Michael Schumacher took victory from brother Ralf at the Canadian Grand Prix after a close fought battle all the way to the chequered flag. Just a couple of seconds separated the top four, Juan Pablo Montoya hot on the heels of the brothers and ...
Michael Schumacher took victory from brother Ralf at the Canadian Grand Prix after a close fought battle all the way to the chequered flag. Just a couple of seconds separated the top four, Juan Pablo Montoya hot on the heels of the brothers and Fernando Alosno on the Colombian's rear wing. Only nine drivers finished the race, Montreal living up to its car-breaking reputation.
There was some contemplating going on before the start, dry conditions making for an unpredictable time as both qualifying sessions had been in the wet. The Friday test teams were the only ones who'd had any decent track time in the dry so it was uncertain how tyres would behave. "A race of exploration," was how Ferrari technical director Ross Brawn described it.
There was amusement to be had on the grid in the form of incomprehensible rocker Ozzy Osbourne, who left Martin Brundle bemused after a bewildering waffle about Rasputin. He then commented on a certain act his dogs are fond of and Brundle scuttled hastily away.
McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen opted to start from the pit lane, which helped his back-of-the-grid status by giving him a one-stop strategy whereas everyone else was on two stops. Ralph Firman ducked into the pitlane at the end of the formation lap for a quick tyre change and it was a clean start for the pack. Ralf led Montoya and Michael and there were no first corner arguments.
Shortly afterwards Antonio Pizzonia tagged the back of Jarno Trulli's Renault and had to pit for a new nose cone for the Jaguar and Rubens Barrichello had a slight touch with Alonso's Renault that left his Ferrari trailing the front wing, also having to pit for a change. Montoya spun off on the final corner but managed to recover, dropping down to fifth.
Trulli pitted with a puncture after the incident with Pizzonia and went on to have an eventful time. The front left wheel was broken, causing him to pit again, then he spun off with a traction problem. Regaining the track he followed up with a trip into the grass and finally retired to the pits in disgust.
Justin Wilson got himself up to eleventh and Minardi teammate Jos Verstappen to thirteenth although Wilson's efforts went to waste when he retired later in the race, victim of gearbox failure. Toyota had a good start, with Olivier Panis and Cristiano da Matta running in the top eight but da Matta eventually pulled off track to retire with suspension problems, although he was classified eleventh.
The Brazilian had earlier hit the barge board that fell off Barrichello's Ferrari although whether that was related to his retirement is unclear. At the front, Ralf and Michael were glued together and pulling away from the rest, seven seconds clear of third placed Alonso. Sauber had a bad day, first Heinz-Harald Frentzen going out with a transmission failure and later Nick Heidfeld had an engine failure at the end of the pit straight.
BAR and Jordan were no luckier -- Jacques Villeneuve suffered from overheated brakes: "I could feel there was a brake problem," said the disappointed Canadian. "The pedal was getting longer and longer so it was time to come in." He had earlier had his brakes cooled with a fire extinguisher in a pit stop but it obviously didn't work.
Jenson Button's gearbox gave up on him: "I lost fourth, then fifth, sixth and seventh, it was very difficult. The car wasn't handling very well, I had huge understeer in the fast corners," he explained. Ralph Firman's engine failed and Giancarlo Fisichella also had a gear problem, the Jordan being pushed away from his pit stop and then the brakes overheated.
Michael was hassling Ralf and Montoya stormed past Mark Webber's Jaguar to home in on Alonso. He dispatched the Renault in similar fashion to move into third. David Coulthard was moving up the field after starting eleventh, overtaking da Matta at turn one and closing on Panis.
Michael pitted earlier than expected and got the jump on Ralf to take the lead and after the first round of pit stops it was Michael, Ralf, Montoya and Alonso, a formation that held until the end. Raikkonen, meanwhile, had got himself up to fifth but also suffered a tyre delaminating, which nearly hit Barrichello. Luckily for the Finn it was right at the entry to the pit lane so he dived in for a change, although it lost him some time.
At the front, Michael had better speed on the straights but Ralf was better in the corners and under braking so the pair stayed relentlessly together. Coulthard developed the next gear problem, being overtaken by Webber. The Scot had a few erratic laps then retired to the pits. "It was the gearbox," he said. "I lost third, then seventh, it was very difficult to drive. The race was encouraging as the pace was good but we need a better position in qualifying and better reliability."
In the final laps things got even closer, Montoya right up behind Ralf and Alonso on the Colombian's shoulder. However, the Williams' just didn't seem to make the effort to do anything more and Alonso, who was right there with them, suffered from the Renault not having the grunt of the BMW engine.
Raikkonen closed on Barrichello for fifth but time ran out and he settled for three points in sixth. It was an entertaining race, the top four crossing the line nose-to-tail -- a good result for Williams with both on the podium but it could have been better if not for Montoya's spin. Michael was never quite safe in the lead but kept the Ferrari wide enough that Ralf couldn't make a move, win number 68 for the German.
Both Williams drivers had to cope with the added annoyance of broken wing mirrors flapping about, Ralf saying that his even hit him on the helmet a few times. Montoya also had to gearshift manually the whole race.
Alonso did a sterling job in fourth and showed real fight in the closing stages, never giving up on pushing the Williams' hard. Barrichello had a fairly solitary time and Raikkonen made a good effort after his pit lane start. Webber and Panis filled the last two points positions, Panis' first score for Toyota this season.
Verstappen and Pizzonia were the final two classified finishers, Jos so close to a point for Minardi and Antonio struggling all the way after his earlier incidident and actually retiring on the penultimate lap with brake problems.
Michael now leads the championship from Raikkonen by three points and it's a fight for third with Alonso ahead of the Williams duo and Barrichello. Final top eight classification: M. Schumacher, R. Schumacher, Montoya, Alonso, Barrichello, Raikkonen, Webber, Panis.