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Race review - Ralf Schumacher wins at home 29 Jun 2003

Ralf Schumacher (GER) Williams BMW FW25.
Formula One World Championship, Rd9, European Grand Prix, Race Day, Nurburgring, Germany, 29 June 2003

Yet another chapter in the 2003 season of gripping Grands Prix was written at the Nurburgring this afternoon. An incident-filled race finally ended in a clean-sweep one-two finish for Williams as Ralf Schumacher comfortably led home team mate Juan Pablo Montoya. The result earned the Anglo-German team 18 points and moved it ahead of McLaren for second place in the constructors' world championship.

That was the final sting for McLaren, on an afternoon when Kimi Raikkonen looked to be heading comfortably for his second Grand Prix victory until his engine blew up spectacularly on the 26th lap when he was almost five seconds clear of Ralf and Michael Schumacher.

To add insult to injury, McLaren also lost David Coulthard within sight of the finish. The Scot had been pushing Fernando Alonso, who looked to be struggling under braking, hard for fourth place throughout the closing stages. On the 57th lap Coulthard jinked left on the approach to the chicane to pass. Alonso defended his position and Coulthard, presented with a slowing Renault, chose to swerve right but put a wheel on the grass and spun spectacularly into retirement in a gravel trap.

That incident played further into Michael Schumacher's hands. After a slow start lost him second place to his younger brother, the world champion was in contention until his second pit stop, after which he found himself being challenged by Montoya for second place. On the approach to Turn 7 Montoya got a good run on Schumacher and slipped ahead on the outer line. As Montoya turned into the corner, Schumacher ran up the inside kerb, but then appeared to run wide. As the Ferrari's front wing tagged the Williams' right-hand sidepod, the Ferrari spun and became momentarily beached in the gravel until three marshals and an interloping fan helped to push him clear. Thereafter Schumacher appeared set for sixth place until Coulthard's retirement earned him an extra point. By the flag he only just failed to catch Alonso for fourth.

Behind them Mark Webber used intelligent strategy to bring his Jaguar home sixth, with BAR's Jenson Button and Sauber's Nick Heidfeld (who started from the pit lane) taking the final points.

"The car was perfect all afternoon," Ralf Schumacher said after the race. "And I cannot remember a team doing such a good job to turn itself round after the start of a season."

It was indeed an impressive performance, but it was hard not to spare a thought for Raikkonen, who could so easily have regained his championship lead.