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Ralf Wins Incident Packed German GP

Ralf Schumacher took the expected victory for Williams as he dominated Sunday's German Grand Prix after a dramatic crash involving his brother Michael and Prost driver Luciano Burti.

Both drivers were unhurt and took the re-start, but by the end of the race it was status-quo in the Championship as both Schumacher and his nearest challenger David Coulthard both ended their days at the side of the track. Fernando Alonso's 20th birthday did not go at all well when his European Minardi erupted in flames on the starting grid. And for Minardi, things got worse when Tarso Marques was also wheeled into the garage.

And as the field headed around the 6.825km circuit on the parade lap the Minardi mechanics were frantically trying to set the spare car up for Alonso and the pair were both sent out, despite Marques' car smoking heavily.

When the lights went out the Williams pair made a good get-away, but behind them Schumacher suddenly slowed and although most of the field avoided him as they sped off the starting positions, Luciano Burti in the Prost careered into the back of the Ferrari and was launched into the air.

Burti's car flew almost vertically and began a barrel roll, ending up upside down with his car's nose on top of one of the Arrows cars. His car then became upright again and shot across the Nordcurve and into the gravel trap. Neither driver was hurt, and the pair discussed the incident immediately after as they walked back to the pits whilst the organisers deliberated on whether to stop the race.

The still-helmeted Schumacher was slowly ambling back to the pits as the race continued under the safety car, but with debris covering the track in the first corner it was decided to put out the red flags. Immediately Schumacher sprinted to his garage to take up the spare car, and soon the very relieved German was heading back to take up his original position in the grid, driving past his damaged race car as it was craned away.

Despite the dramatic accident, Burti also returned to the grid in his spare car, as too did both Minardis, but in the pit lane, an injured Jaguar mechanic had to be helped into the garage, although it was not clear how he was hurt. At the re-start Montoya made a good get-away to lead teammate Ralf Schumacher into the first corner, and the pair pulled away as the McLarens and Ferraris scrapped behind.

Hakkinen lost third to Ferrari's Schumacher, while Coulthard battled wheel-to-wheel with Barrichello before losing the place and allowing Schumacher's Ferrari teammate up to fifth. It was an early end for Nick Heidfeld in the Sauber after the back of his car was hit by Jaguar's Pedro de la Rosa under braking for the Jim Clark chicane.

Barrichello was past McLaren's Hakkinen on lap three, then chased, caught and passed teammate and home hero Schumacher for third on lap six. In the midfield scrapping Zonta, replacing the sacked Heinz-Harald Frentzen at Jordan, came off badly when he lost his front wing after hitting the Arrows of Jos Verstappen.

Both were forced into the pits, Zonta for a replacement wing and Verstappen for a check-up, but Zonta's day got even worse when he was forced to park up on lap nine, step out the car and retire. Verstappen had started as superbly as always to move from 20th to 11th on the first lap, but the enforced pit stop dropped him to the back of the field.

Olivier Panis was wheel-to-wheel with Jordan's Jarno Trulli on the long run to the Jim Clark chicane, and the Frenchman out-braked Trulli to complete a superb manoeuvre on the 12th lap. Trulli had a go back in the very next chicane, but he could not hold the car as it slithered under braking and he spun down from ninth to 17th place.

Hakkinen slowed on lap 15 and toured around the stadium section before turning off the racetrack to park his leaking car on an escape road and walked back to the pits, another race over. By now, at the head of the field, Montoya had pulled out a convincing 8.3 second lead on teammate Schumacher, but the pair could not pull away from Ferrari's Barrichello.

He then came into the pits at the end of lap 16 for an 8.9 second stop which put him out in fifth place, just behind Coulthard. Raikkonen suddenly slowed on lap 17, and he was out when he pulled into the pits at the end of the lap. So too was Irvine, who also coasted in to retire.

By lap 20 the Ferrari was right up to the gearbox of the McLaren, and as the pair entered the stadium section side-by-side, Barrichello made it past on the outside of the Agip corner. At the end of lap 22, leader Montoya shot into the pits for his stop but there was a problem with the fuel hose which cost him precious seconds.

Eventually, as he sat waiting in the pits and gently hitting his steering wheel, a working hose was found and the team got him out in 29.9 seconds, dropping him behind Barrichello. One lap later Michael Schumacher came in from second place and, with a stop of 10.7 seconds he was back out only to coast to a halt after the Jim Clarke curve on lap 24.

Ralf Schumacher then came in at the end of that lap for an 11-second stop which allowed him to retain the lead from Rubens Barrichello, with a 10-second cushion. Montoya's race was then ended when his BMW engine gave up the ghost as he came round to complete lap 25, to leave him despondently walking back to the pits, so angered that he would not speak to anyone as he returned to the garage.

Coulthard pitted for 8.6 seconds at the end of lap 27, but almost immediately, and to the smiles of Ferrari's Schumacher, the same fate that had befallen Montoya hit the Briton as he ground to a halt with a blown engine one lap later.

Barrichello was then hit by fuel rig problems when he pitted at the end of lap 32, and sat in his stationary car for nearly 20 seconds while the team sorted the problem. Jarno Trulli then spun out at the Jim Clark curve to end Jordan's disappointing and difficult weekend with team boss Eddie Jordan showing disbelief over the whole event.

Schumacher, still out by the trees where his race had come to an end, listened to commentary an old radio as his brother Ralf, who now looked comfortable for victory, cruised to pull out an almost 50-second gap to Barrichello. Nothing could stop him as he cruised to take the expected Williams victory, and Barrichello, who won in Hockenheim last year, took his Ferrari home to claim a comfortable second place.

With all the retirements, Villeneuve was now up to a podium position for British American Racing, having started 12th on the grid, and amazingly the two Benettons were fourth and fifth, with Fisichella ahead despite a brief spin on lap 43. Jean Alesi claimed the final point for Prost with BAR's Olivier Panis, the arrows pair of Enrique Bernoldi and Jos Verstappen, and Fernando Alonso completing the ten finishers.

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