F1 debutants out to make amends in Sepang

  • Other Sport
  • Tuesday, 18 Mar 2003


PETALING JAYA: The four rookies in F1 had a disappointing baptism of fire at the Australian Grand Prix and they will be out to make amends in the second leg of the World Championships in Sepang this weekend. 

The youngest driver in the fray, Brazilian Antonio “Jungle Boy” Pizzonia of Jaguar and Jordan's Ralph Firman are expected to fight it out for the best rookies tag in the Malaysian GP. 

No rookie, except for Felipe Massa, has won points at the Sepang F1 Circuit since Malaysia first hosted a leg of the F1 championships in 1999. Massa got among the points in Petronas Sauber's colours last year. 

This weekend, the 22-year-old Pizzonia and fellow Brazilian newcomer Cristiano Da Matta, who races for Toyota, will be out to make up for the absence this season of their countryman Massa. 

ROOKIES: Brazillian Antonio Pizzonia (left) of Jaguar, Briton Justin Wilson of Minardi, Irish Ralph Firman of Jordan and Brazillian Cristiano Da Matta of Toyota pose for a group photo before the start of the Australian Formula One Grand Prix in Melbourne two weeks ago. The four will be out to make amends after a disappointing outing in Australia.

Briton Firman also have a countryman making his debut this season – Justin Wilson, the 2002 F3000 champion who is with Minardi. 

The new rules provide points for the top eight drivers on a scale of 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1and the rookies have a better chance to get onboard. 

Last year, only top six drivers were awarded points and Massa finished sixth in the Malaysia GP to win the first point of the season for Sauber. 

Of the rookies, only Pizzonia finished the race in 13th place in the season opening race at the Albert Park in Melbourne on March 9. The 27-year-old Firman and the 29-year-old Da Matta spun off the track while Wilson ran into mechanical problems. 


Australian Mark Webber, who shot into limelight winning two points in his F1 debut at his home GP last season, has high regards for his Jaguar teammate, Pizzonia, who is known for an aggressive driving style ever since joining the Brazilian exodus to Britain to further his racing career in the mid-90s. 

Webber, who drove for Minardi last year, said: “He (Pizzonia) has a huge amount of knowledge of what makes these F1 cars tick. He is a very, very quick and intelligent guy. I am happy to have somebody like him in the garage to push me.” 


Pizzonia, who was impressive in the British F3 series for two years, tested with the BMW Williams last year and worked closely with Juan Pablo Montoya and Ralf Schumacher. He finished fifth in the F3000 championships last year. 

Firman is determined to reverse his fortunes after coming close to getting a point in Melbourne.  

He was climbing to eight spot before his car spun off the track.  

And Firman knows the Sepang track very well. 

“I am looking forward to the race in Malaysia. I won my last race there (Sepang) in the Japanese GT championships and I cannot wait to get started,” he said. 

Firman beat Massa and German F3 champion Gary Paffett to the second seat in the Jordan team behind Giancarlo Fisichella just four weeks before the start of this season. 

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