Ralf Schumacher finish third on the podium In his 166th Formula One start - and his 96th for Ferrari, more than any other driver in terms of world championship races - Michael Schumacher strolled to the 56th grand prix victory of his career in...
Ralf Schumacher finish third on the podium
In his 166th Formula One start - and his 96th for Ferrari, more than any other driver in terms of world championship races - Michael Schumacher strolled to the 56th grand prix victory of his career in front of his team's home crowd at Imola. The German led from the start and his supremacy was never threatened as he finished 17.9 seconds clear of team-mate Rubens Barrichello.
Ralf Schumacher (Williams-BMW/Michelin) ran second in the early stages but lost a place to Barrichello during the first round of refuelling stops. At the circuit where he scored the first win of Michelin's comeback season one year ago, the German pushed ha rd to the end but ultimately had to settle for third, 1.8 seconds behind Barrichello and comfortably ahead of Williams team-mate Juan Pablo Montoya.
Michelin cars occupied four of the top six places: Jenson Button (Renault F1) was fifth, his third consecutive points finish, ahead of David Coulthard (West McLaren-Mercedes). It proved to be a race of attrition and only 11 of the 21 starters made the fini sh. Two other Michelin cars were still running at the end: Jarno Trulli (Renault F1) finished eighth and Mark Webber (KL Minardi Asiatech) was 12th.
Of the others, Kimi Raikkonen (West McLaren-Mercedes) ran fifth from the start but pulled straight into his pit garage with a technical problem at the end of lap 45. Eddie Irvine lasted only a little longer: his Jaguar suffered suspected drives haft failur e as he left the pits shortly after his second scheduled fuel stop. Mika Salo (Toyota) retired after losing fourth gear while Pedro de la Rosa (Jaguar) pulled off with a suspected CV joint problem. Toyota star Allan McNish had the shortest day's work of all. His car lost drive almost as soon as the race began and he pulled off onto the grass to retire after failing even to reach the end of the pit straight.
KL Minardi Asiatech driver Alex Yoong was not permitted to take the start after he failed to lap within the mandatory 107 per cent of the pole position during Saturday's qualifying session.
Pierre Dupasquier (Motorsport Director)
Last year you won this race quite comfortably in weather conditions that were not dissimilar to those we had today. Can you explain why you were so far behind the Ferraris?
"Not at all. At the moment I am at a loss to explain. All our cars performed exactly as we expected them too - it's just that the two Ferraris ahead found a lot of extra speed from somewhere."
Have you had chance to look at some of the worn tyres that were used during drivers' first stints?
"Yes - but there was nothing obviously wrong. The wear rate was just as we had expected."
The next race in Spain is only two weeks away. Is that time enough to react to what happened today?
"Before we can react we have to work out what went wrong. We will work flat out to get to the root of this. We have to analyse everything in detail before we can be sure what caused our problems today . From what we saw in qualifying we were expecting to b e very competitive this afternoon."
But there were some positive elements about today's race, with four Michelin cars in the top six.
"That is a small consolation - but we have to push harder to get them to the front of the top six. I was encouraged by Jenson Button's performance with Renault, though. The team is becoming very consistent and increasingly he has shown that he knows how to nurse a car to the finish in the points."
What conclusions can you draw from this weekend?
"The most positive outcome of a result like this is that it will motivate the whole team and heighten our determination to do much better next time."