Champions ride their luck to an unlikely one-two
After being soundly beaten at Spa two weeks previously, Ferrari knew they had to regain their form if they were to avoid the ultimate embarrassment - a defeat on home soil in front of the unforgiving tifosi. And find it they did. A one-two finish was the result, but the champions made a meal of it to say the least. So much so in fact, that their rivals were left reeling, not quite able to believe they had lost even after such huge mistakes from the red team.
Practice was a close-run affair, with Williams, McLaren and Renault and BAR all mixing it with Ferrari. In qualifying though, Rubens Barrichello proved unbeatable, with Juan Pablo Montoya squeezing ahead of Schumacher to prevent an all-scarlet front row.
With race day came the unexpected - rain. Though the track was rapidly drying by the time the cars took to the grid, there was still a tyre dilemma - intermediates or dries. Most went for the latter, but poleman Barrichello opted for the former. It was a decision he quickly regretted. Despite seizing the lead at the start he was struggling within a handful of laps and was forced to make an unscheduled stop, handing the lead to Fernando Alonso and then Jenson Button.
But the Brazilians misfortune was nothing compared to his team mate's. Michael Schumacher made contact with Button at the second chicane on lap one, spun, and dropped to 15th. His fight back through the field was impressive. Both he and Barrichello found pace that simply decimated the opposition. It allowed Barrichello to regain, and keep, the lead, despite his extra stop, and Schumacher to move all the way back to second by the flag. Button, who had genuinely looked set for his and BARs maiden win, was unable to respond and had to be content with yet another podium. Alonsos hopes ended when he spun into the gravel 13 laps from home, while early contender Montoya was hampered by an engine management glitch which left him fifth behind the BAR of Takuma Sato.
Despite Ferraris dominance, it was a very good day for BAR. Their 11-point haul, coupled with Renaults failure to score, lifted them into second place in the constructors championship. It was not such a good day for Gianmaria Bruni. The Minardi driver was caught in the midst of a dramatic pit lane fire and was forced to retire from his home race. Fortunately it looked much worse than it was, and the Italian was unhurt.
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