23 June 2002
European GP 2002 - Rubens turns tables.
Rubens Barrichello received payback for his generosity in Austria as he held off Ferrari team-mate Michael Schumacher to defeat the German in front of an adoring Nurburgring crowd.
Blasting past both Williams at the start, the Brazilian again acted as Ferrari's hare but, when the chasing Schumacher made an uncharacteristic error, Barrichello was allowed to fight for - an earn - only his second grand prix victory.
The Scuderia's pace in the warm-up indicated that both Barrichello and Schumacher would run to a two-stop strategy, and their pace from the start merely confirmed the suspicion. With both polesitter Juan Montoya and Williams team-mate Ralf Schumacher clearly heavier off the line, it was not long before Barrichello had bolted to the front, passing Montoya in turn two after the Williams duo touched and then hunting down Schumacher Jr by the Dunlop hairpin.
From that point, Barrichello was sable to pull away at a second - sometimes two - a lap. His team-mate, however, was not so fortunate and, having been blocked by Montoya for much of lap one, had to force the issue at the Veedol chicane to move into third. It took another two laps for the German to despatch his brother, however, when he ducked under the Williams at RTL, and Barrichello was over three seconds to the good.
The pair traded lap records over the next few tours, with Michael narrowly the faster overall, and the gap began to close, but there was no question of Ferrari manipulating the result in the early stages. With the WMSC court sitting on the team's A1-Ring antics this coming week, a more subtle ploy would be required to push Schumacher to the front, and Barrichello raced towards the first round of pit-stops unchallenged.
Behind the two leaders, the field bunched up as the mix of one- and two-stoppers mixed at the first corner. David Coulthard predicted that there could be trouble at the revised opening section and, although the Scot was able to get through unscathed, there were scuffles and touches throughout the field.
Under pressure from the Ferraris, Montoya and Ralf came close to contact, as Schumacher Jr attempted to find a way around the outside of his slower starting team-mate. Disaster was avoided, but the brush was enough to hand Barrichello the lead, and drop the Colombian into the clutches of the group behind him.
Further back, those on light fuel loads at the back of the grid saw the corner as an opportunity to make up ground and, while the likes of Allan McNish got it right, Giancarlo Fisichella definitely did not. The Italian, barrelling down the inside of the pack, managed to avoid everyone but his team-mate, spinning the luckless Takuma Sato around and dropping the two Jordans to the tail of the field. Both then had to pit for repairs, rendering the Japanese driver's best showing of the season all but pointless.
Montoya defended third for most of the lap but, once Michael Schumacher got through at the chicane, had to contend with heavy pressure from the McLarens which, in turn, had Jenson Button and Jarno Trulli - both of whom made flying starts - in their mirrors. Mika Salo, meanwhile, was the next biggest loser at turn one, squandering his tenth grid slot by dropping down the order. Alex Yoong also jumped the start and would be required to complete a drive-thru penalty.
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