Michael Schumacher took a commanding victory in the European Grand Prix after a combination of fast laps and penalties saw off the challenge of both Williams drivers.

The afternoon may not have started quite as Schumacher wanted, when his car broke down on the formation laps, but the Ferrari driver did everything within his power after that to hold on to the lead as the lights went out, even squeezing brother Ralf towards the pit wall as the Williams sought a way by into the tight Castrol-S. The move was enough to guarantee Schumacher Sr the advantage as the field streamed through the chicane and, by the Dunlop Kurve at the bottom of the hill, the reigning world champion was already pulling out a gap.

Behind him, Ralf led team-mate Juan Montoya, while both McLarens took advantage of Rubens Barrichello's stilting getaway to move ahead of the second Ferrari. Jarno Trulli also made the most of Barrichello's uncharacteristic start to move into sixth, although the Brazilian wasted little time in beginning his recovery.

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The only casualty of the first corner skirmish was Tarso Marques, already slow to leave the grid on the formation lap, who ran wide across the gravel before rejoining. The incident did not cost the Brazilian any places, as he was already running last on the road, but undoubtedly hastened his demise, which came as soon as lap eight.

Fastest times on each of the next two laps increased Michael's advantage over the field, now out to around 2.5secs as the leading German made full use of his half-empty tanks. The two Williams in hot pursuit were also running light, but had no answer to the Ferrari, and its Bridgestone tyres, until their Michelins 'came in'.

One further fastest lap from the leader precipitated the sea change as, next time around, Ralf went quicker still. A series of new benchmarks highlighted the younger sibling's charge and, within a matter of laps, the more powerful BMW engine had propelled the Williams right back to the tail of the Ferrari.

The crowd was then treated to another scrap reminiscent of that in Canada two weeks ago, although Ralf was never really close enough to mount the sort of challenge that he put up in Montreal. With the occasional backmarker to spice up the show, the two brothers remained in close contact until the first round of pit-stops, while Montoya attempted, in vain, to take advantage of their skirmish and close the gap.

Both pit crews appeared on the apron simultaneously, although Michael delayed his entry so long that he had to cut back across the red-and-white chevrons delineating track from pit-lane. It mattered little for, while Ralf had to jink around the rapidly slowing Ferrari, Michael's crew turned him around fractionally quicker than their Williams counterparts could manage, returning the champion to the track with just the still to stop Montoya in front of him.

Ralf was not so fortunate, as the fraction of a second longer that his team took brought him out behind David Coulthard. The McLarens, for all their moves on Barrichello at the start, could not match the front running pace, as a one-stop strategy had yet to unwind. Nevertheless, the few laps spent behind the Scot cost Ralf dear, and his brother was away in the distance again before Williams passed McLaren heading down to Dunlop.

Montoya, by this time, had pitted from the lead, handing the advantage back to Ferrari. This was not something Michael Schumacher wanted to let slip and, as the Williams cars again warmed up their Michelins, the championship leader set about extending the gap. Lapping faster than his now second placed brother, Schumacher slowly eased out his buffer to around five seconds - before the officials made it all academic....

Even before his tyres reached their optimum, Ralf was shown a board instructing him to take a ten-second stop-go penalty. His offence was the minor one of crossing the white line marking the exit of the pit-lane where it meets the race track and, even though his slightly hasty exit impeded no-one, it was punishable by a pit-call that would ruin his chances, not only of the win, but also of another podium finish.

Even though he again managed to get past Coulthard, this time when the McLaren man made his one-and-only stop, a second fuel call of his own then dropped Ralf back behind the Scot, with a gap that could not be overcome in the 16 laps that remained. It was a disappointing end to the day for Formula One's latest hot property - and one which will not have satisfied a crowd eager for a family 1-2.

The estimated 150,000 fans crammed into the circuit did get half of their desired result, however, as Montoya proved incapable of taking the fight to Schumacher Sr after the pair pitted on the same lap in the latter stages. In truth, there was a sizeable gap between the two drivers even before they peeled off the track and, despite the Colombian' best efforts, caution, the desire to finish only his second race of the year, and the arrival of clouds of brake dust each time he applied the anchors saw the Ferrari home untouched.

Montoya, in turn, had a healthy lead over Coulthard, who duly followed the Williams driver home in third, some 20secs adrift but on the podium nevertheless in a race vital to his championship aspirations. With a non-score in Canada, and Schumacher winning again at the 'Ring, any points were welcome in the Scot's camp as the title deficit grew to 24.

