Sunday team by team: Part 1

Autosport.com's Formula 1 editor Jonathan Noble gives a rundown of what was happening up and down the pit-lane during the Japanese Grand Prix

Sunday team by team: Part 1



Michael Schumacher left no-one in any doubt that his recent run of bad form was anything other than a temporary blip when he completely dominated the Japanese Grand Prix. Having grabbed pole position, thanks in part to his lowly starting slot in the qualifying order on a damp but drying track, the Ferrari ace was unheaded throughout to take his 13th victory of the season. Rubens Barrichello made a mistake in qualifying and started well down the order. Having made up several positions over the course of the afternoon he crashed out after a collision with David Coulthard.

MICHAEL SCHUMACHER: "This was a historic day for Formula 1, taking pole and the win on the same day. The fact that I did not do well in China, certainly helped my qualifying in terms of when I made my run in pre-qualifying. It was clear to us that we would have a strong race pace, but after the start, I had Ralf in my mirrors for quite a while and the gap between us was not growing as quickly as I had expected and he was certainly hanging on. Because there had been no running yesterday, it was hard to understand what the other teams' race strategies would be and before the race, I was concerned about this. But in the end, it all worked out fine and I had a trouble free race."

RUBENS BARRICHELLO: "I was certainly penalised in qualifying by being first out in the wet pre-qualifying. It was a shame about the incident with Coulthard. I think I caught him by surprise, he didn't see me, closed the door and we touched. It was a racing incident. I was having a great race, the car was very good and I was doing excellent lap times. In the early stages, I got stuck behind Montoya and Trulli, but then I was able to push very hard. The set-up was really good and the team did a fantastic job of finding the right solution in a rush. Now, I head for Brazil, thinking only of the way things went in Monza and China."




Ralf Schumacher took his first 'proper' podium finish of the season to erase the bad memories of his previous second place result at the Canadian Grand Prix. The Williams team's choice of a three-stop strategy at the front proved spot on as the German kept his second place on the grid for much of the afternoon - despite some pressure from a two-stopping Jenson Button. Juan Pablo Montoya had to climb through the field after a poor qualifying session and eventually finished seventh.

RALF SCHUMACHER: "The start went okay and I was surprised I was able to follow Michael. I pitted four laps earlier than he did, so he was obviously heavier. But after the pit stop I got stuck in traffic and when you are fighting at the back it is always difficult. Our car was good today. We chose the right strategy and the result speaks for itself. We had a good overall weekend considering the good starting position I achieved. We also widened the gap to McLaren, which is important. Now I am happy to go back home and celebrate with my family."

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: "My starting position compromised my race today. I got stuck in traffic and I was losing between one and two seconds every lap. The best I could do in that situation was collecting some points, and that is what I managed to do. I can only hope my poor position today will maybe give me an advantage so as to get into a good qualifying position at the next race, as Ralf had here."




Kimi Raikkonen has never particularly shone at Suzuka and it was David Coulthard who again appeared to be set to outscore the Finn in the Japanese Grand Prix. Those hopes all changed, however, when Coulthard was hit from behind by Rubens Barrichello at the chicane. Raikkonen came home sixth despite damaging his steering in a minor collision with Timo Glock in the closing stages of the race.

KIMI RAIKKONEN: "A fairly uneventful race for me. I was struggling with the car and from 12th it's fairly limited what you can do. I didn't make a brilliant start, but I gained one place and that was really it. I had an incident with one of the Jordan cars when I was trying to lap it towards the end of the race at turn nine. Basically I was on the inside and he just turned in on me. He hit me quite hard and damaged my steering a bit, so I was struggling to keep the car on the road. A race to forget to be honest but bring on Brazil."

DAVID COULTHARD: "It goes without saying that I'm really disappointed with the end to my Japanese Grand Prix. We were looking to score points but unfortunately on lap 38 I had a coming together with Rubens at the Chicane whilst he was trying to pass me. I don't think anybody is to blame; it's just one of those things that happens when you are battling for positions. The incident broke the front right hand suspension and that was it, but it was a good race until then. I gained a place at the start but got stuck behind Webber, however when I finally got past I was immediately able to speed up. It was a shame for things to end this way - it would have been nice to have scored five points or even more."




Another ultra disappointing performance for the French car manufacturer as it lost further ground to BAR in the fight for second place in the constructors' championship. Fernando Alonso fought from 11th on the grid to grab fifth, while Jacques Villeneuve struggled with understeer throughout the race to come home a lowly 10th. It meant he again failed to score points since returning to F1.

FERNANDO ALONSO: "It was a good performance in the race today. Qualifying didn't really favour us today: I suppose that sometimes we get lucky with the conditions, like we did in Spa, and sometimes not. From eleventh position, the only thing to do was to go maximum attack. Unfortunately, when you start back in the field, you never have a clear track in the early laps - and it was only at the end of my first stint that I could run at my true pace. That meant I was no longer able to fight for the podium. I think I did the best I could have done today but unfortunately, the points I scored will be more useful in the drivers' championship than the constructors'."

JACQUES VILLENEUVE: "When the race started, we quickly found that the set-up was not ideal for the dry conditions. The car was understeering a lot, so we added front downforce at both pit-stops, but I could not increase my pace in the final stint. It's a disappointing result, especially as our main rivals scored points with both cars this afternoon."



BAR still struggles with its pace in the early stages of race stints, but that did not stop Jenson Button and Takuma Sato finishing third and fourth in the Japanese Grand Prix. Button opted for a two-stop strategy but struggled with oversteer in the early stages when he ran third and lost a position to the three-stopping Takuma Sato. He regained that stop thanks to making one less pit-stop, but he never had the pace to match the three-stopping Michael and Ralf Schumacher. The team has all but clinched second place in the constructors' championship.

JENSON BUTTON: "The car was very difficult to drive at first because with a two-stop strategy I was very heavy on fuel. As we got further into the race though, the car felt great and, once again, two-stopping really paid off for me. I think the last few races have demonstrated a great team effort by BAR, with Takuma and I achieving exactly the results we needed to beat Renault."

TAKUMA SATO: "It was great that we managed to have a race this afternoon after yesterday's cancellation, although it was extremely difficult to work out the set-up as we were not able to practice on a dry track. That's why we ran two different strategies to enable us to cope with the widest range of possibilities. As it turned out, I was not able to get the result that I wanted and be on the podium, but at the end of the day, it was a great result for the team and really helps us to secure second in the constructors' championship. I felt so much support from my home fans; they were fantastic and really motivated me during the race. We have one more race left in Brazil and I will be doing my best to have another strong race performance there."

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