Michael Schumacher Wins the Malaysian GP (updated)

Michael Schumacher underlined his World Championship winning drive in Japan with his ninth win of the season in Malaysia to clinch the Constructors' Championship for Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro in superb style over their McLaren rivals.

Michael Schumacher Wins the Malaysian GP <font face=Verdana size=1><i>(updated)</i></font>

Michael Schumacher underlined his World Championship winning drive in Japan with his ninth win of the season in Malaysia to clinch the Constructors' Championship for Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro in superb style over their McLaren rivals.

"This was a great win. Not just because it clinched the Constructors' Championship for the team, but ideal to go into the winter ending the season on a win. The team has worked so hard for our results this year and they deserve a well-earned holiday. They delivered me a perfect car to day. It was superb," said Michael.

The expected end of season finale match between Schumacher and rival Mika Hakkinen was over before it started when Hakkinen anticipated the start and was penalized with a 10 seconds stop-go penalty for the jump-start, which took him into a brief lead.

The penalty spoiled what could have been a much more exciting race, for unlike the Ferraris, Hakkinen was running a one-stop race strategy and it certainly would have been a closely fought thing by the time they reached the flag, Hakkinen having set fastest lap of the race just one lap before his only stop for fresh tyres and fuel. He fought back to take fourth place at the flag, but it wasn't the finish he had been looking for.

As well as Hakkinen, Coulthard had also made a strong start to squeeze Schumacher back into third place at the first corner, the Scot moving into the lead on lap 3 when Hakkinen waved him by knowing that he would have to stop a couple of laps later.

Coulthard took up the McLaren challenge in strong style opening out a six second gap over Schumacher, but a small mistake which saw him run wide over the grass on lap 12 was ultimately to cost him his chance of the win. "I had a vibration from the rear of the car and I ran wide," said David, who then watched his temperatures rise and felt his engine lose power because of grass in the radiators. "I thought it was all over for me and the team called me in early for my stop to clean the radiators which fixed the problem," said David.

"That spoiled our plan and lost me the lead," added David who had handed Schumacher 7 laps with a clear track ahead of him, which he used to his best advantage. A string of quick laps before his own stop and a slick pit stop by the Ferrari crew saw Michael come back into the race just ahead of Coulthard whose problems had been compounded by a new set of tyres instead of scrubbed ones on the front which had upset the balance of his McLaren for the first half a dozen laps.

It was a crucial point in the race, for even though Coulthard was able to fight his way back to within a few lengths of the Ferrari, he found out to his cost that catching Schumacher was a lot easier than passing him. The team strategy and another slick final stop did the rest. Schumacher kept ahead after the second stop and had no problem keeping his concentration to the flag as he was pushed hard all the way by the McLaren.

"I was saving my tyres in case I had to fight even harder at the end of the race, but I had no problem even though he tried to put me under pressure at the end," added Michael. He took the flag less than a second ahead of the McLaren to score the 44th win of his career in fine style.

Some 17 seconds behind, after backing off in the closing stages of the race, Rubens Barrichello made it home in third place for Ferrari after one of his best drives of the season lapping close to the pace of his teammate.

"The conditions were very hot and I was a bit worried the heat might affect me as I still have a bit of 'flu," said Rubens. "The car felt good and I was able to maintain a good pace almost at qualifying speed for most of the race until they told me to back off. I think it was my best race of the year after Hockenheim," added Rubens. "My only problem was at the second pit-stop when I could not get first gear easily and that cost me three or four seconds," he explained.

He didn't need to worry about that however, for even though Hakkinen had stormed back from last to fourth place, he was still almost 17seconds away as the third placed Ferrari crossed the line.

Jacques Villeneuve drove a strong race to take fifth place a further 35 seconds away, the Canadian holding off a strong challenge from Eddie Irvine who ended the season on a high note for Jaguar with a point and a perfect race strategy that kept him well up the field. Their respective teammates did not fair as well. Ricardo Zonta retired from ninth place after 46 laps when his car's engine blew up in a big way after overheating from an earlier off.

