French GP - Magny-Cours July 21

Before the start of the French Grand Prix all the talk was of Michael Schumacher and his chance of equalling Juan Manuel Fangio's record of five world titles

French GP - Magny-Cours July 21

Qualifying produced yet another pole position for Juan Pablo Montoya - his sixth of the season - but once again his Williams was not a factor in the race and although he led the early stages, the Colombian dropped behind Schumacher after the first round of pitstops.

This should have been the moment where the Ferrari man used the superior performance of his F2002 to establish an unbeatable advantage at the head of the field, but as he left the pits his right wheels strayed over the white line marking the pitlane exit and a drive-through penalty was his due punishment, although he managed to build a lead of almost eight seconds before taking his medicine.

Schumacher dropped back to third, behind Montoya and Kimi Raikkonen and with overtaking at Magny-Cours rare if not extinct, he seemed content to hold position and wait for the second round of stops.

Montoya was the first in again and this allowed Raikkonen and Schumacher to up their pace and drop the Williams driver out of contention. Schumacher was next to call in, but the Finn came in just a lap later and denied the would-be champion the time he needed to take over in the lead.

Just over 20 laps remained after Raikkonen's second stop and for the first time in his brief career he was challenging for a race win. The Ferrari filled the mirrors of the McLaren-Mercedes, but the 22-year-old was not fazed and kept his head and held the lead.

With 68 of the 72 laps complete, Allan McNish's Toyota V10 gave up the ghost on the long run down into the Adelaide hairpin. The incident seemed innocuous enough - the car was well off the racing line and the marshals were clearly displaying the yellow flags.

However, there was nothing to indicate that oil had been dropped onto the racing line and as Raikkonen approached the hairpin he found his McLaren momentarily sliding out of control. He had ran wide and left the door wide open for Schumacher, who never needs asking twice.

Raikkonen was on the gas as quickly as he could, but Schumacher saw his fifth title looming and squeezed the McLaren, almost putting the Finn on the grass. The move stretched sporting ethics to their limit but there was no denying the result - Schumacher's place in the history books as the most successful Formula 1 world champion ever.

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