Rubens Barrichello took his first victory of the season at the European Grand Prix after leading the race right from the first lap. Michael Schumacher tagged behind him all the way and as the finish line loomed closer there was only one thing on...
Rubens Barrichello took his first victory of the season at the European Grand Prix after leading the race right from the first lap. Michael Schumacher tagged behind him all the way and as the finish line loomed closer there was only one thing on everyone's minds: would Ferrari do it again? Not this time. Lessons were learned from the team orders situation in Austria, Ferrari wisely kept quiet and Barrichello won a race he well deserved to.
The first lap provided more action than the whole of some previous races. A clean start but the two Jordans collided at the first corner; Giancarlo Fisichella spun and clipped Takuma Sato. Sato pitted and Fisichella lost some body work from the car a little later which scattered on the track as others drove over it. No-one seemed to suffer though, apart from Fisichella who eventually drove into the pits and retired, saying the car was "completely undriveable."
Ralf Schumacher had taken the lead and the next corner saw Williams, Ferrari, McLaren and Renault all fighting like mad for position. Barrichello took Ralf at Castrol, pole position man Juan Pablo Montoya down to third, then fourth as Michael passed him. After a brief battle with Ralf, Michael gained second and he and Barrichello soon pulled away, the Ferraris lapping a second and a half quicker than the rest of the field. Excellent pit stops by the Ferrari crew and the only surprise was Michael spinning off briefly. By that time they were so far ahead that he didn't lose position and came home in a formation finish for Ferrari behind Barrichello.
Kimi Raikkonen put in a good performance for McLaren to finish third, driving a confident race despite running wide at one point and allowing Jenson Button to squeeze past. Team mate David Coulthard did not fare so well: attacking Montoya for fourth at the first corner, the Colombian hit the curb and the rear end of the Williams swung out, hitting Couthard's McLaren and the pair of them went off.
A rather peeved Coulthard said shortly afterwards: "Clearly he (Montoya) had problems with tyres and I knew it was taking a risk going round the outside. He spun, things happen." Montoya happened to be on hand and said: "I spun, I lost my tryes!" Coulthard sounded bemused: "I know you spun, you hit me!" A slightly contrite Montoya replied: "Err, sorry about that."
Montoya said afterwards that his tyres were deteriorating rapidly, he had started the race on a slightly softer compound than Ralf: "You look at the tyres, I had no tyres left. Before the race we had talked and they (the team) said if the tyres went off I would come in (to the pits for new ones) but they didn't call me in."
Renault were looking strong, up behind the McLarens until Jarno Trulli ran off at turn one. He managed to regain the track and climbed back up the field from twelfth to come home outside the points in eighth. Jenson Button had a quiet but productive time, finishing fifth for more points. Sauber benefited from the incident between Coulthard and Montoya and had both cars in the top six at one point. A good effort from Felipe Massa, who scored another point for sixth and slightly unfortunate for Nick Heidfeld who was behind in seventh.
BAR managed to get both cars home but outside the points again. Olivier Panis and Jacques Villeneuve had good drives, gaining ground in overtaking but the pace was not enough to put them into contention. Arrows ran in the midfield quite comfortably, Enrique Bernoldi skipping a chicane and Heinz-Harald Frentzen spinning at one point, narrowly missing Villeneuve. Bernoldi made a good start and was up to thirteenth after starting from 21st and finished tenth, Frentzen thirteenth.
Eddie Irvine could gain no better luck at the Nurburgring, his Jaguar giving up with hydraulic failure. Team mate Pedro de la Rosa faired better, finishing ninth. Toyota had a strong start and were running well but towards the end Mika Salo pulled off the track with what looked like engine problems. Allan McNish had some scraps with the Arrows and the BARs and came home fourteenth.
Minardi's Alex Yoong got a stop and go penalty for jumping the start and had a bit of a moment when he spun at the entrance of the pit lane. He managed to keep it going but later retired to the pit garage with an unknown problem. Mark Webber had a virtually anonymous race, hardly getting a mention and came home fifteenth.
Talking immediately after the race, Ferrari technical director Ross Brawn said that team orders had not been considered. Michael had made a mistake and Barrichello won fair and square. "Things have moved on since Austria," he commented. "We learned a few things, there were things we now know we could have done differently....I spoke to Rubens on the radio, I said 'Rubens, there's something I want you to do for me'. There was a very long pause then I said 'Win the race!'" Final top six classification: Barrichello, M. Schumacher, Raikkonen, R. Schumacher, Button, Massa.