Michael Schumacher produced another virtuoso performance at the Belgian Grand Prix
to re-write the Formula One record books once again.
At the circuit where he won his first grand prix in 1992, and broke Alain Prost's all-time wins total nine years later, the German added the record for the highest number of victories in one season with his tenth success of 2002. The achievement broke the tie he has held for several years with Nigel Mansell - the man who won the title in the year Schumacher started winning races - and also marked the 50th consecutive event at which Ferrari
had placed at least one driver on the podium.
Right from the off, it appeared that nothing was going to stop Schumacher breaking another record at the circuit that has played such a part in his career, and a sixth win in the Ardennes duly came his way with a comfortable lights-to-flag victory.
Starting from pole after his scintillating qualifying session on Saturday, the five-time world champion held on to his advantage as the 20-car field approached La Source for the first time. His task was eased by the scrap in the Ferrari's wake, as Kimi Raikkonen
- starting from the front row for the first time - attempted to close the door on Rubens Barrichello, only to see the second Ferrari
squeeze through on the inside entering the hairpin.
The Brazilian's move forced Raikkonen to back off slightly, and gave Juan Montoya the opportunity to close in on the rear of the McLaren
through Eau Rouge. To the left of all three men, Ralf Schumacher, David Coulthard
and Jarno Trulli
came closest to contact, with the Renault
driver - having already vaulted past the Scot courtesy of his superior launch control - being forced wide by Schumacher's Williams
and dropping back behind both his adversaries.
Coulthard, having been least affected by the three-way brush, then carried enough speed through Eau Rouge to draft past Schumacher by Les Combes, allowing the Scot, on harder tyres, to chase after his team-mate. The Ferraris, meanwhile, were already edging out of reach of their rivals, with Schumacher opening out a two-second margin over his own team-mate.
Raikkonen and Montoya were not about to let the scarlet cars get too far ahead but, lacking the pace to stay in touch, their driving became increasingly ragged as they again indulged in a personal battle that began at Hockenheim. This time, however, it was a mistake from Raikkonen which settled the issue, the Finn all but losing the rear of his McLaren
through Pouhon on lap two and having no answer to Montoya's charge as he sought to keep the bucking machine on the road. The Colombian was now in prime position to chase the two fleeing Ferraris, but Schumacher had already banged in a new lap record to further extend his advantage over Barrichello.
Tucked in behind the 'big three' teams, Trulli enjoyed a comfortable gap over Eddie Irvine, who held on to his eighth place starting spot on lap one, with Jenson Button
- another beneficiary of Renault
launch technology - and Mika Salo rounding out the top ten.
The biggest losers at the start were the Honda duo of Olivier Panis and Takuma Sato, who both dropped behind the fast-starting Saubers in 18th and 17th places respectively. While not last of all, the pair quickly moved one place closer to the back when Mark Webber
pulled off after four laps with a recurrence of his Minardi's mechanical gremlins.