Schumacher and Ferrari victorious at French GP

Schumacher and Ferrari victorious at French GP

Michael Schumacher and Ferrari took an incredible victory at the French Grand Prix, swapping strategy half way through the race to make the win. The risk was heavy but Ferrari chanced a four-stopper for Schumacher and it paid off brilliantly.

Michael Schumacher and Ferrari took an incredible victory at the French Grand Prix, swapping strategy half way through the race to make the win. The risk was heavy but Ferrari chanced a four-stopper for Schumacher and it paid off brilliantly. Polesitter Fernando Alonso drove a brave race and led for 32 laps, but Renault fell to Ferrari's superior judgement in the second round of pit stops.

Podium: race winner Michael Schumacher.
Photo by Ferrari Media Center.
The Spaniard crossed the line second and teammate Jarno Trulli should have made it two Renaults on the podium -- on the last lap at the last corner Rubens Barrichello charged past Trulli to snatch third for Ferrari.

It was a clean start, Trulli moving up to third and the McLaren's having mixed fortunes. David Coulthard slipped from third to fifth but Kimi Raikkonen climbed from ninth to seventh. Alonso held the lead and Shumacher settled for second in the early stages.

There was a fair bit of squabbling behind the leaders. Williams' Juan Pablo Montoya, BAR's Takuma Sato and Barrichello arguing over sixth, seventh and eighth. Barrichello took Sato for eighth and behind them Toyota's Olivier Panis had a go at Jordan's Nick Heidfeld at the Adelaide hairpin but failed to make it stick.

Pitstop for Michael Schumacher.
Photo by Ferrari Media Center.
Schumacher was the first into the pits on about lap 11, as well as Raikkonen. The thing everyone was expecting never happened -- Michael did not beat Fernando to the lead in the first pit stop. He rejoined in traffic and Alonso pitted some three or four laps later to re-emerge in the lead.

The remainder of the pit stops saw no real surprises and race order after the first shakedown was Alonso, Schumacher,Trulli. Button. Montoya spun at the final corner and dropped from sixth to ninth and Alonso was leading Schumacher by 3.7 seconds.

Takuma Sato suffered yet another engine failure to put him out: "It was very difficult," said Sato. "After the pit stop there was a significant drop in power."

Schumacher's Ferrari was looking quicker than Alonso's Renault in the middle stint, especially in the first sector, but Michael wasn't close enough to make a challenge. Behind them Trulli and Button were scrapping but Jarno held on to third.

Fernando Alonso leads Michael Schumacher.
Photo by LAT Photographic.
Raikkonen was the first of the second stoppers and Schumacher and Coulthard came in on the next lap. Alonso was sliding all over the place on his second set of tyres but stayed out for another three or four laps. Button, Trulli and Barrichello all pitted in rapid succession and Alonso finally came in a lap or two later. Renault did a fine job but it simply wasn't enough -- Schumacher took the lead as Alonso came out of the pits behind the Ferrari.

Alonso suffered for staying out those three or four laps on very dodgy tyres, it was perhaps a bad call by Renault. So the end result was Schumacher ahead, surprising in the time it took but not surprising overall.

Button was fighting with Trulli and Barrichello, the Renault ahead and the Ferrari behind. "It's very difficult," said BAR technical director Geoff Willis at the time, in regard to getting Button past Trulli. "We're looking at strategy to find a solution."

"We had no notice of Sato's retirement but we have no indications of any problem with Jenson."

Schumacher pitted for the third time and surely had another stop to come. It was very short and when Alonso came in for his third stop it seemed Michael would lose out on his last stop. No such thing! The Ferrari pitted for the fourth time and rejoined in the lead -- awesome stuff from Ferrari. A very risky strategy but it worked all too well. To change strategy in the middle of the race, and make it work, is simply stunning.

The formation held for the remainder of the race until Barrichello got the jump on Trulli at the last corner of the last lap… It bears repeating -- the last corner, the last lap! Formula One rarely sees such happenings. Renault's Pat Symonds was unimpressed.

Jarno Trulli.
Photo by LAT Photographic.
"I simply can't understand something like that, he left the door wide open, unbelievable," he said of Trulli's lapse. "I shall be talking to him. Our only chance of beating Ferrari was if they got held up on traffic but it didn't happen enough. But it was good, a good race."

A great day for Ferrari: "It was just brilliant," said Schumacher."Not only the strategy but the teamwork again in terms of pit stops, the guys have just done fantastic pit stops, very precise, very prestigious and just unbelievable."

A fine race, all in all, at Magny Cours. Renault made a clear impact on Ferrari's domination and even if it wasn't enough to win the race, it was close enough to be significant. Renault has consolidated its second in the standings but Ferrari still charges ahead in both competition and results.

McLaren's new MP-19B didn't hold up in the race but gave a good enough performance for Coulthard and Raikkonen in sixth and seventh respectively. Williams fell well short of expectations, though, with Montoya managing only a lowly eighth.

Final top eight classification: M. Schumacher, Alonso, Barrichello, Trulli, Button, Coulthard. Raikkonen, Montoya.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Takuma Sato , Jarno Trulli , Michael Schumacher , Rubens Barrichello , David Coulthard , Nick Heidfeld , Fernando Alonso
Teams Ferrari , McLaren , Williams , Jordan