24 June 2001
European GP 2001 - Michael lays down the law.
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.
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.
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