Michael Schumacher breezed to victory at his home race, taking an untroubled win in the German Grand Prix. The Ferrari man led from pole to chequered flag, aside from the pit stop shuffles, to the delight of the Hockenheim crowd. Jenson Button was...
Michael Schumacher breezed to victory at his home race, taking an untroubled win in the German Grand Prix. The Ferrari man led from pole to chequered flag, aside from the pit stop shuffles, to the delight of the Hockenheim crowd. Jenson Button was a star, taking second after starting 13th in the BAR, fighting like mad with Renault's Fernando Alonso in a great display of racing. The Spaniard came home third after Button defeated him on track.
It was hot and sunny at Hockenheim, track temperature 45 degrees and climbing at the start of the race. Olivier Panis' Toyota stalled on the grid after the formation lap, causing a restart, then failed again the second time and had to be pushed to the pit lane.
The start was clean, pole man Schumacher taking the lead but Alonso, as usual for Renault, had a blinding leap off the line, going from fifth to second at the first corner. Teammate Jarno Trulli had a similar jump, from sixth to fourth, but second on the grid Juan Pablo Montoya was very slow away and dropped to seventh in the Williams.
Kimi Raikkonen held station in third in the McLaren but seventh place starter Rubens Barrichello hit the back of David Coulthard's McLaren and lost the Ferrari's front wing. Barrichello had to pit for a new nose cone and rejoined at the back. Jaguar's Mark Webber had a good start, up to seventh from 11th, and Williams' Antonio Pizzonia climbed a place to eighth.
Raikkonen took Alonso for second within a couple of laps and Webber elbowed past Montoya for sixth. The Colombian swiftly retaliated and took the place back in a very clean pass through the hairpin and turn three. Button was up to 11th and Schumacher pulled away from Alonso to a gap of two seconds within four laps.
Button moved past Jaguar's Christian Klien for 10th and Toyota's Cristiano da Matta was 12th. Button, teammate Takuma Sato, Pizzonia and Webber were line astern and fighting like mad, while Raikkonen was not letting Schumacher get away from him at the front.
Alonso kicked off the pit stops, coming in on lap 10, followed by Pizzonia. Schumacher came in the next lap, as did Coulthard and Sato, then Raikkonen. Schumacher and Kimi held position while Button stayed out and led the race. Jordan's Giorgio Pantano suffered a front left tyre failure and struggled back to the pits.
Raikkonen had a disaster shortly after his stop. The rear wing parted company from the car and the McLaren spun, flew backwards over the run off and impacted with the tyre barrier. Raikkonen was unharmed and clearly furious as he climbed out of the cockpit, throwing the steering wheel down in disgust.
"I'm so disappointed," said a still angry Kimi shortly afterwards. "I could have challenged Michael big time."
Meanwhile, Button had been in for his first stop and rejoined in fifth, his strategy working out really well. After the first round of stops it was Schumacher leading Alonso by 14 seconds. Montoya went wide into the dust and Button took advantage to claim fourth, while Webber was harassing Trulli like mad.
Making the most of the situation, Sato, who was behind Webber, lunged past the Jaguar to take seventh and homed in on Trulli. The trio continued to battle it out, Trulli and Sato side by side at the hairpin and Sato made it stick. Not only that but an opportunistic Webber hurtled past Trulli too, brilliant stuff!
Sato and Montoya started the second round of pit stops, followed by Schumacher and Coulthard. Trulli was next and his drop in performance was explained: a piece of Raikkonen's rear wing was lodged under the Renault. Alonso and Barrichello also pitted and Klien, who was running fifth, also came in for his second stop.
Sato spun for no apparent reason in the stadium section but managed to keep going. Button stopped for the second time and managed to jump Coulthard for third. Alonso was only just in front and the battle between the two young guns commenced. Button was challenging every corner but Alonso held him off time and time again.
Side by side they went but Alonso had better acceleration out of the corners and pushed ahead of the BAR. Button was harassing him like mad but Fernando held on and held on -- it was a brilliant display from both men, clean fighting and excellent driving for lap after lap.
Coulthard was closing as the pair battled it out but Alonso managed to get the upper hand and pulled away form Button and Coulthard held station. Da Matta spun madly after a left rear tyre failure, the Michelins seeming to suffer from blistering. Nick Heidfeld was struggling with his Jordan and eventually retired to the pits.
Barrichello took Klien for 10th but then dived into the pits, along with Pizzonia. Schumcher, Alonso and Coulthard followed suit and Montoya and Alonso scrapped when the Renault returned to the track. Montoya passed Alonso when the Spaniard came out of the pits but Fernando immediately took the position back, needing to get past the Williams so as not to lose time to Button.
Button, who was leading, took his stop and very nearly passed Alonso when he rejoined in a near enough carbon copy of the earlier pit stop scenario. Button had a problem with his helmet, holding on to the side of the visor repeatedly but perhaps he should drive one-handed more often…
He hassled Alonso relentlessly and finally got the Renault up the inside as Fernando was a little bit cautious. Superb racing from the pair of youngsters, thrilling to watch. Alonso then hit traffic and dropped back. It turned out one of the Renault's forward bargeboards had come off was lodged under the car, causing a loss in performance. A few laps later it worked free and Alonso's times improved again.
Pantano cruised into the pits with some kind of problem but managed to rejoin and Barrichello's Ferrari had a moment of wobbliness but continued. As a final last gasp insult, Barrichello suffered a tyre failure on the last lap and was classified 12th.
Schumacher took the chequered flag eight seconds ahead of Button and Alonso took third, 16 seconds down on the Ferrari. An excellent drive from Michael but just what we expect from the champion, so not very interesting. Not to detract from his achievement but brilliance, by it's own superiority, is self-defeating when there's no competition.
"Yeah, what a weekend, you have to say. Yesterday pole position, today the victory. It was a pretty tough race, especially the beginning when Kimi was putting on the pressure and then Jenson had a fantastic drive, together with Fernando. It was a battle," said Schumacher, who hardly faced any battles of his own.
Coulthard salvaged McLaren's hopes with fourth and both Williams were in the points, Montoya fifth and Pizzonia seventh. Not great for Antonio but an improvement on Marc Gen?'s efforts. Webber boosted Jaguar again with sixth and Sato made it double points for BAR in eighth.
Button was a real star -- starting 13th and finishing second was a great performance from the Englishman and BAR as a team. Jenson proved his mettle in this race: he defeated the highly rated Alonso on track, no mean feat. That's not to detract from Alonso, who also put in a fine performance but Button was better when it mattered.
"The car has been working great all weekend," said Jenson. "It is difficult because I am so happy to have finished second and for me it was the best drive of my career and I had the best car underneath me. You know the car performed fantastically and also the engine."
Alonso struggled at the end with car gremlins and was happy to be on the podium. Another fantastic start for the Spaniard led to some great battles with Button. "It was very fun, I think, for both of us," said Alonso of the scraps with the BAR driver.
"We had two or three moments of big risk, I think in turn seven, I believe. I think we both enjoyed the fight. I think we are two very aggressive drivers, not easy to overtake, very aggressive, we think we can overtake as well, but we are both very fair. I enjoyed it in those laps."
Ferrari lost its chance to clinch the constructors' title this weekend but Schumacher hammered home his superiority -- Hockenheim was not previously a good track for Michael but he made it his own this year. Final top eight classification: Schumacher, Button, Alonso, Coulthard, Montoya, Webber, Pizzonia, Sato.