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2003 Japanese Grand Prix 
What the teams and drivers said - Sunday  

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Drivers Championship Constructors Championship
Reports & Results

What the teams and drivers said - Sunday

Ferrari ( Rubens Barrichello - 1st, Michael Schumacher - 8th  )

Jean Todt: "It has been an historic day. Rubens put on a fantastic performance, while Michael drove a defensive and cautious race to bring home the point which would guarantee him the title. We have won both championships, writing another page in the history book of this sport. No team has ever won five consecutive Constructorsí titles and no driver has ever had his name at the top of the record books six times. 
First and foremost, I want to thank Luca di Montezemolo who has always given us his support. Thanks must also go to our shareholders who have always believed in us, even in the really difficult times. I think Gianni Agnelli would have been proud to see the car which bears his name win seven of the twelve races in which it competed. Then there are our technical partners - first and foremost Bridgestone, Shell and AMD and the commercial ones, some of whom have been with us for a long time, like Philip Morris and more recent ones such as Vodafone and Olympus. I am proud to be in charge of this dream team; which is united, determined and never gives up. Now we will enjoy this success, which comes at the end of a very difficult season, up against very strong opposition. I can assure you that we have not lost our hunger for more victories in the future. 
Enzo Ferrari would have been proud of what we have accomplished."

Ross Brawn: "This was a very tough race, especially with so much at stake. Rubens did a fantastic job at the front, but we wanted to get Michael in the points just to be sure. It was very exciting. That early incident made life more difficult for us but we knew we still had a chance. We had a recovery strategy which worked okay. We did not catch Ralf at the second stop, as he took on less fuel than we did, but we managed to get him at the third one. It was very close and tough today. I think I am getting too old for all this excitement! But you always know with Michael that you have a chance. It was important to get that one point, because you never know what can happen at the front. It was actually tougher to get that point than it was to win the race. We were lucky to get away with the incident at the chicane with Michael and Da Matta. I guess Da Matta must have braked early as Michael almost hit him. This is a dream come true. I am so proud to be part of Ferrari. All the guys and girls have shown what kind of team they are. Our partner Bridgestone also did a great job. Now we go and karaoke!"

Rubens Barrichello: "I am so proud to have helped Ferrari win four of their titles and to win this race on what is considered a driverís circuit is another reason to be proud. Along with Silverstone this year, these are the two best races of my life. I want to thank everyone at home in Brazil for staying up to watch and this victory pays them back. All the team, the engineers and mechanics have done a fantastic job to give us a car with such reliability and performance. My race was very tough until the final stages when I could ease up a bit. After the start, the track felt slippery and at Turn 12 going into Spoon, the car went sideways, I backed off and Montoya got past. He was very quick, but then I began to catch him, but I was having trouble with my visor fogging up, there was also oil on it and I had to concentrate very hard. I kept pushing because I was very worried it might rain, in which case I could have lost everything in just one lap. You cannot compare drivers from different generations, but what Michael has done today is a fantastic achievement. I think I have had a much better year in terms of my performance, compared to last year, when I had more points and was higher in the championship."

Michael Schumacher: "I find it difficult to say what I am feeling at the moment because, honestly, this has been a tough year, a tough last part of the season and today was one of my toughest races. But I can say what I feel about the team: they are more important and again today did an incredible job and Rubens had a fantastic drive winning in great style. After we had been written off earlier in the year, we never gave up. The team is always fighting and that is its strength. We are a big family and we can all be proud to be part of it. Personally, I feel empty and exhausted after this race. I went flat out after I lost my nose, because I knew Montoya was out and the two McLarens were behind Rubens. I was a bit messy after the accident and it was a strange race, cutting through the traffic, especially with Da Matta and Ralf. I knew I had to finish eighth, because although Rubens was in the lead, in Formula 1 you always wonder if the car will finish and think of the worst situation. After the incident with Da Matta, I had a huge flat spot on the tyre and the vibration was so bad I had vision problems down the straight. I was also worried about a puncture and was just trying to get the car to the flag. It feels strange, as usually I have won the championship with a victory, but now I am here in eighth place, so there are some mixed emotions."

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McLaren (  Kimi Raikkonen - 2nd, David Coulthard - 3rd )

Ron Dennis: "It was quite close and anything was possible in the race. Kimi and David performed well, and we had a good strategy for both cars. However it's the combined result of the 16 races which decide the World Championship but we were able to fight until the very end. The entire team is already working hard on planning our 2004 season."

