Schumacher takes #8 at US GP

Schumacher takes #8 at US GP

Michael Schumacher has made it eight victories in nine attempts with Ferrari this year, winning today's United States Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He led all green flag laps but pit exchanges when he followed teammate Rubens ...

Michael Schumacher has made it eight victories in nine attempts with Ferrari this year, winning today's United States Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He led all green flag laps but pit exchanges when he followed teammate Rubens Barrichello, the polesitter who finished second, 2.9 seconds in arrears.

Michael Schumacher.
Photo by Michael Kim.

Takuma Sato earned his first podium slot in the Lucky Strike BAR Honda, 22 seconds back. His was the first podium for a Japanese driver since Aguri Suzuki took third in his home race at Suzuka in 1990.

Marking his 78th Formula One victory (in 203 starts) and marching inexorably to a seventh World Championship, Schumacher was one of only eight drivers to complete this crazy 73-lap contest. The top five cars were on the lead lap as Jarno Trulli took fourth in the Mild Seven Renault and Olivier Panis completed his 150th Grand Prix in fifth place for the Panasonic Toyota team.

Kimi Raikkonen, sixth in the West McLaren Mercedes finished one lap down, as did his teammate David Coulthard who took seventh. Rookie Zsolt Baumgartner gave the Wilux Minardi team its first point of the season, taking eighth place three laps back of the lead pack.

After following Barrichello through much of the race weekend here, Michael Schumacher was in front when it counted. With his sole opposition being his teammate and with the confusion surrounding the crash by his brother Ralf, this USGP -- while a victory to savor -- still wasn't the type he'd looked for.

"Ralf is OK and that is the most important thing today," said Michael. "That was the biggest concern I had today, seeing Ralf sitting so long in the car. They were telling me everything was not too bad, everything was all right, but I've seen this in the past and things have turned out differently."

The team's "flexible strategy" helped Schumacher, as he had a longer second stint while Barrichello's was a longer first stint. "In the final stint, Rubens was quicker than me as he had fresher tires, which is why he pushed me very hard for a couple of laps and we had a very close fight."

Barrichello was visibly disappointed to finish second today after being so dominant all weekend long. "It was good to have a 1-2 again for the team, but I'm just disappointed, more than Canada, more than ever. I thought I had a win on my hands. We had a quick car, I was driving well and I was pushing like hell. Unfortunately, there was something on the racetrack, a piece of white stuff out of Turn 4 (from Button's car) that caused me to lose about a second."

After having five engine problems in races thus far in the nine-race season, Sato's pleasure in taking third was palpable. "This is a really great result for the team. The mechanics working so hard and the Honda engineers in Japan working. I was so happy for the team to bring a result here. Third place was fantastic," he grinned. "The car was beautiful and the car was consistent over long runs that I was able to push hard."

Trulli, who started last on the grid after being unable to make a qualifying lap yesterday, (due to steering wheel problems) was sure "I did my best today. I made the most of the start to gain lots of positions and we brought my first stop forward during the second safety car period, a move that paid off later in the race.

"I pushed all the way, but Sato was catching me during the last stint," Trulli admitted, "and the lap before he overtook me, I went off. Of course I am slightly disappointed to not finish on the podium, but when you look at where I started this is a very good result."

Panis was pumped to do well this weekend. "We can celebrate a great result," the French veteran stated. "It was my 150th Grand Prix and I got a fantastic present of four points. I am very happy. The team gave me a consistent and competitive car and I drove a good race," he acknowledged.

The West McLaren Mercedes duo earned their first points in tandem this weekend after a dismal start to the season. Still Raikkonen was disappointed "as I strongly believe I could have finished on the podium," he said after taking sixth. "We have taken a step forward and were able to run reasonably competitively," he said. Coulthard thought "it was a difficult Sunday for me. I picked up some debris which damaged my deflector and upset the balance of the car," yet he persevered to take seventh a lap down.

For Baumgartner, a single point might for Minardi be as good as a win: "We are really happy because it was a tough race for me," the Hungarian rookie acknowledged after nearly being caught out in the first corner melee that took out four cars immediately. "I drove a very consistent race and the big thing, to hold onto eighth place was very much pressure."

After an acceptable start, the Safety Car led laps one through five due to a Turn 1 incident between Gianmaria Bruni's Wilux Minardi, the Jordan Ford of Giorgio Pantano, Felipe Massa in the Sauber Petronas and Christian Klien's Jaguar. All four were eliminated at the spot and 2002 CART champion Cristiano da Matta limped his Panasonic Toyota back to the pits with left front wing damage.

Juan Pablo Montoya barely made the start as his BMW Williams failed to begin the formation lap on time. He sprinted back to the garage to take the backup car, starting the event from the pit lane.

