Predicted to open the floodgates once his maiden grand prix victory was secured, Kimi Raikkonen racked up a second consecutive win when he was awarded the Brazilian Grand Prix on countback at a sodden Interlagos.

The Finn was actually running second on the road to Giancarlo Fisichella when the red flags were shown on the 53rd of 71 scheduled laps, following massive individual accidents for the otherwise impressive Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso. With debris from both cars littering the entry to the start-finish straight, and the injured Alonso sitting at the side of the track, the stewards had no option but to call a halt to proceedings that had already proven both chaotic and calamitous in equal measure.

Although forecasters had predicted rain for qualifying and a dry race, the weather gods decided to turn the tables on them and the ten teams scheduled to start the third round of the world championship by sending over the darkest clouds and heaviest rain of the weekend just hours before the race was due to begin. With precipitation literally leaping off the already soaking tarmac, there was initially some concern over when - or even whether - the race should start - and the arguments will continue to rage long into the night after no fewer than half the field was prevented from finishing after being forced to run on intermediate tyres rather than full wets.

Sensibly, following a couple of ten minute delays designed to allow the rain to abate and the amount of standing water around the circuit to dissipate, the field took the start behind the safety car. For eight full laps, it snaked around behind the Mercedes saloon, while water continued to cascade across the road at various places on the hilly layout.

Finally, when the organisers deemed conditions to be approaching suitable for the set-up of the cars - which, thankfully, the teams had been allowed to change more than usual to cope with the amount of rain - it was released, only to be bunched up on the run to the start line by Saturday polewinner - and home favourite - Rubens Barrichello.

The move, if indeed it was deliberate, backfired on the Brazilian, who quickly found himself swallowed up by David Coulthard's McLaren on the run to turn one, and then under pressure from the rest of the top five as he proceeded cautiously around the circuit. Nick Heidfeld, however, was one not in pursuit of the Ferrari, his Sauber have given up the ghost as soon as it was asked to push in the tricky conditions.

At the end of the first racing lap, DC was already over two seconds to the good, as both Raikkonen, Webber and Juan Montoya attempted to demote Barrichello further down the order. Before too long, the two McLarens held sway, as the winners of the opening grands prix pulled away from the field. By lap eleven, Raikkonen, having closed down the gap to Coulthard, was in the lead, bravely diving past the Scot into turn one. Coulthard, losing momentum as he avoided a possible collision, then succumbed to Montoya, who had bridged the gap in Raikkonen's wake, only to get it back when the Colombian made an error exiting the Juncao.

The conditions prevented anyone from really making a break for it, as those behind seemed to gain and lose speed just as easily as those without visibility problems. No sooner had Coulthard and Montoya finished fighting than Webber and Michael Schumacher were climbing all over the back of the Williams. The world champion found a way past Webber early on lap 15, then capitalised on Montoya's slow exit from Bico de Pato next time around. Now third, the German quickly began eating into the advantage of the two McLarens ahead of him.

DC, in turn, was also closing down the four-second gap build up by his team-mate but, almost inevitably, advantages throughout the field were scrubbed at a stroke when the first of the afternoon's accidents occurred, bringing out the safety car. Although Justin Wilson had already joined Heidfeld on the retirement list after his Minardi spun to a halt in turn three, there had not been an incident of note until Ralph Firman's right front suspension broke part way down the home straight, sending his Jordan spinning out of control into the back of Olivier Panis's hapless Toyota. The Frenchman was among those to opt for an early stop under the first pace car to top up with fuel, but would not get the chance to exploit the strategy change as he was spun into a wing-less retirement.

With debris littering the track, there was no option but to return the safety car to the track, and most of the field took full advantage of the lull by diving into the pits to make their first stop of the weekend. Some, like Jos Verstappen, Antonio Pizzonia and Heinz-Harald Frentzen had opted to take the start from pit-lane - as had Firman - and were able to stay out, temporarily gaining positions while those ahead of them vacated them. The crowded pit-lane caused its own problems, as Williams and Renault opted to queue their cars for a top-up, leaving poor Jarno Trulli at the tail of the field after he struggle to rejoin the race. The Italian had already been involved in a spin with Ralf Schumacher and looked like having another eventful afternoon.

When the safety car disappeared at the end of the 22nd lap, Raikkonen - who had opted to stay out on track instead of pitting - made a better job of bunching up the field and then making a break for it, leaving DC to fend off the attentions of Michael Schumacher and, further back, Cristiano da Matta to cope with the combined attentions of Barrichello and Montoya. The Brazilian soon slipped past, but Montoya was to be thwarted for another couple of tours.

No sooner had he made it past the Toyota, however, than the Colombian's day was done. Even though it had not rained since the start of the race, there was still a noticeable stream bisecting the track at turn three, and Montoya's Williams aquaplaned off into the tyre barrier as he struck it at just the wrong place. He was quickly joined in the tyre barrier by Brazilian rookie Antonio Pizzonia, whose Jaguar actually ended up partly on top of the Williams, and, to everyone's great surprise, by the regenmeister himself, as Schumacher's Ferrari made it a colourful trio parked at the side of the road.

The ensuing safety car period - designed to protect the marshals who were trying to crane the stricken cars off track as Schumacher barrelled in - allowed Raikkonen to make his first stop, dropping him well down the bunched up order, but fuelled possibly to the end of the race. Coulthard reassumed control and again pulled away on the lap 30 restart.

He did not have long to enjoy his advantage, however, as Jenson Button joined the 'party' at turn three, his BAR-Honda stepping out of line and, on being caught, deciding to plough head first off the road instead of spinning. It was a heavy impact, but fortunately Button walked away unhurt.

