There was an expectation of rain at the start of the San Marino Grand Prix, a few spots falling on the formation lap but the downpour never materialized. It was a clean start, Ralf Schumacher in the Williams managing to get past Rubens Barrichello...
There was an expectation of rain at the start of the San Marino Grand Prix, a few spots falling on the formation lap but the downpour never materialized. It was a clean start, Ralf Schumacher in the Williams managing to get past Rubens Barrichello by the first corner; team mate Juan Pablo Montoya also had a look but decided not to risk it. Toyota's Allan McNish got all of a few yards before coasting to a halt by the side of the track.
"It was a little bit brief," said McNish, on his race. "As soon as I moved forward there was a gearbox problem which we could do nothing about." At the front of the pack Michael Schumacher, Ralf and Barrichello began to pull away from the rest of the field while both Saubers and BARs were in the top ten. Jordan's Takuma Sato slowed down then pulled into the pits -- he rejoined the race only to slow again, finally coming to a halt on the grass with gearbox problems.
Apart from the Ferrari and Williams top four the teams were almost in formation, McLaren, Renualt, Sauber, BAR and Arrows all in pairs down the track. Nick Heidfeld stopped very early, seeming to catch the pit crew by surprise, then Felipe Massa also stopped: possibly they were on a three-stop strategy although Heidfeld ended up spending as much time in the pits as he did on the track. He stopped again shortly afterward, possibly a problem with the fuel rig, then got a drive-through penalty for speeding, no mean feat given the shortness of the pit lane at Imola.
Fisichella pulled off the track and retired with hydraulic failure while Michael was lapping the backmarkers by lap twenty-two. The first round of pit stops started quite early with Jarno Trulli then Arrows' Heinz-Harald Frentzen retired. Barrichello was catching Ralf but got held up slightly by Jaguar's Eddie Irvine, a situation that saw the Brazilian employ a strategic hand gesture in the direction of Irvine when he finally got past. Jordan had a bad day as Takuma Sato joined Fisichella in retiring while Jenson Button passed team mate Trulli in the pit stops.
Michael was the first Ferrari to stop, then Ralf, leaving Barrichello in the lead until he also came in. Pedro de la Rosa's Jaguar crawled out of the pit lane very slowly before retiring with drive shaft failure; team mate Irvine suffered the same problem a few laps later. BAR were doing well, in or around the top ten and Renault continued to give McLaren something to worry about, Button into sixth when David Coulthard pitted. Kimi Raikkonen was having a quiet race in fifth until he unexpectedly pulled into the garage. Some kind of exhaust problem was putting the rear suspension under pressure and the team pulled him in for safety reasons. Olivier Panis retired to the garage and in the second round of pit stops Barrichello had a problem with the left rear wheel which delayed him slightly.
Toyota's Mika Salo retired with gearbox failure: "My traction control failed at the start already," the Finn explained. "Sometimes I would have wheelspin and other times traction control would kick in. They tried to correct this from the pits by uploading new software to my car. The car was OK until the pit stop, but finally the gearbox failed."
The second Arrows retired when Enrique Bernoldi stopped in the gravel with an unknown problem. Felipe Massa was hounding Trulli, finally overtaking him for eighth, not a points position but a brave move. An unspectacular race which saw Ferrari reigning supreme, the Imola crowd delighted with the 1-2 finish. Final top six classification: M. Schumacher, Barrichello, R. Schumacher, Montoya, Button, Coulthard.