Race report: Schuey Snr controls race from start to finish

The brothers Schumacher looked set for another battle royal in the European Grand Prix, but a stop/go penalty halfway through the race put Ralf out of contention leaving Michael to take the win and continue unabated in his charge for a fourth Formula 1 world title

Race report: Schuey Snr controls race from start to finish

Schumacher Jr wound up fourth, leaving Williams team mate Juan Pablo Montoya to take second place with the McLaren of David Coulthard holding on to take the final podium place in third.

Michael Schumacher set the ball rolling on his weekend of domination by securing the number one slot on the grid at the Nurburgring on Saturday. The German was as unflappable as ever and not even his T-car coming to a halt out on the track on his way around to the grid before the race seemed to phase the reigning world champion.

Back in his race car for the start, the triple world champion took up his place on the outside of the grid. The grunt of brother Ralf's BMW engine in his Williams was always going to be a threat as the siblings headed to first chicane. And a threat it was, with the Ferrari ace squeezing his brother almost into the pit wall, ensuring he held the lead into turn one - the same place he would finish at the end of the afternoon.

"I'm delighted," said Schumacher. "There's nothing better than winning your home Grand Prix. I'm very delighted to have finished the race where we did."

As the cars snaked their way around the first lap, the field more-or-less held grid order, with Montoya in third, Coulthard in fourth and team mate Mika Hakkinen fifth. The driver who really suffered was Rubens Barrichello in the second Ferrari, who dropped from fourth to seventh at the start, but the Brazilian put in a gritty performance to finish fifth at the flag, despite a late trip across the grass.

Jordan's Heinz-Hararld Frentzen also failed to get away well and the German dropped from eighth to 10th. The Silverstone-based team's race proceeded to go from bad to worse, with Frenzten retiring on lap 49 due to traction control problems and team mate Trulli going the same way just four laps before with clutch failure.

Williams' Michelin tyres were not expected to be as strong as the Bridgestones of its rivals and as at the Austrian Grand Prix in May, the French rubber did not come into its element until after 10 or so laps. But once it did, the performance difference was massive.

By lap 11, Schumacher Sr had managed to build up a cushion of almost four seconds, yet within five laps the second-placed Williams star had closed right up behind the Ferrari and even managed to make an aborted lunge for the lead at the Dunlop hairpin.

Try as he might, Ralf was unable to get by and both drivers came in for their first of two pitstops on lap 28. The men from Maranello worked faster than the Willams crew and the lead cars headed back onto the track as they had come in with Michael in front. But Ralf's challenge for the lead was all but over anyway, as the German was too eager as he left the pitlane and put half of his FW23 over an all-important white line to keep cars on the inside of the track, netting him a stop and go penalty.

The Canadian GP winner then spent an agonising 10 seconds in the pits 11 laps later, just as his tyres had started to come into the zone, and watched his chances of a second successive win all-but disappear.

"It's a tough decision for just half a car," said brother Michael. "But rules are rules. It would have been a pretty tough battle."

As is often the case, one person's misfortune is another's gain. Couthard was able to capitalise on the younger Schumacher's misdemeanour and with the Scot opting for a one-stop pit strategy after qualifying a disappointing fifth, he was able to move up to fourth, which quickly became third once Barrichello made his only stop of the day.

The McLarens however, were no match for either Williams or Ferrari and DC had no chance of catching either Montoya or Schumacher and had to be content with third.

Nevertheless, he fared much better than Hakkinen in the Woking-based team's second car. The Finn continued his disastrous season and was lapped by the winning Schumacher on his way to a consolation world championship point in sixth place.

Eddie Irvine drove a strong race and also made the most of Jaguar's one-stop strategy option to finish seventh with team mate Pedro de la Rosa just behind in eighth.

After taking his fifth win of the season, the Scumacher steamroller is gathering pace fast, but Coulthard's four points from fourth place has helped the second-placed man in the standings to keep in touch. His Ferrari rival now has 68 points, 24 ahead with third place a close run thing with Barrichello on 26 and Schuey Jr on 25.

Coulthard said of his third place: "Under normal circumstances I would have been fourth if it wasn't for Ralf's stop and go, so that's fortunate for me."

The Scot will be hoping for a little more fortune in the coming week. The French Grand Prix is just next weekend, so McLaren head to Magny-Cours not only with Ferrrai and Williams to contend with, but also without having had any midweek testing to put things right.

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