Archive for Monday, April 29, 2002

Spanish Grand Prix: Schumacher still winning

Driver earns fourth win in five races

April 29, 2002

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— Michael Schumacher's 57th career victory was among his easiest.

Schumacher led from start to finish, pulling away at one second per lap on the high-speed turns of the Circuit de Catalunya on Sunday to win his second straight Spanish Grand Prix.

The victory was the fourth in five races this season for Schumacher, who seemingly could have lapped the field. Instead, the four-time champion slowed, watching the action from the back.

The victory was Schumacher's 16th in the last 25 races and moved him toward clinching a fifth Formula One season title before the schedule is half over.

He already has 44 points, nearly double that of Juan Pablo Montoya (23). Montoya's BMW-Williams teammate, Ralf Schumacher, is third with 20 points, and McLaren's David Coulthard (9) is fourth.

Schumacher dominated with his backup car after his main car developed hydraulic problems in morning practice.

Asked how to surprise or upset Schumacher, Coulthard said: "Sneak up behind him and go 'boo'."

Schumacher, closing in on Juan Manuel Fangio's record of five season titles, slowed after his pit stop on the 47th lap to avoid tangling with traffic over the final 18 laps.

"I obviously had this group of people in the end in front of me," Schumacher said. "It was sort of interesting to watch the battle for sixth position. It's not only a race for first position. There are races going on for other positions."

Montoya was second, 35.6 seconds behind Schumacher, and was followed by Coulthard (42.6 seconds), Nick Heidfeld of Sauber, Felipe Massa of Sauber and Heinz-Harald Frentzen of Arrows.

Schumacher averaged 126.606 mph in a winning time of 1 hour, 30 minutes, 29.981 seconds.

"There will come circuits that will become very much more difficult for us," Schumacher said. "Here we know that our Bridgestone tires work very well, plus our car is simply phenomenal and it shows very much here."

Montoya, who finished second for the third time this season, said he was fortunate to earn points.

"It was a pretty difficult race for us and I think we did the best with what we had," Montoya said. "I've got to say I'm very pleased to get out of here with second place.

"Today we knew there was nothing we could do against Ferrari. It was just way too quick. Our car didn't have bad balance, it's just not quick enough."

Ferrari's Rubens Barrichello, who qualified second, stalled on the formation lap and then failed to get his car rolling from pit lane because of gearbox problems.

That left Schumacher alone on the front row on an overcast afternoon with temperatures hovering around 65 degrees.

The Minardi team withdrew its cars before the race Sunday after seeing rear and front wings fly off both cars in Saturday and Sunday's practice.

Team owner Paul Stoddart called it the "toughest decision" and said he was making it on "safety grounds" after the front wing on Mark Webber's car dropped off in practice on Saturday. On Sunday, Webber lost the rear wing both times with the car hitting 150 mph down the straight.

Alex Yoong also lost a front wing on Saturday, but Stoddart said that was "due to an accident" rather than a "structural failure."

Montoya ran over the left foot of Carl Gaden, Williams' chief mechanic, on his second pit stop. Montoya pulled away while the car was being refueled. Gaden was knocked to the ground but not injured.

Ferrari leads the constructors' championship with 50 points, seven points ahead of BMW-Williams. McLaren has 13 points after five of 17 races.

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