Belgian GP: Record day for Schuey

Michael Schumacher was simply in a different class to the rest of the Formula 1 field as he notched up yet another new record, scoring his 10th victory in a single season in the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps

Belgian GP: Record day for Schuey

The five-time world champion made a clean getaway from his first pole position at this circuit and from that point on there was little doubt that the win record was going to fall. Schumacher's sixth victory at Spa broke the mark of nine wins in a season that he shared with 1992 world champion Nigel Mansell.

Ferrari's perfect day was completed by Rubens Barrichello, who consolidated his second place in the drivers' championship with a solid, if unspectacular performance. The Brazilian made a better start than front row man Kimi Raikkonen and slipped inside the McLaren-Mercedes into La Source.

Like Schumacher, Barrichello drove away from the McLaren and Williams opposition and was never troubled. But at the same time, he fell away at a rapid rate from his team leader. At the first pit stops, Michael was 14 seconds ahead, and after the second round, the gap was nearly 26s.

Schuey backed off over the final laps to allow Barrichello to close right up, but the man's dominance of his sport had already been rammed down the throats of every fan of racing. At a circuit that has become known as his own domain, Schumacher had put on a demonstration of pounding superiority.

So much hope had been riding on Raikkonen to challenge Schuey after his superb qualifying performance. But there was little sign of a Michelin tyre advantage in the race and ultimately, the Finn's challenge faded.

Having lost a place at the start to Barrichello, Raikkonen only held on to third until the second lap. The McLaren ran wide in the second part of the fast Pouhon left-hander and all of Raikkonen's superb car control was needed to keep it on the tarmac. He just held it, but Juan Pablo Montoya was given an easy chance to pounce for third place.

Raikkonen lost another place to team-mate David Coulthard after the first stops before he was forced to take an early bath on lap 36 of 44 when his Mercedes engine blew.

As Kimi's fortunes took a down-turn throughout the race, it was Coulthard who took the battle to Williams in the fight for best of the rest. The Scot played it smart at the start. Jarno Trulli's Renault came pounding by to demote him, but Coulthard took the inside line into La Source and emerged right on the tail of the Williams duo - and ahead of Trulli, who slithered around the outside of the hairpin after accidentally selecting neutral.

Coulthard then kept right on Ralf Schumacher's tail through Eau Rouge and drove past him on the straight before Les Combes. When DC took fourth from Raikkonen during the stops, a possible podium looked on as Montoya was not far up the road.

He did his best, but the McLaren did not quite have enough for Coulthard to get the better of Montoya and he finished 0.9s down on the Colombian.

Despite outqualifying Montoya, Ralf Schumacher was less than impressive in the race. Not only did he lose places to his Williams team-mate and Coulthard at the start and over the course of the first lap, he also spun out of the points positions on lap 17 with a mistake at Les Combes.

Fortunately for Schumacher, he only lost a single place, to Trulli. His fifth place was given back to him on a single lap, with Trulli's Renault failing moments after Raikkonen had pulled off.

Those retirements also helped the cause of Eddie Irvine, who enjoyed his most competitive race of the season for Jaguar. The Ulsterman had run an excellent eighth from the start, and as those ahead hit trouble, he held his pace and rose up the order. Sixth place and his first point since the lucky fourth place in Australia at the start of the year, came as a welcome relief to the under-pressure team. The timing is not bad either for Irvine, if he is negotiating to stay at the team beyond the end of this season.

Toyota's sacked drivers Mika Salo and Allan McNish made it to the flag in seventh and ninth, sandwiching Jacques Villeneuve's BAR. Nick Heidfeld's strangely off-the-pace Sauber was 10th, ahead of the final finisher, Takuma Sato.

Of the retirements, the most embarrassing were those of Olivier Panis and Giancarlo Fisichella - but it was not the drivers who wore blushes. Both suffered spectacular Honda engine failures, Fisichella's in particular going up in a bright ball of orange flame. Panis' blow-up in the closing stages was Honda's fifth of the weekend...

Like Irvine, Pedro de la Rosa had a promising run for Jaguar until a frightening rear suspension failure pitched him off the road at Les Combes. Fortunately, the Spaniard was able to bring the car to a standstill without reaching a tyre wall.

Young Brits Anthony Davidson and Jenson Button were both early casualties. Button pulled out on lap 11 with an unidentified engine problem, while Davidson showed his lack of experience by running off at Pouhon and spinning his Minardi into the gravel. The other PS02 of Mark Webber had become the first retirement of the race when his gearbox failed on lap five.

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