Michael Schumacher equaled Nigel Mansell's record of winning the first five races in a season when he took victory at the Spanish Grand Prix. Teammate Rubens Barrichello followed the German over the line to make it a Ferrari one-two, the 18th ...
Michael Schumacher equaled Nigel Mansell's record of winning the first five races in a season when he took victory at the Spanish Grand Prix. Teammate Rubens Barrichello followed the German over the line to make it a Ferrari one-two, the 18th formation finish for the pair. Schumacher won his first race with Ferrari in Spain and today's victory makes it 75 career wins for the champion.
An outbreak of 'loony on track' preceded the race when a protester managed to get onto the start straight during the formation lap, but the marshals swiftly wrestled him off and there was no delay. The expected excitement between Schumacher and Williams' Juan Pablo Montoya at the start never materialised, as Montoya had a poor get away and dropped to fourth.
Jarno Trulli was the star of the start, the Renault catapulting between the Ferrari and Williams from fourth to take the lead by the first corner. BAR's Takuma Sato held his ground in third and other gainers were Trulli's teammate Fernando Alonso and the McLarens, all making up a couple of places. Ralf Schumacher lost out, his Williams dropping to ninth.
Jenson Button set about working his way through the pack, taking Toyota's Cristiano da Matta for 13th. The second Toyota of Olivier Panis didn't capitalize on a seventh grid slot, first being given a drive through penalty for speeding in the pitlane and later retiring with a hydraulic problem.
Gianmaria Bruni was in the pits by the fourth lap and eventually both Minardis went out, Bruni with a brake problem and Zsolt Baumgartner spun into the gravel. The race order was static until the first round of pit stops, Michael keeping in touch with Trulli but not close enough to challenge. However, Trulli pitted first of the pair and Michael came in the next lap, which gave him enough of an advantage to rejoin ahead of the Renault.
Barrichello was on a two-stop strategy and stayed out until lap sixteen. David Coulthard was plagued by a minor fuel hose problem through his stops and he and McLaren teammate Kimi Raikkonen spent much of the race on the outside edge of the top ten. Button did not make much progress in the first stint, squabbling with the McLarens before making it up later on.
After the first round of stops it was Micheal leading from Trulli, Barrichello and Sato. There was no action to mention as such, race formation holding static aside from a few minor skirmishes in the midfield. It wasn't until the second round of stops that the order changed again.
Trulli came in on about lap 23, Michael on lap 26, and Alonso cleared Sato in the pits to take fourth. Button also made a jump, clearing Coulthard for tenth and Montoya was harassing Fisichella for sixth until the second stop. The Colombian had problems with his brakes very early, a minor fire at the front on his first pit stop preceded a total brake failure in a later stop, which put him out. The Williams hit the front jack man when it came in and Montoya was quick to make sure he was unharmed, which he seemed to be.
"It started from lap three," the remarkably cheerful Colombian said of his brake troubles. "The pedal was very long all day. The first stop I hardly had any brakes but it improved a bit. The second time I came in quite slow but when I pressed the brakes there was just nothing there. I knew this race was going to be a nightmare!"
Michael suffered a cracked exhaust pipe but it was a minor irritation, not developing into anything serious. Jordan's Nick Heidfeld went out with a hydraulic related gearbox failure, teammate Giorgio Pantano following suit with a power steering problem. The third round of stops came and went, Renault doing a very slick job for Trulli and Alonso, but Barrichello's two-stopper went pear shaped when the Ferrari mechanics fumbled with the tyres on his second stop.
He had been within five seconds of Michael, taking second from Trulli due to the Renault's third stop. The tyre delay didn't cost him position but it left him with no chance of challenging Michael. Funny how these things happen to Rubens when he gets close to Michael.
Christian Klien suffered a throttle gremlin on his Jaguar, pulling off onto the grass, and teammate Mark Webber had an unremarkable race to finish outside the points. "We think it was a throttle issue, we'll have to look at the data," said Jaguar's managing director David Pitchforth of Klien's retirement "Mark had no problems but it has been a disappointing race pace."
The order going into the closing stages was Michael leading Barrichello from the pair of Renaults and that's how it stayed. Alonso was gaining on Trulli but didn't have enough time left to do anything about it. Button managed to get the final points position in eighth, behind Fisichella who made a competent seventh at the end.
Spain was pretty much a repeat of Imola -- brief excitement at the start followed by Michael getting ahead in the first pit stop, then the only change of the points order being done in the stops. There were one or two efforts made in the midfield but nothing for the fans to get really worked up about.
Another fine performance from Michael, once he's in the lead there's no stopping him. Ferrari has far too much experience to be making blunders over tyres in pit stops but even without that it probably wouldn't have changed things. Barrichello could perhaps have caught Michael but getting in front of him seemed highly unlikely to say the least.
"Our strategy worked very well and the main concern was where I would be after the first pit stop," said Michael. "We had an exhaust problem that we found very early on, but we could not do much about and I just did what I could to preserve the car and get it home. It was a good race weekend for the team who were exceptional once again."
Renault did a good job, Trulli's third was well deserved although Alonso will no doubt be disappointed not to give his home crowd a better result. Still, fourth is by no means a poor show after starting eighth. A little more speed from Renault could give the team a fighting chance to give Ferrari some trouble as the reliability and consistent performance is there.
"It was right on the limit of a jump start but it worked very well," said Trulli of his stunning launch off the line. "It was a pretty good race, I'm pleased for my team and the mechanics."
Sato had an untroubled time in fifth but BAR really didn't show the pace expected after its efforts earlier in the weekend. Button's eighth was a small reward from 14th on the grid. Ralf also had an anonymous time for Williams' couple of points and Fisichella deserves a pat on the back for his efforts. Sauber nearly made it with both cars, Felipe Massa finishing ninth.
Toyota and Jaguar were both disappointing as were McLaren. Coulthard and Raikkonen had mediocre cars that had no pace to make a difference, although Raikkonen had been eighth until his third stop. Jordan and Minardi's lack of reliability shows no sign of improvement either. Barcelona was another race that lacked excitement -- roll on Monaco! Final top eight classification: M. Schumacher, Barrichello, Trulli, Alonso, Sato, R. Schumacher, Fisichella, Button.