Team-mate Hakkinen endured another fruitless afternoon, although the reliability of the second McLaren again brought him a top six finish. At one point, however, the Finn had to suffer the ignominy of being lapped by the man he took almost all the way in last year's title race, a situation he only put right as the respective pit-strategies unfolded. Hakkinen was unable to overcome Barrichello in the other Ferrari, finishing some 19secs behind the Brazilian, despite being on the same strategy and driving through the dust cloud left when his rival had a grassy moment at the hairpin.

With the top six cars in the field all running like clockwork for once, no-one else got a look in where points were concerned. Only at the start and during the pit-stops did anything other than a Ferrari, McLaren or Williams even venture into the top six, but Jarno Trulli, Eddie Irvine and Jacques Villeneuve all knew that they were relying on the fortune of others to give them a score.

As it turned out, Irvine came closest, netting a strong seventh place in the lead Jaguar, racing hard with Heinz-Harald Frentzen early on, before picking off the Saubers and Trulli ahead of him in the latter stages. The Irishman was trailed home by team-mate Pedro de la Rosa, as the R2s showed commendable fortitude if not outright speed.

The Spaniard's late race climb took him ahead of Villeneuve's BAR, as the Brackley team made up ground on the back of others retiring. New aero package or not, the 003 was never in the hunt this time around, and Olivier Panis ended his 100th GP on the sidelines after spinning at Dunlop.

The Saubers, which had finished qualifying ahead of the two white cars, both suffered after their pit-stops, and dropping down the order. Kimi Raikkonen soldiered on to take another top ten finish, but team-mate Nick Heidfeld was further hampered by a loose rear wheel, and had to retire.

Despite its confidence in the AP04's race set-up, neither Jean Alesi or Luciano Burti could take the French car into the points. Both ran well in the midfield, with Alesi closing up on, and racing with, both Saubers towards the end, but ended his day in the gravel trap after attempting to out-brake Raikkonen.

There were no points either for Arrows, which saw both its cars retire, or Jordan, which did likewise as Trulli's tortured clutch gave up the ghost and Frentzen's traction control pitched him in to yet another spin as he exited the Dunlop Kurve.

Despite two Germans biting the dust, the crowd worried little, for the men it had come to see both finished well up the order. Sales of Ralf Schumacher merchandise may have risen dramatically since Imola, but the majority of those baking in their seats at an unusually sunny Nurburgring still had eyes only for Michael.

In the shadow of the Schloss Nurburg, the master duly delivered....

Race Results:

1. Michael Schumacher Germany Ferrari-Ferrari 67 laps 1hr 29mins 42.724secs
2. Juan Montoya Colombia Williams-BMW +4.217secs
3. David Coulthard Britain McLaren-Mercedes +24.993secs
4. Ralf Schumacher Germany Williams-BMW +33.345secs
5. Rubens Barrichello Brazil Ferrari-Ferrari +45.495secs
6. Mika Hakkinen Finland McLaren-Mercedes +1min 04.800secs
7. Eddie Irvine Britain Jaguar-Cosworth +1min 06.100secs
8. Pedro de la Rosa Spain Jaguar-Cosworth +1 lap
9. Jacques Villeneuve Canada BAR-Honda +1 lap
10. Kimi Raikkonen Finland Sauber-Petronas +1 lap
11. Giancarlo Fisichella Italy Benetton-Renault +1 lap
12. Luciano Burti Brazil Prost-Acer +2 laps
13. Jenson Button Britain Benetton-Renault +2 laps
14. Fernando Alonso Spain Minardi-European +2 laps

Rtd Jean Alesi France Prost-Acer 64 laps completed
Rtd Jos Verstappen Holland Arrows-Asiatech 58 laps completed
Rtd Nick Heidfeld Germany Sauber-Petronas 54 laps completed
Rtd Heinz-Harald Frentzen Germany Jordan-Honda 48 laps completed
Rtd Jarno Trulli Italy Jordan-Honda 44 laps completed
Rtd Enrique Bernoldi Brazil Arrows-Asiatech 29 laps completed
Rtd Olivier Panis France BAR-Honda 23 laps completed
Rtd Tarso Marques Brazil Minardi-European 7 laps completed
Fastest lap: Juan Montoya Williams-BMW 1min 18.354secs