Michael Schumacher wanted to take victory for the F2003-GA's debut at the Spanish Grand Prix and that's exactly what he did, although it was by no means a walkover. Schumacher may have won but for the Spanish crowds it was second placed Fernando...
Michael Schumacher wanted to take victory for the F2003-GA's debut at the Spanish Grand Prix and that's exactly what he did, although it was by no means a walkover. Schumacher may have won but for the Spanish crowds it was second placed Fernando Alonso who was the local hero of the day, taking the fight to Ferrari all the way.Ferraris, Alonso shot past Rubens Barrichello towards the first corner but couldn't make it stick. Meanwhile, Kimi Raikkonen, who started at the back, ploughed into the rear of Antonio Pizzonia's Jaguar, taking them both out and bringing out the safety car. McLaren's David Coulthard and Renault's Jarno Trulli collided at the second corner, sending Trulli out.
It all happened within half a minute and confusion reigned. The race wasn't red flagged, despite Raikkonen's McLaren being stuck in the middle of the grid with a broken front end, and it took a few laps to clear the debris. The Jaguar was also stuck in the grid barrier, the end of a fairly disastrous weekend for Pizzonia.
"I had a problem with the launch control again," said a despondent Antonio. "Just like I had in Imola. The team has been working hard but when we got to the grid it was there again."
Raikkonen said he had nowhere to go except into the back if the Jaguar: "I got a good start but had to turn right to avoid (Justin) Wilson and there was nowhere to go."
The safety car was out for five laps and a few drivers nipped into the pits. Coulthard survived the crunch with Trulli save for a puncture and rejoined after pitting. Wilson had managed to get up to ninth and the Williams' were also gainers at the start.
Michael backed the pack up as the safety car prepared to come in, catching Barrichello on the hop, and shot away at the restart. The front runners were evenly paced and the Ferraris were not running away, Alonso keeping them in touch. Coulthard began making his way through the field and Wilson was keeping pace well with the Jordans and Toyotas. Jaguar's Mark Webber was hassling Giancarlo Fisichella and Coulthard was closing in.
Jacques Villeneuve was the next casualty, a blown engine putting an end to his day: "It's very frustrating," said a very annoyed Villeneuve. "We'd been working hard, we had a good strategy and it just never went anywhere."
"I think he must have come out of the pits," said Coulthard. "He wasn't in any of my mirrors down the straight. He was inside, keeping his corner, and I simply didn't know he was there."
Button had to pit for a new front wing and by then the first round of stops was just about shaken out; the front runners were Michael, Alonso, who jumped Barrichello in his stop, Rubens and the pair of Williams, led by Ralf.
Fisichella had a long stop with some kind of fuel hose problem and his race ended in a cloud of engine smoke later on. Jordan team-mate Firman was battling with the Toyota of Olivier Panis, the Frenchman getting past when Firman went wide at turn three.
Alonso was closing in on Michael but got held up lapping the back markers, losing about seven seconds, but he started catching up again once free. Michael took his second stop and had a big battle with Ralf when he rejoined. After a few near misses, Ralf locked a wheel into turn six and Michael took the advantage.
Ralf then had the same problem with Alonso. The Williams was evidently holding up the Renault but Alonso couldn't quite find a way past until Ralf made a mistake. He went wide and Alonso shot past then Ralf barreled into the gravel. He recovered to the pits and got back out again.
Panis' Toyota failed as he came out of the pits, coming to a halt on the grass, much to the annoyance of the luckless Olivier. Next up to challenge Ralf was team-mate Montoya. The pair of Williams' skittered about neck-and-neck for a few corners but Montoya pulled a great move to get by at turn seven.
Alonso was still tagging onto Michael, about six seconds behind but there wasn't enough in the Renault to catch up in the final laps. Firman and Button were fighting for eighth and yet more trouble for Ralf, this time in the shape of a charging Cristiano da Matta. The Brazilian had a very good race indeed and was all over the Williams for the last half a dozen laps. Ralf was struggling in the corners, locking up many times, but he just managed to keep the Toyota behind him.
Michael took the chequered flag in what was a good but less than remarkable race for him. The F2003-GA certainly performed well, and Michael deserved the win, but the new car is not the marvel many were expecting. Alonso was easily ahead of Barrichello and constantly eating into Michael's lead until near the end.
McLaren's race was pretty much a non-starter, although as Ron Dennis said yesterday, Raikkonen still leads the championship. Williams was less than impressive, if at least both in the points. Ralf was really fighting his car and Montoya was mostly pottering around quietly.
Great race for da Matta, the Brazilian showing his worth on a track he's familiar with and scoring Toyota's first points of the season. Webber did the same for Jagaur, although his race was less than noticeable. Sauber was near enough invisible, Nick Heidfeld getting home but Heinz Harald Frentzen dropping out with a suspension failure.
Ralph Firman was the final point of the day and Jordan was very pleased indeed. A good effort from Firman, finally showing a bit of grit after a few lacklustre performances. Despite its somewhat exciting race, Minardi didn't score any points but will no doubt be thrilled to get both cars home.
A good day for Ferrari but there will be some happy faces in the pit lane that the F2003-GA is not quite the all-singing, all-dancing package that the build-up anticipated. However, it's early days. There's no doubt more to come from the Scuderia but it looks like Renault could now be the stumbling block for Williams and McLaren. Final top eight classification: M. Schumacher, Alonso, Barrichello, Montoya, R. Schumacher, da Matta, Webber, Firman.