Ralf Schumacher was handed the chance to do something his brother has managed just once in his career - winning in front of the Hockenheim faithful - as the rest of the expected frontrunners fell by the wayside in the German Grand Prix.
Schumacher started second on the grid, but had little answer to team-mate Juan Montoya in the opening stages of the race. Only when the Colombian ran into problems could the German seize the advantage and, with Montoya eventually joining Michael Schumacher, Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard
on the sidelines, the road was open for a third win of the year for the Williams
The race began in high drama, with a red flag being thrown before the first lap had been completed. Just as it had been twelve months ago, the crowd's darling played a central part in the incident, his Ferrari
slowing dramatically as the gearbox refused to pull anything above first. Already placing himself in the middle of the road for the first corner, Schumacher became a sitting duck, although most of the field managed to miss him as it swarmed for position.
It was only as the tailenders began to encounter the stricken Ferrari
that an accident became likely and Luciano Burti, unsighted by Ricardo Zonta's late evasion, collected the back of Schumacher's car fair and square. The Prost was launched over its right rear wheel, turning a full circle in the air before crashing back to earth between the fleeing Arrows of Enrique Bernoldi and Jos Verstappen and careering into the Nord Kurve barriers.
Remarkably, neither Schumacher or Burti appeared injured in the incident, both drivers extricating themselves from their respective wrecks and jogging back to the pits in case the race was restarted.
Initially, the stewards decided to deploy the pace car but, as the field approached the opening corner for the second time, the extent of the debris became apparent, and the red flag was thrown, giving all those involved in the incident the chance to restart.
The decision also benefited those not involved, as Minardi could now start both its cars from the grid instead of the pit-lane. Fernando Alonso
was the first to run into difficulty, his PS01 breaking into a minor conflagration as it sat on the start-line, and having to be wheeled away as the Spaniard sought out the spare. As it was fettled, however, the pit-lane closed, and the team decided to swap Alonso into team-mate Tarso Marques machine, while the luckless Brazilian waited for the necessary changes to be made to his new mount. The Burti-Schumacher incident then allowed both to resume their places on the grid.
The second start was far less eventful - at least until the pack was out of sight of the biggest crowds. Montoya again got the jump on Schumacher as the lights went out, while Hakkinen and Schumacher Sr battled for third heading into the forest. Their battle was replicated for fifth, as Barrichello challenged the already gripless Coulthard, but it was in the wake of the top six that the next incident happened, Pedro de la Rosa
completely missing his braking point and punting the unfortunate Nick Heidfeld
out of the race at Clark.
Montoya still led as the field re-entered the Stadium arena, and was already edging away from team-mate Schumacher. The German's brother had got the better of Hakkinen, with Coulthard and Barrichello running side-by-side from Senna to the startline in their battle for fifth. Kimi Raikkonen, Eddie Irvine, Jarno Trulli
and Jacques Villeneuve completed the top ten, having avoided the melee at the first chicane.