Michael Schumacher strengthened his grip on this year's world championship by scoring his sixth win of the season in the year's 10th race at Magny-Cours, near Nevers. The German leads closest rival David Coulthard (McLaren-Mercedes) by 31 points...
Michael Schumacher strengthened his grip on this year's world championship by scoring his sixth win of the season in the year's 10th race at Magny-Cours, near Nevers. The German leads closest rival David Coulthard (McLaren-Mercedes) by 31 points with seven events still to run. The Scot compromised his own chances on Sunday by picking up a stop-go penalty for speeding in the pit lane during a routine fuel stop. That dropped him to fourth place by the end, behind Ralf Schumacher (BMW WilliamsF1 Team-Michelin) and Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari).
Schumacher Jnr made a promising start from pole position and led the race until his first scheduled fuel and tyre stop on lap 24. When all the leading drivers had pitted and rejoined, however, the Schumacher brothers had traded places and Michael was in control thereafter. Ralf eventually finished 10.3 seconds behind. "I lost a bit of time because a wheel jammed briefly during my first pit stop, but I am happy to have finished second." he said
Juan Pablo Montoya was fastest Williams-BMW driver in the middle part of the race. He followed Schumacher Jnr closely before emerging in second place following the second round of scheduled tyre stops. The Colombian was poised to finish as runner-up for the second time in as many weekends, but his engine suddenly cut as he came up to complete his 52nd lap.
Luciano Burti (Prost-Acer-Michelin) was next of the Michelin runners to finish, in 10th place. Giancarlo Fisichella (Mild Seven Benetton Renault Sport-Michelin) and Jean Alesi (Prost-Acer) followed him across the line. There was little joy for the Michelin-shod Jaguar Racing drivers. Eddie Irvine drove a strong race to climb from 12th to seventh, but a technical problem forced him to pull over and retire on lap 56. His team-mate Pedro de la Rosa lost a lap at the start because of a faulty ECU, but the problem was swiftly fixed and he rejoined to finish 14th, two laps behind the winner.
Tarso Marques (European Minardi-Michelin) was 15th, but no other Michelin drivers crossed the finishing line. Jenson Button (Mild Seven Benetton Renault Sport) was classified 16th, although he ran off the track and became beached in a gravel trap in the final moments of the race. Fernando Alonso (European Minardi-Michelin) pulled in to the pits to retire with just seven laps of the race.
The race marked Michael Schumacher's 50th grand prix win. He is just one short of equalling Frenchman Alain Prost's all-time record.
MICHELIN'S RACE :
Pierre Dupasquier (Motorsport Director) :
"Ralf made perfect use of his pole position and drove a faultless first stint. Unfortunately, a minor incident during his first pit stop prevented him rejoining the track ahead of his brother, Michael, and from that point things went slightly downhill.
"We haven't yet had chance to analyse data from the Williams, but Ralf said quite plainly that his car was difficult to drive on its second set of tyres - and we must get to the bottom of that. Previously we have had no problems with sets of tyres of the same compound behaving differently. During qualifying there was less than one-tenth of a second to choose between sets and that allowed us to take pole. Wear rate and pressures were identical on each set at the end of their race stints. Perhaps we should go back to the laps we did during free practice to see if we can get to the root of this problem.
"As for Juan Pablo Montoya, he was very happy with the way his car was running until an engine problem forced him to stop. And Eddie Irvine drove another great race for Jaguar, too. It's a shame he didn't make it to the chequered flag, because I am sure he would have been fighting for points at the finish.
"We are going away from Magny-Cours with the satisfaction of having taken pole position and another second place. What's more, Ralf Schumacher has moved up to third place in the world championship. We are still learning our way in the world championship. There is plenty more for us to find out - but we are getting there step by step."