The unhappy mutterings provoked by Monaco were still going at the NÃ¼rburgring, and after the European Grand Prix there were more disputes added to the list. Michael Schumacher bounced back from his crash in the Monte Carlo tunnel -- which left...
The unhappy mutterings provoked by Monaco were still going at the N?rburgring, and after the European Grand Prix there were more disputes added to the list. Michael Schumacher bounced back from his crash in the Monte Carlo tunnel -- which left him none too happy with Juan Pablo Montoya -- to win in Europe but the Ferrari man was not impressed with Jaguar's Mark Webber this time around.
Webber was exiting the pits as Schumacher headed for the first corner and Michael thought the Australian was going to hit him. "I don't know what was going on there with Mark (Webber) when he came out of the pit lane," he said. "I went past him and he must have seen what car was in front of him and as I was turning in suddenly, in the sort of side line, very late, I saw him flying into me and I was really shocked."
"Fortunately I could open the door. It was just this little moment of me not seeing him and he would have crashed into me. I don't know what was going through his head, what he was trying to achieve there, but that was a bit of a moment."
Webber was unrepentant: "I would do it again tomorrow," he retorted. "I was faster than him at the time, I left the pits on new tyres and pulled away, to start with, from him." The Jaguar was hoping to beat one of the Saubers that was pitting on that lap and wasn't about to compromise his position.
"I wasn't going to back off for two seconds and then sit behind him (Schumacher) on my new tyres," Webber continued. "I wanted to get in and out of the corner and knew that even if I got a little in his way, he would still punch in a good time. He might lose two or three tenths, but not much. I couldn't afford to lose two seconds on the out lap."
Montoya didn't escape criticism in Europe. At the first corner at the start of the race he clashed with Williams teammate Ralf Schumacher, who in turn shunted the Toyota of Cristiano da Matta. Ralf had an altercation with Renault's Fernando Alonso in Monaco and there were a few heated words exchanged.
This time Ralf, although annoyed, kept a cool head about the incident. "What happened is obviously a shame," he commented. "Being taken out of the race at the first corner is definitely not what I was expecting. It was a very unfortunate accident with Juan who just braked a bit too late since he was trying to gain some places at the end of the straight. I am 100% sure Juan didn't do it on purpose therefore I am not going to blame him for this."
Montoya claimed he was hit by the Toyota of Olivier Panis, which sparked the consequences. "Ralf went for the outside and I stayed behind Rubens but when I was going around the corner Panis dived up the inside hitting my front tyre which threw me straight into Ralf," was his explanation. "A hairpin is always going to cause problems in a racing start."
Da Matta was initially annoyed with Ralf, whose Williams collected the Toyota on his way out, but calmed down and conceded it was a racing incident. "Obviously it is not nice to retire from a race through no fault of my own, but it was a racing incident and these things occur from time to time," the Brazilian said.
The second Ferrari of Rubens Barrichello was also involved with another car, the BAR of Takuma Sato. Barrichello had beaten Sato to second after his pit stop but the Japanese wasn't going to give in. On the next lap the BAR took a dive up the inside of the Ferrari at the first corner. It was perhaps an ambitious move and the pair had contact, resulting in Sato needing to pit for a new front wing.
Barrichello was less than impressed. "I am sorry to say it but I think it was a bit too amateur from Sato to do that because he wasn't in a position to actually try and overtake," he said. "He could have eventually overtaken me because he was fast enough but he didn't need to be that lap. He wasn't in contention on that lap."
BAR boss David Richards only had praise for Sato, saying Takuma was a hero. "There will be a debate about whether it was an over-optimistic manoeuvre and people will have their opinions," he conceded. "But at the end of the day we employ racing drivers and we want them to race right to the last lap. And if there's an opportunity there we have to try."
"Taku was a hero -- that's what racing drivers are made of. They're the kind of people we should be applauding."
Whether over optimistic or heroic, Sato's move came to naught anyway. After losing time having to pit for the new front wing, his Honda engine blew when he returned to the track, putting him out of the race.