|Japanese GP, Suzuka 2002 walkthrough and results|
Monday, 29 May 2006 20:48
"Records aside, it is a great way for me and the team to end the season. With the long winter break coming up it's nice to finish on a high. It the way you wish to end a season," said Michael, who had to work hard for this win even though he never looked like losing the race after a perfect strategy and pit stops.
After leaping into an impressive lead from pole position he pulled out an impressive 3.6 seconds over Montoya on the first lap and was nine second ahead after 4 laps before stabilizing his lead around 11 seconds before the first of two pit stops. "My Bridgestone tyres worked very well in the opening laps which is not the case of the Michelins, so I was able to capitalize on that," explained Michael. "Unfortunately, after both my pit stops I got stuck behind Mika Hakkinen and I was not able to push that advantage for the rest of the race," he added.
The gap came down to around six seconds after the stops and Schumacher was able to hold that stable only backing off in the final yards to the line. Plans to try and elevate Rubens Barrichello to second place in the Championship with a bold three-stop race strategy never worked out after he finished a distant fifth. The idea was for him to get ahead of the BMW-Williams drivers and his own teammate in the opening laps and pull ahead with the help of Michael holding up the chase behind.
Rubens had no trouble taking Ralf Schumacher for third place, but after passing Montoya in a bold out-braking move into the chicane at the end of lap 2, the Colombian got by him again into the first corner and managed to pull ahead as his car's tyre performance improved.
Some twenty second behind Montoya at the flag, third place on the podium went to David Coulthard's McLaren Mercedes, the Scot running most of the race behind his team-mate Mika Hakkinen, who ended up fourth in what may well be his F1 finale if he decides not to return in 2003. Hakkinen slowed in the closing laps to let Coulthard through to a podium finish, the Finn preferring to slip out of Formula One on the quiet rather than facing a Press conference with a podium finish, although the official line was he was paying back David a little for all he had done for him during his career with McLaren.
A further twelve seconds away, Barrichello was just one second behind Hakkinen at the flag, the Brazilian losing out to the McLaren drivers after his third pit stop, while a slower second stop when the engine stalled also cost him valuable time. Barrichello had a hard fight in the closing laps with Ralf Schumacher's BMW-Williams, the German going to the back of the points earlier in the race when he was given a 10-second stop-go penalty for twice cutting the chicane and improving his lap times for those laps.
Jenson Button finished just out of the points with seventh place for the Benetton-Renault team, his team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella running a strong fifth in the opening laps only to spin down the field before stopping for good with a gearbox problem.
Jean Alesi's final race in Formula One was not a happy one. While chasing Kimi Raikkonen for 9th place he was caught up in a huge accident when the left rear suspension failed on the Sauber and Raikkonen spun off into the barrier taking Alesi with him.
A lap behind the leaders by the end of the race, an exciting battle for eighth place between Jarno Trulli, Jacques Villeneuve and Nick Heidfeld finally went to Trulli by half a second from Heidfeld when Villeneuve spun trying to outbreak Trulli into the chicane. He recovered quickly to take tenth place some 43 seconds ahead of Fernando Alonso who took a strong 11th for Minardi just managing to hold off the Prost of Heinz Harald Frentzen who drove a spirited race from last to twelfth at the flag after stopping to change a damaged front wing four laps into the race.
There were 16 finishers from the 22 starters, Eddie Irvine joining the ranks of non-finishers when a strong race was spoiled by a power failure to the Jaguar fuelling rigs which prevented them getting fuel into his car at his pit stop.
|Last Updated on Tuesday, 29 August 2006 12:51|