Three Grand Prix starts and three finishes. That was the impressive result for European Minardi Cosworth driver Nicolas Kiesa when he finished 12th in yesterday's Italian Grand Prix.

The young Dane has enjoyed an excellent start to his Formula One career, and today's performance was undoubtedly his most polished to date. Fourteenth after the start from 19th spot on the grid, he made two faultless pit stops and climbed to an excellent 12th place at the chequered flag, matching his best Grand Prix result to date.

Team mate, Jos Verstappen, had a less satisfactory day, his car suffering a puncture on the first lap after it was hit from behind by Fernando Alonso at the start as Verstappen was taking action to avoid former team-mate Justin Wilson away from the line. This forced him to pit for a fresh set of tyres and allowed the team to refuel the car.

Unfortunately, their efforts ultimately didn't benefit the Dutch driver, as he retired his car on lap 30 with a split oil radiator. Up until that point, he had been running strongly, and looked to be on for a solid finish in the final European race of the 2003 Formula One season.

"The strategy we chose for qualifying, which focused more on trying to achieve a consistent performance in the race rather than an ultimate qualifying performance, pretty much paid off," Kiesa explained after the race. "The car was easy to drive in the race and it was comfortable even on the occasions when I needed to push it really hard. In addition, both pit stops went perfectly and everything on the car worked exactly as it should. It was a really nice way to finish a weekend that started out a bit rough for us."

Jos understandably felt a better result was on the cards for the team. "It was disappointing not to finish the race today," explained the Dutchman. "I also feel sorry for Fernando (Alonso), who drove into the back of my car at the start. I wouldn't have held him up, as he is involved in the World Championship battle and needs the points, but a Jaguar stopped on the grid in front of me and I guess he couldn't see it from where he was. It's a shame, but that's racing. We eventually retired with an oil leak. There was a lot of smoke and oil was getting on the rear tyres as well, so it was just too dangerous to continue, as much for the other drivers as for me."

Team boss Paul Stoddart summed up. "In an action-packed race, it was disappointing that we didn't get both cars to the finish, but I had to make the difficult decision to retire Jos's car when a persistent oil leak on to the right rear tyre made it too dangerous for him to continue," he said.

"Full credit, though, to Nicolas for completing his third Grand Prix - if not a record, it certainly marks the first time in a long time that a Formula One rookie has completed three straight races. The team looks forward to its all-important test in Mugello on Tuesday, and to the United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis in two weeks' time."



Loading Comments...