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2002 French GP - Honda F1 Post-Race Press Release


HARD WEEKEND FOR HONDA AT MAGNY-COURS
Honda-powered challenge shortlived at French Grand Prix

Lucky Strike B.A.R Honda's Jacques Villeneuve was forced out of the action on lap 36 of today's French Grand Prix due to engine failure while team-mate Olivier Panis stopped on lap 31 with an unidentifiable vibration as a result of damage sustained to his car from the first corner incident with Takuma Sato (DHL Jordan Honda). Sato retired from the race on lap 24 when he beached his car in the gravel and team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella did not participate in today's race due to his accident in the Saturday morning practice session.

B.A.R Honda's Jacques Villeneuve managed to avoid the coming together of his team-mate and Jordan Honda's Takuma Sato, who touched at the first corner and both having spun into the gravel managed to return to the track, rejoining at the back of the field. Villeneuve was in 13th place off the grid and gained a place on lap 10 when Sauber's Felipe Massa received a second drive through penalty for cutting across the white line at the end of pit lane while carrying out his first penalty for jumping the start. The Canadian came in from 12th place for the first of his two scheduled pit stops on lap 20, rejoining in 16th position behind Massa. After the first round of pit stops Villeneuve had gained two places to 10th position on lap 26, leap-frogging the Toyota's of Mika Salo and Allan McNish, by swift work in the pits. The B.A.R Honda driver's race was shortlived however, as he was forced out of the action just after half distance on lap 36 due to engine failure.

Olivier Panis came in for a long pit stop on the second lap to assess the damage sustained to his B.A.R Honda from the first corner incident with Takuma Sato. Panis rejoined one lap down in 18th position and was immediately back on the pace, setting the fastest lap of the race in the early stages, a 1m16.274s, on lap four. The Frenchman pitted again on lap 22, rejoining the action in 18th place, moving up one position two laps later when Sato retired from the race. Panis was unable to finish his home Grand Prix and parked his car in the pits on lap 31 due to an unidentifiable vibration.

Jordan Honda's Takuma Sato moved down to 17th place from 14th on the grid as a result of his coming together with Olivier Panis on the first lap. The Japanese driver moved up to 15th place behind Jaguar's De La Rosa on lap 10 due to Massa leaving the track for his drive through penalty, but 14 laps later he was suffering from understeer and beached his car in the gravel on the last turn, bringing his race to an end. Sato's team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella was advised by Professor Sid Watkins not to participate in today's race due to the force of the impact of his accident in the Saturday morning practice session.

The weather conditions were slightly overcast at Magny-Cours but remained warm (25 degrees) as Ferrari's Michael Schumacher scored his 61st victory and clinched the 2002 Drivers' World Championship, finishing ahead of McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen and David Coulthard. The Williams pairing of Juan Pablo Montoya and Ralf Schumacher finished fourth and fifth while Jenson Button (Renault) completes the top six positions.

Shuhei Nakamoto Race and Test Team Manager, Honda Racing Development
"Quite clearly this has been a bad day for us and all in all not a great weekend. Today really belongs to Michael and I'd like to congratulate him on becoming World Champion again. From Honda's point of view, we definitely saw an improvement in the engine power this weekend so we won't give up and we'll start again in Germany."

Jacques Villeneuve Position: DNF
"We had a bad start and then with the mayhem in front of me into turn one, I ended up going wide and losing a lot of places. The car was actually quite quick but I was stuck behind McNish, who was very quick down the straights but slow in the corners. After I got past him, the race wasn't going too badly and the car was actually quite quick. Then the engine let go suddenly. This is the first weekend that we've raced with this engine and it hasn't been tested before. We knew there was a risk involved in running it but it was a risk we were prepared to take if it meant we could benefit from the extra horsepower. I'm disappointed but we had been expecting a tougher race anyway."

Olivier Panis Position: DNF
"What can I say? I'm very disappointed and, to be honest, very angry with Sato's move into the first corner but I think it was very clear for everybody to see. I came into the pits and it looked like I just had damage to the bodywork. I went back out again and despite being a lap down, I continued to push and improve my lap times. The car felt very strange though and I was very conscious of a vibration which we couldn't pinpoint. I kept going while the team looked at everything on the telemetry but I had lost so much time that it wasn't worth the risk to continue. This is the last race I would have wanted to retire from because everyone wants to do well at their home grand prix. As always, the team have done a great job all weekend and to lose both cars in the race is very disappointing for them also."

Takuma Sato Position: DNF
"The start was good and I was side by side with Olivier going into Turn One. Unfortunately Olivier turned in on me, we tangled, and there was nowhere for me to go except onto the gravel. That damaged the barge board and underneath of the car, causing huge understeer and it was difficult to stay on the circuit. I tried, but coming into the last corner I lost grip and the car just went straight onto the gravel. This weekend has been very tough for us, particularly with Giancarlo's accident. We're so pleased he's okay and I'm looking ahead to Hockenheim now."

Giancarlo Fisichella Position: DNS
"I watched the race on TV at home, and I'm sorry to see Takuma retire from the race. I am fine today after a good night's sleep. My headache has gone and I just have a little bit of a sore neck. I want to say thank you to Sid Watkins, the circuit medical team and air ambulance crew as they did a great job very quickly. I would also like to thank the doctors at the hospital in Nevers where I had full scans and of course the team doctor and physiotherapist from our sponsor vielife."



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