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Race review - Schumacher takes vital win 14 Sep 2003

(L to R): Juan Pablo Montoya (COL) Williams, Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari and Rubens Barrichello (BRA) Ferrari on the podium.
Formula One World Championship, Rd14, Italian Grand Prix, Race Day, Monza, Italy, 14 September 2003

It was the victory that Michael Schumacher and Ferrari desperately needed to keep themselves fully in play for the world championship, and it came in style. It was his 50th for Ferrari, in its back yard, and increased his championship lead.

Juan Pablo Montoya tried to go round the German in the second chicane on the first lap, and actually nosed ahead initially, but Schumacher kept his nerve and emerged in the lead from the corner. After that he never looked back. Montoya pushed him all the way and was within 0.9s of him after 29 of the 53 laps. Both made two refuelling stops, and though Montoya attacked again after his second on lap 36 (the same as Schumacher's), his cause was not helped when both Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Zsolt Baumgartner baulked him while being lapped. From1.2s on the 39th lap, the gap suddenly stretched to 5.8s on the 44th thanks to the momentum that the Colombian lost, and after that he eased off to be sure of another eight damage-limiting points, which maintained his average of eight points a race since Monte Carlo.

"This win is for the fans," a delighted Schumacher said, as he savoured stretching his world championship points lead by a further two points to 82. Montoya has 79.

"There were many things that come together here," Schumacher said. "And quite a while ago since we won last. We've had some tough races behind us. Then we had the summer break and a big push in the team and at the factory, everyone was very motivated, more than 100 percent. Unbelievable. I was able to pay some back yesterday with pole, but this was one of the greatest days of my career. I am so in love with all those guys, a big thank you!

"It was tight in the first corner and almost didn't make the chicane, and Juan came on the outside and we had a nice fight. Very hard but fair, and vital to win the race."

Montoya, who had enjoyed a better stint, said: "I think it was pretty good, that first lap! On the first set of tyres it was okay, but we made a lot of ground in the second. Then we were pretty close but I lost time in traffic, so after that I paced myself to the end. It would have been very hard to pass Michael anyway."

Montoya said he did not believe that Ferrari's result had anything to do with the regulation change concerning the tread width of his Michelin front tyres.

In the leaders' wake Rubens Barrichello just kept the upper hand over a challenging Kimi Raikkonen, the two finishing less than a second apart, six and half behind Montoya. Raikkonen drops from two points behind Schumacher to seven, on 75, but is still in the championship hunt.

David Coulthard should have taken fifth but suffered wretched fortune as mechanical failure took him out on the start of the 46th lap, allowing Marc Gene to bring his Williams home fifth a further 15s back.

In the constructors' world championship, Williams is still at the front, on 141 points, but Ferrari has closed back up with 137 and McLaren has an outside chance still with 120.

There was drama from the start as Justin Wilson's Jaguar developed a gearbox problem at the start. Fernando Alonso, starting from the last row, went over the back of Jos Verstappen as they swerved in avoidance. The Renault needed repairs but the Spaniard fought his way through and in an extraordinary sequence at the end benefited from the misfortune of Sauber.

First Heinz-Harald Frentzen dropped out of seventh place on the 51st lap; then Alonso passed Nick Heidfeld for eighth and the final point in the closing laps. Ahead of him, Jacques Villeneuve had a reliable run to sixth for BAR, which moves the team ahead of Jaguar again, even though Mark Webber managed to finish seventh. Jenson Button was chasing Villeneuve, after losing out to him in the first chicane, but also dropped out with mechanical trouble.

Jarno Trulli made a blistering start to challenge Montoya initially for second place, but failed to complete the opening lap due to mechanical trouble. Olivier Panis' Toyota was also a points contender, but dropped out of contention for the eventual sixth place for the same reason. Team mate Cristiano da Matta made a spectacular exit at Parabolica earlier on when his left rear tyre lost its tread.

The scene is now set for a fascinating finish to the season, to be continued at the penultimate race at Indianapolis in a fortnight's time.

Click here for the race results in full.