Malaysian F1 - Renault wins again, Toyota shines through

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March 20, 2005 A second win in two races for the Mild Seven Renault F1 Team at the Malaysian Grand Prix was the major news, but close behind Renault’s win at Sepang was the performance of Toyota, which finally appears to have arrived as a force in Formula One. Panasonic Toyota Racing scored its debut podium position after a "Trulli" outstanding drive from Jarno ensured he comfortably ended the grueling 56-lap race in 2nd position. A determined drive from Ralf Schumacher made it two cars in the top five for toyota, a total of 12 world championship points and second place in the constructors' championship.

Renault’s Fernando Alonso led the race from lights to flag, having started from pole on a two stop strategy that saw him visit the pits on laps 21 and 40. He managed skilfully his Michelin tyres over the race distance, and made full use of the performance of the R25 and its RS25 engine, which suffered no problems during the second race of its life cycle.

Alonso’s team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella started third on the grid, a position he held during the first two stints of the race. However, after his first stop, damage to the front of his car saw him lose a significant amount of downforce, which caused high levels of understeer and slowed him by up to two seconds a lap. On lap 37, his race ended at turn 15 following a collision with Mark Webber’s Williams which cost one of them the third podium position and gifted Webber’s young team-mate Nick Heidefeld his first podium position.

The Mild Seven Renault F1 Team currently leads the world championship with 26 points. Fernando Alonso becomes the first Spaniard to lead the drivers’ world championship, on 16 points, while Giancarlo Fisichella now lies second on 10 points and Jarno trulli third.

Jarno Trulli drove a competitive race to secure Panasonic Toyota Racing's first visit to the podium in 53 races. Trulli's qualifying time was only bettered by Fernando Alonso, who stopped one lap before the Toyota driver, underlining the sheer competitiveness of the TF105 package this weekend.

Ralf Schumacher helped make it a day to remember for Toyota after bringing his TF105 home in fifth position and picking up four championship points in a difficult race for the German.

Toyota is one of only two teams (Ferrari is the other) on the grid to have built its entire car from scratch in the same factory, and was very pleased to inform that all four of its engines successfully completed the rigors of two race weekends. To underline the achievement, the total distances attained by each RVX-05 unit on the grid were Trulli, 1244.4km, Ralf Schumacher, 1171.1km, Narain Karthikeyan, Jordan-Toyota, 1263.7km and Tiago Monteiro, Jordan-Toyota, 1302.3km.

For Michael Schumacher, the race was one he would like to forget. It was his first point scoring finish of the year but the long odds-on favoritism he enjoyed before the weekend for a successful championship defence has a significant cloud hanging over it due to reliability doubts over the team's Bridestone tyres. His team-mate Rubens Barricchelo retired after minor damage to his rear wing caused his machine to lose significant rear grip.

The big loser for the weekend was the BAR Honda team, which saw both drivers retire within a few laps of the start, both with engine failures. As Jenson Button said after the race, "we've made a huge step backwards, and I don't think it's going to change straight away."

Statements from Leading Drivers after the race:

Fernando Alonso, Renault, Winner: “Physically, it was a very demanding race and I really felt how hard it had been on the podium afterwards. But it’s a great feeling to win here, and the way I was able to do it demonstrates that we are competitive with our rivals this season, on every type of circuit. Everything went well from start to finish: the car, the engine and the Michelin tyres. A big thank-you to the whole team: they did a fantastic job this winter in Enstone, Viry and Clermont-Ferrand at Michelin. At this stage, I think we have a real chance to fight for the title.”

Giancarlo Fisichella, Renault, previous race winner, retired, lap 37: “It was disappointing not to make it to the chequered flag, but I had a difficult afternoon. The car was not very well balanced at the start of the race, and after my first stop, I lost a lot of front downforce: I think something broke. I was up to two seconds slower than the race pace, and the car was understeering everywhere; so there was no grip at all. As for the collision, Webber got past me into turn 14, then I overtook him again on the straight afterwards. I was ahead, and he was on the outside when he took his line into the corner. As I was braking, the rear of the car slid and Mark had left no margin for error, so we collided. For me, it was a racing incident.”

