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European GP 2002 - Rubens turns tables

23 June 2002


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.

Trulli then made hard work for himself by dropping to twelfth after an error, but wasted little time in reclaiming the lost ground. Often coming from a long way back in his lightweight Renault, the Italian deposed Olivier Panis, McNish, Nick Heidfeld and Felipe Massa in short order to resume in eighth place behind his team-mate. The incident, however, would later count against him.

Renault's pressure eventually told, however, as Raikkonen locked up under braking for the first turn on lap 17, allowing Button through into sixth spot, and the Briton, clearly faster than his Finnish rival owing to a lower fuel load, quickly put air between them as he hunted down Coulthard for fifth.

The gap between the leaders and the pursuing pack was growing rapidly, however, and Barrichello had already opened out a 22secs advantage over Ralf Schumacher by the time of Raikkonen's error. The gap between the front two, however, had shrunk as Schumacher Sr turned on the pace, and less than a second remained for the world champion to close when the moment that decided the race occurred.

Running in the turbulence behind his team-mate, Schumacher's car suddenly snapped sideways as he rounded the RTL Kurve, spinning the German onto the recently-introduced tarmac run-off, from where he was able to resume. A vital ten seconds now existed between first and second, however, and the world champion was really going to have to charge if he was to be in a position to inherit a 60th career win.

Ferrari reacted almost immediately, calling Schumacher in for his first pit-stop on lap 24, but, by turning Barrichello around in exactly the same time, resisted the temptation to shuffle the order. The gap between the two was slightly reduced courtesy of Schumacher's pace on his in and out laps, but the German still had work to do.

The two scarlet cars returned to the fray without losing a place between them, leaving much of the non-Ferrari interest focused on the battle for fourth between Montoya and Coulthard. Despite both running a one-stop strategy, the McLaren was using its Michelin tyres better than the Williams and, on lap 28, moved to the outside to pass at turn one.

Montoya, naturally, held the inside line in an attempt to defend but, misjudging both the condition of his rubber and the dip that characterises the start of the new section, lost the back of his car and spun. Just when it appeared that Coulthard had the pass made, however, rear of the Williams snagged front of McLaren ,stranding the Scot on the outside of the corner with deranged suspension. Montoya was later gracious enough to admit that the tangle was entirely his fault, but that was of little consolation to DC, who appeared to be headed for a third successive podium.

The incident allowed Schumacher Jr and Raikkonen - now back ahead of Button after the Briton pitted - to battle over third, and the issue was decided when Williams called its man in just two laps after his team-mate spun out. The German was likewise suffering with tyre wear, and almost lost his car when the back bobbled on the pit entry road. Raikkonen, meanwhile, was able to push on for another five laps, and made enough time to be able to exit in front of the Williams. The Finn's front tyres appeared as close to the mark as possible, but McLaren had clearly done its homework once it appeared impossible to fight for pole.

With the second round of Ferrari stops fast approaching, the amount of radio traffic from pit to drivers was noticeable - particularly as much of it appeared to be directed in Barrichello's favour. Was the Scuderia contemplating a switch in the pits......

Again, however, almost identical stationary times kept the two leaders in position and prompted speculation that Barrichello, after all, may be able to at least fight for victory. Schumacher would not necessarily be stopped from hounding the Brazilian, but it was unlikely that Rubinho would be asked to move aside for him.

Hound the German did, however, closing the gap to around a second according to traffic, but, with ten laps to go, it became noticeable that both drivers were running some two seconds off their earlier pace. The radio traffic continued, but now it appeared to be telling the drivers to hold station and preserve the cars for a 1-2 finish.

Further back, preservation was not on the agenda for, although third, fourth and fifth were almost certain to go to Raikkonen, Ralf and Button, sixth remained up for grabs - with three men in pursuit of the point. Trulli's slip at the start meant that he rejoined the fray in eighth place after his second stop, but was close enough to both Massa and Heidfeld to have a sniff at sixth. It was not to be, however, for, now on equal fuel loads, the Italian was unable to blast past his rivals as he had at the start, and Massa refused to crack as he added another mark to his rookie total.

Up front, a couple of tenths separated the Ferrari pair as they crossed the line in perfect photo-opportunity formation. Despite having to swallow the bitter pill of being beaten on home ground - and by his team-mate at that - Schumacher still punched the air as he passed the pit-stall.

With Montoya out, and his little brother kept off the podium by the rejuvenated Raikkonen, the champion's points advantage opened by another three points - and maybe, just maybe, he and the team had gone some way to restoring their reputations with the F1 world.


Race results:

1. Rubens Barrichello Brazil Ferrari-Ferrari 60 laps 1hr 35min 07.426secs
2. Michael Schumacher Germany Ferrari-Ferrari +0.294secs
3. Kimi Raikkonen Finland McLaren-Mercedes +46.435secs
4. Ralf Schumacher Germany Williams-BMW +1min 06.963secs
5. Jenson Button Britain Renault-Renault +1min 16.943secs
6. Felipe Massa Brazil Sauber-Petronas +1 lap

7. Nick Heidfeld Germany Sauber-Petronas +1 lap
8. Jarno Trulli Italy Renault-Renault +1 lap
9. Olivier Panis France BAR-Honda +1 lap
10. Pedro de la Rosa Spain Jaguar-Cosworth +1 lap
11. Enrique Bernoldi Brazil Arrows-Cosworth +1 lap
12. Jacques Villeneuve Canada BAR-Honda +1 lap
13. Heinz-Harald Frentzen Germany Arrows-Cosworth +1 lap
14. Allan McNish Britain Toyota-Toyota +1 lap
15. Mark Webber Australia Minardi-Asiatech +2 laps
16. Takuma Sato Japan Jordan-Honda +2 laps

Rtd Mika Salo Finland Toyota-Toyota 51 laps completed
Rtd Alex Yoong Malaysia Minardi-Asiatech 48 laps completed
Rtd Eddie Irvine Britain Jaguar-Cosworth 41 laps completed
Rtd Juan Montoya Colombia Williams-BMW 27 laps completed
Rtd David Coulthard Britain McLaren-Mercedes 27 laps completed
Rtd Giancarlo Fisichella Italy Jordan-Honda 28 laps completed

Fastest lap:

Michael Schumacher Ferrari-Ferrari 1min 32.226secs lap 26




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