Round Sixteen - Japan:
Wizzie will be pleased!
Giancarlo Fisichella and Nick Heidfeld have swapped rides for next season, after both teams, Jordan and Sauber, reached a simple agreement. The second seat is yet to be decided, although the favourite for the Jordan is Masta Valsattis. But with Toyota yet to confirm any signings, he might be tempted should the right offer come along. Minardi have also yet to confirm who will be driving for them in 2004, although Gianmaria Bruni is expected to make the jump up from his test driving duties. So much so, that he replaces Justin Wilson for the final race of 2003. As previously mentioned, Christian Klien will replace Andre Lotterer for Japan, to make sure the young Austrian gets a little bit of experience in a race weekend early.Practice:
Masta Valsattis was the shock of the session, splitting the Ferrari's to end the day in 2nd place. Michael Schumacher finished the practice sessions the way he started the year, with clearly the fastest time. McLaren were next up, in 4th and 5th, with Alonso rounding off the top 6. Klien and Bruni, ended their session in 17th and 20th.
1. M.Schumacher 1:36.382
2. M.Valsattis 1:36.912
3. R.Barrichello 1:37.149
18. G.Fisichella 1:39.540Qualifying:
Trulli took the final pole of 2003, beating Schumacher's Ferrari by almonst 3 tenths. Barrichello and the McLarens were next, with Valsattis proving his practice pace wasn't a fluke with the 6th fastest times. Klien had a good session, ending the day 14th, ahead of his team-mate Jones. Bruni was 20th and last, almost 4 seconds away from Trulli.
1. J.Trulli 1:36.255
2. M.Schumacher 1:36.601
3. R.Barrichello 1:36.873
5. D.Coulthard 1:37.491
6. M.Valsattis 1:37.509
7. R.Schumacher 1:37.818
15. G.Fisichella 1:39.291Race:
Valsattis nearly stalled at the start, and was very slow away. With the gird being so close together, the likes of Button, Villeneuve and the two Toyotas were held up and they all fell to the back of the field. This allowed the likes of Bruni, Verstappen and Fisichella to move inside the top 14. Michael Schumacher took the lead going into turn 1, and left Trulli to defend from the McLarens and Barrichello's Ferrari. The Williams' of Ralf and Juan-Pablo were next up, with Alonso and Sauber's Frentzen fighting for 8th.
Schumacher began to pull away at the front. By lap 4, the gap was nearly 4 seconds. On lap 7, it was up to 6.5. And by lap 10 it was 8.3. Trulli was visibly holding up Raikkonen and Barrichello. Whilst two seconds behind Barrichello, was Ralf Schumacher, Coulthard and Montoya.
Fisichella's Ford engine in the back of his Jordan gave up on lap 13, dropping the Italian out of 10th place. This promoted Heidfeld into the points, until a recovering Valsattis passed him a lap later at the final chicane.
On lap 20, as the Toyota's and BAR's, who had been running near the back, amde their stops, Valsattis disposed of Frentzen's Sauber to run in 9th. On the next lap, he set a lap time only 5 tenths slower than Schumacher's fastest. The next lap, he went a tenth quicker. The Jordan was now the second fastest car on the track. He was flying!
By mid-race, Schumacher had pulled out a healthy 20 second gap to Trulli, and began to slow down slightly to conserve the engine. The Trulli train still existed, all the way back to Alonso in 8th. 9th was Valsattis, who after a long stop to change his steering wheel, fell aawy from the Renault. Things got worse on lap 40 though, as the Jordan suffered gear selection problems when Valsattis downshifted for turn 2, pitching the car into a spin. Although Valsattis recovered, he had lost both 5th and 6th gears. He continued for a couple of laps, but the condition was hopeless, and he retired the Jordan to the garage. Jenson Button also retired on the same lap, suspension failure putting the BAR out of 13th.
Verstappen became for 4th retirement on lap 46, engine failure in the Cosworth putting the Minardi out of an impressive 12th. Ralf Schumacher added to the list of DNF's a lap later, spinning on Verstappen's oil and out of 6th place. This promoted the Sauber's up to 8th and 9th, with Jones now in 10th. If Jones could stay there, then Jaguar would beat Minardi by a single point in their battle for 9th.
