Imola, 15th April - Ralf Schumacher gave the BMW-Williams its first win, took his own first F1 win and the first for the team since the Nurburgring in 1997 with a superb flag-to-flag victory in the 62 lap San Marino Grand Prix. From the second row...
Imola, 15th April - Ralf Schumacher gave the BMW-Williams its first win, took his own first F1 win and the first for the team since the Nurburgring in 1997 with a superb flag-to-flag victory in the 62 lap San Marino Grand Prix. From the second row of the grid he out-accelerated the two McLaren-Mercedes off the start line to the first corner and was never headed. "It seemed like a very long race," said a delighted Ralf afterwards. "The tyres, the engine and the car all worked perfectly which allowed me to win. I hope this is going to be a regular thing," Schumacher setting the fastest lap of the race as well.
Pole man David Coulthard was the only other driver to keep the flying Williams driver in sight, helped initially by Jordan-Honda driver Jarno Trulli, who made a good start to take third place off the line, but then held up other would-be challengers by around two seconds a lap effectively putting them out of contention for the lead before the first round of pit stops. "When Ralf went past at the start I got too much wheel-spin. I was interested to see how quick he was, but unfortunately he was quicker than me," said David, who struggled with an inconsistent second set of tyres losing any chance of challenging seriously for the lead.
Michael Schumacher's hopes of increasing his Championship points lead with a good result for Ferrari in front of their home crowd faded early in the race after running in fifth place in the opening laps. He lost three places to Montoya's BMW-Williams, the BAR of Panis and his own teammate Rubens Barrichello early in the race due to a gear change problem. However, he fought his way back past Panis only to lose more time with a flat front tyre due to a rim problem. He went back into the race, but then stopped for good a lap later, on lap 25, because of brake damage caused by the rim.
Rubens Barrichello saved the day for the Ferrari fans, a strong drive after a slow start and then great pit-stops putting him ahead of Trulli, Panis and Hakkinen to take third place on the podium, thirty seconds behind David Coulthard who trailed Ralf Schumacher by 4.3 seconds at the flag.
"We had a great strategy and when Mika stopped I was able to put in three fast laps which put me ahead of him after the stops. It was hard to overtake, but to come from so far back and finish on the podium was great," said the Brazilian. Mika Hakkinen was chased Barrichello all the way to the flag to claim fourth place well clear of the two Jordan-Hondas of Trulli and Heinz-Harald Frentzen which completed the top 6 finishers. Montoya's hopes of points with the second BMW-Williams disappeared when a clutch problem caused him a long pit stop of just over a minute before retiring for good.
Coulthard's second place and Michael Schumacher's first retirement of the season now puts the two of them on equal points (26) for the Championship, Schumacher still leading on wins. Barrichello's third place keeps him in third place in the points, two clear of Ralf Schumacher on 12.
Scuderia Ferrari-Marlboro still heads the Constructors Championship points with 40, ten points clear of McLaren-Mercedes on 30.