Webber makes hot exit from Japanese Grand Prix
10 October 2004 | 5:04pm
For immediate release October 10, 2004
WEBBER MAKES HOT EXIT FROM JAPANESE GRAND PRIX
Despite a highly encouraging start to the day when he qualified his Jaguar Racing R5 third fastest for today’s Japanese Grand Prix, Mark Webber’s race ended prematurely on lap 22 when he was forced to retire after reporting intense heat coming from the right-hand side of his seat and cockpit after only seven laps. The team poured cold water into the cockpit when Webber made his first stop on lap 12 in an attempt to cool it down but the temperature rose quickly again when he rejoined the race, and with the buckle of his seatbelt red hot and starting to burn his skin, he had no alternative but to retire. At the time of writing, the team had yet to pinpoint the cause of the problem.
The race started badly for Webber when he was unable to convert his qualifying position at the start - a slow get-away seeing the Jaguar beaten off the line by both BARs and Jarno Trulli’s Toyota. Although demoted to sixth by the first lap, Webber was held up by Trulli for several laps and soon found himself under attack from David Coulthard. He did well to fend off the McLaren driver for as long as he did, before Coulthard passed him on lap nine, taking Giancarlo Fisichella through with him.
Webber pitted on lap 12 and rejoined behind the dice between Trulli and Fisichella, re-passing the latter when the Sauber driver ran off the track. Two laps later though and in pain from the rising temperature, Juan Pablo Montoya passed Webber for eighth. “It was just impossible to continue,” explained Webber after receiving treatment from team physio, Nick Harris. “I was losing concentration because the heat had become so intense against my thigh. There was no way I could continue to the finish. It’s been a frustrating weekend.”
The day had started positively enough for Webber after track conditions played nicely into his hands in this morning’s two qualifying sessions on a damp but drying Suzuka circuit.
Following the cancellation of all track activity yesterday due to the expected force of Typhoon Ma’on moving through the region; the drivers, team personnel and media forced to hole up in their hotels for most of the day, qualifying was re-scheduled for 9am on race morning. As it turned out, the typhoon, which had been heading straight for Suzuka, altered course and its only evidence was heavy rain throughout Saturday, although other parts of Japan were severely hit.
With the drivers only able to complete a handful of laps on Friday in the wet and absolutely no running in the dry, qualifying was always likely to throw up a few surprises this morning. And, much to the delight of the beleaguered Jaguar Racing team, Webber, by virtue of his 12th place finish in the Chinese Grand Prix, found the track conditions ideally suited to his intermediate tyres when he ventured out and subsequently rocketed to the top of the times with a time of 1min 39.170s. His lap was only bettered by Michael and Ralf Schumacher, setting times of 1min 38.397s and 1min 38.864s respectively, and Jarno Trulli, making his debut for Toyota, who took provisional pole with a 1min 37.716s.
The sun broke through for the first time this weekend at the start of qualifying proper, but the track remained damp in places. Being one of the last to run, Webber made the most of the conditions again and although he was slower than local hero, Takuma Sato, in the first sector, he picked up time over the remainder of the lap to emerge fastest with a time of 1min 34.571s. With only the Schumacher brothers and Trulli left to run, fourth position on the grid was the worst case scenario for Webber. However, although both Schumachers bettered Webber’s time, Ralf posting a 1min 34.032s and Michael a pole position winning time of 1min 33.542s, Trulli failed to repeat his earlier performance and dropped to sixth, leaving Webber in a splendid third place.
“Qualifying 1 definitely put us in great shape for quali 2,” said Webber at the official FIA media conference, “as we had the best track conditions. The second session was a bit easier to drive and it was very enjoyable. The tyres were good and given the limited amount of time we’ve had to prepare, the team has done a great job.”
Webber also went on to dedicate his lap to his no. 1 mechanic, Alan “Paddy” Maybin who is spannering Webber’s car for the last time after a long career in Formula One. However, Mark’s pre-race hope of scoring points so that Paddy could end his career on a high were sadly dashed.
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