MELBOURNE: Ferrari was battered but unbowed after ending a run of 53 consecutive races on the podium at the season-opening Australian Formula One Grand Prix here yesterday.
The mighty Italian team, with 12 world constructor's titles, had to take a back seat as David Coulthard led chief rivals McLaren to victory in the Melbourne race with five times world champion Michael Schumacher back in fourth place.
Ferrari's number two driver Brazilian Rubens Barrichello only lasted six laps before he lost control of his car on a slippery track surface and hit a wall, shearing off the rear wing and right front wheel.
After dominating last season with Schumacher winning 11 races and filling podium places in the other six GPs, Ferrari was in the unaccustomed position of missing out on the top three.
But team director Jean Todt was rallying his troops after coming away from the opening race with just five points.
“Today's results brings to an end a run of 53 consecutive races featuring a Ferrari on the podium,” Todt said.
“Now we must attack once more. We know this will be a very tough season, but we also know we have all the right elements in place to be able to fight for success at the end.”
Schumacher, chasing his 65th win in his 179th GP, was satisfied with his fourth after taking three pit stops and needing running repairs on his battered F2002 car.
“The changing weather made for a chaotic race today,” Schumacher said. “At one point I hit the kerb, damaged the car quite badly and lost a lot of time because of it.
“Apparently, on the lap before my last pit stop some parts started hanging off the car and that was badly affecting its handling.
“It felt as though the car was damaged and I even thought I might have a puncture.
“So all things considered we can be happy with fourth place today and these five points will be important later in the year.”
Barrichello said there was no need to panic after his early race retirement.
“A disappointing day, but it's not a case of Australia being unlucky for me. It was just one of those things and there is no need to panic about this result,” Barrichello said.
“We just have to dig in and concentrate on the next race in Malaysia (March 23). We must now put this race behind us, look to the next one and get used to the new rules.” – AFP