FIA Formula One World Championship - Round 18 Brazilian GP, 22-24 October 2004 Race
Sato Races To Sixth In Season Finale At Interlagos
B.A.R Honda secures second in constructors' championship
In the final round of the 2004 season, Lucky Strike B.A.R Honda's Takuma Sato crossed the line sixth in this afternoon's Brazilian Grand Prix. After a strong start, team-mate Jenson Button was forced out of the action on lap four with an engine failure. B.A.R Honda finishes the season second in the constructors' championship with 119 points, 14 clear of third-placed Renault.
Light but steady rain began to fall just before the start of the race but it remained relatively warm and humid (track 27, air 25 degrees) as the 71 lap race got underway at Interlagos in fairly treacherous track conditions. The Honda-powered duo started on intermediate tyres whereas Renault - B.A.R Honda's closest rival in the constructors' championship – opted for dry tyres for both Alonso and Villeneuve who lined up in P9 and P14 respectively.
Sato held P6 off the grid and moved up into fifth place on lap four when his team-mate retired from the action. Lap five saw the first of Sato's three scheduled stops, peeling off into the pit lane at the same time as McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen, Williams' Juan Pablo Montoya and Toyota's Jarno Trulli.
By lap eight Sato was back up into P5 behind Ralf Schumacher (Williams) as the pit stop sequence unfolded. The Japanese driver was running in third place when he came in for his second stop for fuel and tyres on lap 27 in tandem with Ferrari's Rubens Barrichello. On lap 33 fifth-placed Sato ran wide into turn one, allowing Barrichello to get past and demoting the B.A.R Honda driver to P6.
Sato, who moved up into third position on lap 50 as those ahead of him pitted, came in for his own final stop on lap 54, rejoining in fifth place behind Fernando Alonso (Renault), who had clearly benefited from starting the race on dry tyres. By lap 68 the Japanese racer was all over the back of the Spaniard but the Honda-powered driver made a mistake on lap 70, allowing Ralf Schumacher to sneak past and move Sato back to P6 with one lap to go.
The B.A.R Honda driver went on to cross the line sixth, the position in which he qualified, collecting three points and helping the team secure second in the constructors' championship. Sato scored a total of 34 points this season and finished eighth in the drivers' standings.
It was not a good season finale for Button, who was only able to complete three full race laps this afternoon before his car stopped out on track. The Briton made a good start from fifth on the grid, moving up into third place on lap one. Button fell back to fifth position on the second lap, and after enjoying a brief battle with Sauber's Felipe Massa for P4, retired from the action on the fourth lap when his engine failed. Button finishes the season third in the drivers' championship with 85 points.
Juan Pablo Montoya won the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix, his and Williams' first victory of 2004. The Colombian was joined on the podium by McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen and Ferrari's Rubens Barrichello. Fernando Alonso (Renault), Ralf Schumacher (Williams) and B.A.R Honda's Takuma Sato crossed the line fourth, fifth and sixth while Michael Schumacher (Ferrari) and Sauber's Felipe Massa took the final two point-scoring positions.
Takuma Sato Position: 6th
"It was a really hard race today. The start was tricky for everyone because of the shower just before the start. The circuit was actually quite damp but some of the drivers had chosen to start on dry tyres. We chose to run on wet tyres, but as I was originally on a two-stop strategy, I lost quite a bit of time when I had to come in to change to dry tyres. After my last stop, I had a great battle with three other cars. Even though we were quicker than them in the infield section, we struggled on the straights so I wasn't able to get close enough to outbrake anyone into turn one, which was a little bit frustrating. Nevertheless, we have finished second in the championship, which is excellent, and the entire team has done a fantastic job. I would also like to thank our partners Lucky Strike, Honda and Michelin for their efforts. I look forward to carrying this great feeling and momentum through to winter testing and I am sure that we can challenge for another great season next year."
Jenson Button Position: DNF
"It's disappointing to retire from the last race of the year. We were optimistic of achieving another podium here today which would have been a nice way to see out the season. From the first red light on the start I knew I had some kind of problem and there was a lot of smoke and fire as I left the grid. I was able to continue for a while and had hoped that the problem would go away, but the damage had been done by that time and I had no option but to retire. That disappointment aside though, we have to look at the bigger picture which is that we have pulled off second in the championship - an incredible achievement for everyone in the team. Third place in the drivers' championship with 10 podiums is also a pretty special way for me to end the season. I'd like to thank each and every member of the team for their hard work and support this year and they deserve the celebrations that will be taking place here in Brazil and back at the factory this evening."
Shuhei Nakamoto – Engineering Director, Honda Racing Development
"Second in the World Championship is a fantastic result for all of us at B.A.R Honda. On the race team we have the chance of experiencing all the action live and have enjoyed celebrating the many podiums we have taken this season but today I want to thank everyone at Tochigi, HRD and of course B.A.R for all their efforts – our success at the track is only possible because of their hard work. It was a good drive by Taku today to secure the final championship points we needed but unfortunately we let Jenson down with an engine failure. Overall we will take motivation from our World Championship result and try to push our rivals even harder next year."