Two Michelin drivers on the podium Michael Schumacher stretched his world championship advantage to 23 points with a dominant drive to victory in the Spanish Grand Prix at the Circuit de Catalunya, Barcelona. The German led all the way from pole...
Two Michelin drivers on the podium
Michael Schumacher stretched his world championship advantage to 23 points with a dominant drive to victory in the Spanish Grand Prix at the Circuit de Catalunya, Barcelona. The German led all the way from pole position and set a new circuit lap record of 1m 20.355s en route to his fourth victory of the season and the 57th of his career. His path to victory was eased when gearbox problems sidelined his Ferrari team-mate Rubens Barrichello on the grid. Ferrari now needs just two more victories to become the first Formula One team to win 150 Grands Prix. Juan Pablo Montoya (Williams-BMW) was best of the Michelin runners, in second place ahead of David Coulthard (West McLaren Mercedes/Michelin).
The Colombian chased hard after team-mate Ralf Schumacher in the early stages and was closing in when the German ran off the track and damaged his car. Schumacher Junior rejoined after pitting for repairs and was eventually classified 11th, even though he pulled off with a suspected engine problem on the final lap of the race. Montoya was delayed for a while at his second pit stop after running into a member of his own refuelling crew who subsequently had to be treated for a minor foot injury.
Several other Michelin-equipped cars fought for a podium position but it was David Coulthard (West McLaren-Mercedes) who emerged at the head of the queue. His team-mate Kimi Räikkönen posted an early retirement when his rear wing flew off and the Renaults of Jarno Trulli and Jenson Button both ran strongly until their engines began to lose power. Both pulled off shortly before the end although they were classified as finishers in 10th and 12th positions.
Allan McNish and Mika Salo finished eighth and ninth for Toyota, but no other Michelin drivers lasted the distance. Eddie Irvine (Jaguar Racing) stopped with a technical problem and Pedro de la Rosa spun off early in the race. The KL Minardi Asiatech team did not take part. Lead driver Mark Webber suffered a rear wing failure during the pre-race warm-up and the team withdraw his car and that of team-mate Alex Yoong as a safety precaution.
Team boss Paul Stoddart said: "We are sure it was a manufacturing fau lt rather than a design flaw, but there isn't time to conduct a proper investigation prior to the race and in the circumstances it would be irresponsible to continue." During qualifying the team suffered two front wing failures but those problems had been identified and addressed overnight.
Michelin's day - Pierre Dupasquier (Motorsport Director)
Is there much you can do about Michael Schumacher and Ferrari at the moment?
"You have to face facts: this is motor sport and there are times when one team or one driver is dominant. When Niki Lauda was winning for Ferrari in the 1970s you used to turn up most weekends wondering who was going to finish second. And in 1988 you alway s knew a McLaren was going to win: it was just a question of which one. These things are cyclical and everybody is working very hard to catch up."
How did you judge Michelin's performance this weekend?
"There were many positive aspects - not least that two of our drivers finished on the podium. Generally, though, we adopted too conservative an approach to this race. The two compounds we brought with us this weekend were both used in the race - and they s howed very little wear at the end of a stint. We knew this race would be tough but we overcompensated by bringing tyres that were a little bit too hard. That said, I don't think this accounts for the difference between Michael Schumacher and the rest. We m ight have been able to gain two or three tenths through tyre performance - and he was more than a second per lap faster than all his rivals."
You mentioned positive aspects. What else caught your eye?
"I was impressed by David Coulthard's performance. He drove a very solid race for McLaren. The Renaults were strong, too, until they ran into technical difficulties and I'm not sure how many people noticed that Mika Salo's Toyota set the seventh fastest ra ce lap, which was very encouraging. Ralf Schumacher and Kimi Räikkönen were very quick, too, until they ran into trouble. Apart from a puncture on Mika's car we had a good, trouble-free afternoon."
Next stop: Austria. The A1-Ring is not at all like Barcelona, is it?
"Absolutely not. There are no similarities at all between the two circuits. The surface in Austria is very smooth and not at all abrasive. We are working on tyres that are very different from those we used this weekend."