Ralf Schumacher takes maiden victory at San Marino GP

By Erica Southey - Motorsport.com The sound of the roaring BMW Williams of Ralf Schumacher edging away was like a slightly modified version of 'The hills are alive with the sound of music': today, at the San Marino GP, it was 'Imola's alive with...

By Erica Southey - Motorsport.com

The sound of the roaring BMW Williams of Ralf Schumacher edging away was like a slightly modified version of 'The hills are alive with the sound of music': today, at the San Marino GP, it was 'Imola's alive with the sound of BMW Williams!'

It was a sensational start and race by Ralf Schumacher, who dominated today's Grand Prix in his BMW Williams in leading from start to finish. After getting away magnificently, passing both McLarens and outsmarting brother Michael, there was no stopping the German as he inched away steadily from David Coulthard, who was the second runner after the start.

Williams, who had their last victory with Jacques Villeneuve at Nurburgring in 1997, returned to their former glory as both drivers stayed in the top six. Unfortunately for Juan Pablo Montoya, a stuck fuel nozzle was immediately followed by a stalled engine, putting a cruel finish to his hopes of scoring at least two points.

"Yeah, I think the race went well," said Montoya of the start. "But not the best race in the world"

Kimi Raikkonen in the Sauber was having a good race keeping up with the pace of the Ferraris until they got to Olivier Panis, who held him up as the Ferraris managed to pass Panis and edged further away. Raikkonen continued to look good until he had an unusual spin, presumably caused by a gearbox failure and went off, putting an end to his aspirations for Imola.

While in front, Ralf Schumacher set the fastest lap times, while Coulthard was trying to match his pace. However, in the end, it was Schumacher Jr who had the upper hand in a powerful BMW Williams.

Michelin had everything play to their advantage: a heated track and no rain. In only the fourth race into its Formula One return, and the French manufacturer has claimed its first victory of the season, giving notice to Bridgestone that status quo is no more.

Sir Frank Williams sat expressionless as he viewed the events of the race on the monitor, but one could hear that he was holding back tears when he said: "(Ralf Schumacher) obviously reached the ranks of winners."

It was Jarno Trulli, who had surprised everyone when he passed both Michael Schumacher and Mika Hakkinen to go from fifth to third after the start of the San Marino GP. Trulli continued his brilliant run, followed by team-mate Heinz-Herald Frentzen, to put both cars in the top six and in the points.

The greatest upset of the day was the retirement of Michael Schumacher who went into the pits with a left front puncture, had it changed, went out to rejoin the race and then returned to retire.

"Wasn't a great weekend. Start wasn't perfect. Finally retirement," Schumacher summed up his race. "It ended in the worst possible way when I retired on lap 25, because of what, at first sight, seems to be a problem on the left front corner."

Canadian Jacques Villeneuve had yet another disappointing race when his engine blew. His disappointment could be heard when he responded when asked about his misfortune in the current season: "It is very heavy right now."

Eddie Irvine in the Jaguar and Gaston Mazzacane in the Prost joined the ranks of blown engines.

The qualifying session promised an exciting race and so it was. It appears that the championship is going to be a three-constructor battle with Williams coming from practically nowhere to consistently challenge and keep up with the front runners. Let's not lose sight of the Jordans who have had a magnificent season so far, making their presence known.

Ultimately the day belongs to Ralf Schumacher, who has continually raced in the shadow of big brother Michael. Ralf has always displayed talent, and today came of age. His maiden GP victory was also to the delight of Michael, who was allowed a minute in the winners' circle to congratulate younger brother.

"I am very happy for Ralf," said the three-time World Champion of his brother's victory. "He has shown strongly in the past and he has also had some bad luck. We have both achieved our goal and our parents will be very proud. "

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Ferrari , Sauber , McLaren , Williams , Jordan