M.Schumacher Wins Dramatic Australian GP

Michael Schumacher became the first man to complete a hat-trick of victories in the Australian Grand Prix when he enlarged his record haul of Formula One triumphs to 54 with a commanding win in Sunday's crash-hit, dramatic and thrilling season-opening race.

M.Schumacher Wins Dramatic Australian GP

Michael Schumacher became the first man to complete a hat-trick of victories in the Australian Grand Prix when he enlarged his record haul of Formula One triumphs to 54 with a commanding win in Sunday's crash-hit, dramatic and thrilling season-opening race.

The quadruple World Champion, driving the 'old' 2001 Ferrari with great mastery and aplomb, avoided trouble in a collision-strewn start, recovered from being passed by a bullish Juan Pablo Montoya and, once in front, hardly put a wheel wrong as he reminded the field and the spectators that he is the man to beat once again this year.

If it was not an exemplary race for Formula One, it was a master class from the German whose Ferrari teammate Rubens Barrichello was removed at the first corner when Ralf Schumacher, in his Williams-BMW, misjudged the braking zone and rammed into the Brazilian’s Ferrari.

This collision triggered a multiple pile-up which meant that the number of cars in the race was halved before the first lap was completed. Those left behind delivered some exciting racing and both Arrows were black-flagged from the action for rule-infringements as the field was reduced to just eight finishers.

Schumacher came home a comfortable distance clear of nearest rival Montoya, the Latin American having been given a lesson in artful driving after snatching the lead following the withdrawal of the safety car for a second time, with Kimi Raikkonen third in his maiden outing for the McLaren Mercedes-Benz team. The young Finn, recruited from Sauber, drove with great vim and was only six seconds behind Montoya and 25 behind the triumphant 'red baron' at the end.

Eddie Irvine, who was 19th on the grid, also drove a well-judged race for Jaguar to avoid trouble and finish fourth ahead of local hero Mark Webber, who delighted his fellow-Australians in a huge crowd, by claiming points in the Aussie-owned Minardi Asiatech on his debut. Mika Salo, returning to the fray for the new Toyota team, making their maiden appearance, finished sixth to secure the final point on an extraordinary afternoon.

Alex Yoong of Malaysia, in the second Minardi, was seventh and Pedro de la Rosa eighth for Jaguar as the Ford-owned team reacted in the right fashion after a weekend that had previously threatened to turn to huge disappointment.

The shame, however, was that the overall spectacle was reduced so dramatically on the opening lap when both Saubers were among the eight immediate retirements. Jarno Trulli, in the new Renault F1 team's promising car, had been among the leaders before he crashed out and David Coulthard, fast at the start and leading after the early carnage, slowed and retired.

For the Scot, it was another disappointment particularly as his McLaren teammate did so well. He led the opening 10 laps, but a mistake when the safety car departed gave Montoya his chance to leap-frog ahead of Schumacher to lead.

The Colombian stayed there until lap 17 when Schumacher dummied and weaved before passing him in classic style. That, effectively, was that in terms of the leadership and, apart from the pit-stops, Schumacher was able to control things all the way to the finish as those behind him fell from the contest.

PROVISIONAL RACE RESULTS The Australian Grand Prix Albert Park, Melbourne; 58 laps; 307.574km; Weather: Overcast, dry. Classified: Pos Driver Team-Engine Time 1. M.Schumacher Ferrari (B) 1h35:36.792 2. Montoya Williams BMW (M) + 0:18.628 3. Raikkonen McLaren Mercedes (M) + 0:25.067 4. Irvine Jaguar Cosworth (M) + 1 Lap 5. Webber Minardi Asiatech (M) + 2 Laps 6. Salo Toyota (M) + 2 Laps 7. Yoong Minardi Asiatech (M) + 3 Laps 8. de la Rosa Jaguar Cosworth (M) + 5 Laps Fastest Lap: K.Raikkonen, 1:28.541, lap 37 Not Classified/Retirements: Driver Team On Lap Coulthard McLaren Mercedes (M) 34 Villeneuve BAR Honda (B) 28 Frentzen Arrows Cosworth (B) 17 Bernoldi Arrows Cosworth (B) 16 Sato Jordan Honda (B) 13 Trulli Renault (M) 9 Barrichello Ferrari (B) 1 R.Schumacher Williams BMW (M) 1 Fisichella Jordan Honda (B) 1 Massa Sauber Petronas (B) 1 Heidfeld Sauber Petronas (B) 1 Button Renault (M) 1 Panis BAR Honda (B) 1 McNish Toyota (M) 1 World Championship Standing, Round 1: Drivers: Constructors: 1. M.Schumacher 10 1. Ferrari 10 2. Montoya 6 2. Williams-BMW 6 3. Raikkonen 4 3. McLaren-Mercedes 4 4. Irvine 3 4. Jaguar-Cosworth 3 5. Webber 2 5. Minardi-Asiatech 2 6. Salo 1 6. Toyota 1 All timing unofficial

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