Norbert Haug: "Kimi is runner-up in the World Championship two points behind, which is a good result at the end of an exciting season. The whole team did a great job and worked very hard to keep Kimi in contention for the title until the last race. David showed a strong drive coming home in third today. Congratulations to Michael Schumacher on his sixth World Championship title at least he can't say we made it easy for him. Thanks to all our team members for their hard work during 2003. We will all continue our efforts in order to finish one better in 2004."

Kimi Raikkonen: "Obviously I'm a bit disappointed not to win the World Championship, but we needed a bit of luck to do it, and whilst we were close, we were not close enough - however at least we took the battle to the last round. I want to thank everybody in the team, both here and back at base, who have worked so hard during the season and pushed as much as possible, and I'm confident that we will mount an even stronger title challenge next season. I made an OK start, but we were quite far down the grid after weather affected our qualifying yesterday, which always makes things more difficult. I struggled with the handling on my last two sets of tyres but continued to push as hard as I could until the very last lap as you never know what might happen in racing, but it was not enough. I have enjoyed the 2003 season and am already looking forward to next year."

David Coulthard: "I was able to run at a reasonable pace today and was pushing as hard as I could to make the best from my three-stop strategy. I experienced a few handling problems with my second set of tyres, but at the end of the day third was what we could do today. I had a relatively unexciting race and was not really involved in any battles, but I was pleased that we were on the pace. Congratulations to Kimi on finishing second in the Championship and I'm sure that next year we will be back with an even stronger challenge."

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BAR ( Jenson Button - 4th, Takuma Sato - 6th - Replaced Jacques Villeneuve )

David Richards: "This is just fantastic! To have this result at Hondaís home track, with Taku driving his first race with us is amazing. Jenson had one of his best races, driving with real maturity, and showed he had the pace of the top teams. We had an excellent race set-up and a perfect fuel strategy, which leapfrogged us over Saturdayís light fuel teams. I like to think that this weekendís performance is significant in a number of ways, and going into the winter break, gives us the confidence that the changes we have made are all positive. Both Honda and ourselves have ambitious plans for next year and we will be pushing very hard when testing resumes in November."

Geoff Willis: "I am very pleased that in the closing race of the season we have been able to demonstrate the real potential of the team. Both Takuma and Jenson drove perfect races, the teamís strategy was perfect and both cars ran faultlessly. I would also thank Bridgestone for providing a strong tyre this weekend. Although we have lost far too many points this year, this race has allowed us to take 5th place in the championship, which is a true reflection of the performance of the package. This has given everyone at B∑A∑R and Honda just the boost that we need to drive us hard over the winter and prepare for the 2004 season."

Shuhei Nakamoto: "A great way to end the season, especially in front of our home crowd. Both our guys were really strong out there and our strategy worked perfectly. Jenson pushed hard and showed good pace throughout the race and Taku coped brilliantly with the pressure of a home debut. I'm also very pleased that we secured fifth in the constructors' championship today - the car worked really well and the boys did a great job on all the stops. I want to use this as a springboard for next season."

Jenson Button: "That was incredible! We came here fighting for two points and came away with eight, which is just amazing. We really deserved this result today and to finally secure fifth place in the Championship is a great way for the team to finish the season. It was a very tough race though. I got a great start and took Webber on the outside, which was very important for us at that stage as we didnít know what strategy they were running. I had two perfect pitstops and after that it was just a question of conserving everything and staying as consistent as possible, because itís hard to keep your concentration here. It was nice to lead again for the second race in a row Ė even if it was only briefly on this occasion.
Takuma has been under a lot of pressure all weekend and he rose above it. Iíd like to thank Honda for a fantastic race engine and all the race team for a great job this weekend, especially in the pitstops today. Iíd also like to pay tribute to the team back at base for sticking with it during a very difficult year. This is a great boost for all of us for the winter."

Takuma Sato: "Iím absolutely thrilled. Racing here this weekend came as a total surprise but to finish sixth and play a part in securing fifth place in the Championship is just amazing. And all in front of my home crowd! 
I made a great start and jumped two places off the grid, then I managed to pass Wilson and Webber, which was important for the team. I had a close call with Michael in the chicane, but I had the line and he came up on the inside of me. This is a great way to start my racing career with B∑A∑R and now I canít wait for the start of the next season. Iíd like to thank everyone from the team and Honda for making my return to racing so successful."

