There was a high sense of tension and anticipation before the start of the Brazilian Grand Prix with many people believing a Williams victory was imminent. The Michelin shod teams were expected to be dominant in the heat at the Interlagos circuit,...
There was a high sense of tension and anticipation before the start of the Brazilian Grand Prix with many people believing a Williams victory was imminent. The Michelin shod teams were expected to be dominant in the heat at the Interlagos circuit, track temperature was 38-40C in bright sunshine. Many Colombian fans were out in force, some three thousand singing and cheering at the home straight. There was plenty of smoke at the start of the formation lap as drivers tried to put down some rubber for grip.
In a very similar incident to the start of the Malaysian GP, once again Michael Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya nearly came to grief at the first corner. Montoya held the lead through turn one but ran wide at the next, allowing Michael to slip past; the Williams driver desperately tried to find a way back in front and just touched the rear of the Ferrari. Montoya's front wing came off and went under the car but Michael was unscathed -- then a further altercation in the mid-field saw more carbon fibre strewn on the track, although what actually happened was unclear. When Montya pitted for a new nose-cone, Jordan's Giancarlo Fisichella and Toyota's Allan McNish also pitted briefly.
A good start for both Renaults, Jarno Trulli up to third and Jenson Button to fourth as Michael went off into a clear lead. The McLaren's spent most of the race fighting with Renault, David Coulthard and Kimi Raikkonen behind Trulli and Button respectively. Rubens Barrichello was on an early charge, picking off first the Renaults and then Ralf as the Brazilian fans went crazy. The Jordans were not having a good time; Fisichella's engine blowing to take him out and Takuma Sato running wide after attempting to take BAR's Oliver Panis. The Jaguars were running just outside the top twelve and the other Toyota of Mika Salo was behind Nick Heidfeld for Sauber in the top ten. Arrows' Enrique Bernoldi was last then retired.
Barrichello gave the fans more to cheer about when he passed Michael, although it was more a strategy decision than a genuine over taking move. Sadly for the Brazilian it was a short lived triumph as hydraulic failure forced him to retire shortly afterwards, the eighth home race in a row that he failed to finish: "I have no idea," he said soon after, when asked why the Brazilian GP seemed to be such bad luck for him. "It's been a bad beginning to the year. I had many problems in qualifying but I'm driving better than ever. I was overtaking people (in the race) and on a good pace. Unfortunately I'll have to try again next year. It's a pity, I'm disappointed, but I'm looking forwards; there's nothing else I can do."
Minardi's Alex Yoong had a brief spin at the back while McNish was already being lapped. Coulthard and Trulli were having a battle for third, as were Button and Raikkonen for fifth, Button's prediction that Renualt would be able to fight with McLaren this season turning out to be correct. Jacques Villeneuve was up to tenth for BAR but had problems engaging a gear during his pit stop which resulted in an overly long stop. The first of the drivers on a two-stop strategy started to come in as Ralf slowly began to catch Michael at the front.
Frentzen also retired then Panis ground to a halt at the exit to the pit lane. The Jaguars were in the top ten until Montoya stormed through the field, over taking them both -- the remaining Ferrari and the Williams' lapping about a second faster than the Renaults and McLarens. Raikkonen took fifth from Button as Michael came in for his one stop, rejoining in second behind Ralf; Ferrari were expected to be on a two-stop strategy but seemingly changed their minds. McNish finally retired with a puncture: "Going into the back straight I was behind Mika (Salo)," he explained. "There was a lot of debris on the track and someone's front wing. I got a puncture which later caused me to spin off."
Massa retired after coming into contact with a Minardi and spinning off and Trulli suffered a blown engine after holding off Coulthard for so long, the Italian another driver who has yet to complete a race this year, which put Montoya up into sixth. Heidfeld retired with an unknown problem then Raikkonen spun into the gravel, possibly with suspension failure. Ralf was right behind Michael in the closing stages but just couldn't quite find that bit extra to get past him; Irvine and de la Rosa no doubt were pleased to finish seventh and eighth even if there were no points, Sato ninth and Villeneuve tenth.
Brazilian soccer legend Pele was on hand to wave the chequered flag as the Schumacher brothers crossed the line -- but apparently he was distracted and forgot. Top six final classification: M. Schumacher, R. Schumacher, Coulthard, Button, Montoya, Salo.