Schumacher, Bridgestone claim wet British GP win

Schumacher, Bridgestone claim wet British GP win

Michael Schumacher took his seventh victory of the 2002 Formula One season -- and the 60th of his career - at the British Grand Prix today, with a clear 14-second margin over his Ferrari teammate Rubens Barrichello. While Schumacher had a yet ...

Michael Schumacher took his seventh victory of the 2002 Formula One season -- and the 60th of his career - at the British Grand Prix today, with a clear 14-second margin over his Ferrari teammate Rubens Barrichello.

While Schumacher had a yet another flawless drive, as is now expected from the four-time World Champion, it was the performance of his Bridgestone tires that made all the difference on this wet English afternoon.

Michael Schumacher.
Photo by Ferrari Media Center.
"We had the best tires today, both in the dry and the wet," admitted Ross Brawn, the Ferrari technical director. "We were confused because our forecast was not for rain but when it came we had no choice but to change tires. Then we made a further stop because we ran too long into the first dry period before the second lot of showers came."

Schumacher started the race from second, next to Juan Pablo Montoya's Williams-BMW, Montoya now having won the pole position at four consecutive Grands Prix. Barrichello qualified third, but had to start from the back of the grid, as he stalled his Ferrari engine at the start of the formation lap.

Montoya pulled away strongly at the start, and was able to immediately begin to pull away from the German, with Ralf Schumacher, Kimi Raikkonen and David Coulthard behind the leading duo.

Rain began to fall within a few laps of the green flag, though, with steadily increasing intensity. By lap 12, the track was thoroughly wet, and the rain had settled into a steady thrum: it was clear that slicks would not be sufficient.

The rush into the pits was fast and furious, with surprisingly many teams caught off-guard. While the Williams and Ferrari were ready, when Raikkonen came in from third place, the McLaren mechanics had to scramble to find a set of rain tires, costing the young Finn an additional 30 seconds of time, and dropping him well back in the field.

Juan Pablo Montoya.
Photo by Sutton Motorsport Images.
While Montoya retained his lead through the pit stops, Schumacher quickly began to take advantage of his Bridgestone intermediates to claw into the five-second gap. Unlike the Bridgestone runners, Michelin teams, including Williams, were using full-wet tires, as Michelin's tire development schedule has not yet to date focused on intermediate tire development.

The intermediates were the right answer, and the veteran Ferrari driver quickly reeled in Montoya, passing him with ease on the 15th lap to take the lead for good.

Barrichello, meanwhile, had worked his way up to 8th place from the back of the grid, and the combination of the rain and the Bridgestone intermediates enabled him to make quick work of much of the remaining competition. The final straw was Montoya, and he passed the Colombian on the 17th lap to make the race a yet another Ferrari 1-2.

Montoya stayed in touch, though, and as the track dried, he was able to attack again, and reclaim second from the Brazilian on lap 41. However, it was not to last for long, and Barrichello returned to second five laps later, on a tight inside pass. Barrichello's rear tire touch Montoya's front wing in the process, but it appears that no permanent damage was done.

"My start wasn't too bad and I could keep Michael Schumacher behind me for a while, but then he passed me and started to get away," Montoya recalled. "Then the rain came and decided the race as we could not keep pace on our tyres. We have massively improved in the wet, but there is still work to do."

At the finish, Barrichello was some 17 seconds ahead of Montoya, with a thirty-second gap between Schumacher's winning time and the third-place Williams. Would Montoya had had a chance with the same tires the Ferraris were running? One can only speculate about that.

"The intermediates were good in both the almost dry and the wet," said Schumacher after the race. "We have worked very hard on that with Bridgestone and the whole car tyre packaged worked well. The conditions were really very tricky, especially as the intermediate tyres started to wear out in the dry."

Jacques Villeneuve.
Photo by British American Racing.
The leading trio were the only cars on the lead lap, but behind them it was all smiles in the BAR-Honda paddock, as Jacques Villeneuve and Olivier Panis scored the first points of the 2002 season for the struggling Brackley team.

The teammates took fourth and fifth places respectively, moving the team up to seventh in the Constructors' Championship, only one point behind the other Honda-powered team, Jordan.

But if it was jubilation at BAR, it was doom and gloom at McLaren. The team had qualified respectably, with Raikkonen and David Coulthard both on the third row of the grid. Raikkonen first took advantage of Barrichello's problems, and then passed Ralf Schumacher on the third lap to claim third place behind Montoya and Schumacher.

However, the chaos at the first pit stop dropped both drivers well back, with both Raikkonen and Coulthard suffering from extra-long stops to swap wet tires on the cars.

"The team told me to stay out for another lap," Raikkonen recounted. "But it was just too wet, and I simply couldn't stay out for another lap."

The Michelin wets did not work well for McLaren, either. To add to their woes, the team decided to take a gamble on switching back to dry tires as the rain was easing -- only to have the skies open back up again. With all the pit stops, and a few spins on Coulthard's part, the McLaren drivers were well back in 10th and 15th by halfway point of the race.

Raikkonen's engine expired on lap 46, putting an end to his miserable afternoon, but Coulthard soldiered on, eventually crossing the line 10th of 11 finishers.

Tom Walkinshaw, who had to pay Cosworth's engine bill out of his own pocket in order to allow Arrows to take part in the Grand Prix, must have been cursing his luck as well. Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Enrique Bernoldi both made it to points-paying positions, only to fail to finish.

Frentzen, particularly, had been driving a stonking good race, cutting through the field in the rain -- on Bridgestone intermediates, like Ferrari -- when his Cosworth engine expired, Walkinshaw's dollars going up in smoke at the side of the track.

"That was a real disappointment, as it was the most fun we have had this weekend!" Frentzen recounted. "I didn't have a very good start but we made up for that by making the right choice on tires, choosing the intermediates, and I have to say that the cars in front were easy meat and I was able to easily overtake."

On the World Championship front, Schumacher now has amassed 86 points after ten races -- an incredible 8.6 points per race - 54 ahead of Barrichello, who is standing second. He can now seal his fifth World Championship with a victory in the French Grand Prix in two weeks' time.

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Ferrari , McLaren , Williams , British American Racing , Jordan