Ralf Schumacher (BMW WilliamsF1 Team) got the better of a straight fight with brother Michael to score his and Michelin's - second grand prix victory of the season. Both Schumachers started on the front row of the grid and Michael won the sprint...
Ralf Schumacher (BMW WilliamsF1 Team) got the better of a straight fight with brother Michael to score his and Michelin's - second grand prix victory of the season. Both Schumachers started on the front row of the grid and Michael won the sprint to the first corner. His younger brother shadowed him closely for 46 laps, however, and took the lead when the Ferrari star stopped for fuel. With the track clear ahead, Ralf immediately upped his pace and, after making his own scheduled fuel stop five laps later, he emerged with a clear lead that he held to the end. After 69 laps he beat his brother across the line by 20.2 seconds. To complete his day, he also set the race's fastest lap.
"It was a great race today," Ralf said. "I was waiting for Michael to make a mistake, but obviously he didn't do that. I tried to pass a couple of times, but I didn't want to take many risks so I decided to wait for the pit stops to see if I would come out ahead. The way the car was going I was sure I would be able to get the upper hand eventually."
McLaren driver Mika Hakkinen was third his first podium finish of the year - but his team-mate David Coulthard, Schumacher Snr's closest world championship rival, retired with a blown engine
Two other Michelin drivers also scored points. Jean Alesi (Prost-Acer) backed up his strong result in the previous race, at Monaco, by finishing fifth his best result since 1999. With Coulthard's retirement, Alesi is the only driver to have finished every race this season. Pedro de la Rosa (Jaguar) took sixth place - his first points finish since he was promoted to the British team's racing line-up four grands prix ago.
Luciano Burti (Prost-Acer) and Tarso Marques (European Minardi) came home eighth and ninth respectively, but there was no joy for Michelin's other drivers. Juan Pablo Montoya (BMW WilliamsF1 Team) crashed heavily in the early stages of the race, Fernando Alonso (European Minardi) pulled off with a mechanical problem and Eddie Irvine (Jaguar) was eliminated after a collision with Sauber driver Nick Heidfeld.
Benetton Renault Sport driver Giancarlo Fisichella retired after running into the back of his team-mate Jenson Button on the opening lap. Button, who was handed a stop-go penalty for jumping the start, later dropped out after making a couple of supplementary stops in a vain effort to cure a technical hitch.
Schumacher Snr has increased his championship lead over David Coulthard to 18 points after the eighth of 17 races. Ralf remains fourth in the standings, but is now just two points behind Ferrari driver Rubens Barrichello.
Michelin's Race : Pierre Dupasquier (Motorsport Director ):
How do you feel about the Michelin drivers' performances?
"We are all absolutely delighted with today's result and I would like to congratulate the three teams that scored championship points. This second win of the season for Ralf Schumacher, BMW Williams and Michelin underlines the fact that we are in contention at every race. Sometimes it is hard to get all the elements right at the same time, and circumstances aren't always in our favour, but this was a fantastic achievement today. Ralf was in control from start to finish. He drove with a great blend of talent, professionalism and sound judgement. The FW23 chassis is immaculate, while BMW has proved that its engine is not only extremely fast and reliable, but economical, too. Ralf managed to stay out four laps longer than his brother during the first stint, and that proved to be the decisive point in the race."
You must be happy that three Michelin teams scored points today?
"Of course this is extremely pleasing. To win a race is one thing, but overall this has been an extremely interesting race for our partner teams, who are working hard and making progress with each passing day. It is a shame that Eddie Irvine wasn't able to finish the race, because he would certainly have scored a good result. But I have to say a big `well done' to Jean Alesi and the Prost-Acer team, and the same to Pedro de la Rosa and Jaguar Racing."
Edouard Michelin, CEO:
"I am very happy to have been here to witness a superb victory for Ralf Schumacher and the BMW WilliamsF1 Team. We didn't assume that we would win any races in our first season back so it is absolutely fantastic to have scored two in the first eight events. And to have three teams in the points is an added bonus. We hope that this superb result will show our partners throughout the industrial world that we have the determination and ability to succeed."