United States GP: Rubens edges formation finish

Forget the Austrian Grand Prix, this one was just plain bizarre. Having led the United States GP from start to, well, inches from the finish, Michael Schumacher allowed Ferrari team-mate Rubens Barrichello to pull alongside in formation for the chequered flag - but it was the Brazilian who took it first by 0.010 of a second

United States GP: Rubens edges formation finish

Was this a simple error on Schumacher's part? Did he mean to let Rubens win, maybe as some sort of payback for the A1-Ring team orders? If so, it was poor judgement, especially in front of a 170,000-strong American crowd that Formula 1 is keen to encourage back in larger numbers next year.

When asked if he had made a mistake, Schumacher said: "Maybe. We have so many records and one of them is now the closest finish. Today was a good opportunity to go over the line together. We tried and we failed by a little bit."

So was he trying for a dead heat? Whatever, it seems Barrichello knew nothing about what was going on. "It wasn't planned," he said. "We never said anything before the race. In the end what can I say except thank you very much to Michael and the whole team. I got to the last corner and didn't know what to do."

What can be certain is that this time, there was no order from the Ferrari hierarchy. When asked if the finish had been intentional on ITV directly afterwards, bemused technical director Ross Brawn said: "It was not my design. I assume Michael will give you an explanation in the press conference. I'm not quite sure what was going through his mind."

Brawn confirmed that for the first time this season, we had witnessed a true battle between the Ferraris - at least until after their second stops when the pair were told to back off.

Schumacher had held off Barrichello's charge throughout the race as they lapped traffic in the fiddly infield section. Rubens had given the champion plenty to think about, particularly when their Bridgestone tyres were fresh, but Schumacher always looked sure to take his 11th win of the year. Instead, Barrichello was gifted his fourth - but can take no more pleasure from it than Michael could from Austria.

David Coulthard put in a great performance to take third for McLaren. The red cars were on two-stop strategys, while the Scot would pit just once. Michael and Rubens were both able to rejoin ahead of DC after their first stops, but the McLaren clung on to their tail pipes thereafter until it was time for him to pit. It was the last he would see of the Ferraris for the rest of the afternoon.

In the closing stages, Coulthard had to contend with a late charge from Juan Pablo Montoya's Williams, which finished just 2.1 seconds down on the McLaren at the flag.

Montoya and his team-mate Ralf Schumacher are likely to be subjected to the wrath of Patrick Head after this one, judging by the technical director's reaction to what happened on the second lap between the pair.

Ralf had beaten Montoya into Turn 1 at the start, but as they started the second lap, the Colombian was ready to take back the place. He went for the outside and was just ahead as they turned in for the first corner. But Schuey Jr appeared to lose the rear end under braking and clipped Montoya's Williams, which skipped across the grass before rejoining seventh.

The rear wing of Ralf's car was broken off in the incident and he was effectively out of the running. The German soldiered on once a new one had been fitted, but he finished 16th and last, two laps down on the top six.

Jarno Trulli and Jacques Villeneuve were the main beneficiaries to the Williams debacle, but Montoya got his head down and fought his way past the pair to finish where he started - fourth.

But Trulli and Villeneuve both drove strong races to deliver much-needed points to Renault and British American Racing in fifth and sixth places respectively.

The result confirms Renault's fourth place in the constructors' championship, while BAR moves to within a point of Jaguar for sixth. The team is on equal terms with fellow Honda team Jordan.

On the podium, the Ferrari duo celebrated as if this was just another one-two. Barrichello did his daft act of not being able to stand up properly, while Schuey flashed that famous grin. But this was not just another one-two. It was embarrassing. What will the Americans make of it?

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