ALONSO AND BUTTON ARE TALK OF THE TRACK Michael Schumacher might have wrapped up his 11th victory of the season in his home grand prix -- only the third Formula One win of his career at Hockenheim -- but Michelin drivers Jenson Button ...
ALONSO AND BUTTON ARE TALK OF THE TRACK
Michael Schumacher might have wrapped up his 11th victory of the season in his home grand prix -- only the third Formula One win of his career at Hockenheim -- but Michelin drivers Jenson Button (B*A*R-Honda) and Fernando Alonso (Renault) stole the show with their spectacular battle for second place.
Schumacher was able to control most of the race from the front for Ferrari -- although he faced a fierce early challenge from Kimi Räikkönen (Team McLaren Mercedes/Michelin). That fizzled out, however, when Räikkönen spun off at the start of the 14th lap with a broken rear wing.
Button faced a much tougher afternoon's work. "This was without doubt the best race of my F1 career. I'm just so thrilled to finish second when I thought the best I could hope for was maybe fifth, at best."
Although he was third fastest in qualifying, he had to start 13th after picking up a penalty in the wake of an enforced engine change on Friday. He carved his way through the field, however, and eventually got the better of Alonso on the 53rd of 66 laps.
The Englishman subsequently pulled away and left the Spaniard to deal with the growing threat of David Coulthard (Team McLaren Mercedes/Michelin) and Juan Pablo Montoya (BMW WilliamsF1 Team/Michelin). Montoya started from the front row of the grid, alongside Schumacher, but a poor start compromised his chances of a first podium finish since Imola, in April.
Fourth-placed Coulthard was fortunate to emerge unscathed after Ferrari driver Rubens Barrichello hit him on the opening lap -- an incident that obliged the Brazilian to pit for a fresh nose section.
Mark Webber (Jaguar Racing/Michelin) obtained his team's best finish of the season by taking sixth, just ahead of Williams stand-in Antonio Pizzonia (making his first grand prix start for more than a year) and Takuma Sato (B*A*R-Honda/Michelin).
Christian Klien (Jaguar/Michelin) moved up to 11th on the final lap -- after Barrichello slowed with a damaged left-rear tyre -- and Jarno Trulli slipped back from the leading pack to finish 12th for Renault. The Italian has confirmed that he will be leaving the team at the end of the season. He is expected to join Toyota, for whom Olivier Panis finished 14th today. The Frenchman qualified ninth but started last after stalling on the grid. His team-mate Cristiano da Matta spun off and was the only Michelin driver other than Räikkönen not to finish.
Pierre Dupasquier, Michelin Motorsport Director:
"This has been an exciting race. Five of our partner teams finished in the top six and we can but wonder what might have happened had Kimi Räikkönen not been forced to retire or had Jenson Button started from his rightful place on the grid."
"I would like to compliment the B*A*R-Honda and Renault drivers for putting on a fantastic spectacle for the crowds today -- Jenson and Fernando showed the true spirit of what Formula One should be all about, as did Takuma Sato and Jarno Trulli in the early stages of the race. It was terrific to watch."
"Today's race was a real challenge, because the track temperatures were fairly high and the pace was relentless. Despite that, however, our tyres stood up exceptionally well to the specific difficulties of Hockenheim."
"Most of our teams ran on the 'prime' compound while Jaguar went for the 'option', but both types were consistent and our drivers were able to set quick times throughout their stints. Now we look forward to a short break before we travel to Budapest, where our partner teams annexed the top seven places in 2003."