MSchumacher wins Japan GP

SUZUKA, Japan, Oct. 14 (UPI) -- Michael Schumacher completed his most brilliant Formula One season Sunday with a victory at the Grand Prix of Japan at the Suzuka International Racing Course.

The German Ferrari driver, starting from his 11th pole of the season, completed the 53-lap, 192.995-mile race in one hour, 27 minutes, 33.298 seconds for his 53rd career victory. He averaged 131.964 miles per hour.


Much suspense had been taken out of the season's finale when Schumacher clinched his fourth World Drivers' Championship at Hungary in August. One race later, he also broke Alain Prost's career victory mark with his 52nd all-time triumph.

With Sunday's win, the 32-year-old Schumacher raised his career points total to 801, breaking the previous record of 798.5 held by Prost. It also was a record-tying ninth victory of the season, a feat achieved by Nigel Mansell in 1992 and Schumacher himself in 2000, and fourth all-time at Suzuka--another record.


"This was a perfect end to the season, because winning the final race is just what you need before the long winter break," he said. "(Winning at) Monza and Indianapolis were difficult, but this was a great end to a great season and it is wonderful for the team."

Juan Montoya of Colombia started from the second spot in his Williams-BMW and led twice briefly, before settling for second place -- 03.154 seconds behind Schumacher.

"I am happy with the result as we had to be realistic about what we could do against the nre Ferrari that Michael had. He got away on new tires and I think that is where he won the race." said Montoya, who completed his rookie season sixth in the standings. "I have enjoyed my first season and want to thank the team for everything and now it is up to us to work hard for next year."

David Coulthard of Scotland came in third for McLaren-Mercedes to finish second in the drivers' championship with 65 points. He was in fourth place until a few laps from the end when teammate Mika Hakkinen allowed him to pass and take the podium position.


"I had a fairly uneventful race to be honest, but it's good to finish the season on the podium," Coulthard said. "The balance of the car wasn't too bad so I was trying to push myself and learn things for next year. I think Mika let me past towards the end of the race as a goodwill gesture and I will thank him later. There is no doubt that I have enjoyed working with him for the past six years and liked our battles."

Hakkinen claimed fourth in what could be his final F1 race. The 33-year-old from Finland will not race next year and has not made plans further than 2002.

"I want to thank everybody who I have worked with for the past nine years for all the effort they put into making my career so successful," the two-time world champion said. "I'm happy that David finished on the podium, and I must admit that by letting him past I wanted to give him something back for the occasions in the past when he has helped me.

"It will take some time to understand my new life and establish whether I enjoy it or not. Right now, I'm looking forward to my sabbatical but I'm sure I will also miss Formula One."


Rubens Barrichello of Brazil, Ferrari's No. 2 driver, needed to win this race in order to secure second place in the championship standings, but came in fifth. He used a three-stop strategy, a move that failed to work.

"In order to win, we had to try something special, like going for a three-stop stategy," Barrichello said. "Unfortunately, this did not pay off. The Williams were very quick down the straight and I could not stay ahead of Montoya when I was running my best set of tires. Then I lost more time during my final stop, when the engine cut out."

Germany's Ralf Schumacher finished sixth in his Williams.

Ferrari won the Constructors' Championship with 179 points while McLaren concluded the season with 102 points and Williams earned 80.

Jean Alesi of France ended his career in disappointing fashion. A veteran of 201 races, Alesi collided with Kimi Raikkonen of Finland on the sixth lap.

"It is sad to finish my career this way, but that is motor racing and I have to accept this situation," Alesi said. "Both Kimi and I were really lucky to get away without any injuries and I am so relieved that I did not hurt him as he spun right in front of me and there was no way I could avoid him."


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