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Renault ( Jarno Trulli - 5th, Fernando Alonso - Retired )

Falvio Briatore: "The results donít show it fully, but the team did a very good job this weekend. Both drivers put in excellent performances, especially Jarno from the back of the grid, and it was frustrating to see Fernando retire. It is a shame to end the season like this, but it has been a fantastic year for Renault and the whole team. The winter will be spent working hard, and we should be even stronger in Melbourne next March."

Pat Symonds: "A mixed final race for us. Jarno drove an absolutely superb race today and starting from nineteenth, to finish fifth in a race with few retirements is remarkable; indeed, were it not for bad luck with traffic, it could have been fourth. Fernandoís early laps were extremely impressive, and he was able to hold on to Barrichello who we knew was on three stops. We slightly extended the second stint in order to give the possibility of converting to two stops, and beating the Ferrari this way. Unfortunately, an engine problem intervened and didnít allow us to reap the benefits of this. We also congratulate Michael and Ferrari: this has been a fitting end to a great season."

Jarno Trulli: "A fantastic race for me: we didnít expect to score points after starting at the back, and if it hadnít been for the traffic after my second stop, I could have finished fourth. I want to thank the team, who gave me a strong car all weekend. The real damage was done on Saturday, when I could have got pole if it hadnít rained. We proved during the race that we were quick enough to fight at the front."

Fernando Alonso: "Itís a big disappointment to retire: I was fighting for the victory, and we were probably going to make one less stop than Rubens. We have had a great season, but the opportunity was there to win at the last race, and itís not a nice feeling to lose it."

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Toyota ( Cristiano da Matta - 7th, Olivier Panis - 10th )

Ove Andersson: "To take two points in our home grand prix is a very nice feeling and we can return to Cologne with our heads held high. We finish the season in eighth position in the constructors' championship, which is where we probably should be after only our second season in Formula 1. My ambition tells me that I would have liked to be further up, but it was a more difficult year than our debut season, and one from which we have learned a huge amount. I want to thank the team for the hard work and effort that every single person has put into this season. We will back racing next year with a better car and even more determination to be successful and to give our competitors an even harder time."

Cristiano da Matta: "That was a fun but tough race and I am very pleased to score two more championship points in Toyota's home race. We started from a strong grid position and we were able to translate our improved performance yesterday into a points finish. Having said that, I think we were capable of more. We started well and ran in fourth for a long time, but we then lost some positions to the guys who were two- stopping. For my debut season in F1 and the team's second, I think that we have done an excellent job, even if the points have been difficult to come by. We have learned a lot over the last sixteen races and shown the full potential of the Toyota team, so I am looking forward to more improvement next season."

Olivier Panis: "I think we deserved more from today's race. We decided to do three stops and try to maintain our excellent qualifying positions, but ultimately we couldn't match the pace of the teams who opted to stop twice. On a positive note, we were able to get both cars past the chequered flag in front of the Japanese fans. We must now look ahead to next year with big confidence. I continue to be impressed by the work of the whole team. Together, we have grown a lot throughout the season and we have made really big progress with the car. We can remember the 2003 season with some good memories and look to more highlights next year, with a faster car, strong grid positions, more points, and who knows what else ?."

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Sauber ( Nick Heidfeld - 9th, Heinz Harald Frentzen - Retired )

Peter Sauber: "Of course we all are disappointed that we couldn't keep our fifth place in the World Championship for Constructors, but we must not be ungrateful. Before the last race in Indianapolis we were only ninth in the Championship and only climbed to fifth thanks to the fantastic performance of the drivers, the team and, of course, Bridgestone. We thank Nick Heidfeld and Heinz-Harald Frentzen for a good and professional job in a very difficult season for us. Hats off to B.A.R. Honda for a great result today and for taking fifth place in the Championship.
And congratulations to Ferrari and Michael Schumacher. With this unique success they write themselves into a completely new chapter of motorsport history."

Nick Heidfeld: "The start was good, but between Turns One and Two Wilson hit me a few times and consequently pushed me into the dirt. I lost some places, which was annoying. After that I was able to catch up lap by lap. Unfortunately I finished only ninth and couldn't score points, so sadly we couldn't defend our fifth place in the Constructors' World Championship. We dropped a position, but B.A.R. Honda was simply too strong today."

Heinz Harald Frentzen: "It's a shame that I couldn't finish my race, but at least Nick was able to have a good one and to catch up after the chaos after the start. Ralf Schumacher hit the rear of my car quite hard so I had to go to the pits, where we discovered that oil was leaking from a damaged cooler. Later the engine broke, so that was it."

