Michael Schumacher broke yet another record when he took an effortless victory at the Belgian Grand Prix, ten wins in one season. Leading the race from start to finish, Schumacher cruised home in untroubled style with Rubens Barrichello in second...
Michael Schumacher broke yet another record when he took an effortless victory at the Belgian Grand Prix, ten wins in one season. Leading the race from start to finish, Schumacher cruised home in untroubled style with Rubens Barrichello in second for Ferrari's fifth 1-2 finish of the year. A good start saw Barrichello jump McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen and follow Michael all the way home.
While Ferrari had less of a race and more a walk in the park, the rest of the field muddled around with varying degrees of success. Raikkonen failed to capitalize on his best qualifying of second on the grid, first losing out to Barrichello then running wide and allowing the Williams of Juan Pablo Montoya past into third. Plagued by gremlins, bits of bodywork coming off and the fuel flap permanently stuck open, Raikkonen finally retired when the Mercedes engine blew -- one of many engine failures of the day.
Montoya had a fairly static race, holding his third place mostly without interference. David Coulthard gained ground close behind the Colombian in the final stages but couldn't get close enough to challenge for the position. Ralf Schumacher lost out at the start and later spun off track at Les Combes allowing Jarno Trulli through but he managed to scramble back to come home fifth.
Renault was in the action, scrapping with the McLarens but it all came to nothing. Jenson Button pulled off the circuit onto the grass with engine problems on lap twelve. "I don't really know what happened," he said. "The engine got really loud then I lost a lot of power, then it just stopped." Ralf was closing on Trulli after his spin when the Italian followed in Button's tyre tracks, also pulling onto the grass with suspected engine failure.
The happiest folks of the day were the Jaguar team when Eddie Irvine came home sixth for an all important point. Irvine drove a good race, it was a deserved point although boss Niki Lauda evaded the question of retaining the Irishman: "Eddie did a good job and finished with one point, it's a bit of a relief," Lauda said. "There's still things to be discussed but he did a great job." Pedro de la Rosa was also having a good race until what looked like a problem with the rear of his car sent him shooting off the track.
Toyota kept the pace they displayed so far this weekend, albeit without any points to show for it. Mika Salo had a quiet time and came home seventh but Allan McNish was in the midfield action with BAR and Sauber for a few scraps. Jacques Villeneuve was on a mission early in the race: first he harried Jordan's Giancarlo Fisichella into a mistake and got past then homed in on McNish. Taking the Scot at Les Combes, Villeneuve was into the top ten. After the pit stop shakedown he was back to scrapping with Fisichella again until the Italian's Jordan Honda engine blew sky high.
A huge plume of smoke preceded an eruption of flames from the rear of Fischella's car and he rapidly pulled over, the rear end all over the place as the engine spluttered and coughed and finally died. Villeneuve went on to finish eighth and McNish ninth. Olivier Panis was also in a few midfield fights until his engine followed suit in a cloud of smoke -- the fifth Honda failure of the weekend. A shame for the retirees and those outside the points as the midfield by far gave the most action of the race.
Sauber could not do much to improve on the dismal weekend they were experiencing. Felipe Massa had the better time, arguing in the midfield, sailing past Fisichella and making it look easy then later homing in on McNish. But his challenge was fruitless as the Sauber's Ferrari engine joined the club and exploded into smoke in another spectacular show. Nick Heidfeld came home in tenth.
The final finisher was Jordan's Takuma Sato who had a quieter time than his team mate at the back of the field and was placed eleventh. Minardi had a rough weekend: Mark Webber was plagued by gearbox problems on Friday and the gremlins returned on only lap four. "I had a bad shift the lap before," Webber said. "Then again at La Source, then it let go. I was looking forward to running to the end (of the race) but there you go. They're out there, I'm not, it's a shame."
Stand-in Anthony Davidson faired not much better, a simple driver error finishing his afternoon. "It was my fault," he said of spinning off into the gravel. "After Mark (Webber) went out I had no marker point any more. I used Taku (Sato) as a kind of bench-mark but I pushed too hard. It's a shame as the car was really good today."
A less than exciting race altogether. Ferrari were in a league of their own and apart from a few moments of interest down the field there was little in the way of entertainment. Although Michelin had seven of their runners in the top ten to Bridgestone's three, none of the Michelin shod cars seemed to really get it together. McLaren were off the qualifying pace they showed and Williams failed to mount a serious challenge.
Ferrari seem to be pulling further and further away from the rest and there seems little any other team can do about it. While it is undoubtedly good for Ferrari, it leaves scant race action for the fans. The Scuderia cannot be blamed for being so good but there's a lot of work to be done by others to prevent yet another walkover next year. Final top six classification: M. Schumacher, Barrichello, Montoya, Coulthard, R. Schumacher, Irvine.