If there was one thing Michael Schumacher wanted more than his first pole position at the German Grand Prix, he said, it was to take victory for Ferrari in front of his adoring home crowd.
Already world champion - with six races remaining - and on course to break the tie he shares with Nigel Mansell for the record number of victories in one season, it was little surprise that Schumacher's dream season continued with the perfect weekend at Hockenheim. The maiden pole position arrived on Saturday afternoon, after a breathless scrap for top spot with younger brother Ralf, but there was to be no repeat on race day, as the Ferrari driver romped away to a comfortable German Grand Prix victory.
As the lights went out, Schumacher Sr lit up his rear tyres and was gone, leaving his sibling in the clutches of Ferrari team-mate Rubens Barrichello, who had been forced to start in the spare F2002 after the team suspected a repeat of the gearbox problems he suffered in the last two races. With second and third scrapping hard, the leader was able to pull away at a rate of knots, leaving many to suspect whether the Scuderia had opted for a surprise strategy. As it turned out, however, strategy was the least surprising thing in an eventful race.
From the start, the grid - which already featured one fewer driver than usual, following Alex Yoong's DNQ - was shorn of Heinz-Harald Frentzen, who stalled as the lights disappeared and had to pushed into the pit-lane, where he was eventually restarted. Jarno Trulli then aroused suspicion with a great getaway, but went unpunished, while team-mate Jenson Button joined Pedro de la Rosa in taking to the run-off area at turn one.
After last season, when Luciano Burti took flight, it was with some relief that the entire field made it unscathed through the first two turns but, remarkably, de la Rosa would fail to complete the first flying lap for the second year running. This time, unlike his 2001 assault on Nick Heidfeld, the Spaniard retired with a mechanical problem, leaving the field, temporarily, at 19 cars.
Among the losers at the start was Juan Montoya, who was forced to brake early by Rubens Barrichello ahead of him and had to let Kimi Raikkonen run around the outside of the Williams at turn one, and Jacques Villeneuve, whose eleventh grid slot became 15th in the race by the end of the lap.
Out front, Michael Schumacher was already flying, opening out a two-second advantage over his brother by the end of lap two and banging a string of lap records over the first few tours to give himself some breathing space.
The first three cars soon began lapping more than a second quicker than the rest of the field and, by the end of lap ten, had a comfortable gap back to Raikkonen and Montoya, who were scrapping hard over fourth. The Colombian knew that, even on what appeared to be an off weekend for him, his Williams was clearly faster than the McLaren, and took the situation in hand by challenging Raikkonen into the stadium Unable to seize the inside advantage, the former CART champion duly opted for the outside line into Sachs, giving Raikkonen no room in which reply. Once ahead, Montoya then set off in pursuit of the leaders, only to run by himself for much of the afternoon.
Although Frentzen managed to rejoin the race as the leaders began their third lap, he was destined not to go too much further and, having been lapped by the field not long after he took to the track, was forced to call it quits after 18 tours.