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Jaguar ( Mark Webber - 11th, Justin Wilson - 13th )

Tony Purnell: "We began the season with a fast car but one which was unreliable at times and with the benefit of hindsight, we lost points as a consequence. As the season progressed, however, our competition got quicker and reliable to the extent that todayís race was out of our reach. Thatís motor racing and while we have lost out today, I take a lot of pride in the fact that we have achieved the target we began the season with Ė Ďrespectability.í That was the objective and Iíd say we have achieved that. Sauber were fortunate to have bagged ten points in Indianapolis by being out on the right wet tyres at the right time otherwise we would have finished the season in 6th place. Nonetheless, the work and effort that has gone into turning this team around must be recognised and the fact that we are on the right path leaves us with a lot to look forward to next year. It is going to be a tough winter but we will come out kicking and fighting in 2004."

Dr. Mark Gillan: "A disappointing end to a weekend that has been very good for us in terms of preparation and reliability. The balance of the car has also been good but we were simply off the pace today versus our immediate competition. The track was somewhat green given the rain that fell overnight and these conditions didnít suit our exploitation of the tyres. Degradation was a problem for both drivers but on the whole our performance wasnít enough on the day. Our strategy was right and was executed very well and the only issue we suffered was an engine-related problem on Justinís car after his third pit stop. We made the necessary changes to the settings in an effort to get the car across the finishing line and in the end both cars came home, albeit out of the points. Our partners and suppliers have done an outstanding job this year and we thank them for their support and look forward to working with them in 2004."

Mark Webber: "A tough race and one which was quite low on grip. The balance of the car was OK but we just didnít get the car to bite all afternoon. A little surprising, yes, but thatís how it goes sometimes. It is not the finish we wanted but overall we have had a strong season and while it would be nice to finish on a high, it didnít happen today. We do, however, remain very motivated and weíll be working hard over the winter. The opposition did well today and they deserve respect. As a consequence, it makes us all the more hungry to do a better job in time for next season."

Justin Wilson: "A difficult race and one which didnít go our way today but we gave it everything under the circumstances. The team did an excellent job all weekend but the outright pace wasnít there. The grip levels were not what we expected and the opposition took full advantage. After my third pit-stop, I suffered from an engine problem but given how far from the points I was, it didnít really make a big impact on my race. I have very much enjoyed my five races with Jaguar and I of course hope to continue with the team in 2004. For now, however, I am going back to the UK to relax and take stock of what has been a very intense few months, albeit ones which I have enjoyed a lot."

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Williams ( Ralf Schumacher- 12th, Juan Pablo Montoya - Retired )

Frank Williams: "It was a disappointing end to a brilliant F1 season, but there remains much encouragement for us for the next year."

Patrick Head: "We fought very hard all year but we started too weakly and that put a lot of pressure on us at the end, which I donít think was really the problem but ultimately the results in our last few races of the year have been very poor, although the car speed has been very good. We will be going home now and analysing what has happened and weíll try to make sure we do much better next year. I want to give credit to all the people in the team, both in Grove and Munich and the support from our partners and sponsors because everybody has worked very hard this year. Second in the Constructorís Championship isnít first but still the team has improved enormously through the year and thatís pleasing to see. Well done to Michael and Ferrari!."

Mario Theissen: "This last race reflected the whole season for our team, it was just like a rollercoaster. After a weak start to the season we had the Constructorís Championship within reach but in the last few races we have to acknowledge that our team is still not quite strong enough. There were too many mistakes and this includes todayís race. It is a small comfort to us that the P83 engine did not experience any failures in all of the 16 races. With hindsight, we can still say that it is clear that this year we made a big jump forward. With four victories, including two one-two finishes, this was our strongest season so far. We managed to keep the ConstructorsĎ title undecided until the last race. The developments for 2004 should ensure that we will be competitive from the start of the season. Congratulations to Michael Schumacher and Ferrari for having won both titles. They have been a little too strong for us, this time."

Ralf Schumacher: "I am obviously massively disappointed about the result of this race as the outcome could have been completely different. I started the race from a difficult last position and I was able to pass several cars getting into the points positions but in the end I didnít take any reward from it. The whole team has not been rewarded for their great effort, in the end."

