Schumacher back to winning ways Montoya and Michelin second Michael Schumacher scored a fortuitous third win of the season in the Spanish Grand Prix to claim a clear lead in this year's Formula One world championship. Mika Hakkinen was poised to...
Schumacher back to winning ways Montoya and Michelin second
Michael Schumacher scored a fortuitous third win of the season in the Spanish Grand Prix to claim a clear lead in this year's Formula One world championship. Mika Hakkinen was poised to score his opening win of the campaign for McLaren and his first since the 2000 Belgian GP but the Finn's McLaren-Mercedes broke down with little more than a lap to go and forced him to pull off. The Finn was classified ninth. Schumacher's closest title rival David Coulthard stalled at the start of the warm-up lap and had to fight his way through the field to finish fifth. The German now has 36 points to the Scot's 28.
It was a memorable day for Michelin's highest finisher Juan Pablo Montoya (BMW WilliamsF1 Team). The Colombian made a great start from 12th on the grid to run in the top six all race. He passed Jarno Trulli thanks to his team's more efficient pit stops and gained another position when his team-mate Ralf Schumacher spun out of fourth place and into retirement. Montoya took third when Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari) ran off the track and Hakkinen's demise promoted him to second late in the race. It was the first race finish of his F1 career. "It was very exciting to see the Colombian flag being raised on the podium," he said. "I got a great start with the new launch control system and I really didn't expect to be up on the podium today. It has been a tough start to the year for me, because I have been competitive at some races and not at others, but this feels great."
The Michelin-shod Prost-Acer team had one of its best races of the season, with Jean Alesi and Luciano Burti finishing 10th and 11th. Ex-Jaguar racer Burti made a promising debut for the team. Eddie Irvine (Jaguar Racing) was on course to finish eighth, but he had to pull off with a technical problem 17 laps from the end. His new team-mate Pedro de la Rosa had a short first race since being promoted from his role as Jaguar's test driver. Jordan driver Heinz-Harald Frentzen hit him on lap six and both cars retired as a result.
De la Rosa's compatriot Fernando Alonso (European Minardi) put in another impressive performance and finished 13th in his first F1 race on home soil. He led home the Benetton Renault Sport B201s of Giancarlo Fisichella and Jenson Button, while Tarso Marques finished 16th in the second Minardi.
"This was a satisfying result for us even if we can't help thinking that Ralf Schumacher might have been able to challenge for victory if he hadn't gone off the track. With the problems that Mika Hakkinen and Michael Schumacher had towards the end of the race, he could have been well placed to profit. We have learned two new things here in Barcelona. First, we were very pleased with the performance of the harder of our two tyres compound A in terms of both speed and durability. Furthermore, our other tyre, the softer compound B, stood up even better than we had predicted. The proof is in the remarkable lap times achieved by the cars that used it. Even if most of our partners took the more cautious option and ran our harder rubber, the good news is that the performance difference between the two was relatively small. With the benefit of hindsight, I think the B tyre was potentially the one to go for in the race, mainly because the track became less abrasive as the race wore on.
"We will test in Valencia this week to begin our preparations for the next race at Spielberg, in Austria another track that is completely new to us. In the short term, our target will be to improve the performance of our rain tyres to make sure that we are competitive in every kind of racing situation."
Patrick Head, WilliamsF1 technical director: "We are delighted to have recorded another podium finish just two weeks after Ralf Schumacher's victory at Imola. Juan Pablo Montoya drove a very solid race. It is the first time this season that he has finished a grand prix and what a way to do it. It's fair to say that we profited from the retirements of Rubens Barrichello and Mika Hakkinen, but that's racing. Ralf Schumacher had brake trouble, with too much rear bias. He locked a wheel and went off the track. That's a pity, because our two drivers could both have been on the podium today. We opted for the harder tyre, which performed very well in the race. That said, we were surprised by the consistency of the softer tyres so perhaps we should have been a little less cautious in our outlook."