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Pizzonia shines as Williams super sub 04 Sep 2005

Antonio Pizzonia (BRA) Williams BMW FW27.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Italian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Monza, Italy, 3 September 2005

Brazilian beats team mate Webber for points finish

It was the call that every Formula One test driver dreams of. On Friday evening Antonio Pizzonia thought that he would be watching this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix from the sidelines.

By Saturday morning, he knew that he’d be driving for the Williams team, his first race outing since last year’s race at Monza, the last of four 2004 races where he stood in for the injured Ralf Schumacher.

Pizzonia was called as substitute for the injured Nick Heidfeld, who reported he was suffering from headaches after driving in Friday practice. The German was involved in a recent high-speed crash while testing at Monza, possibly the cause of the migraine, and the decision was quickly reached that he would be rested for the weekend.

For Pizzonia, this meant another chance to compete alongside Mark Webber. Believe the media and there is apparently no love lost between the two, who drove at Jaguar Racing together before Pizzonia was dropped mid-way through the 2003 season.

In the first free practice session on Saturday, Pizzonia, who had not been in the V10 FW27 for three months, looked to have been thrown in at the deep end - ending up 13th in the timesheets, while Webber ran as high as sixth. Neither driver did particularly well in qualifying - Webber was 14th, with Pizzonia all the way back in 16th, with only the Minardis and Jordans behind him to spare his blushes. The Brazilian certainly didn’t look set to enjoy a vintage race weekend.

Yet Formula One racing is a gloriously unpredictable sport - and as the lights in Monza went out and the race got underway it was quickly clear that luck was smiling on Pizzonia. He managed to avoid a first-corner incident that caused damage to several cars around him - including Webber, who was forced to pit for bodywork repairs. He moved into 14th place and then, by staying out relatively late during the first round of pitstops, emerged from his own first stop in 10th place, moving shortly afterwards to ninth as Raikkonen made his unscheduled second stop to replace his damaged rear tyre.

During the second round of pitstops, another long stint saw Pizzonia running briefly as high as fourth place, ending up seventh after his own second stop and keeping his position to the chequered flag - and putting up a spirited challenge to sixth-placed Ralf Schumacher during the closing laps of the race, the two drivers eventually crossing the line just 0.7 seconds apart.

The Williams team hope that Heidfeld will be well enough to race in next week’s Belgian Grand Prix - but super-sub Pizzonia has put in a timely reminder to the rest of the paddock that he’s still a talent to be reckoned with.