World champion Michael Schumacher set a new Formula 1 record when he collected his 52nd career victory Â and his eighth of the season Â in the two-part Belgian Grand Prix. He did it at the track where he made his F1 debut 10 years beforehand.
World champion Michael Schumacher set a new Formula 1 record when he collected his 52nd career victory and his eighth of the season in the two-part Belgian Grand Prix. He did it at the track where he made his F1 debut 10 years beforehand. Pole position winner Juan Pablo Montoya (BMW WilliamsF1 Team/Michelin) failed to get away from the line at the start and Schumacher drafted past the second Williams of his younger brother Ralf as the field streamed towards the Les Combes chicane on the opening lap. Thereafter he controlled the race as he pleased. David Coulthard (McLaren-Mercedes) was second and Giancarlo Fisichella (Benetton Renault Sport/Michelin) obtained his best result since Brazil 2000 by finishing third.
The race was stopped because of a dramatic accident between Eddie Irvine (Jaguar Racing/Michelin) and Luciano Burti (Prost-Acer/Michelin) on the fourth lap. The two cars touched at the high-speed Blanchimont left-hander and ploughed off the track. Irvine was uninjured after striking the barriers a glancing blow, but Burti's Prost was buried deep in the tyre wall and it took rescue crews some time to extricate him. Initial reports said that he was conscious and stable. He was then transferred to hospital in Liège for his condition to be assessed more thoroughly.
The Williams-BMW starting jinx struck again when the race resumed. Ralf was left on the grid, with his car still on jacks, and he had to drop to the tail of the pack, just as Montoya had done earlier. The two Williams drivers worked their way up the field, despite Montoya being hit by another car at the restart. Schumacher Jnr finished seventh, just out of the points, while Montoya retired with engine failure.
Fisichella started both parts of the race in spirited fashion and ran at the front all afternoon. "The car has been really good all weekend," he said, "and it feels nice to be back on the podium after so long away. The team has worked really hard and our improved aerodynamics have paid off." Heinz-Harald Frentzen (Prost-Acer/Michelin) lined up fourth for the original start, but he was another driver sent to the back of the field after failing to get off the line for the final formation lap. The German eventually came home ninth.
Tarso Marques (European Minardi) was the only other Michelin driver classified as a finisher. He was 13th, four laps in arrears, after making several pit stops to keep his car running. Jenson Button (Mild Seven Benetton Renault Sport/Michelin) ran just behind the leading bunch inn the early stages, but eventually crashed out at the chicane. Pedro de la Rosa (Jaguar Racing/Michelin) dropped out shortly after being involved in a collision at the restart. Fernando Alonso (European Minardi/Michelin) was cleared to take part after crashing heavily during the race morning warm-up, but he dropped out of the race early on with a technical failure.
MICHELIN'S RACE :
Pierre Dupasquier (Motorsport Director) :
How do you feel about Michelin's Spa weekend as a whole?
"The fact that we had two cars on the front row of the grid proves that we were competitive. True, yesterday's result was achieved in very particular conditions, but it was still a source of great satisfaction. Finally, even though we weren't able to challenge for victory we take great heart from the excellent performance by Giancarlo Fisichella and Mild Seven Benetton Renault Sport, whose third place was a cause for celebration. We are continuing on our F1 learning curve and have good cause to be optimistic."
Your option (B) tyre was well suited to yesterday's conditions. How did it fare today?
"The race took place in totally dry conditions, although we thought there might be a little bit of rain during the afternoon. If that had happened conditions would have been similar to those at the end of qualifying and we would have been in great shape. Even though that situation didn't arise, however, the tyres we used performed very well."
Why did Giancarlo Fisichella do the whole race on the same set of front tyres?
"He thought it gave him the best chassis balance and our tyres were durable enough to allow him to do that. It was a wise choice and it gave him a car that handled well all afternoon. In my opinion it would have been possible to run a one-stop strategy after the second start and the state Giancarlo's tyres were in after 36 laps is proof of that. I was a bit surprised that teams decided to stick with a two-stop strategy."
Will you have new tyres at Monza, two weeks from now?
"Yes. We will be bringing some significant new developments with us in terms of construction. We were unable to get these ready in time for Spa."