|Formula One World Championship
Round 2: Malaysia (Sepang)
TOP TEN FINISHES FOR HONDA POWER IN MALAYSIA
Lucky Strike B·A·R Honda's Jacques Villeneuve crossed the line in eighth position in today's Malaysian Grand Prix while Takuma Sato and Giancarlo Fisichella (DHL Jordan Honda) finished ninth and thirteenth respectively in a race of high attrition, where nine cars failed to reach the end. Olivier Panis (B·A·R Honda) retired from the race during lap nine due to a problem with his clutch bearing.
Ralf Schumacher took victory aboard his Williams while team-mate Juan Pablo Montoya followed him home to collect valuable points for himself, moving Williams into the lead of the constructors' world championship, eight points ahead of Ferrari. Schumacher was joined on the podium by brother Michael (Ferrari), with Jenson Button (Renault) and the Sauber pairing of Nick Heidfeld and Felipe Massa completing the points scorers.
All but one car cleared the grid without incident as the race got underway at the Sepang circuit, Kuala Lumpur. Moments after the start last year's winner and polesitter Michael Schumacher (Ferrari) was forced to pit for a new front wing due to an incident at the first corner with Juan Pablo Montoya (Williams) as they fought to take the lead. The Colombian driver was later penalised for the move but the time penalty didn't stop him from racing to second place.
Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari) moved into the lead ahead of the Williams of Ralf Schumacher, followed by Kimi Raikkonen and David Coulthard (McLaren). Nick Heidfeld (Sauber) and Jenson Button (Renault) completed the top six at the end of the first lap. The Jordan Honda duo had a coming together on lap two as Sato tried to overtake team-mate Fisichella, resulting in both drivers having to take to the pits. Sato was able to rejoin the race after a lengthy pit-stop to replace the damaged nosecone on his car. The Jordan Honda mechanics were forced to replace the damaged rear wing section on Fisichella's car, which meant the Italian returned to the race on lap four, two laps down on the field. Both Jordan Honda drivers then ran reliably through to the end of the race.
Only a handful of laps later, Panis' B·A·R Honda was by the side of the track, the B·A·R Honda driver having being forced to retire from the race due to a problem with the clutch bearing which had also been troubling him during the morning warm-up. Meanwhile his team-mate Villeneuve battled with a steering problem throughout the second half of the race but brought his car home to finish just outside the points.
Coulthard and Raikkonen (McLaren) looked good for a points scoring finish, but both drivers were forced out of the action before half distance, the Scot retiring from fourth position on lap 16 and his Finnish team-mate dropping out eight laps later. Barrichello kept a consistent five-second gap between his Ferrari and the second placed Williams of Schumacher, but with just 15 laps to go the German inherited the lead as Barrichello dropped out of the race on lap 41.
Having rejoined the race in 19th position Michael Schumacher fought his way up through the field to claim an impressive podium finish, squeezing Renault's Jenson Button out of the points. The Saubers of Nick Heidfeld and Felipe Massa put in a solid performance and collected three points for the team, bringing their cars home in fifth and sixth places respectively.
Shuhei Nakamoto - Race and Test Team Manager, Honda Racing Development
"Days like today are obviously very disappointing for everyone. We didn't achieve what we wanted to but that's racing and it's up to us to bounce back. Looking at the positives, three of the four Honda-powered cars made it home in extremely difficult conditions and we managed to get as much as we could from the engine without any problems. We will be ready to fight again in two weeks."
Jacques Villeneuve Position: 8th
"We finished the race, but that's the only positive thing we can take away from today. I had no grip at all and then I started having problems with the steering. Clearly we have problems that need to be addressed if we are going to improve. We're not expecting anything new until Imola now so we have to look forward to what those developments bring."
Takuma Sato Position: 9th
"I am really sorry about what happened with Giancarlo - I apologise very much as it shouldn't have happened. I saw a Toyota pushing him going into the first corner and then into turn two they were side by side with me right behind them, Then, most unfortunately, I moved across and went into the back of Giancarlo. I damaged my steering and front wing in that incident but the mechanics were able to change the wing in the pit stop, and I coped with the steering problem. The car and tyres became better during the race, and my lap times improved. Obviously I am very happy to have finished the race in the top ten, but this is marred by the fact that I damaged my team mate's chances of scoring points. I apologised to him immediately after the race and he took it very well, which I think says a lot of good things about his character."
Giancarlo Fisichella Position: 13th
"It was good to see both cars finishing the race without any problems, but there is no denying that Takuma made a mistake by hitting me and that this damaged our chances of scoring points. He was right behind me and suddenly I felt him hit me - perhaps he braked too late, I'm not sure. Anyway, he clearly feels pretty bad about it and he came to apologise immediately after the race. There is no point dwelling on it - I think he has learnt his lesson. Otherwise, the race went without any incidents. The car was a bit tricky to handle but I am really encouraged by the reliability, especially under such testing circumstances."
Olivier Panis Position: DNF
"I made a fantastic start and was behind Jacques after the first corner. I was on the same strategy as him and I think if I had finished the race we could have brought both cars home in the top 10. Unfortunately, I had the same clutch bearing problem as this morning and I had to stop. We have to keep our focus now and continue to work hard for Brazil. That is certainly my intention when we test next week in Barcelona."
| Formula One World Championship
Round 2: Malaysia (Sepang)