Schumacher Escapes Fire to Win the Austrian GP
|By Will Gray||Sunday, May 18th 2003, 13:51 GMT|
World Champion Michael Schumacher survived a pitlane fire in the Austrian Grand Prix on Sunday to claim his third successive race victory for Ferrari at the scene of their biggest mistake.
Schumacher was jeered off the podium last year after being handed victory by teammate Barrichello on the final corner of the race but there were no such torments this time as the German kept cool to deliver a smooth performance.
He ended the jinx of previous A1-Ring winners by becoming the first man to win here back to back and moved within two points of the Championship lead by finishing one place ahead of title race leader Kimi Raikkonen.
Barrichello finished third to complete a happy return to the podium for the two Ferrari drivers here, albeit in front of a thinner crowd than last year, in what could be the A1-Ring's last ever race. Briton Jenson Button finished fourth for BAR-Honda but he was more than half a minute behind Barrichello with Scot David Coulthard even further back in fifth for McLaren-Mercedes.
Ralf Schumacher finished in sixth place for Williams-BMW, while Australian Mark Webber, of Jaguar, and Italian Jarno Trulli, of Renault, completed the points-scoring top eight.
The race was delayed after the first start was aborted just as the lights were about to go out when Toyota driver Cristiano da Matta waved his hand to signal he had an electrical problem with his car.
The Brazilian rookie was forced to drop to the back of the grid but once again he suffered a problem with his car and he forced the start to be aborted for a second time. By the third start the left-hand side of the grid was sparse of cars with Sauber's Heinz-Harald Frentzen being forced out of the race and Webber and Spaniard Fernando Alonso, of Renault, starting from the pitlane.
When the red lights finally went out the red Ferrari of Schumacher shot into the lead with Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya, of Williams-BMW, passing second-placed Raikkonen and Barrichello passing fourth-placed German Nick Heidfeld, of Sauber, behind him.
But the Safety Car was deployed at the end of one lap when Jos Verstappen parked his Minardi by the side of the track and the field bunched up until they were set free again three laps later. Schumacher, who played with Montoya before the restart by changing speeds as they headed for the line, judged it to perfection and held off Montoya into the first corner as Barrichello pushed Raikkonen hard for third place.
Toyota's troubled race continued when Frenchman Olivier Panis stopped at the Remus Kurve on lap seven and Webber was handed a 10-second stop-go penalty after his team breached parc ferme conditions by refuelling his car.
Montoya pitted at the end of lap 21 and was stationary for 8.5 seconds but when Barrichello came in, at the end of lap 22, there was a problem with the fuel hose and he was stationary for an agonising 19.8 seconds. Schumacher then set fastest lap ahead of his stop at the end of lap 23 but the fuel filler stuck again, fuel spilled out and the engine cover and fuel hose burst into flames.
The team put out the fire with three separate extinguishers and Schumacher coolly drove out of the pits after 20.4 seconds to slot into third behind Montoya and Raikkonen after the latter stopped on the same lap.
Montoya's engine blew on lap 32 and Schumacher passed Raikkonen in the confusion to take the lead again as the smoking Williams-BMW machine dropped through the pack and Montoya pulled into the pits to retire.
By this point Briton Jenson Button was up to third but he lost the place to Barrichello at the Remus Kurve on lap 35 and dropped into the clutches of fourth-placed Alonso, who then pitted at the end of lap 37.
Schumacher stopped at the end of lap 42 and, after the team fixed the problem with the fuel filler during the second stint of the race, he had a cautious stop of 12.6 seconds that put him down to third behind Raikkonen and Barrichello.
Alonso spun off on lap 46 after dropping oil onto the circuit and several drivers went wide on the corner as a result. Heidfeld retired one lap later. Raikkonen pitted at the end of lap 49 and Barrichello pitted one lap later to leave Schumacher back out in front ahead of Raikkonen and Barrichello with 18 laps remaining.
Ralf Schumacher was fourth but he dropped behind Coulthard, who started 14th, when he went wide at the Grosser Kurve, then Fisichella dropped out on lap 63 after parking up at the Remus Kurve.
Raikkonen survived a titanic scrap with Barrichello at the end to hold onto second place and keep his championship lead by two points from Schumacher.
PROVISIONAL RACE RESULTS The Austrian Grand Prix A1-Ring, Spielberg; 69 laps; 298.494km; Weather: Little rain, mostly dry. Classified: Pos Driver Team-Engine Tyres Time 1. M.Schumacher Ferrari (B) 1h 24:04.888 2. Raikkonen McLaren Mercedes (M) + 3.362 3. Barrichello Ferrari (B) + 3.951 4. Button BAR Honda (B) + 42.243 5. Coulthard McLaren Mercedes (M) + 59.740 6. R.Schumacher Williams BMW (M) + 1 lap 7. Webber Jaguar Cosworth (M) + 1 lap 8. Trulli Renault (M) + 1 lap 9. Pizzonia Jaguar Cosworth (M) + 1 lap 10. da Matta Toyota (M) + 1 lap 11. Firman Jordan Ford (B) + 1 lap 12. Villeneuve BAR Honda (B) + 1 lap 13. Wilson Minardi Cosworth (B) + 2 laps Fastest Lap: M.Schumacher, 1:08.337, lap 41 Not Classified/Retirements: Driver Team On Lap Fisichella Jordan Ford (B) 61 Heidfeld Sauber Petronas (B) 47 Alonso Renault (M) 45 Montoya Williams BMW (M) 33 Panis Toyota (M) 7 Verstappen Minardi Cosworth (B) 1 Frentzen Sauber Petronas (B) DNS World Championship Standing, Round 6: Drivers: Constructors: 1. Raikkonen 40 1. Ferrari 64 2. M.Schumacher 38 2. McLaren-Mercedes 63 3. Barrichello 26 3. Renault 35 4. Alonso 25 = Williams-BMW 35 5. Coulthard 23 5. Jordan-Ford 11 6. R.Schumacher 20 = BAR-Honda 11 7. Montoya 15 7. Sauber 8 8. Fisichella 10 8. Jaguar-Cosworth 4 = Trulli 10 9. Toyota 3 10. Button 8 11. Frentzen 7 12. Webber 4 13. Villeneuve 3 = da Matta 3 15. Heidfeld 1 = Firman 1 All timing unofficial