Champion overcomes exhaust problem for Spanish win
Another commanding victory in Barcelona gives Michael Schumacher five wins from five starts in 2004, equalling the season-start record set by Nigel Mansell back in 1992.
The big question remaining is how many more records he can break during the course of the season, now that he is 18 points clear of team mate Rubens Barrichello in the championship.
Schumachers scored his victory despite nursing a mechanical problem on his Ferrari, a fractured exhaust, that required him to ease his pace during the closing stages of the race. But apart from the flat exhaust note you wouldnt have noticed.
It was business as usual not just for the world champion, but also for team mate Rubens Barrichello. While Schumacher opted for a three-stop strategy and soared into the distance once fast-starting Jarno Trulli had pitted on lap nine and handed him a lead he would never thereafter lose, Barrichello went for two stops and followed him home with barely a backward glance. From pole position number 59 Schumacher scored win number 75. It goes without saying that he also set fastest lap (number 60).
Ross [Brawn] told me about problem in my first stop, Schumacher said. This time the team heard the problem earlier than me. I didnt feel it at that time and then it developed worse and became obvious to me. I just reduced the revs. Any exhaustion I felt was mental as a result, rather than physical. You expect any moment to stop, not to finish, so when it worked it was quite mixed emotions.
Behind the red cars, Trulli made a fantastic start -right on the limit of a jump start, he admitted. But once he lost the lead to Schumacher and then second place because of Barrichellos bold strategy, he was left to battle his way home to the first podium of his season. Though team mate Fernando Alonso (the crowds favourite) was hounding him to the line, the Italian said he had everything under control and was just playing to create a big impact for Renault at the finish.
This means a lot for me, and for my team, Trulli said. Weve been very close many times, and some small mistakes from me, or some misfortune, took it away, so Im pleased to be here today and I hope its not the last time this year! I have a friend at home who is fighting a battle, and I want to give this podium for him.
Behind Alonso, who drove strongly after his relatively lacklustre qualifying performance, Takuma Sato had to be content with a strongly driven fifth place for BAR. It wasnt quite the result that either the Japanese racer or the Honda team had been hoping for, but it was the best either could do on the day. Further back, team-mate Jenson Button was unable to stage the hoped-for charge towards the front once the race began as he became embroiled in a fight with the McLarens and had to bide his time. Eventually he broke through on the pit stops to claim eighth place, though a mechanical problem obliged him to ease his pace towards the end.
Separating the BAR teamsters were Ralf Schumacher, who drove unobtrusively to sixth place after a strong challenge from Giancarlo Fisichella. Together with Sauber team mate Felipe Massa, the Italian opted for two stops and scored his first points for the team. Massa blamed flat-spotting his tyres in a thwarted overtaking move early in the race for the lost ground that cost him his chance of a point.
David Coulthard and Kimi Raikkonen were 10th and 11th for McLaren, ahead of Mark Webber, who complained of lack of grip in his Jaguar. Cristiano da Matta completed the finishers for Toyota.
The most notable retirement was Juan Pablo Montoya, who dropped from sixth place after a lengthy pit stop prompted by mechanical gremlins on the 46th lap.
Schumacher now leads the title race with 50 points to Barrichellos 32 and Buttons 24, while in the constructors stakes Ferrari have 82, Renault remain second with 42, and BAR are third with 32, two ahead of Williams. McLaren remain fifth, but Sauber move up to sixth.