Flavio Briatore, Managing Director, Renault F1: “This was a great success for the whole team, and for Renault. We must thank Michelin for extremely good tyres, and all the partners who contribute to our success. We have shown that the team is competitive with both cars, and all the hard work until now is beginning to come good: I particularly want to congratulate my colleagues at Viry, as our engine had no problems at all during the weekend. Fernando drove a fantastic race from start to finish: he was very cool, and managed his lead comfortably, as Giancarlo did in Australia. As for Fisico, I feel bad for him: it is a shame he had to retire, but we don’t blame him. We are very happy to have two drivers like Fernando and Giancarlo; it makes Renault a very strong team.”

Pat Symonds, Executive Director of Engineering, Renault F1: “Fernando drove a splendid race, just like in Australia. He made full use of the excellent equipment at his disposal: chassis, engine and Michelin tyres. We saw afterwards that it had been a long, demanding race, but he made no mistakes and this was a drive of somebody who has the makings of a champion. Giancarlo’s car was damaged after his first stop, and he lost a significant amount of front downforce, which allowed his rivals to catch him. As for the accident, I don’t want to make any judgement before taking a closer look.”

Jarno Trulli, Panasonic Toyota, second: "I had an excellent start and was easily keeping my second position behind Fernando and extending my lead over Giancarlo. From there, I had an absolutely trouble-free race and could control those cars behind me. I want to thank everyone in the Toyota team and all the engineers, mechanics both here and in Cologne for giving the car with which I could score Toyota's first ever podium finish. It was a great result and I am sure the start of even greater things to come. It was a real challenge this weekend with the tyre and engine regulations, as well as the extreme heat which makes it tough for the drivers. Luca Marmorini and his team have done an absolutely exceptional job on the engine and we had no reliability issues in either of the first two races this season."

Tsutomu Tomita, Team Principal, Panasonic Toyota: "It has been four years of preparation and three years of racing for Toyota to achieve this fantastic result. The style in which we did it was even more rewarding. I would like to firstly extend my thanks to the drivers, everyone at Toyota Motorsport, Toyota Motor Corporation and the team's sponsors whose invaluable support made this result possible. We have experienced so many challenges this weekend in terms of the technical regulation changes for the season. I am especially pleased that our engine has completed eight free practice sessions, four qualifying sessions and two demanding races without any issues. Toyota always rises to the technical challenge and this has been no exception. This is how racing can be done and should be done. We know have to consolidate this result, but I will happily take this for starters."

Nick Heidfeld, Williams BMW Third: "I am very happy, this was the most exciting race I ever had in F1. I pushed hard from the start since I had to recover from my 10th grid position and I had a good race with some exciting overtaking. It was real fun. At a lot of stages I got involved in battles with two other cars and we had several good fights, but in the end I got the upper hand. The car performed well and so did the BMW engine and our Michelin tyres. Still, as usual in a hot race when it is the last thing you would like to happen, I had a problem with the drink bottle from the very first laps, which made my life more difficult. "

Sam Michael (Technical Director WilliamsF1): “It was a good day for us showing that the car performance is improving steadily. Nick proved himself to be a fantastic racer with all the overtaking he did without causing any incident. He drove the second fastest lap of the race and finished third coming from tenth. We have scored some points which we definitely needed and it is a shame that Mark had this coming together with Fisichella. However, that's racing. Today the car has been competitive. But we know we need to push hard to close the gap to Renault. We had no mechanic problems.”

Mario Theissen (BMW Motorsport Director): “It is pleasing to come away with a podium from this tough challenge. Both the drivers showed strong racing today. I am especially happy for Nick. After a bad qualifying he managed to find his way onto the podium. Before his accident, it was Mark who had third place in sight. Both engines came through this very hot race absolutely troublefree, thanks to our crew in Munich. The telemetry on Nick's car failed to work until just before the 2nd pit-stop therefore until that point our engineers had no data about the engine's condition.”

Juan Pablo Montoya, McLaren Mercedes Fourth: "We scored some good points and getting from 11th to fourth is quite good, but obviously we want to win. The race itself was not too bad physically despite the heat. However quite early on I flatspotted my front left tyre, which not only put the car out of balance but also caused a lot of vibration which hampered my vision – things like this make it difficult to get the best out of the car."

