Michael Schumacher extended his world championship lead after running unchallenged throughout the 65-lap Spanish Grand Prix at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona.

The German duly racked up his 57th career win, and a record fourth in the event, as the rest of the 20-car field proved unable to live with the performance of the still unbeaten Ferrari F2002.

Schumacher's task was eased by the retirement of team-mate Rubens Barrichello before the start of the race, after the Brazilian's car - in which he all but out-paced the world champion in qualifying - lurched and died at the start of the parade lap. Wheeled into the pits, Barrichello waited patiently while the Ferrari engineers tried to refire the car, but had to call it a day after he fell to far behind to make racing worthwhile.

Related Articles

The Brazilian's exit was symptomatic of the race as a whole, as early exits left a depleted field heading into the sixth lap. The grid had already been reduced by two following the late withdrawal of both Minardis, after Mark Webber suffered a rear wing failure in the warm-up, and was another three cars light after Pedro de la Rosa, Kimi Raikkonen and Giancarlo Fisichella joined the Italian team on the sidelines with their tyres barely worn.

Raikkonen's departure was the most alarming, as his McLaren suffered its own rear wing collapse on lap three. Like Webber, the young Finn was able to get away with the failure, and managed to bring the MP4-17 back to the pits, but it was a sad end to a race that had already seen him dive around the outside of Jenson Button into the first corner.

Jordan's day got worse when its second car retired after ten laps, Takuma Sato negating a lightning start that catapulted him some six places through the field with a spin into the turn 13 gravel. The Japanese rookie, whose weekend had been punctuated with off-track excursions, ran wide in turn twelve, held the resulting slide far enough to reach the final corner, before spinning into retirement.

By this point, Schumacher was already eight seconds to the good, and setting fastest lap after fastest lap. Brother Ralf led the charge in his wake, having managed to overcome team-mate Juan Montoya's clear run from fourth on the grid following Barrichello's demise.

Behind the two Williams cars, Raikkonen's early exit left Jenson Button and Jarno Trulli sandwiching the McLaren of David Coulthard, with the two Saubers in line astern of the second Renault. Trulli had made full use of Renault's launch control to better his ninth grid slot on the run to turn one, leaving Nick Heidfeld to run as first man out of the points.

The order remained unchanged through to lap twenty, but would soon begin to alter as the first round of pit-stops began to take effect. Renault and Williams were the first of the frontrunners to take the plunge, dropping the four drivers in question to the tail of the top ten while others played out their strategy.

Order was swiftly restored as the remainder of the field, barring Coulthard, quickly followed suit. Despite Montoya suffering a minor delay when his right-front wheel refused to engage cleanly, there was little gained or lost in the stops save for Olivier Panis getting the better of Heinz-Harald Frentzen for tenth.

This all changed when Ralf Schumacher ran wide at Campsa, bouncing the lead FW24 over the boundary between kerb and grass. Slowed by the incident, the German then had to pick pieces of bargeboard out of his cockpit, as he made his back to the pits for a new nose. Expected to lose a minimum of places, however, the German was then delayed further when the Williams team opted to change the left-front tyre - without having one ready. In all, almost half a minute was lost, and Ralf dropped to 13th.

Although his brother was by now a country mile ahead of the pack, and reeling off laps like clockwork, there was excitement aplenty in his wake.

Coulthard's later than average stop allowed him to bang in several fast laps and, in a reversal of Imola, gave him the chance to close on, and eventually pass, Button heading into turn one. In fairness, however, it soon emerged that the Scot's task had been eased by a problem on the lead Renault, which subsequently prompted the team to instruct Button to yield to the chasing Trulli.

The problem, which Button was told was hydraulic-related, quickly dropped the Briton into the clutches of Heidfeld, but he resisted the German until both decided to pit for the second time on lap 42. A marginally quicker stop by the Sauber crew allowed Heidfeld to rejoin ahead of the Renault, but not before both cars had run side-by-side down pit-lane.

