Race review - Montoya dominates Germany 03 Aug 2003
Juan Pablo Montoya put a clear marker down for his challenge for the Drivers' Championship this afternoon with one of the most dominant drives in a Formula One race for several years. The Colombian led a depleted field home at Hockenheim to win the German Grand Prix by a massive 65.7 second margin, his lead never in serious question throughout the race.
Michael Schumacher had some imperious victories in 2002, but usually he had team mate Rubens Barrichello within striking distance. Montoya's team mate, Ralf Schumacher, wrote himself out of the script right at the start, when he moved to the left to defend his entry to the first corner against a challenge from Rubens Barrichello, and ended up pinching the Brazilian into a collision with Kimi Raikkonen, who exited the race spectacularly there and then as his badly damaged McLaren spun into the tyre wall. Barrichello's Ferrari similarly went no further, while Schumacher Jnr only limped as far as the pits before retiring with heavy left-hand sidepod damage. The incident may yet prove to have a catastrophic effect on the championship aspirations of all three drivers.
Initially Montoya was only able to ease away from the fast-starting Renaults of Jarno Trulli and Fernando Alonso, and Michael Schumacher's Ferrari, once the safety car had pulled back into the pits on the fourth lap after being deployed on the first. But soon the Colombian's three-stop strategy enabled him to open up a lead. He lost that to Alonso on lap 18, with his first refuelling stop, but thereafter he was so crushingly dominant that he could stop again on laps 33 and 50 without remotely being threatened.
Schumacher and the Renaults were on two-stop strategies, and as Trulli and his Spanish team mate contained the world champion on his hard-compound Bridgestone tyres, Montoya never looked back. His sole problem was the mysterious loss of 10 kph off his top speed - "When it happened in the stadium around lap 15 I thought, 'Oh God, not again!'" Montoya admitted - but it was not sufficient to hamper his ability to pull away from his pursuers.
The Renaults and Schumacher squabbled among themselves until Alonso slid momentarily off the road going into the stadium on the 31st lap, whereupon Schumacher grabbed third. It was not until the dramatic 59th lap, however, that his persistence paid off with Trulli. Schumacher went round the outside of the Renault at the hairpin, and simply out-dragged the Anglo-French car as Trulli held him out wide on the tarmac run-off area. A lap later, having steadily moved up from an initial sixth place behind Mark Webber's Jaguar on the opening lap, on-form David Coulthard pulled off a similar move on Trulli, even though the Italian held him wide almost for the length of the ensuing straight. After that the Renault challenge faded, as Trulli focused on keeping the recovering Alonso behind him.
By the line they were nose to tail, but not fourth and fifth as they should have been. On the 63rd lap Schumacher suddenly slowed with a punctured left rear tyre, and by the time he had crept round to the pits he had fallen to seventh place behind the Toyotas of Olivier Panis and Cristiano da Matta. Their haul of seven championship points pushed Toyota from ninth place to sixth in the World Championship for Constructors.
The final point fell to Jenson Button and BAR after a strong drive, and was only cemented when a challenging Webber slid into the gravel at the stadium with a lap to go.
Michael Schumacher now leads Montoya by only six points in the title chase - 71 to 65 - with Raikkonen, Ralf Schumacher and Barrichello staying as they were. Alonso and Coulthard, however, move within striking range of the Brazilian.
In the constructors' stakes, Ferrari has 120 but BMW Williams is in hot pursuit with118 and McLaren has 103.
For the race results in full click here.