Michael Schumacher took an untroubled eleventh win of the season in front of his adoring fans at the German Grand Prix, but his job was made easier as, one by one, his rivals contrived to cost themselves a shot at victory.

Having secured pole position on Saturday afternoon, Schumacher made no mistake when the lights went out, leaving the first lap action to take place in his wake. The wide-open spaces of the remodelled Hockenheim allowed for much ducking and diving at each of the first two corners but, remarkably, the 20 cars managed to get through unscathed. It wasn't until the hairpin that contact was made, and it was the second Ferrari of Rubens Barrichello who succumbed.

Keen to make up places from his lowly grid position, the Brazilian spotted a gap inside David Coulthard's McLaren, but mistimed his lunge and, locked up, found his front wing parting company with the Ferrari. Coulthard continued unscathed, but Barrichello had to make an early pit-stop for a replacement nose that dropped him to the back of the field.

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At the end of lap one, Schumacher headed Alonso, Raikkonen, Trulli and Coulthard across the line, with Mark Webber and Antonio Pizzonia among the biggest gainers from the chaos. Barrichello's detached wing had further delayed Montoya, who now lay seventh, while Jenson Button ran eleventh, despite having been gifted a position at the start when Olivier Panis' new Toyota had to be wheeled to the pit-lane.

Alonso's tenure of second did not last long, as Raikkonen barged his way through, determined to allow Schumacher to build too big a lead. The Finn's confidence was well-placed, for he quickly began lapping at the Ferrari's pace, and then beneath it as he began pulling the world champion back.

The first round of pit-stops interrupted the pursuit, and allowed Schumacher to resume at the head of the queue, albeit initially behind Webber and, as his BAR proved its heavier fuel load, Button. It was while the world champion ran in second spot that Raikkonen's race came to an abrupt end, the rear wing on the McLaren breaking catastrophically, and sending the Finn into a 190mph spin at the end of the main straight. Raikkonen was unhurt in the ensuing shunt, but clearly frustrated by the timing of his exit.

Button finally pitted at the end of the following lap, having run five tours longer than his main rivals and underlining just how good his provisional third spot on the grid was. Demoted ten places because of his Friday engine change, the Briton had had to start from the seventh row, but team boss David Richards was convinced that rapid progress was possible given the strategy that had been chosen to combat the penalty. As the round of pit-stops unwound fully, Button was up to fifth place, having used his late run to vault past three rivals and set himself up for a strong run in the points.

Once Raikkonen's accident had been cleared - without the need for a safety car - the race settled down into a slightly less frenetic phase, although there were still battles raging throughout the field. Chief among these was the scrap for sixth involving Jarno Trulli - who had earlier announced his departure from Renault - Webber and Takuma Sato. The Italian appeared to be struggling after his strong start, with Webber taking more than the occasional look up the inside of the R24, but it took some time for the position to change. Ironically for Webber, it took Sato to force the change, the BAR man having found a way past the Jaguar before launching an attack on Trulli. Heading into the hairpin for the 26th time, Sato stuck his nose inside the Renault and, sensing an opening, Webber followed suit, pushing Trulli back two places.

The BAR kicked off the second round of stops not long after and, when Trulli followed his rival down pit-lane, the Renault team found a piece of Raikkonen's wing lodged under the nose of the R24, hampering its handling capabilities and causing Trulli's drop in pace. The ensuing change of parts cost the Italian even more, dropping him down the order to 15th place.

Schumacher continued to lead after the second round of stops, having only ceded the lead to Alonso and Button as he called in for tyres and fuel, and resumed at the front once his rivals made their stops. Button again ran longer than both of the cars ahead of him, but did not quite have enough in hand to exit ahead of Alonso. Running nose-to-tail over the next few laps, the Briton tried repeatedly to engineer an opportunity to pass the Renault but, despite exiting the hairpin on a par with it, found that he did not have the grunt to push his BAR in front. Eventually, the 006's tyres went beyond their best, and Button dropped back to cool his heels before mounting another assault.

Tyre problems became an issue for a number of drivers, with Giorgio Pantano suffering a Bridgestone failure in the early stages, and Cristiano da Matta later spinning out after one of his Toyota's Michelin's deflated under braking for the hairpin. The Italian managed to get back to the pits, but da Matta's exit continued a torrid race for the new TF104B.