As Heidfeld pulled away from Button, the top five began to take shape with gaps separating the leading contenders. Schumacher Sr was well away, enjoying more than half a minute in hand over Montoya, with Coulthard, Trulli and Heidfeld unable to make much ground on each other. Such was the spacing, Montoya was able to get away with a second botched stop, this time as his 'lollipop' man signalled for him to go before the ful hose was disengaged, and still resume ahead of DC as the pit-stops unwound for a second time.

All that left attention to fall on the battle for the final point, which by now included the troubled Button, Massa and Frentzen. The Brazilian was all over the back of the Renault, but Button held on through the one corner where he was really struggling and opened a useful gap over the rest of the lap.

The resistance could not last forever, though, and his problems soon allowed both pursuers right onto his tail. On lap 56, Button ran wide in turn seven, giving Massa the chance to dive through into sixth, and Frentzen to scrabble past the Renault as he hunted down a rare point for the Arrows team.

It looked, however, that the German and team boss Tom Walkinshaw would come up short, until Renault gifted the pair another place when Trulli's car joined its sister in going off-song. Just five laps after they had dumped Button back two places, Massa and Frentzen were past the second yellow-and-blue car and both into the top six.

Jacques Villeneuve overcame a poor grid slot and mid-race battle with the stubborn Enrique Bernoldi to take a second successive seventh place, finishing ahead of the two Toyotas.

Allan McNish fell one place short of equalling his best result, taking eighth overall, while team-mate Mika Salo took ninth, despite a pit-stop within the first five laps.

Unwilling to embroil himself in the battle while lapping the other point-scorers, Schumacher hung back and had a front row seat as his possible future team-mates battled over a solitary point. The German knew that ten marks were his for the taking if his car held together, but also realised the nothing was certain following the demise of both his race car and that of his team-mate during the build-up to the start. His relief at making the finish - albeit untroubled by anyone or anything - was evident as he thanked the team for giving him a 'dream car'.

As he toured around the circuit, waving to the massed Ferrari fans on the banks, the German passed one of his main opponents, parked by the roadside. Brother Ralf refused the chance of a lift back to the pits, his Williams having finally expired in a cloud of steam and spray, allowing Michael to go on his way, the Ferrari still running with all the precision of quartz.

Results:

1. Michael Schumacher Germany Ferrari-Ferrari 65 laps 1hr 30mins 29.981secs 205.613kph
2. Juan Montoya Colombia Williams-BMW +35.630secs
3. David Coulthard Britain McLaren-Mercedes +42.623secs
4. Nick Heidfeld Germany Sauber-Petronas +1min 06.697secs
5. Felipe Massa Brazil Sauber-Petronas +1min 18.973secs
6. Heinz-Harald Frentzen Germany Arrows-Cosworth +1min 20.430secs

7. Jacques Villeneuve Canada BAR-Honda +1 lap
8. Allan McNish Britain Toyota-Toyota +1 lap
9. Mika Salo Finland Toyota-Toyota +1 lap
10. Jarno Trulli Italy Renault-Renault +2 laps
11. Ralf Schumacher Germany Williams-BMW +2 laps
12. Jenson Button Britain Renault-Renault ++5 laps

Rtd Olivier Panis France BAR-Honda 43 laps completed
Rtd Eddie Irvine Britain Jaguar-Cosworth 41 laps completed
Rtd Enrique Bernoldi Brazil Arrows-Cosworth 40 laps completed
Rtd Takuma Sato Japan Jordan-Honda 10 laps completed
Rtd Giancarlo Fisichella Italy Jordan-Honda 5 laps completed

Rtd Kimi Raikkonen Finland McLaren-Mercedes 4 laps completed
Rtd Pedro de la Rosa Spain Jaguar-Cosworth 2 laps completed
Rtd. Rubens Barrichello Brazil Ferrari-Ferrari 0 laps completed

Dns Mark Webber Australia Minardi-Asiatech +2 laps
Dns Alex Yoong Malaysia Minardi-Asiatech 29 laps completed

Fastest lap: Michael Schumacher Ferrari-Ferrari 1min 20.355secs new lap record