There is no hiding from the fact that Rubens Barrichello dominated the Austrian Grand Prix, but it was Michael Schumacher won the 71-lap event to take his 58th career victory and his 103rd podium position result. However, starting from third ...
There is no hiding from the fact that Rubens Barrichello dominated the Austrian Grand Prix, but it was Michael Schumacher won the 71-lap event to take his 58th career victory and his 103rd podium position result.
However, starting from third position on the grid, Schumacher's race to victory was never going to be an easy one. Like last year in the Austrian mountainside, it was Rubens Barrichello who was the moral victor within the Ferrari camp, gifting the position to the number one Ferrari driver after instruction from the Ferrari pit box with four laps remaining. Barrichello backed off slightly allowing Schumacher through to the win on the final lap. "It's just a disgrace," commented former Grand Prix driver John Watson. Indeed it was, but this is nothing new from the Ferrari team. The gathered crowd booed and quite rightly as they had just paid money to see a fixed race.
As expected the start of the race saw those drivers starting on the clean line of the circuit make the best getaways with Rubens Barrichello leading team-leader Michael Schumacher and the fast starting Nick Heidfeld into the first turn As expected the second turn saw a number of casualties, with Jacques Villeneuve punting Heinz-Harald Frentzen out of the running order in what would turn out to be a disastrous race for the Arrows team.
With the Ferrari duo making a clean start and dropping the BMW Williams duo of Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya, the Italian champions were quickly able to pull clear from the field underlining their stunning pace this year. Indeed by just the 10th lap, Rubens Barrichello enjoyed a 17-second advantage over third placed Ralf Schumacher.
As the battle at the front fizzled out, attention turned to the lower positions, but some potential points scorers were already out of the race. Felipe Massa was also soon out of action with what looked to be a left rear hub failure. For Massa, a race that promised so much ended with little reward but fortunately for the team, the race could have been a great deal worse.
Enrique Bernoldi was also taking an early shower while Jacques Villeneuve took advantage of his low fuel load to move up from his poor 17th place on the starting grid to seventh place after just 19-laps. Villeneuve soon served a drive through penalty for his antics on the first lap.
Lap 23 saw the safety car deployed as Olivier Panis' Honda V10 failed dramatically on the start-finish straight, creating some confusion in the pits as Rubens Barrichello and Michael Schumacher dived to the pits simultaneously, dropping the World Champion dropping to third behind brother Ralf in the BMW Williams.
After four-laps behind the safety car, the restart saw a horrific accident as Nick Heidfeld's Sauber got sideways with what looked like a major mechanical failure, taking to the grass and slamming into the side of Takuma Sato's Jordan Honda who was rounding the Remus Kurve completely unawake that the out of control Sauber was about to slam into the side of his Jordan. The safety car and medical car were deployed to attend to Sato.
Heidfeld, who had dropped down third position after running wide early on, clambered from his destroyed Sauber clearly shaken probably unaware of what had made his car snap sideways so unexpectedly. At the time of writing, early indications are that, thankfully, Sato is not seriously injured.
The race restarted on the 26th lap with Rubens Barrichello leading the field once again from Ralf Schumacher, Michael Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya. Michael Schumacher soon regained the position from Ralf as the Williams driver made his one and only pit stop. Once the stops were out of the way, Juan Pablo Montoya gained track position from Ralf Schumacher, thus settling the battle for best of the rest.
With Ferrari finishing first and second ahead of the BMW Williams duo, fifth position fell to Giancarlo Fisichella, who brought some joy to Jordan Honda after this difficult weekend. It was a fine drive from the Italian and a result that was so desperately needed by Honda and the team.
McLaren predicted a tough race while David Coulthard freely admitted that one Championship point would be classed as a good result this year and this is what the Scotsman got following a good battle with Giancarlo Fisichella and Jenson Button.
Once again, Kimi Raikkonen failed to finish, this time lasting just five laps before his almost inevitable mechanical failure. Raikkonen, who has finished just on race this year, will not be amused as their Mercedes power plant is still the team major problem in 2002.
With David Coulthard holding onto the final points paying position, it was Jenson Button who held off the determined Jacques Villeneuve, who would retire on the final lap after an aggressive race and was unfortunate not to score BAR-Honda's first points of the season, let alone take the chequered flag.
Mika Salo finished in eighth position for Toyota and considering his qualifying form that saw him start in tenth position, will be disappointed with his lack of progress through out the race. Team-mate Allan McNish finished in ninth position.
Jacques Villeneuve was classified in tenth position ahead of Heinz-Harald Frentzen who suffered a dramatic spin mid-race to finish two laps down in his Arrows Cosworth.
Mark Webber was the only other finisher in his Minardi Asiatech in a race that is now thankfully over. Whether the FIA will ask Ferrari to explain their actions or not remains to be seen, but if Formula One is to continue to grow and prosper, actions like those witnessed today must be eliminated.
On a final note, well done to the rule-makers who have increased the side-impact level that Formula One cars have to endure in order to be declared legal. Today, Takuma Sato's escape can be put down to increased safety initiatives.
And so to Monaco in two weeks time.... Michael Schumacher's favourite stomping ground.
Michael Schumacher and Ferrari were booed by the crowd as team orders dictated that Barrichello gift the German the Austrian Grand Prix. Hopefully Takuma Sato will be back in action.