyone would get to the German all afternoon.

Coulthard's third place came to naught as he slowed with a serious misfire and pulled into the pits at the end of his seventh tour. His fourth DNF of the season ended his small chance of leapfrogging one or both Williams drivers in the drivers' championship, forcing him to settle for a creditable fifth place in the standings.

The top ten remained stable in the aftermath of Coulthard's retirement, with only Sato seemingly under any pressure from the unrelenting Renault duo. Trulli and Button commenced the first round of pit-stops by pulling in for fuel and tyres after 16 laps, and when Sato emerged after his stop some five laps later he found himself lagging behind the French cars in eighth place.

Michael Schumacher headed into the pits with a cushion of around seven seconds, and returned to the race with that margin intact. Team-mate Barrichello also enjoyed a trouble free turnaround, and was by now well over 15 seconds to the good in second place ahead of Ralf Schumacher. A similarly smooth second round of Ferrari pit-stops shortly before the 40 lap mark meant that only an error or mechanical problem could deny the Scuderia another double top.

Ralf Schumacher appeared to have won the battle for the final podium slot before a mechanical problem with four laps remaining forced him into retirement. This promoted Raikkonen and Montoya to third and fourth place respectively, and the Colombian's three points were more than enough to secure third in the drivers' championship ahead of his team-mate.

The real story of the race was Sato. Having slipped behind the Renaults at the first stop, a series of strong in-laps and good pit-work from the Jordan crew earned him a timely fifth place. These were Sato's only points of a troubled season, and will do his chances of securing a drive for next season no harm should Jordan not retain him.

Jenson Button claimed a farewell point on his Renault swansong, with Nick Heidfeld missing out on a point in seventh place after a solid run from 12th on the grid. Team-mate Felipe Massa, however, endured a difficult run to Grand Prix racing after sitting out the United States Grand Prix. The Brazilian ran 11th in the first few laps before being passed by BAR's Jacques Villeneuve, but posted the first retirement of the race when he clipped a kerb on the entry to the second Degner Curve and spun into the barrier.

Villeneuve also failed to make the finish after a spectacular Honda engine failure at half distance left him to join team-mate Olivier Panis, the victim of a hydraulic problem, in retirement and leaving BAR to finish eighth in the championship.

Jaguar was forced to settle for seventh in the Constructors' standings behind Jordan after Eddie Irvine could manage only ninth place behind out-going Toyota driver Mika Salo. Both enjoyed trouble-free runs, although Irvine's Jaguar team-mate Pedro de la Rosa pulled out with a technical problem 13 laps from home while running outside the top 10.

Mark Webber rounded off Minardi's season with 10th place, while team-mate Alex Yoong ended what was probably his final Grand Prix with a second spin of the race into the gravel.

Toyota's Allan McNish, who had a massive accident at 130R in qualifying, was unable to start his final race for the manufacturer and missed out on a last chance to impress potential employers in the hope of finding a ride for 2003.

But it was yet again Ferrari's day. Schumacher's record-extending 11th victory of 2002 rounded off a season of spectacular dominance for the team, and also, with the help of Barrichello's four wins, equaled McLaren's record of 15 wins in a season.

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