Approaching half distance, just over half the field remained in the running, but it was still the McLarens setting the pace. Coulthard remained out front on the next restart, but it was Raikkonen, carving through the field, who was making the biggest impression. In the space of one lap, the fearless Finn passed Alonso in turn one, then Ralf Schumacher three corners later, unafraid of using the 'karting line' around the outside to pick up extra traction while his victims struggled for grip. Now into third, the McLaren man set about trying to catch his team-mate and Barrichello, who remained ahead of him, only to find that they were setting an increasingly fast pace of their own.

As Alonso received a drive-thru penalty for overtaking under yellow flags in his haste to follow Raikkonen's progress, the leading duo pulled inexorably away from those behind them, swapping fastest laps as they did so. Coulthard, however, was beginning to suffer with his tyres and, on lap 45, ran wide at turn one, allowing the Brazilian crowd to get what they had sat in the soaking wet seats all afternoon for - Barrichello in the lead.

The grandstands rocked for approximately a lap and a half, for it was then that Barrichello's infamous Interlagos luck kicked in. Opening out what could have been a race-winning advantage over Coulthard, the Ferrari simply shut down, leaving a despondent Paulista to coast to the side of the road and sink his head into his hands as he sat on the sodden grass bank. The team admitted that it had no idea what had happened, but showed the shock of a team used to getting at least one, if not both its cars to the finish of just about every event it has contested in recent years.

With Barrichello out, Coulthard again inherited the lead, but a couple of big twitches coming through the Juncao prompted him to pit for new tyres - a move that ultimately cost him victory.

The stop dropped the Scot to fourth place, behind the recovering Alonso - who had remarkably lost little time despite three pit visits - and chasing both his team-mate - briefly restored to the lead, and Giancarlo Fisichella's Jordan, which had taken full advantage of the Finn's own grip problems to assume control of the race on lap 54.
Behind Coulthard, a frenetic scrap for fifth continued to rage between Jarno Trulli, Jacques Villeneuve and Heinz-Harald Frentzen who, having yet to make a stop after fuelling up on the formation lap, moved into the top five with a brave pass on the Italian, who soon opted to stop for, of all things, 'slick' tyres....

Although pit strategy may have determined otherwise, with the two hour race limit looming on the horizon, there as every chance that Fisi could have notched up his maiden grand prix win on the day that Jordan celebrated its 200th appearance in a grand prix, but no-one will ever know.

No sooner had the Italian assumed the lead, than Webber made heavy contact with the walls on either side of the pit straight, his Jaguar snapping out of control and slamming itself into the concrete with enough force to scatter debris across the breadth of the road. If this was an ignominious end to an impressive weekend for the Australian, however, it was also to have dire consequences for another of Formula One's 'young guns' - and for Fisichella's hopes of victory.

Alonso, charging to make up ground on the leading duo, had little time to react as he came across the remnants of Webber's Jaguar, collecting a shed rear wheel with full force and being sent into his own double impact with the retaining walls. Where Webber had climbed out unaided, however, the Spaniard took time to emerge from the Renault's cockpit and, limping heavily, made it as far as the wall before sinking to his haunches in search of breath.

The amount of debris doubled and, with service personnel swarming around Alonso, the red flag was inevitable. With the race beyond its three-quarter mark, there was also no chance of it being restarted, prompting celebrations in the Jordan camp - which duly proved to be a little premature. Although Fisichella had been leading at the end of the last competed lap, the countback went further than that, ultimately awarding Raikkonen with his second victory for leading at the end of the lap before Fisi seized control. The sight of the Italian's EJ13 blazing merrily in pit-lane seemed somehow representative of his dreams...

Thus, the Iceman became the Rainman for a day, conquering conditions that had laid low several of his fancied colleagues and, importantly, being in the right place at the right time on an afternoon where confusion, as well as everything else, 'reigned'.

Race Result:

1. Kimi Raikkonen Finland McLaren-Mercedes 53 laps 1hr 29min 53.179secs
2. Giancarlo Fisichella Italy Jordan-Ford +0.831secs
3. Fernando Alonso Spain Renault-Renault +6.695secs
4. David Coulthard Britain McLaren-Mercedes +7.391secs
5. Heinz-Harald Frentzen Germany Sauber-Petronas +9.392secs
6. Jacques Villeneuve Canada BAR-Honda +17.910secs
7. Mark Webber Australia Jaguar-Cosworth +20.070secs
8. Jarno Trulli Italy Renault-Renault +23.569secs
9. Ralf Schumacher Germany Williams-BMW +33.556secs
10. Cristiano da Matta Brazil Toyota-Toyota +1 lap

Rtd Rubens Barrichello Brazil Ferrari-Ferrari 46 laps completed
Rtd Jenson Button Britain BAR-Honda 32 laps completed
Rtd Jos Verstappen Holland Minardi-Cosworth 30 laps completed
Rtd Michael Schumacher Germany Ferrari-Ferrari 26 laps completed
Rtd Juan Montoya Colombia Williams-BMW 24 laps completed
Rtd Antonio Pizzonia Brazil Jaguar-Cosworth 24 laps completed
Rtd Olivier Panis France Toyota-Toyota 17 laps completed
Rtd Ralph Firman Britain Jordan-Ford 17 laps completed
Rtd Justin Wilson Britain Minardi-Cosworth 15 laps completed
Rtd Nick Heidfeld Germany Sauber-Petronas 8 laps completed

Fastest lap:

Rubens Barrichello Ferrari-Ferrari 1min 22.032secs lap 46


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