Monaco Grand Prix: Schumacher’s victory cruise

Michael Schumacher cruised to a crushing fifth Monaco Grand Prix victory, heading home Ferrari team mate Rubens Barrichello. His main title rival, McLaren's David Coulthard, finished fifth after starting last when he stalled on the warm-up lap for the second time in three races

Monaco Grand Prix: Schumacher’s victory cruise

McLaren's disastrous day started early when Coulthard stalled on the green flag lap, just as he did in Barcelona, and was left thumping the steering wheel as the rest of the field streamed past him. Hakkinen, meanwhile, was trapped behind him and had to force his way out into the warm-up lap traffic like a bad mannered taxi driver at Piccadilly Circus, or else he too would have to start from the back of the grid.

Despite all the worries about failing launch control systems the start was, thankfully, without major incident. From his new role as pole sitter, Schumacher led Hakkinen and Barrichello into Sainte Devote - and nobody stalled this time. Eddie Irvine (Jaguar) challenged Ralf Schumacher for fourth but ran wide at the first corner, allowing Schumacher's Williams-BMW team mate Juan Pablo Montoya to steal his fifth position on the run up to Casino Square.

The first retirement was Nick Heidfeld, whose Sauber was sent head-on into the barriers between Loews hairpin and Portier after tangling with an Arrows on the opening lap.

Schumacher pulled out a 2sec lead by lap 12 but Hakkinen then responded with a sequence of fastest laps and was under a second behind when he hit trouble on unlucky lap 13 when his McLaren began to pull worryingly to the right. After a pit stop, which comprised little more than suspension pulling by his mechanics, the Finn's car was still spooking him when he rejoined, so he pulled in once more to retire.

"It was an extremely unusual problem," said Hakkinen. "I didn't hit any barriers or anything but it was pulling to the right."

That left Schumacher with a 7.7sec lead on lap 15 over Barrichello, who was himself 13secs ahead of Schumacher Jnr.

Already in the wall and out of the race by this stage was Montoya, who lost control at the Swimming Pool and slammed into the wall much like his team mate did in practice on Thursday: "It was a very silly mistake that I shouldn't have done. I ran wide and it understeered off as I got on the power," he rued.

Coulthard, meanwhile, was stuck behind Enrique Bernoldi's Arrows and had the ignominy of being lapped by leader Schumacher as early as lap 27. The Scot just couldn't find a way past the Arrows on the narrow streets and had to wait until the Brazilian made his first pit stop on lap 44. As soon as he did so, Coulthard was able to lap 4.5secs per lap faster...

After its nightmare in Austria, Jordan had another day to forget. Jarno Trulli lost fifth place when his car erupted in flames at the Rascasse on lap 31 while Heinz-Harald Frentzen's exit was no less spectacular when his whacked the wall just before the exit of the tunnel at around 170mph. He clambered unhurt from his wrecked car, which slithered all the way to the Nouvelle Chicane.

"I don't know what happened," said Frentzen. "I understeered off from the apex, which is easily flat normally, and I slid off. I felt a bit uncomfortable at the time, I have to say, and banged my head pretty hard."

Another frontrunner to crash out was Giancarlo Fisichella, who ended Benetton's most convincing performance to date when he failed to get away with his second brush of the race with the tyrewall at Sainte Devote on lap 43.

Leader Schumacher pitted on lap 54, his 7sec stop placing him 8secs behind Barrichello as he rejoined. The reigning world champion then lost another 5secs to the Brazilian over the following five laps, who was running on a virtually dry tank, before he made his stop. Another 7sec turnaround from the Ferrari boys sent Rubens out in second, 10secs behind his team leader.

While Michael was now coasting to another glorious victory, his brother Ralf was cruising into the pits to retire with an electrical failure which caused all his car's systems to shut down.

"A warning light came on and, shortly after, the power steering went and as I came into the pits I could not shift any more," said Ralf. "When I came to a halt, the engine cut out."

The gap came down in the closing laps, but Schumacher's position was never in doubt and he won by 0.4secs over Barrichello in a stage-managed finish.

"Obviously McLaren had some kind of problem with one car at the start at least, but it's not for me to talk about their problems," said Schumacher. "Although it was an easy race it was still quite hard to a degree. I certainly love this circuit but you have to be lucky as well."

Barrichello, meanwhile, had encountered more problems on his way to second: "I had quite a of trouble since lap 10 because I had cramp in my foot. Something happened to pedal and made it vibrate a lot. It was really bad, I could hardly feel right foot. I asked Ross [Brawn, Ferrari's technical director] what to do and he kept saying 'drink water, drink water'," explained Rubens.

Irvine's third place came under threat in the late stages by British American Racing's Jacques Villeneuve, not helped when the Jaguar star clattered the Armco at the final Anthony Noghes bend, but the Ulsterman fought a brave rear-guard action in the closing stages to score Jaguar's first podium finish.

"It's fantastic to get a podium, especially here alongside two Ferraris," said Irvine. "Monaco's a strange circuit, but we've been quick here all weekend. I touched the barrier at the Swimming Pool but I was sliding when I hit it, so it had no affect at all."

Coulthard, by far the fastest man on the circuit, delayed his stop until there was only 13 laps remaining and just won a race against time to get out ahead of Jenson Button (Benetton) who was threatening to nab his point for sixth place. Coulthard was then given the gift of fifth place when Jean Alesi's Prost made a late, and rather unexpected, second stop and dropped to sixth, with Button finished seventh.

Still, the Scot was left to rue Bernoldi's early obstinate approach which, probably, cost him a few more precious points in his otherwise impressive damage limitation exercise. He could take little solace in the fact he set the fastest lap of 1m19.424s, three tenths quicker than the winner's best, on the 68th tour.

In the world championship standings, Schumacher now has 52 points, with Coulthard on 40 and Barrichello third on 24 points. In the constructors' standings, Ferrari moves on to 76 points and McLaren to 44, while Williams remains in third on 18 points.


For the full results click here.

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