Schumacher wins problematic Spanish GP

Schumacher wins problematic Spanish GP

The starting grid was reduced to twenty cars for the Spanish Grand Prix after Minardi decided to pull out of the race due to unresolved problems with its cars. Team principal Paul Stoddart made the decision after Mark Webber suffered yet another...

The starting grid was reduced to twenty cars for the Spanish Grand Prix after Minardi decided to pull out of the race due to unresolved problems with its cars. Team principal Paul Stoddart made the decision after Mark Webber suffered yet another wing failure in warm up prior to the race.

Michael Schumacher took to the spare car for the main event after his race car came to halt in the same warm up session with a loss of hydraulic pressure.

Rubens Barrichello was the first to come to grief, his Ferrari stalling at the start of the formation lap. He was pushed to the pit lane in the hope of correcting the problem and starting from there but it was not to be. "I couldn't engage first gear," Barrichello explained. "I tried everything, there's a lot of buttons on the steering wheel and I was pressing them all! But nothing would work."

The start: Michael Schumacher taking the lead in front of Ralf Schumacher.
Photo by Ferrari Media Center.
It was a clean start to the race, Michael pulling effortlessly away in the lead from brother Ralf and his Williams team mate Juan Pablo Montoya. Renault's Jarno Trulli benefited from a good start, up to seventh and Sauber's Felipe Massa to ninth. Within three laps Michael had built up a two-and-a-half second lead and had a trouble free race from thereon.

Pedro de la Rosa spun his Jaguar into a gravel trap and retired and Mika Salo brought his Toyota in for a very early stop within a few laps.

Kimi Raikkonen caught the wing problem that had plagued Minardi all weekend when his rear wing flew off on the start/finish straight. McLaren bought him into the garage with a new wing ready but Raikkonen didn't rejoin the race. "I have no idea," the Finn said, sounding bemused when asked about the cause of the problem. "It just fell off, that's all that I know."

Jordan's Giancarlo Fisichella retired to the pits on lap six with hydraulic failure and team mate Takuma Sato span off into the gravel, beaching his car.

"I feel a little bit wounded," said a despondent-sounding Eddie Jordan about his team's double retirement. "It's an inevitable thing to happen, to try so hard to turn things around then something like this happens. I need to think about things but the car has been better this weekend."

Jordan refused to be drawn on Sato's retirement, which appeared to be nothing more than driver error: "I don't want to speak about Sato until I've had a chance to talk to him and see what the problem was."

Pitstop for Ralf Schumacher.
Photo by BMW PressClub.
Trulli was the first of the scheduled pit stops -- with the backmarkers already lapping nearly three seconds slower than race leader Michael -- an uneventful round which had McLaren's David Coulthard the last to complete a stop, rejoining behind Button in fifth.

Ralf ran very wide at turn nine: he went onto the grass, letting Montoya get by, and then he pulled something off the front of his car. He pitted for a new nose cone and rejoined the race, only to pit again for another new nose cone some laps later, relegating him back to thirteenth.

Montoya was now in second, 28 seconds behind Michael, Button third with Coulthard closing the distance between them and Trulli closing in on the McLaren. Both Saubers were doing well in the top ten, Arrows and BAR also going strong, fighting for position in the midfield.

Jenson Button, David Coulthard and Jarno Trulli.
Photo by Renault F1.
Coulthard got past Button in a textbook move after catching his slipstream down the home straight and easing past at the corner. Button appeared to be in some difficulty, Trulli also going past.

Heinz-Harald Frentzen was closing in on Olivier Panis, Jacques Villeneuve overtaking Enrique Bernoldi for tenth as Arrows and BAR continued their own private battle until Bernoldi took an unexpected pit stop. The pit crew were caught unawares and the stop took 41.8 seconds, putting Bernoldi out of contention.

Heidfeld was now closing in on Button, Massa hot on his heels, Frentzen chasing all three of them. Eddie Irvine retired his Jaguar to the garage then Button and Heidfeld pitted together. In the race to get out first they went side by side up the pit lane after their stops, neither willing to give an inch until Heidfeld got the better of it and reached the track first. Panis came in for a stop but pulled over on to the grass as he reached the exit on his way out with probable transmission failure.

Montoya pitted and confusion reigned. The lollipop man appeared to raise the stick too soon, the fuel rig was still attached, and tried to put it back down but Montoya was already moving. Unfortunately he ran over the mechanics foot before he could stop: eventually he got away and it was later reported that Carl Hayden, the chief mechanic whose foot was on the receiving end of the car, was fine.

Michael Schumacher taking the checkered flag.
Photo by Ferrari Media Center.
Massa was putting pressure on Button by now, with Frentzen still waiting in the wings behind him. Button abruptly went wide, allowing both of them through, then the Englishman began dropping back through the field.

Shortly afterwards Heidfeld passed Trulli for fourth, both Renaults suffering some kind of problem -- Button was cruising then pulled over on to the grass, Trulli retiring to the pits not long afterwards. This put Massa into fifth and Frentzen chased him all the way to the line for Arrows' first point of the season.

Final top six classification: M. Schumacher, Montoya, Coulthard, Heidfeld, Massa, Frentzen.

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