By Erica Southey - Motorsport.com The race got off to a good start with no first corner incidents and everybody getting away well. It was the Schumacher brothers charging with Ralf taking a look to pass brother Michael on the inside, but...
By Erica Southey - Motorsport.com
The race got off to a good start with no first corner incidents and everybody getting away well. It was the Schumacher brothers charging with Ralf taking a look to pass brother Michael on the inside, but Michael almost squeezed his brother into the barrier as warning that he wasn't going to make it easy for him. The two brothers pulled away with Michael having the advantage and Ralf trying to see where he could capitalize. It looked like an all Schumacher and BMW-Williams ending, but this soon turned into a nightmare for Ralf Schumacher. He was called in for a ten second stop/go penalty for over-shooting the white line on the pit exit. The dejection and disappointment was evident on the faces of the pitcrew and Patrick Head.
What was Ralf's loss soon became David Coulthard's gain. Coulthard was on a one-stop strategy, which helped him to finish third. Ralf was on a charge to see if he could at least salvage third behind teammate Juan Pablo Montoya, but traffic put an end to this aspiration and he couldn't catch Coulthard. Montoya, however was having a good race overall. After a clean start and solid race he slowly edged closer to the Schumacher brothers, responding by putting in fastest laps of the race. Towards the end, Montoya was flying to see if he could finish closest possible to Michael. Mika Häkkinen didn't quite get there and had to settle for sixth overall.
It was a race marked by mechanical retirements. From a constructor's point of view, the retirement of both Jordans put a dark cloud over the Jordan pit garage. First to go was Jarno Trulli. He pulled off with a little bit of smoke coming from the back end of the car. When asked what was wrong, he responded: 'I had a clutch problem'. Teammate, Heinz-Herald Frentzen locked a wheel into Dunlop, lost control and spun off into the gravel. His point of view on the incident: 'Well, my traction control stopped working. It just stopped working and there I went'. The race worked out a bit better for rivals BAR who had Jacques Villeneuve finish the race, but Olivier Panis fell victim to a spin off which left him out of the race. It was evident that there were a lot of problems with the Minardi of Tarso Marques, which spent more time in the pit garage than on track. The race barely was on the way, when Marques retired, while teammate Fernando Alonso had a better race. Arrows also had both drivers retire with Enrique Bernoldi parking his car at the side due to some unconfirmed mechanical failure, while Jos Verstappen spun off. Jean Alesi was far to eager trying to catch the car ahead of him when he outbraked himself and spun off into the gravel. Rubens Barrichello, however was more fortunate to get off so lightly after sliding off the track with the car positioning itself well so that the nose headed in the right direction to rejoin the track. Like Barrichello, all didn't go so smooth for Häkkinen and Montoya either, because both had a brief offtrack excursion before rejoining the track to continue with their battle towards the finish line.
Ralf Schumacher will probably steer well clear of any white lines in future after the expensive lesson he learned today, while Montoya will relish this moment and think of getting to that coveted number one position on the podium.
The day clearly belonged to Michael Schumacher who handled every challenge thrown at him. Despite the early pressure from the Williams of his brother, which surely would have conjured up images of Canada, he kept a clear head and drove a brilliant race till the end to the delight of his home crowd.
With less than a week to go to Magny-Cours some drivers are already there in spirit.