Montoya, the 1999 CART champion and 2000 Indianapolis 500 Mile Race winner continued (in a fully fueled car) and was running third after the second round of pit stops when he was black-flagged and forced to retire because he "joined the race after the start in a spare car in circumstances where the driver had not left the grid within 15 seconds of the start," the Stewards of the Meeting declared in excluding Montoya from the results.

Green flag running ensued at the start of lap six and, on lap eight Fernando Alonso turned hard left into the outside retaining wall at the end of the front straight with a shredded right rear Michelin tire on his Mild Seven Renault. There was no Safety Car appearance for that but then, on the tenth lap, Ralf Schumacher performed two complete spins entering Turn 13, the final corner of the course.

His BMW Williams hit the outside retaining wall and stopped on the front straight just after the pit entry, heavily damaged. The car did not hit the SAFER barrier (which might have lessened the blow) and it was nine minutes before Schumacher was safely extracted from the car. The team said there were no broken bones, no head injury, and no internal injuries for Ralf, but he was taken to Methodist Hospital for further observation of his bumps and bruises.

When R. Schumacher's massive accident caused another Safety Car appearance at the front of the field on lap 11, several cars hit the pit road, including Michael Schumacher, leading at the time, Barrichello, Raikkonen, Panis, Nick Heidfeld (Jordan Ford), Giancarlo Fisichella in the Sauber Petronas, Coulthard, Trulli, da Matta and Baumgartner. Mark Webber took advantage of the opportunity to pit on lap 17 and replace a nose cone.

The exchange of stops left M. Schumacher in first place, followed by Sato, Button, Montoya, Raikkonen, Barrichello, Trulli, Panis, Heidfeld and Fisichella, still under caution.

On lap 18, da Matta slowed and retired at Turn 12. "I had contact on the first corner, broke the diffuser and gave me a flat rear tire. When I stopped, something happened to first gear and it broke. It was just stuck there so basically, I had no drive," the Brazilian explained, remarking he had no idea who caused the flat.

When the race went green again on lap 19 M. Schumacher took off with Sato and Button in hot pursuit. It took him only one lap to pull out a 0.7-second advantage, which he could not stretch. Montoya was up to fourth by then and was 3.8-seconds behind Schumacher on the 22nd tour of the 2.605-mile road/oval course.

Button made his first stop on lap 24, from third place and returned to the action in 12th; teammate Sato pitted a lap later, leaving Montoya the sole surviving driver of 20 who began the race and 14 who remained not having pitted. Button's race ended after 26 laps and, while the reason wasn't explained he said, "It wasn't going right from the word go."

With M. Schumacher leading Montoya and Barrichello, it appeared this fifth USGP at the historic Brickyard circuit was settling in, with Montoya seven seconds back. On lap 28, Webber made an excursion through the grass at Turn 1 and a lap later Raikkonen made a third stop. Sato passed Fisichella for eighth and there were 12 cars still in the race. On lap 31 Raikkonen made his way past teammate Coulthard for ninth place.

Montoya made his first stop on lap 35 from fifth place and rejoined in sixth. Leading the order at that time were M. Schumacher, Barrichello, Trulli, Panis, Sato placed first through fifth. On lap 42, Schumacher pitted from the lead and gave the point to his teammate, rejoining in third. Heidfeld's day ended on lap 44 when his engine gave up the ghost. When Barrichello pitted on the 50th lap around, he was relegated to a second place he couldn't surpass.

Barrichello tried to get his teammate but was unable to do so. "When I tried to pass Michael it was very, very close," he explained. "I attack 100% and I had one chance, I tried but I didn't get it. I was in the grass at Turn 4," he said with eyes wide.

Sato's exquisite pass of Trulli on lap 61 into the first turn was both beautiful and comical as both cars took to the grass, Sato coming out in front and continuing on, pressing the leaders as he consistently ran laps quicker than they. While this was going on, Webber pulled off-circuit spewing smoke and, eventually fire in the Jaguar, ending his first run with the new spec engine that he said gave him an extra tenth.

On lap 66 Fisichella retired with a hydraulic leak after suffering a puncture on lap 48. "Having to drive so slowly back to the pits did some damage." He was the final retirement as Montoya had heeded the black flag and left the competition on lap 58.

Barrichello began to drop back from Schumacher and ended up 2.9 seconds back at the close of the race. "This was an incredibly eventful race, during which our team and drivers reacted correctly to the changing situations," noted Ferrari's Ross Brawn. "Our drivers were free to race one another and we just told them to be sensible and not have an accident."

Now Michael Schumacher has a massive 80 points with half the season left to run and another 90 points at his disposal. Barrichello lies second with 62, followed by Button (44), Trulli (41) and Alonso with 25. The F1 troops take a week's breather before heading off to France and Magny-Cours for the French Grand Prix.

Is the procession of continuing wins getting old for the 35-year-old? "No, it's not getting stale," Schumacher said. "I can still look forward because I have many years available to look backward."

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Ferrari , Mercedes , Sauber , McLaren , Williams , Minardi , Jordan