Italian GP: Rubens leads Ferrari one-two

The hopes of Williams putting an end to Ferrari's dominance were dead after just five laps of the Italian Grand Prix. Rubens Barrichello went on to lead his team-mate Michael Schumacher to another glorious and crushing one-two at the Scuderia's Monza homecoming

Italian GP: Rubens leads Ferrari one-two

Behind the red cars, Eddie Irvine delivered Jaguar's equal-best result with third place following the retirement of both Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya.

Renault came through a race that seemingly promised little with Jarno Trulli and Jenson Button scoring points with fourth and fifth, while Olivier Panis' BAR followed them home in sixth.

It was Ralf Schumacher who made the best start from third place on the grid as team-mate and poleman Montoya made a sluggish getaway. The Colombian flicked right to block Michael Schumacher, allowing Ralf to pull up alongside him on the run into the first chicane. For a moment, it looked like the BMW-powered cars were going to clash, but Ralf avoided that embarrassment by cutting the chicane.

He missed the speed bumps designed to stop drivers getting away with such a move and emerged in the lead ahead of Montoya and Barrichello, who was already ahead of his team leader.

Barrichello wasted no time putting Montoya under pressure, as Ralf enjoyed what would be a short-lived lead. On the fifth lap he slowed right up going into the Parabolica with whisps of tell-tale smoke trailing from his BMW V10.

Back in the pits, the German revealed that his first chicane chop at the start would have been the cause of the type of controversy predicted by Ferrari technical director Ross Brawn before the race. Williams had been told by motorsport governing body the FIA to make Ralf wave Montoya into the lead, otherwise Schuey Jr would be penalised. As far as Ralf was concerned, it was a "strange" call, but he had already slowed to do so when his engine let go.

Montoya's lead was even more shortlived than his team-mate's. Barrichello was glued to his tail as they passed Ralf into Parabolica and the Ferrari slipped through on the run to the first chicane.

At the second chicane on the same lap Montoya missed his braking and ran through the gravel, allowing Michael Schumacher to close in. As they started the sixth lap, the world champion swept round the outside of the Williams to take second place. From that point on, Ferrari was home and dry.

The only interest at the front from that point was Ferrari's strategy. As Barrichello sprinted away it was clear that the Brazilian was on a two-stopper while Schumacher would only pit once.

After Schumacher had made his single pit visit, Barrichello opened up a big enough lead to stay ahead after his second stop. He had around 27 seconds in hand when he came in on lap 37. It was going to be close.

As Barrichello sprinted back out of the pits, Schuey was steaming down the pit straight. But Rubens just held on into the first corner and that settled the order of Ferrari's one-two.

But in reality it is unlikely we had not been watching a strategy duel. Ferrari drivers don't race each other these days and the 'battle' appeared to be closely controlled by the team throughout. Both drivers backed off in the closing stages, meaning that any chance of beating the 31-year-old record for the fastest ever GP would be gone too. Rubens wasn't worried - he just wanted that fourth GP win of his career.

Montoya's third place was lost by broken front suspension caused by his earlier error at the second chicane. Cutting across the gravel damaged one of his barge boards and on lap 32, Montoya pitted with his front right wheel cocked up in the air. There was no option but to call it a day.

That would have left Kimi Raikkonen's McLaren in third, had the Finn's Mercedes engine not blown up for a fifth time in a race this season. So Irvine's Jaguar, which had backed up its test promise by qualifying sixth, was left in third.

On lap 40, he actually lost third to the brilliant Panis who passed him into Parabolica. But having started a lowly 16th, the BAR ace was on a two-stop strategy and had to pit for a second time. His point for sixth place was well deserved.

But Panis' excellent drive was eclipsed by Trulli's. The Renault suffered a problem getting off the grid for the formation lap and instead of starting 11th, the Italian lined up at the back.

Trulli made a fantastic start and was 12th at the end of the first lap. His drive was combined with a clever strategy from his team which chose to bring in Jarno and Button early for their single stops. That left them in fourth and fifth in the closing stages and it eventually became clear that they had enough fuel to run through to the end.

David Coulthard finished out of the points in seventh after losing his front wing on the first lap. His comeback drive, which included passing Giancarlo Fisichella's Jordan in the closing stages, showed that he should have scored points.

Fellow Scot Allan McNish had even more reason to rue his luck. The Toyota ace made a great start from 13th on the grid to lie seventh at the end of the first lap, which became sixth with Ralf Schumacher's retirement. But on lap 12 he pitted and it was clear all was not well with the TF102. "The right-front suspension broke," McNish explained. "It was a very good race and I knew I had a good car. I am extremely disappointed to say the least." He was on a one-stop strategy too, so the chances for his first Formula 1 points were more than good.

Pedro de la Rosa was left fuming after a clash with Sauber's Felipe Massa. The Brazilian passed the Jaguar into Ascari, but the left-front of the R3 caught the right-rear of the Sauber under braking. De la Rosa limped into retirement with a puncture and broken suspension and Massa retired a lap later at the same point when his right-rear tyre went down and sent him through the gravel trap.

The Italian GP was no thriller. But the team's beloved Tifosi would not have cared how thrilling or dull this race was. All they wanted was a result like this to give them reason to celebrate Ferrari's incredible season.

Thousands gathered under the new Monza podium to hail Barrichello and Schumacher. It was a scene that neither will ever forget.

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