Michael Schumacher duly notched up a record-equalling fifth win of the season at the Spanish Grand Prix, as his main rivals all failed to capitalise on a rare problem in the Ferrari
Although he was beaten away at the start of the 66-lap race, the world champion repeated his Imola patience by waiting until the first round of pit-stops to overhaul early leader Jarno Trulli, and then proceeded to stamp his authority on the field. Even though Ferrari
team-mate Rubens Barrichello
was running an alternative two-stop strategy in an attempt to beat the German, Schumacher emerged from his own second stop ahead of the Brazilian, and then overcame a defective exhaust to come home 13secs clear.
Schumacher had qualified on pole position, against his own expectations, but, while all eyes were on the predicted battle with Imola adversary Juan Montoya on the run to the first corner, it was a lightning start from Renault's Trulli that proved the talking point, catapulting the Italian - who was suffering from a throat infection - into the lead by turn one.
Schumacher fended off a challenge from the other second row starter, Takuma Sato, going into the corner, but Montoya was not a factor, having bogged down off the start and dropped to fourth, just managing to get round turn one ahead of the second Ferrari, which Barrichello had started from fifth.
Further back, Jenson Button's expected charge from a lowly 14th got off to a slow start, the Briton not making any impact on those ahead of him when the lights went out, but Fernando Alonso, Kimi Raikkonen, Giancarlo Fisichella
and Giorgio Pantano all gained places among their respective opponents. Mark Webber
and Nick Heidfeld
were the biggest losers at the getaway.
Trulli continued to lead throughout the first stint, with Schumacher unable to close onto the tail of the Renault, which set two fastest laps in its nine-lap run at the front, but it appeared that the German was biding his time before taking the advantage, just as he had done while chasing Button at the San Marino GP. True to form, once Trulli stopped, the points leader banged in the fastest first and second sectors of the afternoon to eke out an margin on the Italian by the time he stopped a lap later.
Schumacher had been rumoured to have 'gone light' in qualifying to ensure that he had a front row start - and opportunity to lead early on - which would have suited his Bridgestone tyres, but eventually pitted at the same time as most of his direct rivals. When he resumed, he enjoyed a couple of cars lengths lead on Trulli, albeit now in third place as Sato and Barrichello inherited the leading places.
Sato continued at the front for a single lap before making his own pit call, allowing Barrichello into top spot. The Brazilian had been willing to divulge that he was 'happy' with his qualifying time, despite it being over a second off his team-mate's pole, and it quickly became apparent that he was taking a two-stop approach to the event, despite the conventional wisdom being that three was the route to go.
Wisdom appeared to be in danger while Barrichello headed the field, however, the Brazilian holding a ten-second lead over his team-mate before finally peeling into the pits on lap 17, but it would all revert to normal as he struggled to match his early pace with new tyres and a full fuel load, allowing Schumacher to establish his position at the front.