Italian Grand Prix: Schumacher's crucial victory gives him edge in title race

Ferrari's Michael Schumacher took a huge step closer to his dream of recording a sixth Formula 1 World Championship title by winning the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, despite race-long pressure from the Williams of Juan Pablo Montoya

Italian Grand Prix: Schumacher's crucial victory gives him edge in title race

Montoya made a brave bid to take the lead on the opening lap, with a sensational round-the-outside attempt at the Roggia chicane, but Schumacher just fended him off on the exit and kept his lead.

"It was tight," said Schumacher. "Already at the first corner I had a lock-up and almost didn't make the chicane. I had the option to go straight on, but I got through it although I almost lost a position. Juan came on the outside and we had a nice fight through the next two corners. It was very hard but very fair, I think what people wanted to see. In the end I won the fight and it was vital to win the race."

Montoya said: "Michael went for the inside and I went for the outside. He braked a lot earlier than me so I made a lot of ground, but when I came out of the chicane I was a lot tighter than him to make sure I didn't hit him. He had better acceleration."

The Colombian then fell back slightly over the first stint, and was 4.9s behind when the German pitted on lap 16. Montoya stayed out two laps longer, with his mechanics making a slight change to the front wing on his stop.

Montoya was happier with his second set of tyres, and began to relentlessly close in on Schumacher, until they were split by just a second after the final round of stops.

The Colombian's charge faltered on on lap 39, when the pair came up to lap Hainz-Harald Frenten (Sauber). Schumacher quickly passed the German, but Montoya was found himself stuck behind the Sauber for nearly half a lap, losing over a second in the process.

This seemed to dampen the Colombian's enthusiasm somewhat, and he slowly dropped back from Schumacher, allowing the world champion to back off in the closing laps and cruise to victory.

"The second stint wasn't as good for us, but better for Juan," admitted Schumacher. "I had already opened up a bit of a gap, and then Juan chose to come in early to use the opportunity of a couple of laps to get in front of me, but in the last laps of the stint I was able to maintain the lead."

Montoya admitted that he settled for second after getting stuck behind a second slow backmarker. "In the last stint, we were pretty close, but twice I lost a lot of time in traffic. After the Jordan [Fisichella], I decided to pace myself to get to the end. But it would have been very hard to pass Michael anyway."

Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari) also had to withstand his fair share of pressure on the way to third. He was passed by the fast-starting Renault of Jarno Trulli into the first chicane, although regained third when the Italian dropped out with a hydraulic problem on the opening lap.

The Brazilian kept pace with the lead duo through his opening stint, and it looked for a while as if he might aid his team-mate by challenging Montoya. Unfortunately for Rubens, his second set of tyres upset his car's balance, and over the stint he dropped away from the leaders.

This put him into the clutches of Kimi Raikkonen (McLaren), who ran consistently in his MP4-17D, although he couldn't match the pace of the leaders. Raikkonen emerged from the final pit stop just a second behind Barrichello, but could never quite get close enough to make a move in the closing laps - despite some help when Frentzen baulked Barrichello for half a lap, much to the Brazilian's chagrin.

"My first set of tyres was the best," said Barrichello. "I had a little too much understeer early on and I also lost time with Trulli, and almost crashed into him when he slowed down suddenly with his problem. Then I was running quite fast, but since the second set I wasn't so competitive and had problems with the rear tyres."

Marc Gene came home fifth in his surprise outing for Williams. The Spaniard looked somewhat uncomfortable in the early stages, dropping back from the leaders as a large train of cars formed behind him. But he improved throughout the race, and come the final stint he was consistently the fastest runner on the track.

This closed him right onto the back of David Coulthard (McLaren). The Scot had spent much of the race closely trailing his team-mate Raikkonen, again running at a consistent if unspectacular pace. Sadly, an intriguing fight between the two ended when Coulthard coasted to a halt on the finish straight with engine problems on lap 45.

This promoted Jacques Villeneuve to sixth. The Canadian trailed Toyota's Olivier Panis in the opening stint, but quick pit work by his BAR team jumped him ahead of the Frenchman at the first stops. He was then aided when brake failure accounted for Panis, while BAR team-mate Jenson Button, who had harried Villeneuve for much of the race, dropped out when his gearbox lost several cogs.

Panis' retirement ended a promising day for Toyota, with Cristiano da Matta forced out of the race on lap four when his left rear tyre blew dramatically heading into the Parabolica.

Frentzen dropped out of seventh late in the race with a transmission problem, allowing Mark Webber to score two more points for Jaguar.

