Predicted to open the floodgates once his maiden grand prix victory was secured, Kimi Raikkonen
racked up a second consecutive win when he was awarded the Brazilian Grand Prix
on countback at a sodden Interlagos.
The Finn was actually running second on the road to Giancarlo Fisichella
when the red flags were shown on the 53rd of 71 scheduled laps, following massive individual accidents for the otherwise impressive Mark Webber
and Fernando Alonso. With debris from both cars littering the entry to the start-finish straight, and the injured Alonso sitting at the side of the track, the stewards had no option but to call a halt to proceedings that had already proven both chaotic and calamitous in equal measure.
Although forecasters had predicted rain for qualifying and a dry race, the weather gods decided to turn the tables on them and the ten teams scheduled to start the third round of the world championship by sending over the darkest clouds and heaviest rain of the weekend just hours before the race was due to begin. With precipitation literally leaping off the already soaking tarmac, there was initially some concern over when - or even whether - the race should start - and the arguments will continue to rage long into the night after no fewer than half the field was prevented from finishing after being forced to run on intermediate tyres rather than full wets.
Sensibly, following a couple of ten minute delays designed to allow the rain to abate and the amount of standing water around the circuit to dissipate, the field took the start behind the safety car. For eight full laps, it snaked around behind the Mercedes saloon, while water continued to cascade across the road at various places on the hilly layout.
Finally, when the organisers deemed conditions to be approaching suitable for the set-up of the cars - which, thankfully, the teams had been allowed to change more than usual to cope with the amount of rain - it was released, only to be bunched up on the run to the start line by Saturday polewinner - and home favourite - Rubens Barrichello.
The move, if indeed it was deliberate, backfired on the Brazilian, who quickly found himself swallowed up by David Coulthard's McLaren
on the run to turn one, and then under pressure from the rest of the top five as he proceeded cautiously around the circuit. Nick Heidfeld, however, was one not in pursuit of the Ferrari, his Sauber have given up the ghost as soon as it was asked to push in the tricky conditions.
At the end of the first racing lap, DC was already over two seconds to the good, as both Raikkonen, Webber and Juan Montoya attempted to demote Barrichello further down the order. Before too long, the two McLarens held sway, as the winners of the opening grands prix pulled away from the field. By lap eleven, Raikkonen, having closed down the gap to Coulthard, was in the lead, bravely diving past the Scot into turn one. Coulthard, losing momentum as he avoided a possible collision, then succumbed to Montoya, who had bridged the gap in Raikkonen's wake, only to get it back when the Colombian made an error exiting the Juncao.
The conditions prevented anyone from really making a break for it, as those behind seemed to gain and lose speed just as easily as those without visibility problems. No sooner had Coulthard and Montoya finished fighting than Webber and Michael Schumacher were climbing all over the back of the Williams. The world champion found a way past Webber early on lap 15, then capitalised on Montoya's slow exit from Bico de Pato next time around. Now third, the German quickly began eating into the advantage of the two McLarens ahead of him.
DC, in turn, was also closing down the four-second gap build up by his team-mate but, almost inevitably, advantages throughout the field were scrubbed at a stroke when the first of the afternoon's accidents occurred, bringing out the safety car. Although Justin Wilson had already joined Heidfeld on the retirement list after his Minardi spun to a halt in turn three, there had not been an incident of note until Ralph Firman's right front suspension broke part way down the home straight, sending his Jordan spinning out of control into the back of Olivier Panis's hapless Toyota. The Frenchman was among those to opt for an early stop under the first pace car to top up with fuel, but would not get the chance to exploit the strategy change as he was spun into a wing-less retirement.