By Erica Southey - Motorsport.com Ralf Schumacher truly came of age, beating brother Michael fair and square through brilliant driving, a reliable car and an excellent pitstop. Michael got away well at the start, followed by Ralf and led for...
By Erica Southey - Motorsport.com
Ralf Schumacher truly came of age, beating brother Michael fair and square through brilliant driving, a reliable car and an excellent pitstop. Michael got away well at the start, followed by Ralf and led for the better part of the race. Ralf took a couple of stabs at Michael trying to pass his brother on a few occasions, clearly having the superior car, but decided against it. The BMW engine displayed its fuel superiority when Ralf continued on track many laps after his brother went in for a pitstop.
This time round, Prost had something to smile about. Jean Alesi managed to get the first two points for the team. Apart from the points, Prost was the only constructor with both cars still running after a grueling 69 laps that claimed numerous cars. Alesi's joy was evident in the way he threw his helmet into the crowd and then scaling the pitwall to embrace mechanics.
While for some it was a day of celebration, for others it was a day, they'd much rather forget. Fernando Alonso in the Minardi was the first to fall prey to retirement. The biggest upset of the day was the retirement of Canadian ace, Jacques Villeneuve. While fighting his way up the order suddenly slowed down and parked his car out of danger. His disappointment was evident in his response: "Well no, this was very very hard. About what caused him to retire he had the following to say: "I'm not sure. I believe it must be the clutch." Several minutes after Villeneuve's retirement, Olivier Panis who drove a brilliant race, looking set to add more points to the BAR tally retired with what is suspected to be the same problem Villeneuve experienced. Another major upset was the retirement of both Juan-Pablo Montoya and Rubens Barrichello on the same lap. Montoya over-committed on a corner, braked too late, lost the back end of the car and skimmed the wall. Barrichello swerved to avoid the Williams of Montoya and spun off to the opposite side of the track. It wasn't a good day for Barrichello at all. Before this incident, he was on a good lap about to overtake David Coulthard, but spun off in his eagerness to do so. Barrichello said after the race he was having trouble with his traction control and this was what caused him to spin. Jos Verstappen in the Arrows had a magnificent race, but brake failure soon put an end to his aspirations, when the Dutchman having literally no brakes, tried to slow down and spun off into the gravel.
There were a few misunderstandings in the form of Giancarlo Fisichella who took his teammate Jenson Button out after touching. Not long before the altercation Button was called in to do a stop/go penalty for jumping the start. Further down the line, Eddie Irvine in the Jaguar took Nick Heidfeld along with him after tagging the back of the Sauber. Irvine explains: "I didn't do the greatest of overtaking maneuvers".
For others it was a day of mixed fortunes. Ricardo Zonta who had a brilliant start going from 12th to ninth unfortunately finished outside the points while Jarno Trulli who looked set to add a few points had to retire with shot brakes. Though Irvine retired, it was Pedro de la Rosa who held the Jaguar flag high by collecting one point for the team. Kimi Raikkonen continued his good season for Sauber by scoring more points for himself and the team. The young Finn led countryman Mika Hakkinen for most of the race. Has Hakkinen finally beat the bout of bad luck by finishing in third position? Hakkinen fought his way up the field making it to third position after a string of non-finishes and no starts. For teammate Coulthard however, the race ended in a blown engine that saw the McLaren spewing smoke from the track into the pitlane before coming to a halt in front of the McLaren garage. Tarso Marques finished the race for Minardi despite the problems they faced this weekend.
Michael Schumacher slowed down considerably to the point where it looked like he was nursing some sort of problem, but he was playing safe, settling for six points towards the World Driver Championship, while brother Ralf drove towards a second win in his career.
Though the start was different to what most expected the race was exciting filled with tussles between drivers fighting for positions. It was the Schumacher battle however; that was the biggest surprise of the race with a result that very few expected.