Juan Pablo Montoya: "Itís a true shame as our car has been very reliable this year and the effort that WilliamsF1 and BMW have put into this Championship has been huge. Thereís nothing you can do, this is motor racing and these things happen. My start today was quite good, the track was a bit damp but I still got past Rubens on the first lap, at my second attempt. I was coming out of the hairpin really slowly and I think Rubens was trying to protect his line and touched the white line, going slightly sideways and had to lift the throttle a little, so I went for it. I had to and it worked. Then I thought I had just to pace myself. I was very pleased with the way the car was performing and we had a really good strategy. Then, bad luck, on lap 9 I felt a loss of some controls and that was it. With hindsight, Iím not that displeased that I was no longer in the battle for the Driversí Championship, because retiring at the last race, in this way, would have been much harder. If I look back at the season, I am very, very happy with the job I made. I learned a lot from last year and I have matured as a driver."

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Jordan ( Ralph Firman - 14th, Giancarlo Fisichella - Retired )

Gary Anderson: "I canít deny that was a disappointment. In Ralphís first pit stop we had a problem with the fuel rig connector which lost a lot of time for him. We were forced to pit early as well because he had a fuel pick-up problem - we think one of the pumps in the tank failed - and he had to run with quite a high fuel load to the end, to try and keep it from cutting out. In Giancarloís first stop we didnít get the quantity of fuel we thought we had during refuelling, so he was a lap short and ran out of fuel just before his second stop.
There have been a lot of lessons learnt this year and the whole team is already working very hard to ensure we come back next year with a much more competitive package.
On a personal note Iíd like to thank the team and all my friends in Formula One, for some very memorable years. As Iím now heading to semi-retirement I wonít see everyone as often but Iíll certainly pop up now and again and hopefully Iíll have a little bit more time for that little glass of red wine Iíve enjoyed with many of you over the years."

Ralph Firman: "That was an unfortunate end to the season. I had a fuel rig problem in the pit stop and a pick-up problem in the fuel tank, which meant in my second stint I had to carry a lot more fuel than planned. Nevertheless, the team have done a good job all year and Iíve really enjoyed working with them - hopefully I can look forward to a long future with them."

Giancarlo Fisichella: "The car just cut out, it seemed to be a fuel problem. It wasnít going too badly before that, in fact I was having quite a good race as the car balance was quite reasonable. Unfortunately it was my last race with Jordan and we didnít get to the end so Iím a bit disappointed, but thatís life. Iíd like to say thank you very much to the team and I wish every one of them all the best and I hope we both have better seasons next year."

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Minardi ( Jos Verstappen - 15th, Nicolas Kiesa - 16th )

Paul Stoddart: "First of all, congratulations to Michael Schumacher and to Ferrari for a job well done. As for Minardi, the year ended on a positive note, with both cars yet again taking the chequered flag. Overall, though, Ďfrustratingí is the way I would describe the season, in that our engine and driver line-up deserved more, but the lack of funds to develop the car cost us dearly, despite a fantastic effort from all our staff throughout what has been a most difficult year. Iíd like to thank all our personnel, not only on the race team, but also in the factories at Faenza and Ledbury. Together with our technical and commercial partners, they have given 110 per cent throughout 2003."

Jos Verstappen: "From my point of view, I think we were consistent today, although the grip was pretty low throughout the race. I came in at the end of the formation lap, as we had decided to take a gamble in qualifying to see what we could do with a very light fuel load. Nicolas was on a normal two-stopper, and I finished ahead of him, so I think ours was the right strategy. The season is over now and we will be concentrating on next year. It is absolutely my goal to stay in Formula One, as I am not finished with the sport yet, but it would be nice to have a little bit more competitive car next season. I would like to say a special thank you to my crew, who have done a very, very good job all year. I think they are the best mechanics I have worked with in my career, and I would like to thank them very much."

Nicolas Kiesa: "It has been great to finish all five F1 races in which Iíve competed, and Iíd like to thank everyone at Minardi who has made this possible. It is incredible, with the very limited resources available to this team, how it is able to keep the cars running so reliably. It would just be nice to find a bit more pace over the winter, as the motivation and commitment of everyone here is amazing, and the guys really deserve some decent results for the tremendous effort they put in. I really admire them. As for todayís race, it was hard physically, but I think I also encountered an aerodynamic problem after about 10 laps that made the situation a bit more difficult. It didnít get any worse as the race wore on, but basically, the car lost grip in the high-speed corners. Changing from fifth to sixth gear at Spoon, the back end was stepping out at 280 km/h! I had no choice, though, but to live with the problem through to the end of the race. Otherwise, I didnít have any difficulties this afternoon. I would like to say thank you to everyone on the team, and especially to Paul Stoddart, for giving me the chance to be in Formula One. It has been the most amazing experience of my life, and I really hope to be back here again next year."

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