Ferrari driver Michael Schumacher extended his world championship lead with a dominant performance in the Malaysian Grand Prix, the second Formula One race of the season. Despite running off the track during a rain shower early in the race, the...
Ferrari driver Michael Schumacher extended his world championship lead with a dominant performance in the Malaysian Grand Prix, the second Formula One race of the season. Despite running off the track during a rain shower early in the race, the defending champion bounced back to record his sixth GP victory on the trot. Italian Alberto Ascari was the last driver to record such a feat, back in 1952/1953. Schumacher beat Ferrari team -mate Rubens Barrichello by 23.6 seconds.
The winner's younger brother Ralf gave Michelin its first points finish in only the second race of its F1 comeback. Barrichello tipped the 25 -year-old German BMW WilliamsF1 Team driver into a first -corner spin, but Schumacher fought his way back through the field to finish fifth. In the closing stages Mika Hakkinen (McLaren-Mercedes) made him fight hard for fifth place; Schumacher held him of by just 0.3 secon ds at the end.
His team -mate Juan Pablo Montoya was not so fortunate. He was one of several drivers who spun off during an early rain shower, which was so severe that the official Safety Car was sent out to control the pace as almost the whole field ran off the circuit at some point. Entrenched in a gravel trap, Montoya was unable to return to the pits for wet-weather tyres - unlike those drivers who made it through the downpour. Further heavy rain threatened, but it never materialised and the track dried out in the second half of the race.
McLaren star David Coulthard backed up his podium finish in Melbourne with another solid run to finish third, ahead of Heinz-Harald Frentzen (Jordan-Honda), Schumacher Jnr and Mika Hakkinen. Two other Michelin runners recorded top 10 finishes: Jean Alesi (Prost -Acer) was ninth, ahead of Jaguar Racing driver Luciano Burti, who maintained his 100 per cent F1 finishing record.
Burti's team -mate Eddie Irvine failed to finish, as did Benetton Renault Sport star Giancarlo Fisichella. The other Michelin-shod cars all lasted the 55 -lap distance. Fisichella's team -mate Jenson Button was 11th and the European Minardis of Fernando Alonso and Tarso Marques took 13th and 14th places.
Pierre Dupasquier (Motorspo rt Director):
"What a race! It's obviously pleasing to score some points but this has been a very strange race. After the rain at the beginning it was always going to be difficult for everyone, but I can only say how impressed I am by the Ferraris, particularly on intermediate tyres in the heavy rain!"
"It is still very early, but I am sure we can learn something from this race, although right now I am very confused by lots of its elements. Ralf was fast particularly in the middle third - and Hakkine n seemed to struggle early on, and then they seemed to swap! But I really don't know why."
"Judging by Ralf's times, our tyres seem to be capable of being both quick and constant, but we will need a lot more races under more `normal' circumstances before we really know where we are."