Ralf Schumacher chalked up a clutch of new landmarks when he dominated the San Marino Grand Prix at Imola, fourth round of the Formula 1 world championship. Not only was it the young German's first F1 victory, it was the first for Williams since...
Ralf Schumacher chalked up a clutch of new landmarks when he dominated the San Marino Grand Prix at Imola, fourth round of the Formula 1 world championship. Not only was it the young German's first F1 victory, it was the first for Williams since the 1997 GP of Europe, the first for engine supplier BMW since Mexico 1986 - and the first for Michelin since Portugal 1984. Michelin has won a grand prix at only its fourth attempt since its F1 comeback- and Williams-BMW triumphed in the 21st race since the partnership hit the track at the start of the 2000 season.
Ralf Schumacher (BMW WilliamsF1 Team) made a flying start from third place on the grid to pass pole position winner David Coulthard on the run down to the first corner and he controlled the race thereafter. Coulthard chased hard in the opening stages, but R. Schumacher was more than able to match his McLaren rival's lap times and his victory never looked in doubt. His brother Michael, the reigning world champion, was one of the first people to congratulate Ralf after the race. "I got a great start," Ralf said, "and I couldn't really believe it when I got the lead. After that everything went fantastically well. The chassis was good and the Michelin tyres are always great in race conditions. I have to say, though, that it felt like an awfully long race the afternoon. I couldn't wait to see the chequered flag. This has been a great experience - and I hope it will be just one of many."
BMW WilliamsF1 Team might have finished with both its cars in the top six. Juan Pablo Montoya was lying fifth, and chasing hard after Coulthard's team-mate Mika Hakkinen, but a refuelling problem at his second scheduled stop dropped him down the field and he later retired.
Coulthard finished second and now shares the world championship lead with Schumacher Snr, who retired his Ferrari with a technical problem. He was already out of contention, however, after having been delayed by a puncture. Rubens Barrichello gave the Italian fans the consolation of a third place finish, however, ahead of Hakkinen and Jordan-Honda drivers Jarno Trulli and Heinz-Harald Frentzen.
Three other Michelin-equipped drivers survived a race of attrition in which only 12 cars were classified as finishers. Jean Alesi (Prost-Acer) was ninth, Luciano Burti (Jaguar Racing) 11th and Jenson Button (Mild Seven Benetton Renault Sport) 12th. Fernando Alonso (European Minardi) posted the first retirement of the afternoon when he clipped a kerb and crashed into a tyre barrier. A variety of technical problems forced Tarso Marques (European Minardi), Eddie Irvine (Jaguar Racing), Giancarlo Fisichella (Mild Seven Benetton Renault Sport) and Gaston Mazzacane (Prost-Acer) to retire from the race.
Pierre Dupasquier (Motorsport Director):
"Everyone at Michelin is overjoyed by today's result. It is a great reward for all the hard work the whole team has put in during the past few months. Potentially, we had a lot to lose at the start of the year. We took a bold decision to return to Formula One and we're happy to have proved that our confidence was not misplaced.
"In one way, this victory is not so much of a surprise because we had already seen in Brazil that we had the potential to do the job. But to win just the fourth race of our comeback is the kind of performance we would have dared imagine just a couple of months ago. We have bonded very strongly with BMW and Williams. The FW23 chassis is a great success with a fabulous engine and we have shown in the opening four races that our tyres are efficient. We have the spirit of a team that is gradually taking shape and providing a fresh challenge to proven front-runners such as McLaren and Ferrari. That said, we will not be misled by this first victory of the season. We know there are still many things to learn before we are competitive in every type of track condition. We will be back at work tomorrow to focus on that. I would just like to congratulate Ralf Schumacher for scoring his first grand prix win. He drove a faultless race and proved during the final few laps that he was totally in control."