Schumi reigns in Spain
Winning debut for new Ferrari; home star Alonso secondPosted: Sunday May 04, 2003 9:59 AM
Updated: Sunday May 04, 2003 2:11 PM
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) -- Michael Schumacher won the Spanish Grand Prix for the third consecutive year Sunday to close in on Formula One series leader Kimi Raikkonon whose race lasted only seconds.
It was Schumacher's second consecutive win of the season and first in Ferrari's new car. For his career, Schumacher has 66 wins and five Spanish victories.
Spain's Fernando Alonso came second in a Renault, 5.7 seconds behind at the end of 65 laps of the 4.73-kilometer (2.93-mile) Circuit de Catalunya. (Alonso sends home crowds wild)
Rubens Barrichello in the other Ferrari was third, 18 seconds behind.
"It was an almost perfect day. It would have been perfect if we would have gotten second position," Schumacher said.
He was glad to have the new model Ferrari in holding off the Renault of the young Alonso. "The old car would not have made it," Schumacher said.
Alonso still found it exciting.
"It's the fifth consecutive race I finished in the points -- I could only dream of that," he said.
"To be in front of 96,000 people, with all the flags from all over Spain. It was a special moment for me. I will never forget this day and I will try to repeat every time I come here in Barcelona."
Fourth and fifth were the Williams-BMWs of Juan Pablo Montoya and Ralf Schumacher. The younger Schumacher was more than a lap behind his brother.
Michael Schumacher, after not being in the top three of the first three races, has won the last two to close within four points of Raikkonen in the drivers' standings.
Raikkonen kept his lead in the standings despite finishing Sunday almost as soon as he began.
He had to start from last after not recording a qualifying time. Then he ran into the back of Antonio Pizzonia's Jaguar which had barely started. As the other cars sped off, Raikkonen stopped about 30 meters from his grid position.
"I got off the line quickly and behind one of the Minardis when all of a sudden there was nowhere to go but into the back of the stationary Pizzonia," Raikkonen said. "A real shame but it's one of those things which can happen when you start from the back."
Schumacher saw Raikkonen on the side of the track the first time around.
"At that moment you were aware he couldn't get any points today and we just do our job and get the maximum number of points," Schumacher said.
It was a wasted weekend for Raikkonen. He ran into the gravel in Saturday's qualifying and failed to record a time after being told by his team to come to the pits.
Last year was only a little better. He lasted four laps before a rear wing went off.
While Raikkonen was stopping, the race was nearly done for the first two Ferraris and Alonso at the first turn. While Schumacher shot ahead, Alonso tried to squeeze ahead of Barrichello.
Barrichello, protecting his position, came up alongside Schumacher and was nearly pushed off the track.
At one point Barrichello edged ahead.
"Rubens was in front. He braked very late and I didn't expect him," Schumacher said. "I was still there and I had to go over the inside curb a little bit. We just avoided each other. That's the way it has to be. That's racing."
Barrichello went briefly into the dirt but controlled the car and held off Alonso to stay in second.
When the leaders came around to the finish line at the end of the first lap, the safety car was on the track and stayed there until the fifth lap when the real racing resumed.
Alonso was the first of the contenders to pit for fuel and tires at the end of 17 laps. Barrichello lost second place when he came in on lap 20.
"To stop a little bit earlier than him (Schumacher) was an advantage," Alonso said. "I went back on the track and gained a few seconds on him."
Schumacher had a lead of 2 seconds over Alonso at that point and upped it gradually.
By 25 laps it was 4.8. Then the leaders started lapping cars and Schumacher did it better than Alonso, raising his margin to 7.1 at the end of 30 laps.
Schumacher, Alonso and Barrichello, meanwhile, maintained the top three positions after the second and third pit stops. Although Alonso cut the gap to under five seconds in lap 48, Schumacher built the margin back up over the last 15 laps.
Sixth was Cristiano Da Matta in a Toyota, his first points of the season. Mark Webber was seventh in a Jaguar and Ralph Firman eighth in a Jordan.
It was a disastrous day for the McLaren team which also saw David Coulthard go out in the 17th lap.
"We will now put this difficult weekend behind us and look to the future," team boss Ron Dennis said.
Coulthard and Renault's Jarno Trulli tangled heading into the second turn, putting Trulli out of the race and Coulthard at the back of the pack.
"Jarno ran into the back of me," Coulthard said. "I had to pit but there was some damage to the floor which made the car difficult to drive."
Coulthard made it up to 11th before he was bumped out of the race by Jenson Button's BAR-Honda.
McLaren won the first two races of the season with Coulthard in Australia and Raikkonen in Malaysia.
The next race is the Austrian Grand Prix.