With a low rate of attrition, neither Barrichello or Trulli was able to make great headway towards the points, allowing some unexpected faces to feature in the top eight for much of the race. At half distance, Webber, Sato and Giancarlo Fisichella were all on course to score, although the Italian was again making use of Sauber's customary two-stop strategy to mix it with faster cars ahead of him, and would later drop back. In his place, the second Williams of Pizzonia took full advantage of the shuffled order to hover on the verge of the points, albeit exchanging positions with the likes of Christian Klien and Felipe Massa as the pit-stop options unfolded.

The final round for the three-stoppers commenced on lap 46, with Schumacher and Alonso pitting together and again allowing Button to head the field. This time, however, the young Briton stayed out just two laps longer, and again found the Renault crossing his path as he left pit-lane. As he had before, Button stuck to Alonso's rear for the next few laps, but was having to drive one-handed on the straights as a problem with his helmet caused him to hold on to the visor. Apparently undeterred, the BAR driver continued to press on, again threatening to oust Alonso at the hairpin, only for the Spaniard to ease ahead on the run to the Mercedes chicane.

The resistance didn't last for long, however, and, as Button again dived for the inside at the hairpin, found himself exiting on the outside of the Renault - and ideally placed for the next tight corner. Holding firm around the outside of the right-hander heading into the Mercedes section, the Briton was later on the brakes than his rival, and managed to squeeze through on the inside, before pulling away.

Button made good his escape over the following lap, but Alonso soon fell into the clutches of David Coulthard, who took full advantage of what appeared to be a problem for the Renault by closing right in on its tail. The Spaniard reported a front wing problem, but soon found the measure of his latest assailant and consolidated a couple of seconds between himself and the McLaren.

Behind them, the rest of the top eight settled down for the run to the flag, with Montoya comfortable in fifth and holding almost 20secs in hand over Webber. The Australian had more to worry about as Pizzonia, his former team-mate - and the man who had rubbished Jaguar's efforts heading into the meeting - closed the gap on sixth spot. The Brazilian had earlier shaken off Sato's BAR, which didn't look likely to concede the final point unless its pilot repeated the sort of incident that saw him spin entering the stadium section on lap 31.

Barrichello was the Japanese driver's only rival for eighth, having battled his way back up the order. However, any hope of helping to edge Ferrari closer to the constructors' title went west when the F2004's rear tyre deflated on the final lap, dropping Barrichello back to twelfth at the flag. Moving ahead of the Brazilian, Fisichella became the man to just miss out on the points, while Klien and Trulli also took advantage of Barrichello's misfortune.

At the front, Button gave the impression of eating into Schumacher's lead but, in reality, the German was maintaining a steady course towards his eleventh win of the race, enough to equal his own record for victories in one season and also tying the record for number of consecutive wins at six since his exit at Monaco.

As the Ferrari crossed the line, the crowd, while not a sell-out, erupted in a cacophony of rattles and airhorns good enough to welcome a world champion. Sadly for them, that honour will probably fall to fans in the next couple of races....

Race result:

1. Michael Schumacher Germany Ferrari-Ferrari 66 laps 1hr 23min 54.848secs
2. Jenson Button Britain BAR-Honda +08.388secs
3. Fernando Alonso Spain Renault-Renault +16.351secs
4. David Coulthard Britain McLaren-Mercedes +19.231secs
5. Juan Montoya Colombia Williams-BMW +23.055secs
6. Mark Webber Australia Jaguar-Cosworth +41.108secs
7. Antonio Pizzonia Brazil Williams-BMW +41.956secs
8. Takuma Sato Japan BAR-Honda +46.842secs

9. Giancarlo Fisichella Italy Sauber-Petronas +67.102secs
10. Christian Klien Austria Jaguar-Cosworth +68.578secs
11. Jarno Trulli Italy Renault-Renault +70.258secs
12. Rubens Barrichello Brazil Ferrari-Ferrari +73.252secs
13. Felipe Massa Brazil Sauber-Petronas +1 lap
14. Olivier Panis France Toyota-Toyota +1 lap
15. Giorgio Pantano Italy Jordan-Ford +3 laps
16. Zsolt Baumgartner Hungary Minardi-Cosworth +4 laps
17. Gianmaria Bruni Italy Minardi-Cosworth +4 laps

Rtd Nick Heidfeld Italy Jordan-Ford 42 laps completed
Rtd Cristiano da Matta Brazil Toyota-Toyota 38 laps completed
Rtd Kimi Raikkonen Finland McLaren-Mercedes 13 laps completed

Fastest lap:

Kimi Raikkonen McLaren-Mercedes 1min 13.780secs lap 10