Cool victory for Ralf at French GP

Ralf Schumacher kept his cool and led off the line from pole position to chequered flag for his second consecutive race win. Williams teammate Juan Pablo Montoya held grid formation for a one-two finish, the pair untouchable most of the race.

Ralf Schumacher kept his cool and led off the line from pole position to chequered flag for his second consecutive race win. Williams teammate Juan Pablo Montoya held grid formation for a one-two finish, the pair untouchable most of the race. McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen looked good for third until beaten by Michael Schumacher in the last pit stops.

Williams technical director Patrick Head said before the race that there were "plenty of ways to get it wrong". The only thing wrong was him. Ralf had a fine start, as did Montoya and from there on it was pretty much plain sailing. Michael got beaten by Raikkonen at the first corner for third and the pair of Renaults up a place each.

Barrichello spun at the end of the first lap and relegated himself to the back but the two Jaguars made up to eighth and ninth. Just a few laps in Ralf was already over three seconds ahead of Montoya, Schumacher Junior lapping in the 1:16s and the rest in the 1:17s. The McLaren of David Coulthard and the pair of Renaults were bunching up behind Michael, the little group very evenly matched.

Barrichello was fighting his way through the back of the grid, dispatching first the Minardi of Jos Verstappen then Nick Heidfeld for 14th. Coulthard pitted quite early to kick off the first round of stops, after which the front order was Ralf, Montoya, Raikkonen, Coulthard and Michael. Jenson Button had a slow stop and the reason soon became clear. Shortly afterwards the BAR pulled off track -- fuel rig problems had prevented enough fuel going and the car simply ran out of gas.

The Williams' were out on their own at the front, third placed Raikkonen seven seconds down the road. The Renaults were closing on Michael but double disaster struck for Alonso and Trulli. First Trulli said he had some kind of problem and was slowing every lap, then Alonso's engine went. Jarno pulled off track not long afterwards, a nightmare for Renault.

Next out was Jordan's Giancarlo Fisichella, again an engine failure. Coulthard had a bit of a drama in his next pit stop; the fuel hose had some problem disengaging and the Scot pulled away, taking the hose and mechanic with him. It was a minor incident, Coulthard not to blame and the mechanic was fine but it cost time.

At the front Montoya had closed the gap to Ralf down to 1.9 seconds but then the Colombian dived into the pits. Ralf followed suit shortly after and just squeezed out ahead of Juan Pablo -- Ralf had a slight moment at Chateau d'eau, which presumably woke him up, and the pair held formation to the line. Somehow Michael jumped Raikkonen in the last round of stops, credit to Ferrari for getting a podium out of what had been a mediocre weekend for them.

The rest were pretty much anonymous, in what was a fairly sedate race. Mark Webber took another few points for Jaguar in sixth and Olivier Panis managed the final points position in front of his home crowd.

Williams lived up to the potential of qualifying and made amends for not doing the same in Canada. McLaren had a respectable result but really should have done better and Ferrari made the best of a bad situation. Williams is now just three points behind Ferrari in the Constructors' standings and Ralf closing in on Raikkonen and Michael in the Drivers'. Michael still holds the lead by eight points from Kimi but Ralf is only three points behind the Finn.

Excellent result for Williams in what was an uneventful afternoon. Final top eight classification: R. Schumacher, Montoya, M. Schumacher, Raikkonen, Coulthard, Webber, Barrichello, Panis.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Giancarlo Fisichella , Ralf Schumacher , Jos Verstappen , Michael Schumacher , Olivier Panis , Nick Heidfeld , Kimi Raikkonen , Patrick Head
Teams Ferrari , McLaren , Williams , Minardi , Jordan