Rubens Barrichello finally opened his Formula One account with victory in the German Grand Prix
- despite starting only 18th on the grid.
The Brazilian endured a nightmare qualifying session on Saturday, when he crashed his Ferrari
at the start of his first flying lap, and only managed to scrape onto the back end of the grid with minutes remaining. With nothing to lose, however, Barrichello was able to take a light fuel load to the start, and run a two-stop strategy in the hope of making it into the points.
Things worked well for the Brazilian right from the start, as a collision between his Ferrari
team-mate Michael Schumacher and Giancarlo Fisichella
at the first corner allowed him to gain a couple of places immediately. The incident was Schumacher's second first corner retirement in two races - as it was for Fisichella - but, despite poleman David Coulthard's McLaren
veering across the circuit in front of him, the German chose instead to blame Fisichella for the shunt.
Both cars were far enough off the circuit to prevent the need for the Safety Car to be called for, and it was the two McLarens who pulled away from the rest of the field. Coulthard, however, had already lost the advantage he had worked hard for on Saturday, as Mika Hakkinen swept from fourth, between the Scot and Schumacher to lead by the first turn.
Once in front, there was little to hold the silver pairing back, and a gap of several seconds quickly emerged between them and nearest challenger Jarno Trulli
in third. The Italian had also benefited from the incident at the first corner, but had Pedro de la Rosa
and both Jordans in close attendance.
The man on the move was already Barrichello who, by lap seven, had progressed into the points and passed Johnny Herbert for fifth! Running with less fuel than the majority of his rivals, the Brazilian made short work of de la Rosa and, two laps later, was running in the top three and closing on the two McLarens.
Herbert's high-flying start came to an abrupt end on lap twelve, when the Jaguar again let him down, while Jos Verstappen, who had been challenging the green cars in the early stages, began to drop back when part of his engine cover broke free and ruined his aerodynamics.
Barrichello's charge was, by now, being mirrored by fellow qualifying sufferer Frentzen. The Jordan driver passed Herbert just as the Jaguar cried enough, and was running in the points by the time the two lightweight runners had to make the first of their two pit-stops. Barrichello was first in, the Ferrari
crew turning him around in a shade over seven seconds, while Frentzen followed two tours later, rejoining just behind the Brazilian at the tail of the top six. Their strategy had worked to a point, but looked unlikely to produce anything more unless the frontrunners failed to finish.
That was, however, until one member of the crowd decided to take matters into his own hands.....
Somehow evading the marshals and security crews, the banner clad 'fan' was first spotted wandering along the outside verge down towards the Ostkurve. Thankfully waiting for a gap in the traffic, he then jogged across the road to the infield side of the track, and proceeded to walk slowly back towards the Clark chicane.