Martin (frentzen) wrote in formula1,

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Ferrari finish the 2002 season in style!

Ferrari completed their 2002 season in style as Michael Schumacher led home Rubens Barrichello for another scarlet one-two in Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka.

Jordan had reason to celebrate too as Takuma Sato took fifth place in his home race to score his first world championship points. It lifted the team above BAR and Jaguar to sixth in the constructors' standings.

Kimi Raikkonen finished third for McLaren, benefiting from the retirement of Ralf Schumacher in the closing laps. Juan Pablo Montoya gave Williams some consolation with fourth place, while Jenson Button took the final point in his last race for Renault.

The Ferrari pair led away from the front row and quickly began to pull away from their Williams and McLaren rivals. Schumacher had the advantage over Barrichello throughout the 53-lap race before slowing on the closing laps to win by half a second, with Raikkonen a further 23 seconds down the road.

It was the world champion's 11th win of the year, and he becomes the first driver ever to finish every race in a season on the podium. Ferrari's one-two also means they have scored as many points this year as the other ten teams put together.

"The results talk for themselves," said Schumacher of his record-breaking season. "It is fantastic. What is amazing is we have finished all the races, which shows the quality of the job the mechanics have done.

"Today has been a special day with two winners - we won the race and the Japanese fans saw Sato take his first points at his home GP.

"The major point is you get a good start and gap to plan your race and that was the only plan honestly. I have been very fast all weekend, and it is no surprise we pulled out the gap to the others. I now look forward to a nice winter and preparing for next year."

Schumacher and Barrichello are now the most successful partnership in the history of Formula One™, surpassing that of David Coulthard and Mika Hakkinen at McLaren.

"I am so happy for myself and Ferrari," said Barrichello. "Being part of such a family is incredible. I had a good start, but the car was bottoming out a little on the first few laps so I had to be careful.

"It has been a good season, and two wins in the last three races was special for me."

Ralf Schumacher was running in third for most of the race after getting the jump on Raikkonen at the start. But with less than five laps to go he pulled off at the crossover with an apparent engine failure.

It left a grateful Raikkonen to take the final podium position for McLaren, after experiencing some problems in the closing stages. The Finn had earlier survived a scary moment on lap 33 when he ran wide at Degner, almost losing control.

Of his fourth podium of the season, the Finn commented: "Before the pit stop I was quicker than Ralf, but then he ran longer than me and was able to stay in front.

"We had some kind of problem that saw me slow down on the back straight, but when I came to the chicane everything was normal again."

McLaren team mate Coulthard had started the race strongly, maintaining his third place in the opening laps. However, he slowed on lap eight and pulled into the pits to retire.

"There was a huge loss of power," he said. "I don't know what it was, probably electronics. It was disappointing, but there was nothing we could do. We were going well."

There was nothing but smiles at Jordan as Sato brought a difficult debut season to close with his first points. The Japanese fans gave him a standing ovation as he exited the cockpit. It followed some tense final laps after the team had seen their other driver, Giancarlo Fisichella, retire with an engine failure on lap 39. The Italian had been forced to start in the spare after a last-minute engine problem on his way to the grid.

Honda rivals BAR had a very disappointing day, recording a double DNF at their 2003 engine supplier's home race. Olivier Panis, in his final race for the team, started to slow on lap six, dropping to last before pitting. He was sent back out, but after a further visit to the pits eventually came in to retire on lap 14.

"I don't know what it was, but there was a big power loss," said the Frenchman. "The gearbox felt tight, so it was possibly gearbox or engine - I don't know."

Team mate Jacques Villeneuve lost out at the start, but was putting Fisichella under intense pressure for 11th place in the middle stint, even forcing the Italian to run wide at the chicane at one point. However, his engine let go as he entered the home straight on lap 29. Something locked at the rear of the car and he was lucky not to be pitched into the pit wall.

Nick Heidfeld finished seventh for Sauber after a relatively uneventful race. Team mate Felipe Massa was the first of the day's retirements on lap four. The Brazilian ran wide into the gravel at Degner, before lightly hitting the tyre wall.

Both Renaults were quick throughout the race. Jarno Trulli and Jenson Button raced side by side on the opening lap, with Trulli moving ahead. Both then looked to be faster than Sato's Jordan ahead, but were unable to find a way past.

Trulli's hopes of a top-six finish ended on lap 34 when he pulled off with technical problems, leaving Button to bring Renault a single point, as he eventually finished 19 seconds down on Sato.

With Allan McNish being advised not to race after his qualifying crash, Mika Salo was Toyota's sole runner and he brought them a top-ten finish, in eighth, in their first home Grand Prix. The Finn had been in contention with Fisichella and Villeneuve, but lost a place to the Jordan in the second round of pit stops.

Eddie Irvine came from 14th on the grid to come home ninth, bringing a disappointing weekend for Jaguar to an end. Team mate Pedro de la Rosa retired on lap 41, pulling off at the hairpin with technical problems. It ended the team's hopes of retaining sixth place in the constructors' championship as Sato's two points put Jordan ahead.

Minardi's Mark Webber was the last of ten drivers to make the finish at Suzuka. Team mate Alex Yoong ended his final race for the team in retirement on lap 16 when he spun off into the gravel at Turn 2. He had got past Webber at the start, but lost the place when he spun and recovered at the hairpin.

All drivers were on a two-stop strategy. Such was the pace of the Ferraris that Schumacher never dropped below second place, even as he rejoined after his first visit to the pits. His win gave tyre suppliers Bridgestone their 70th victory in what was their 100th Grand Prix.

Conditions were fine throughout the race, with track temperatures of around 30°C. The fastest lap went to Schumacher with a 1.36.125 on lap 15, a new record for the slightly revised Suzuka circuit.
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