F1 » 28 April 2002
Spanish GP 2002 - Michael runs like clockwork.
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.
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.
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