German GP: Schumacher takes home win

Newly-crowned world champion Michael Schumacher won the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim in typically dominant fashion today (Sunday). He led home the Williams-BMWs of Juan Pablo Montoya and brother Ralf to claim his ninth win of the year, equalling the record for victories in a single season

German GP: Schumacher takes home win

Hockenheim has always been a bogey circuit for Schumacher Snr during his Ferrari career, but he finally broke his bad luck sequence as his rivals, once again, tripped over themselves to keep up. Win number nine of the season was a straightforward affair for Michael, while younger brother Ralf was left to scratch his head as to why he finished third, and not second, as he waited for 'big bruv' to coast into Parc Ferme.

Michael made a superb getaway, easily outdragging Ralf, Barrichello (who started in the spare Ferrari after his race car developed its usual warm-up lap fault), the fast starting Raikkonen and Montoya, whose Williams bogged down from the second row. Juan Pablo tried an ambitious lunge on the Finn around the outside of Turn 2, but ran wide and lost out.

M Schumacher opened up a 5sec lead after 10 laps, but R Schumacher then began to carve into his brother's lead. The gap was down to 3secs when Ralf lost 2secs when he was held up while lapping the obstinate Jarno Trulli (Renault), who had been forced to make an early stop due to blistered rear Michelins.

The most exciting battle of the race occurred at this point for fifth between Raikkonen and Montoya, as the Colombian lunged around the outside of the Finn at the hairpin and spent the next sequence of corners wheel-to-wheel. Montoya finally made the move stick at the Agip kurve, having edged Raikkonen on to the grass at the exit.

At the front, meanwhile, Ralf had again closed the gap to Michael to 3secs before the first round of pit stops. It was during his first stop that Ralf had his second slice of bad luck, as he encountered the touring BAR of Jacques Villeneuve in the pit entry, losing a couple of seconds until the former world champion pulled out of his path.

He rejoined ahead of third placed man Barrichello, but 4.7secs behind Michael. After initially closing the gap, Ralf began to fall away from his brother, coming off worst time and again in traffic. The gap was almost 8secs when Ralf's second stop went awry too, as the lollypop man appeared to be too slow, distracted perhaps by the fact the team had elected not to fit new tyres.

Ralf's final misfortune happened when he was forced to make an extra stop so his engine's pneumatic valve air system could be topped up. "Everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong," said Ralf later.

That dropped him to third, behind the steady Montoya, who had passed Barrichello when the Brazilian's fuel flap failed to open during his second stop, costing him a chunk of time. Rubens was a mile of his team-mate's pace in the latter stages, and could do nothing about getting on to the podium.

All of this gave M Schumacher a 10sec win: "All of us were struggling with the temperatures and tyre blistering, and I had to push hard. I was concerned about the second and third sets [of tyres] but it was OK. It's a shame what happened to Ralf, it would have been nice to have two Schumachers in first and second," he said.

McLaren's David Coulthard had the ignominy of being lapped by M Schumacher for the second time this year, but came away with a couple of points for his fifth placed finish. His team-mate Raikkonen had a much more eventful day, eventually spinning into the tyrewall at the Sudkurve having earlier suffered a spectacular left-rear blow out at the hairpin. McLaren had opted not to change Raikkonen's tyres at his first stop.

British American Racing looked set for another points haul until Olivier Panis spun out of sixth at Turn 2 on lap 40, although a mechanical failure looked likely to be the route cause. Sauber's Nick Heidfeld, who passed team-mate Felipe Massa at half distance, instead took the final point. Takuma Sato (Jordan) and Mika Salo (Toyota) were the only other finishers, as the hot weather caused a high rate of attrition.

Giancarlo Fisichella was the final retirement as his Honda engine blew up with just eight laps remaining. He dropped to ninth from his sixth place on the grid, and then suffered a terribly slow first stop when his clutch slipped and stalled the engine. He was running 10th when he went out.

Renault suffered a disastrous race, with both Trulli and Jenson Button tumbling down the order in the early stages. Trulli ran as high as sixth early on, but his tyres began to blister after 10 laps, forcing him to make an early stop. He rejoined ahead of Ralf Schumacher and was judged to have held up the German, and received a drive-through penalty.

"I gave way, I don't understand why I got the penalty," complained Trulli. He later went off at the Sachskurve while battling with Fisichella: "I was very close to Giancarlo, he braked slightly early and I locked up and went off," he said.

Button had already dropped out of the race when his engine cut out. "It was not the best day for us," he admitted.

Jaguar had another day to forget with both its cars retiring from the race. Eddie Irvine went out with seven laps to go when his brake cylinder began to leak, having spun twice earlier due to a traction control failure. Pedro de la Rosa was the race's first casualty.

Neither Arrows made it to the finish either. Heinz-Harald Frentzen stalled at the start, and it took the team two laps before they could re-fire the Cosworth. "My race was already over," he rued. After 34 laps, it really was, as he was forced to tour into the pits. Team-mate Enrique Bernoldi also retired due to a suspected engine failure.

Allan McNish's most convincing weekend for Toyota thus far ended when his hydraulics failed immediately after his first pit stop.

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