No Win but Still Champagne for Schumacher

Michael Schumacher was a familiar sight on Sunday, happily and energetically spraying champagne around on the British Grand Prix podium. But this time there was a difference.

No Win but Still Champagne for Schumacher

Michael Schumacher was a familiar sight on Sunday, happily and energetically spraying champagne around on the British Grand Prix podium. But this time there was a difference.

Someone else had lifted the impressive winner's trophy, a rare occurrence in a sport that has seen Ferrari's triple World Champion triumph in 10 of the last 15 races. Only one driver in Formula One history has more experience of shaking an oversized bottle of bubbly and soaking his rivals, but it will surely not be long before Schumacher takes that record too.

Alain Prost's record of 51 wins remained with the Frenchman on Sunday as Schumacher marked the 50th anniversary of Ferrari's first victory at Silverstone with a second place behind McLaren's Mika Hakkinen. With Schumacher clinching his 50th victory in France two weeks ago, he had become the focus of attention at Silverstone as he set his sights on winning to set up a record-breaking attempt in Germany in two weeks' time.

Everything pointed towards another day of red dominance, with Schumacher on pole and limbering up on Sunday morning by driving the old Ferrari 375 that secured the team's first victory with Argentine Froilan Gonzalez in 1951. Then Hakkinen spoiled Michael's day by awakening from a period of indifferent results and bad luck to rediscover his winning form for the first time in 11 months.

And Schumacher, liberally pouring champagne over Hakkinen's head, seemed pleased to have the man he has always rated as his biggest rival back in business - particularly as the Finn has no chance of winning the title.

Second Best

Schumacher has only once been off the podium in 11 races this season, when he failed to finish the San Marino Grand Prix at Imola in April. That was also the only time in the last 17 races that the German has not finished first or second, and he chalked up nine wins last year.

Ferrari team boss Jean Todt put matters in to perspective as well as anybody from his team after Sunday's race.

"It's always nice to have two Ferraris on the podium and four Maranello-built engines in the points," he said, referring to the two Ferrari-engined Saubers that finished fifth and sixth. "Of course we prefer to win but this result is like a victory for us, because Michael has increased his lead over his closest rival by six points and Rubens (Barrichello) has moved back up to third place."

Barrichello was third for his first Silverstone podium and second in two races.

Big Cushion

Schumacher's six points left him on 84 and heading for a fourth world title, cushioned by a massive 37-point margin over McLaren's David Coulthard with only six of the season's 17 races remaining. The Scot went out on the third lap after a collision with Italian Jarno Trulli's Jordan, and shortly afterwards Hakkinen went past Schumacher and steadily increased his lead.

The Ferrari driver denied, though, that he had eased off when he realised his only title rival was out of the running.

"He (Mika) was still behind me at this stage?," he enquired when asked at a news conference. "I was pretty busy watching my mirrors actually. I saw at one stage on the big monitors David in the gravel but on the other hand, I was concerned with trying to win the race. It's certainly not that I was yelling inside the car 'wow, he's out.' For sure that's not the case."

Schumacher said his car had not handled the way he would have liked, adding that he had struggled going into Copse corner where both Hakkinen and Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya, in a Williams, passed him.

"It was pretty difficult to drive simply. I will have a long debrief later to explain the details," the German said.

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