Schumacher ends jinx in controversial finish

May 13, 2002


SPIELBERG (Austria), May 12: Michael Schumacher took one of the most controversial wins of his Formula One career in Austria Sunday as his Brazilian team mate Rubens Barrichello ceded the lead seconds from the finish.

It was the second Ferrari one-two of the season, Schumacher’s fourth victory in a row, the 58th of his career and Ferrari’s 149th.

It was also an undeserved triumph, a cynical win that came at the same circuit where team orders last year also forced Barrichello to yield to him — in that case for second place.

There was uproar and consternation when Barrichello, who had led from pole, slowed just metres from the chequered flag as Schumacher sped past for his first ever win in Austria.

That completed the German’s set of grand prix trophies, having now won at every circuit on the calendar and the four-time world champion now has a lead of 27 points in the championship race over Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya, who was third.

The furore was barely abated by the German allowing Barrichello, who seemed to be fighting off the tears, to stand on top of the podium alongside him at the end of an action-packed and potentially tragic race.

Until the final few seconds, Barrichello had done everything right. He had been fastest in practice, qualified on pole and led for 70 of the 71 laps. Schumacher had never challenged him during the race or attempted to overtake him.

Montoya’s Williams team mate Ralf Schumacher was fourth, while Italian Giancarlo Fisichella picked up Jordan’s first points of the season in fifth place.

McLaren’s David Coulthard was sixth.

Barrichello led from pole and was followed by Schumacher, and it soon became apparent that once again Ferrari were in a different race to the rest.

The Brazilian lapped Malaysian Alex Yoong after just 15 laps, by which time he was also 25 seconds clear of third placed Ralf.

Jordan’s Japanese rookie Takuma Sato had a miraculous escape on lap 28, moments after the safety car had come in following an incident that left Frenchman Olivier Panis’s BAR stranded on the pit straight.

The Japanese was among the backmarkers, being lapped on the inside by the Williams of Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya, when his car was hit broadside by Nick Heidfeld’s out of control Sauber.

The German had skidded while approaching the Remus curve, careering backwards across the grass runoff and slamming into the side of Sato’s Jordan.

The Sauber missed Montoya by a fraction, skimming in front of his car, but shattered the front right of the Jordan in a cloud of debris.

Heidfeld, clearly in shock at what had happened, crouched by the barriers while a medical team attended to Sato.

Sato, whose season has been punctuated by incident and misfortune, waved feebly in the immediate aftermath of the accident but stayed in the car for an agonisingly long time.

A sheet was held up in front of the car and the driver was finally extricated, put on a drip and taken on a stretcher to a waiting ambulance.

Officials said later that Sato was concussed but had no other injuries.

“(Chief medical officer) Sid Watkins told Eddie Jordan that Sato has had a miraculous escape,” said Jordan official Mark Gallagher.

“Somebody up there likes him,” commented team boss Eddie Jordan, who left his position on the pit wall to check on his driver’s condition.

Results (a 71-lap race):

1. Michael Schumacher (Germany) Ferrari One hour 33 minutes and 51.562 seconds (average speed of 196.344 khp); 2. Rubens Barrichello (Brazil) Ferrari 1:33.51.744; 3. Juan Pablo Montoya (Colombia) Williams 1:34.09.292; 4. Ralf Schumacher (Germany) Williams 1:34.10.010; 5. Giancarlo Fisichella (Italy) Jordan 1:34.41.527; 6. David Coulthard (Britain) McLaren 1:34.42.234 7. Jenson Button (Britain) Renault 1:34.42.791; 8. Mika Salo (Finland) Toyota 1:35.00.987; 9. Allan McNish (Britain) Toyota 1:34.01.270; 10. Jacques Villeneuve (Canada) BAR one lap behind; 11. Heinz-Harald Frentzen (Germany) Arrows two laps; 12. Mark Webber (Australia) Minardi two laps.

Not classified (did not finish): Jarno Trulli (Italy) Renault 44 laps completed; Alex Yoong (Malaysia) Minardi 42; Eddie Irvine (Britain) Jaguar 38; Nick Heidfeld (Germany) Sauber 27; Takuma Sato (Japan) Jordan 26; Olivier Panis (France) BAR 22; Felipe Massa (Brazil) Sauber 7; Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) McLaren 5; Enrique Bernoldi (Brazil) Arrows 2; Pedro de la Rosa (Spain) Jaguar 0.—Reuters