Rather than the usual cheers that greet Michael Schumacher when he takes the chequered flag, in the Austrian Grand Prix he was greeted by a booing crowd as he crossed the line. After Rubens Barrichello outqualified his team mate to take pole ...
Rather than the usual cheers that greet Michael Schumacher when he takes the chequered flag, in the Austrian Grand Prix he was greeted by a booing crowd as he crossed the line. After Rubens Barrichello outqualified his team mate to take pole position then led the whole of the race, Ferrari called team orders into play on the very last lap to gift Schumacher with the victory.
Disgusted fans booed and whistled derisively as the German pulled on to parc ferme and also as Schumacher, Barrichello and third place man Juan Pablo Montoya climbed to the podium. Schumacher may have let Barrichello take the top step of the podium and handed him the winners trophy but it was a hollow gesture.
The A1-Ring's uphill start and first corner have been the scene of many an incident but this time it was a clean start save for one or two running wide. The Arrows duo of Enrique Bernoldi and Heinz-Harald Frentzen had a brief contact which caused Bernoldi to retire to the pits. Frentzen went on to clash with Jacques Villeneuve resulting in a drive through penalty for the Canadian.
Kimi Raikkonen suffered yet another blown engine, going off in spectacular style and leaving the McLaren stranded at the side of the track. Team-mate Coulthard had a fairly uneventful race and came home fifth.
A very bad accident between Sauber's Nick Heidfeld and Jordan's Takuma Sato gave cause for worry for a time. The safety car had already been out once after Olivier Panis' engine locked up, blew and finally erupted into flames. The BAR came to a halt across the track on the fast pit straight and the safety car was deployed.
Almost immediately it went in, Heidfeld slid off the track with what seemed to be a brake problem. The Sauber went sideways across the corner and back onto the track, narrowly missing Montoya but collecting Sato in a huge crash. Heidfeld was lifted from the car by marshals and although shaken he only sustained bruising to his legs.
Sato remained trapped in the car and was attended to by Professor Sid Watkins and the medical team, finally being extracted and treated by the side of the track then stretched into an ambulance to the medical centre. Amazingly he suffered no broken bones and appears to be all right, both he and Heidfeld helicoptered to hospital for further checks. The cars were badly damaged, one side all but ripped off the Sauber and the Jordan in pieces.
Most teams took advantage of the safety car period to complete their one pit stop of the race although the Ferraris and Villeneuve were on a two-stopper. The Williams' stopped very late, Montoya taking the advantage from Ralf Schumacher. There were a few blown engines, Alex Yoong's Minardi going off in fine style and Villeneuve exploding on the very last lap -- he was out of the BAR and over the safety barrier vary rapidly indeed.
Other retirees were Eddie Irvine with an unspecified problem on the Jaguar, team-mate Pedro de la Rosa also retiring early on. Felipe Massa suffered a suspected suspension failure and Renault's Jarno Trulli pulled off the track. David Coulthard seemed to have some kind of problem, slowing enough that Giancarlo Fisichella got past and scored Jordan's first points of the season in fifth place.
Rounding the final corner and heading for the line for his second career victory, Barrichello slowed to let Schumacher past in the last metres of the race. In the press conference afterwards Barrichello brushed it off and said the team asked him to pull over and he respected that decision. Schumacher was clearly unhappy -- but not unhappy enough to not take an undeserved ten points.
Schumacher remarked: "I hope the championship is over soon so we can get back to real racing." A sad comment on the state of what is supposed to be motor racing in Formula One. Final top six classification: M. Schumacher, Barrichello, Montoya, R. Schumacher, Fisichella, Coulthard.