Sato and Massa unhurt in shunts

Monaco rookies Takuma Sato and Felipe Massa had a tough initiation to grand prix racing at the principality, with both drivers finding out how unforgiving the tight confines of the street circuit can be in the race

Sato and Massa unhurt in shunts

From 16th on the grid, Sato made an excellent start to run 12th in the opening stages. When a pass by Heinz-Harald Frentzen on Mika Salo brought Giancarlo Fisichella to a virtual standstill at the chicane, Sato took advantage of his superior momentum to nip ahead of his team-mate.

Within a couple of laps a brave move on Salo at Mirabeau moved the Japanese driver into the top 10, but his hopes of a points finish were dashed when he clipped the barrier in the tunnel and heavily damaged his car, ironically as he was trying to move over to let Fisichella through.

"At the time Giancarlo was slightly quicker than me and because I was ahead of him, the team asked me to let him through," he explained. "I was trying to let him go past, but unfortunately it was at the exit of the tunnel and while I was trying to make space for him, I picked up dust, slid and lost control of the car. It is a big disappointment but has been good experience for me and I would like to congratulate Giancarlo for scoring points."

Massa's race was equally as incident-filled. A long duel with countryman Enrique Bernoldi ended with both drivers taking to the escape road at St Devote, and damage to the Sauber's nose necessitated an unplanned pitstop. After rejoining Massa was pushing hard to make up lost time, when he locked his brakes going into the first corner and hit the barrier head-on at speed.

"On my 64th lap nothing happened when I braked for St. Devote, and the car just went straight on into the tyre wall," he said. "It was a big impact and I hit my nose on the steering wheel, but otherwise I'm okay."

Team boss Peter Sauber was pleased that his driver was able to walk away from the incident unscathed.

"It was a difficult race for us, but we take heart that the structural integrity of the car enabled Felipe to get himself out of the cockpit and walk away from his high-speed accident at the first corner," he said.

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