Ralf hails podium return

Ralf Schumacher believes that a near perfect choice of strategy was the decisive factor in helping his Williams team return to the podium for the first time since it was disqualified from his second place finish in Canada in June

Ralf hails podium return

The German's strong second placed finish in Japan, which is Williams' first official podium since Juan Pablo Montoya's third placed finish at the San Marino Grand Prix in April, came after the team's three-stop strategy allowed the FW26 to comfortably outpace Jenson Button's third-placed BAR.

And although the team has made progress with its car since a difficult mid-season period and a ditching of its walrus-nose, Schumacher believed it was the strategy choice that provide crucial.

"The car was good, it was even good in the wet I must say," said Schumacher. "Even last year the car was good here. We expected to be reasonable.

"I must admit that we did not expect to be that strong in comparison to other teams. Some of it might have been the strategy, to look after it. We maybe pitted a little earlier than we needed to considering the pace we were able to go, but it still worked out. It was pretty hard because I had some traffic in the race but luckily they had to pit a bit earlier and then I could pull out the gap I needed again."

Schumacher's performance even earned rare praise from former technical director Patrick Head, who is known to have had his fair share of run-ins with the German in his period at the team.

"We're certainly pleased to be on the podium, no doubt about it," said Head. "Two cars in the points and we've pulled ahead from McLaren and obviously it's very important to be ahead of them. It was a fantastic drive from Ralf, he did just what he needed to do at the right time."

When asked about whether Schumacher has returned to F1 stronger than ever following his three-month layoff after his United States Grand Prix accident, Head said: "Everybody in the team says what a pleasure he is to work with and why have Frank (Williams) and I not signed him up for next year. He's a very fast driver, he's very good and deserves to get results."

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