Meanwhile, Johnny Herbert's Formula One career ended with a bang - literally - when after running fourth at one point, but dropping back to 10th after a slow pit stop, he crashed heavily following a rear suspension failure. Fortunately he suffered nothing worse than a badly bruised knee after being carried from his car, the jovial Herbert joking later, "I guess it was inevitable that because I began my career being carried to the car, I would end up being carried out of it."

Alexander Wurz missed a point for Benetton after sliding from fourth place to seventh because of braking problems, the Austrian the last driver to remain unlapped by the leaders. Mika Salo and Giancarlo Fisichella came next after they got ahead of Jos Verstappen on the last lap when an hydraulic failure forced the Dutchman to bring his Arrows to the line stuck in sixth gear, thus dropping him back to tenth place.

Just twelve cars made it to the finishing line, Nick Heidfeld, Pedro Diniz and Pedro De La Rosa all going out at the first corner when Diniz rammed Heidfeld pushing the German into his teammate Alesi who hit de la Rosa. Only Alesi was able to continue, the Frenchman coming home 11th at the flag ahead of Trulli whose race for Jordan was spoiled yet again by a first lap incident when he damaged his front wing against the back of Irvine's car. He stopped to change the wing and then had to make another unscheduled stop to change a punctured tyre.

He fared better than Frentzen however. After a good start and running in eighth place on a promising one-stop race strategy a trip across a gravel track shook an electrical plug from its socket which caused the car's various systems to shut down including the power steering. He pulled out of the race on lap 8.

Both Williams-BMWs were also on the retirement list, Button going after an his engine blew 18 laps into the race and Schumacher after 43 laps with an oil problem to the engine forced him to stop before his engine blew up. A disappointing finish to an impressive first season for BMW-Williams.

With Ferrari's President Luca Montezemelo arriving in Malaysia on race morning - and watching the race from his hotel room - he and the rest of the team had something special to celebrate, long into the night...

PROVISIONAL RACE RESULTS The Malaysian Grand Prix Sepang, Kuala Lumpur; 56 laps; Weather: Dry. Classified: Pos Driver Team 1. M.Schumacher Ferrari 1h35:54.235 2. Coulthard McLaren Mercedes + 0.732 3. Barrichello Ferrari + 18.444 4. Hakkinen McLaren Mercedes + 35.269 5. Villeneuve BAR Honda + 1:10.692 6. Irvine Jaguar Cosworth + 1:12.568 7. Wurz Benetton Playlife + 1:39.314 8. Salo Sauber Petronas + 1 Lap 9. Fisichella Benetton Playlife + 1 Lap 10. Verstappen Arrows Supertec + 1 Lap 11. Alesi Prost Peugeot + 1 Lap 12. Trulli Jordan Mugen-Honda + 1 Lap 13. Mazzacane Minardi Fondmetal + 6 Laps * * retired with engine failure Fastest Lap: M.Hakkinen, 1:38.543 Not Classified/Retirements: Driver Team On Lap Reason Herbert Jaguar Cosworth 49 rear suspension Zonta BAR Honda 47 engine R.Schumacher Williams BMW 44 engine Gene Minardi Fondmetal 37 engine Button Williams BMW 17 engine Frentzen Jordan Mugen-Honda 8 hydraulics Heidfeld Prost Peugeot 1 accident Diniz Sauber Petronas 1 accident de la Rosa Arrows Supertec 1 accident World Championship Standing, Final: Drivers: Constructors: 1. M. Schumacher 108 WC 1. Ferrari 170 CC 2. Hakkinen 89 2. McLaren 152 3. Coulthard 73 3. Williams-BMW 36 4. Barrichello 62 4. Benetton-Playlife 20 5. R.Schumacher 24 5. BAR-Honda 20 6. Fisichella 18 6. Jordan-Mugen Honda 17 7. Villeneuve 17 7. Arrows 7 8. Button 12 8. Sauber 6 9. Frentzen 11 9. Jaguar 4 10. Trulli 6 = Salo 6 12. Verstappen 5 13. Irvine 4 14. Zonta 3 15. de la Rosa 2 = Wurz 2 All timing unofficial

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