Ralf makes it five as Schuey spins

A home victory for Williams driver Ralf Schumacher in the European Grand Prix at the Nurburgring has pitched him into the title race. McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen blew up when leading and Michael Schumacher spun out of a battle for second with Montoya to end up fifth

Ralf makes it five as Schuey spins

Raikkonen made a better getaway at the start than has often been the case this season, rocketing away from pole position and instantly starting to open out a gap over the other 19 cars in the field. Michael Schumacher's hopes of giving chase were thwarted when he was outdragged to the first corner by his brother Ralf, with the Williams driver taking advantage of his older sibling having started from the "dirty" side of the grid by the pit wall.

Such was Raikkonen's initial speed, dropping the field by almost a second a lap over the first five laps, that people started to think that McLaren boss Ron Dennis had been fooling them by saying that his cars traditionally qualify and thus start with a relatively heavy fuel load. However, when Raikkonen called in for the first of his pit stops as early as lap 16 out of the 60-lap race distance, this was revealed to have been a bit of bluff, especially as it was Ralf who stayed out longest of all, finally calling in five laps later.

This made the Williams team's aura of confidence before the race stack up. Indeed, none other than Bernie Ecclestone tipped them to win when parading the grid before the start.

However, we were never to find out whether McLaren or Williams had the better tactic, as Raikkonen's engine blew just before half distance, when well clear of the rest. This promoted Ralf into the lead with Montoya, who had been pushed back to fifth at the start by Rubens Barrichello, closing on the Ferraris. David Coulthard in the second McLaren really pressed the Renaults of Fernando Alonso and Jarno Trulli in their tussle for fifth, but just couldn't get by.

Michael's hopes of preventing Ralf from taking the glory on their home ground came to naught when he emerged from his second stop behind the Renault/Coulthard battle, which wasn't what he had hoped for, with Ralf edging away at the front.

A few laps later, Montoya came out of his second stop in front of Barrichello. And closed in on Michael. When the Colombian tried to go around the outside of the German into the Dunlop hairpin he appeared to leave just enough room, but Michael hit him and spun, amazingly without taking Montoya with him. Having kept his engine going, Michael received a push start from the marshals and rejoined in sixth place.

So the Williams duo raced on to win, making this Ralf's fifth success and his first since Malaysia 2002. The 10 points he scored, along with the fact that Raikkonen collected none and that Michael claimed only four, mean that he's now within striking distance of the points lead. Their 1-2 finish also propels Williams past McLaren in the constructors' table.

Barrichello produced yet another unobtrusive run, this time to collect the six points for third place, with Alonso surviving intense pressure from Coulthard to finish fourth for Renault. The Scot will be rueing the fact that he ought to have rejoined from his second pitstop ahead of the Spaniard, but he tried to move before the fuel hose was removed and then hesitated.

Worse still, Alonso was struggling increasingly with his brakes and while heavy braking into the NGK chicane, with just four laps to go, DC moved up on him. The decision to move onto the inside line just as Coulthard had decided to do so, forced DC to dive outside and off the track to a bucking bronco retirement in the gravel bed. A sad end to his 150th GP.

Michael almost wrested fourth place from Alonso in the final two corners of the last lap when he caught Alonso's clearly slowing Renault. However, the Spaniard was as defensive as he needed to be and held on.

The final points for sixth to eighth positions went to Mark Webber for Jaguar, Jenson Button for BAR and Nick Heidfeld - the Sauber man having driven brilliantly after starting the race from the pit lane.

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