Ralf Schumacher, Toyota Panasonic, fifth: “This is a wonderful result for the team. First and foremost I am happy for my team-mate, but also for myself. I think it was a good, but difficult race for me. I could not overtake for the first ten laps and then I had either heavy graining or blistering. After that, I had the get together with Webber after which my car was aerodynamically affected, causing some big vibrations. I am happy to have finished the race altogether and I am pleased to have contributed to our double points-finish today to take us to second in the championship."

David Coulthard, Red Bull sixth: "Our car ran faultlessly but it's more difficult to drive here than in Australia and I got caught out on turn 4 on one of the laps but apart from that it was okay. I think we have to be satisfied. It's been an encouraging start to the season so we should say congratulations to everyone in the team. Special thanks should go to Cosworth because they are doing a good job with the engine. Let's count the points and head to Bahrain."

Michael Schumacher, Ferrari seventh: “Of course, seventh place is not exactly worth celebrating, but I feel that I did the best I could have done today, coming up from 13th on the grid. My car ran reliably and with no problems. I was a bit conservative in the early stages, to be sure of having a competitive car in the closing parts and, given the situation I can be happy with two points. A Formula 1 car is very complex and there is not one single factor to blame for our poor performance. We are simply not strong enough in several areas at the moment. We are well aware of that and we are and we will continue to work hard to deal with that. Now I head to Mugello to drive the F2005 for the first time. Driving a new car is always something special, so I am looking forward to that.”

Jean Todt, Managing Director, Ferrari F1: “There can be no excuses after a race like this. After qualifying, we knew the race would be one of fighting our way up the order and so it turned out. We were beaten by opponents who proved to be stronger than us. We have won so often thanks to the work of the team and our partners and now we have to work together to turn the situation around. Once again, this shows how difficult it is to win. We know we have all the elements required to succeed. Our will to win and our readiness to work hard remain the same as ever. We already have three days of testing scheduled for next week at Mugello to develop the F2005 and the Bridgestone tyres. After that, we will make a decision as to the programme for the new car.”

Rubens Barrichello, Ferrari, second last start retired, lap49 : “The race was going quite well at first and I was able to fight for at least sixth place. All of a sudden the car developed quite a lot of oversteer. I radioed the team and they told me that they could tell that there had been a change to the aerodynamics on the car and the handling was transformed: it was very bad. Then, when I pitted again, they found that a piece of rubber had got attached to the wing. But, because I had run ran for at least 20 laps with too much oversteer, it ruined my rear tyres. It’s a shame, because until then the balance of the car was good. I wasn’t quick enough to win of course, but I could have ended up in the top six.”

Ross Brawn , Ferrari F1: “This was a very disappointing race. We had been optimistic that track conditions might suit us during the race, but that did not happen. We were not competitive today, so I think we and our technical partners must look at what can be done over the next few weeks and months, to put us back where we need to be, because clearly we were not good enough today. We have been in this situation before and it might well happen again at some time in the future. But I have every faith in our own ability and that of our partners to rectify this situation. Regarding Rubens’ problem, we discovered that a piece of rubber got wedged in the rear wing. That upset the balance of the car, but he kept going and eventually, the handling imbalance damaged the rear tyres. Michael did as much as we could have expected. He paced himself well during the race, the strategy was good, he pushed when he needed to. A couple of points could prove vital at the end of the season.”

Mark Webber, Williams BMW F1 retired lap 37: “I had a pretty good start and set it into a reasonable rhythm and after the first pit stop I started to catch Fisichella who was holding me up quite a lot as his tyres were finished. I had Ralf behind me and I knew he could pounce anytime. We had a tight fight but I got in front of him in the end. Then with 20 laps to go I closed up with Fisichella again. His tyres were getting worse and worse, I passed him at turn 14 and left him plenty of room. Then Giancarlo came on the inside on the next corner and I knew it would be difficult for him to stop on the dirty side. I went back onto the clean side and I think Fisi braked too late, locked his tyres on the dirty stuff, lost the rear end and took my car out.”

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