Not a bad old race. It’s been a while since there’s been a wet race and it showed up an interesting development — Michelin’s intermediate tyres are amazing, both when the track is quite wet and when it’s drying. I remember the 2003 World Championship when Michelin said that their tyres were faster than Bridgestones throughout the season except for a few vital laps in the United States Grand Prix in intermediate conditions, when Michael Schumacher absolutely stormed his way through. That’s what probably won him the championship that year; Michelin have raised their game here to prevent that from happening again.
What else happened? Renault had to make an engine change, although it was for Fisichella, so it wasn’t as vital as all of McLaren’s changes. Still, the Renault philosophy is slow and steady wins the Championship, and Alonso only needs two points now to seal it. The Constructors’ will be a closer one though, so there’ll still be plenty to play for in the last few races.
Yet again, though, McLaren’s championship wasn’t helped by Juan Pablo Montoya crashing with a back marker in the last few laps of the race. It was difficult to tell from the replay; there appears to be no footage of the run-up to the accident, but it looks like Pizzonia was trying to un-lap himself and simply crashed into Montoya. The incident is being investigated, but if Pizzonia is found to have been at fault, that would be very serious as it would have implications for the championship.
The McLaren is still the fastest car, although its dominance was in doubt for one period. Ralf Schumacher got lucky when the safety car came out one lap after his pitstop and Kimi Räikkönen bunched up the field a bit too much to give Ralf that second place. But the Toyota looked fast! For a significant period I thought Ralf Schumacher could have won the race. He took a gamble in order to take that win by stopping for dry tyres, but the circuit never suited those dry tyres until the very last few laps. Ralf stopped far too early for slicks. It was a brave gamble — the sort of thing that makes race winners — but it didn’t pay off for him. After Trulli’s fantastic lap in qualifying, though, that Toyota certainly looks handy these days, proving that the first few races of this season were no fluke.
What a stonker of a race Jenson Button had! Martin Brundle rightly made him his driver of the day. The BAR wasn’t looking particularly good, but Button made two fantastically brave overtaking manoeuvres today. The first was a spectacular move on Jacques Villeneuve on the outside of Pouhon; one of the top overtaking moves of the year for me. The second was a neat one on Rubens Barrichello at the Bus Stop. Button showed real skill today in dodgy conditions.
Which is more than you can say for Takuma Sato. If BAR employ him for next year they had better have a damn good excuse, because frankly he is rubbish. He keeps on having stupid crashes and audacious moves that will never work. When he crashed in to Michael Schumacher today it was just the icing on the cake for me. Sato blamed the conditions, but guess what — Schumacher was driving in the same conditions. All the other drivers were able to factor the conditions in. Sato’s excitement got the better of him yet again.
After a good qualifying session, Minardi disappointed by being the slowest cars during the race. Meanwhile, Webber managed to finish fourth without anybody noticing, and Villeneuve did a good job to bring his Sauber home in sixth.
As is often the case in wet conditions, a backmarker was able to come through and take a point amongst all the madness. I’m delighted that Tiago Monteiro has scored a point to add to his phyrrhic podium in the United States. He can add this to his fantastic reliability record. He has finished far more of his first grands prix than any rookie — by a long, long margin. Even if he can’t regularly contend for results, Monteiro is making his point in his own special way.
Update: I noticed when watching the news that every points-scoring driver was from a different team — eight teams scored today!