Hungary race winner Fernando Alonso (Renault) came home eighth after an eventful race, which began when he took the term 'flying start' all too literally. Starting from the back of the grid, the Spaniard was forced to swerve to avoid the stalled Jaguar of Justin Wilson, putting him on a collision course with Jos Verstappen's Minardi. Alonso was pitched up and over the Minardi, but was able to continue without too much delay.

Alonso then added to his dramas by running heavily over the chicane on lap 17, causing bits of his bits of his car's underside to fly loose. However, he was able to continue on to grab the valuable final point on offer.

Schumacher's 50th win for Ferrari provided some welcome relief to the Italian team following its dismal showing in Hungary three weeks ago. But with Montoya just three points back with two races to go, the championship battle is still very much alive.

shares
comments
Grapevine: Canada Could be Included on 2004 Calendar
Previous article

Grapevine: Canada Could be Included on 2004 Calendar

Next article

Schumacher Scores 50th Win with Ferrari

Schumacher Scores 50th Win with Ferrari
How a bad car creates the ultimate engineering challenge Plus

How a bad car creates the ultimate engineering challenge

While creating a car that is woefully off the pace is a nightmare scenario for any team, it inadvertently generates the test any engineering department would relish: to turn it into a winner. As Mercedes takes on that challenge in Formula 1 this season, McLaren’s former head of vehicle engineering reveals how the team pulled of the feat in 2009 with Lewis Hamilton

The under-fire F1 driver fighting for his future Plus

The under-fire F1 driver fighting for his future

Personable, articulate 
and devoid of the usual
 racing driver airs and graces,
 Nicholas Latifi is the last Formula 1 driver you’d expect to receive death threats, but such was the toxic legacy of his part in last year’s explosive season finale. And now, as ALEX KALINAUCKAS explains, he faces a battle to keep his place on the F1 grid…

Formula 1
Aug 13, 2022
The strange tyre travails faced by F1’s past heroes Plus

The strange tyre travails faced by F1’s past heroes

Modern grand prix drivers like to think the tyres they work with are unusually difficult and temperamental. But, says  MAURICE HAMILTON, their predecessors faced many of the same challenges – and some even stranger…

Formula 1
Aug 12, 2022
The returning fan car revolution that could suit F1 Plus

The returning fan car revolution that could suit F1

Gordon Murray's Brabham BT46B 'fan car' was Formula 1 engineering at perhaps its most outlandish. Now fan technology has been successfully utilised on the McMurtry Speirling at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, could it be adopted by grand prix racing once again?

Formula 1
Aug 11, 2022
Hamilton's first experience of turning silver into gold Plus

Hamilton's first experience of turning silver into gold

The seven-time Formula 1 world champion has been lumbered with a duff car before the 2022 Mercedes. Back in 2009, McLaren’s alchemists transformed the disastrous MP4-24 into a winning car with Lewis Hamilton at the wheel. And now it’s happening again at his current team, but can the rate of progress be matched this year?

Formula 1
Aug 11, 2022
Why few could blame Leclerc for following the example of Hamilton’s exit bombshell Plus

Why few could blame Leclerc for following the example of Hamilton’s exit bombshell

OPINION: Ferrari's numerous strategy blunders, as well as some of his own mistakes, have cost Charles Leclerc dearly in the 2022 Formula 1 title battle in the first half of the season. Though he is locked into a deal with Ferrari, few could blame Leclerc if he ultimately wanted to look elsewhere - just as Lewis Hamilton did with McLaren 10 years prior

Formula 1
Aug 9, 2022
The other McLaren exile hoping to follow Perez's path to a top F1 seat Plus

The other McLaren exile hoping to follow Perez's path to a top F1 seat

After being ditched by McLaren earlier in his F1 career Sergio Perez fought his way back into a seat with a leading team. BEN EDWARDS thinks the same could be happening to another member of the current grid

Formula 1
Aug 8, 2022
How studying Schumacher helped make Coulthard a McLaren F1 mainstay Plus

How studying Schumacher helped make Coulthard a McLaren F1 mainstay

Winner of 13 grands prix including Monaco and survivor of a life-changing plane crash, David Coulthard could be forgiven for having eased into a quiet retirement – but, as MARK GALLAGHER explains, in fact he’s busier than ever, running an award-winning media company and championing diversity in motor racing. Not bad for someone who, by his own admission, wasn’t quite the fastest driver of his generation…

Formula 1
Aug 7, 2022