Schumacher wins in Austria after pitstop scarePosted: Sunday May 18, 2003 10:15 AM
Updated: Sunday May 18, 2003 1:17 PM
SPIELBERG, Austria (AP) -- Michael Schumacher overcame a fiery pitstop to win the Austrian Grand Prix on Sunday, closing within two points of Formula One leader Kimi Raikkonen.
Schumacher won his third straight race and the 67th of his career. The five-time Formula One champion, who failed to finish in the top three in the first three races of the season, has 38 points, compared to Raikkonen's 40 after six races.
"It was an interesting and entertaining race," Schumacher said. "It started to run our way and then the pitstop came.
"Seeing the fire was not nice but I think the guys reacted very well with the extinguishers."
Schumacher finished 3.3 seconds ahead of Raikkonen's McLaren-Mercedes in the 69-lap race on the 4.32-kilometer (2.69-mile) A1-Ring. Schumacher's Ferrari teammate, Rubens Barrichello, was third, 3.9 seconds behind. Jenson Button was fourth in a BAR-Honda, and David Coulthard of McLaren finished fifth.
The last Austrian GP -- next year its replaced by Bahrain and China -- was originally for 71 laps, but it was shortened after Cristiano da Matta's Toyota stalled twice just before the original start, making the cars go through two additional warmup laps
Schumacher's crew had to battle flames during a pit stop after the 23rd lap when excess fuel coming out of the hose briefly caught fire. The crew quickly sprayed foam on the side of the car to extinguish the flames.
"I guess the mechanics thought I was a little too cool and wanted to warm me up," Schumacher joked.
Schumacher's stop took more than 20 seconds, well over the usual 10 seconds.
Throughout it all, Schumacher remained calm, staying in his car and nonchalantly wiping the foam away from his visor as he pulled away and moved into third place behind Juan Pablo Montoya and Raikkonen.
"I was watching around and seeing what was going on," Schumacher said. "You know you have protection. You have the overalls. You know you can survive for a good while."
The order changed quickly on the 32nd lap. As Montoya's engine failed in a trail of smoke, Schumacher passed Raikkonen and moved into the lead, stretching his advantage to 2.6 seconds after 33 laps.
Schumacher pitted after the 42nd lap and slipped to third behind Raikkonen and Barrichello. He regained the lead when Raikkonen and Barrichello pitted after the 51st lap and was not challenged the rest of the way as he maintained a lead of nearly 10 seconds over Raikkonen.
"We saw all weekend that our consistency was very good, our performance was great," Schumacher said. "We have a fantastic car. We know that."
It was the second consecutive victory for the new Ferrari model.
Schumacher slowed down in the final laps while Barrichello challenged Raikkonen for second, almost getting ahead with three laps left.
"With a little bit more I could have gone in front," Barrichello said. "But he kept his line."
"After that he improved a little bit in the pace and I wasn't quick enough," Barrichello added. "It was difficult to try to get by."
Raikkonen was satisfied that he managed to hold on to second.
"It was the best we could do today," he said.
Ralf Schumacher in a Williams-BMW was sixth, followed by Mark Webber in a Jaguar, who had to start out of the pits and had a stop-and-go penalty.
Jarno Trulli in a Renault was eighth. His teammate Fernando Alonso, dropped out after 45 laps, the first time he was out of the points this season.
The next race is the Monaco Grand Prix in two weeks.