With only 3 laps to go, Trulli and Raikkonen had a coming together at the hairpin, which allowed Coulthard and Barrichello to sneak through into 2nd and 3rd. But Barrichello threw his chance at a podium away on the final lap, running wide at turn 2 and dropping back to 5th. Michael Schumacher won to end a totally dominating season for Ferrari, walking away with well over a 100 points from his team-mate. Sauber ended the season well, a double point finish. But Minardi were gutted at missing out on 9th place, as Jones brought a sick sounding Jaguar home in 10th. CLASSIFICATION:
8. HH.Frentzen +1 LAP
9. N.Heidfeld +1 LAP
10. S.Jones +1 LAP
11. J.Villeneuve +1 LAP
12. C.Da Matta +1 LAP
13. C.Klien +1 LAP
14. O.Panis +1 LAP
15. G.Bruni +2 LAPSDRIVERS STANDINGS:
1. M.Schumacher 327
2. D.Coulthard 199
3. R.Barrichello 195
4. JP.Montoya 175
5. K.Raikkonen 128
6. R.Schumacher 120
7. F.Alonso 92
8. J.Trulli 81
9. M.Valsattis 68
10. J.Button 42
11. J.Villeneuve 40
12. G.Fisichella 37
13. HH.Frentzen 28
14. N.Heidfeld 27
15. C. Da Matta 19
16. O.Panis 16
17. M.Webber 7
18. J.Verstappen 8
19. A.Lotterer 2
20. J.Wilson 2
21. S.Jones 2CONSTRUCTOR STANDINGS:
1. Ferrari 522
2. Mclaren 327
3. Williams 295
4. Renault 173
5. Jordan 105
6. BAR 82
7. Sauber 55
8. Toyota 35
9. Jaguar 11
10. Minardi 10END OF SEASON REVIEW:Ferrari:
Although some races were close at the front, there's no denying that Ferrari, and especially Schumacher, tore through the opposition. Adouble record of points, mainly thanks to the new system, saw Schumacher and Ferrari win the title with several races remaining. Barrichello fought hard but had to settle for 3rd in the title race, but has proved to be very competitive at the front. The car will be brand new for 2004, with Ferrari adding a few nice touches to the car. The team expect to challenge for both title's next year, but are aware of the very strong challenge from the other teams behind them.Mclaren:
Although Coulthard fought brilliantly to claim 2nd place in the championship, Raikkonen was disappointing in the first part of the year, and should've been up with his team-mate. In the end, McLaren finished nearly 200 points behind Ferrari, but held of Williams to claim runner-up in the team title aswell. The car is expected to be another brand new design for 2004, and the team are confident of pushing Ferrari closer.Williams:
Montoya and Ralf Schumacher impressed during the year, and should've competed more for the major placings were it not for poor speed with the car. Too many times in races Ferrari and McLaren were battling for wins whilst Willaims were struggling to finish inside the top 6. Australia was a perfect example, as both drivers spent most of the race behind Minardi, unable to pass. The team will use an updated version of the 2003 car, but with a new BMW engine on hand, are expected to make a better title challenge.Renault:
Renault had a very up-and-down season. Whilst there were highlights, Alonso scoring a 2nd at Monza when the car was poor, the car was horribly unreliable, and at times just too slow. Jordan gave them a run for their money and was it not for a late-season burst in fortune, were the French team able to pull away and secure 4th rather easily. Both drivers have been retained, and are looking to continue their regular point finishes, as long as the car can hold up.Jordan:
Jordan clearly won the 'team of the year' accolade, after impressing nearly every weekend. It started with a fantastic 4-5 at Australia, although it was helped by attrition. The car was easily the most reliable of the season, only 7 retirements out of 32 gave the team a real chance of 4th place. It could've been there for the taking, but a slight dip in form towards the end of the season, as Renault gradually improved, kept the team in 5th. Jordan will use a brand new car for next year, and although money is beginning to run tight, and the team are realistic in their targets (8th, ahead of Jaguar and Minardi), they hope to keep the reliabilty record going and snatch a few surprise results.BAR:
In a year where it was more of a transition, as BAR and Honda used 2003 as a 'training season', the team did well to finish 6th. The car certainly wasn't the quickest throughout the year, and a string of disappointing results led many to believe Button, as well as Villeneuve, would be on the way out come season end. But the team have opted to keep the Englishman, and promote Japanese driver Sato into the second seat, although many feel this is purely because of Honda's massive involvement within the team. A new car, better upgrades and a better reliability record might see the team score their first win. A lot is being expected this season, and both drivers are clearly relishing the chance.Sauber:
Although the Swiss team scored a solid 55 points, nearly half were in two races. Australia and Austria. Many times, they were even outpaced by Minardi, and are somewhat lucky to score 7th. The continuing Ferrari help is keeping them solidly in the midfield and a decent reliability record saw both drivers score a few more point finishes to keep Toyota and their millions at bay. It must be said that not much is expected in 2004, with only slight updates going onto the car. Money again will be tight, but the proven Ferrari engines should see them comfortable midfield yet again.Toyota:
For all the millions Toyota pump into Formula 1, 8th place is somewhat of a disappointment, especially having a car as aerodynamically capable on any circuit. Panis was clearly not up to the job this season, and Da Matta looked incresingly out of his depth. It wasn't until Monaco that both drivers started to show progress. A high rate of incidents, coupled with a good qualifying, saw the drivers finish in the points and give the team a much-needed boost. After that, a small smattering of points was enough to end the season on 35 points, but with a new car, engine and gearbox in the offering for their new drivers in 2004, much is expected from the team.Jaguar:
To say Jaguar were lucky to beat Minardi is something of an understatement, as the team were effectively a one-man outfit for the whole season. Pizzonia was poor in the first half of the year and although Lotterer brought slight improvement, scoring at point at Indy, it was virtually down to the unreliability of others. Sammy Jones was also brought in and a point in the final race was just enough to do it, and the team can breather a massive sign of relief. Their pre-season promises didn't live up to much, as the drivers were constantly let-down by engine, gearbox and suspension woes. The team started development on their new car as early as July, and are expecting a massive improvement.Minardi:
Australia will go down in history as possible the best Minardi weekend ever. A solid qualifying put both drivers inside the top 10, and they remained there all race, scoring the teams first double point-finish in many seasons. The car wasn't the quickest, or the most reliable, but both Verstappen and Wilson drove their socks off. Almost half the season was spent battling with Toyota and Jaguar, sometimes beating them in a square fight, but once or twice the cars were well out of their depth. The Nurburgring will testify to this, both cars failing to qualify. An updated version is expected, Minardi simply don't have the money to produce Ferrari and McLaren-esqe cars, and another season at the tail-end beckons. But if the cars remain reliable, a few point finishes might be on the cards.
For explanation on recent inactivity, please read 2nd post on 2nd page of 'just nipping out' thread. Thank you.