Canadian GP: Schuey takes narrow win

Ferrari's Michael Schumacher held off the Williams challenge of brother Ralf and Juan Pablo Montoya, plus the spirited Fernando Alonso of Renault, to score a narrow victory in the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal

Canadian GP: Schuey takes narrow win

Schumacher had more than his fair share of luck, but blended this with a blinding pace before his first pitstop, which put him back on track in front of his younger sibling. Poleman Ralf led away at the start, with Montoya just holding back Michael to third. Further back, the second Ferrari of Rubens Barrichello hit the rear of Alonso's Renault at the first corner, bending his front wing and sending the Brazilian pitwards.

Schuey's first stroke of luck came at the end of the lap two, when Montoya braked too late for the final chicane and spun on the exit, promoting Michael to second. He then charged up to Ralf, but could not find a way past.

Crucially, the Ferrari had a lap's worth more fuel in it, and although his stop wasn't as fast as the Williams crew managed, Michael rejoined ahead of Ralf after their first stops.

"We started with virtually the same fuel load, but having just that bit more gave us the race," said Michael. "I stayed close to Ralf early on and then had the right speed at the right moment, which gave us the lead."

Michael also battled against a brake problem, which caused alarm on the Ferrari pitwall in the middle stages of the race, but technical director Ross Brawn said his driver saved the day.

"I think that was one of his best drives ever," said Brawn. "He had a brake problem, and at one stage we weren't sure what we were going to do, but he saved the wear rate and won the race for us. I think we called the strategy right, but Michael made the difference today."

Ralf admitted he was disappointed to finish second, although he hounded the leading Ferrari until the end. Schu Jr's race was notable as he completed it on the same set of Michelin front tyres and one of his rear view mirrors worked loose, which he admitted: "Kept hitting my head as I turned into Turn 1."

"The strategy let us down," he said. "Although I couldn't see where he got the gap from [after the first stop]. I think we had a better tyre than he did, although I was worried about graining. In 2001 I won this race like this, so this year why shouldn't Michael do it?"

Montoya was gutted about his second lap mistake, but was pleased to salvage a podium finish nonetheless, and was suffering from a gearbox downshift problem throughout.

"I was too close to Ralf on the brakes for the chicane, got sideways and just lost it," he admitted. "I just couldn't brake well enough for that corner, I overshot it quite a few times, but it was my fault completely. Managing to come back to third was pretty good."

Montoya had to deal with charging Alonso, who led the race twice during the pitstops thanks to starting on a very full fuel tank. Although the Spaniard charged up to Montoya's tail in the final few laps, he couldn't do anything about passing the Williams.

"I knew he couldn't pass because he had way too much downforce when I passed him earlier," claimed Montoya.

Alonso said: "I closed the gap to the leaders quite quickly and was battling with them for the last five laps. Fourth here is a very good results for us, something we didn't expect. It's good for the championship, because I'm still in third place."

Barrichello battled back to finish fifth after his unscheduled early pitstop to replace his front wing. He just managed to hold off erstwhile championship leader Kimi Raikkonen of McLaren, who himself was delayed when his right-rear tyre blew out, causing an early than scheduled pitstop. Raikkonen actually started the race from the pits, to allow his team to refuel the car at the start.

"I was looking after the brakes so I wasn't able to push too hard," said Raikkonen. "He [Rubens] was too quick in a straightline to get past. As for the championship, it's not over yet, there are still a lot of races to go."

Raikkonen's team-mate David Coulthard went out with gearbox problems when he had looked on course for a fifth placed finish.

"I lost fourth and fifth gears first of all, and then seventh went," said DC. "It was very difficult to drive like that. My pace was pretty good relative to the frontrunners, but we need a better pace in qualifying and better reliability."

A strong run from Mark Webber scored two points for Jaguar, while Olivier Panis inherited a point for eighth when his team-mate Cristiano da Matta retired from the race with just a handful of laps to go.

Jos Verstappen (Minardi) and Antonio Pizzonia (Jaguar) rounded out the 10 finishers, with Pizzonia delayed on the opening lap when he hit the rear of Jarno Trulli's Renault on the opening lap and required a new front wing. Verstappen's team-mate Justin Wilson dropped out with just 10 laps to go when on course for ninth, while Jenson Button made it a dismal day for the Brits when he fell out with gearbox gremlins.

Both Jordans retired on the same lap, Giancarlo Fisichella's in the pits and Ralf Firman's at the hairpin - although both of them did catch fire briefly. Both Saubers went out, as did local hero Jacques Villeneuve (BAR) when his brakes wore out. Trulli was another retirement with myriad problems.

It was M Schumacher's 999th point in Formula 1. Expect him to break the 1000 barrier on home ground at the Nurburgring in a fortnight's time.

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