Schumacher wins British thriller 11 Jul 2004
Champion pressured all the way by McLaren
Michael Schumacher survived a late scare to narrowly beat Kimi Raikkonen in an exciting British Grand Prix at Silverstone.
He said that it was just different after scoring his 80th Grand Prix victory, but the manner of the world champions success had a very familiar ring to it.
Michael Schumacher started fourth on the grid, chasing polesitter and runaway early leader Kimi Raikkonen, team mate Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button, stopped later than all of them (lap 15), and thereafter controlled the race, making the most of a two-stop strategy, with his key rivals all on three-stoppers.
Not even the deployment of the safety car on the 40th lap, after Jarno Trullis Renault crashed very heavily on the exit to Bridge after a suspected suspension failure, had any negative effect on his progress.
Just before the incident he was holding a 0.4 second lead over Raikkonen, but was safe in the knowledge that the Finn still had a stop to make. But when racing resumed on the 46th lap, his rival had made that stop and was just 0.2s behind the Ferrari. Nevertheless, Schumacher shrugged off Raikkonens determined challenge and raced home 2.1s clear.
Towards the end it was more a case of fending off Barrichello than attacking Schumacher for Raikkonen, but the Finn was equal to the task and held off the Brazilian by just under a second.
In the championship race Schumacher now has 100 points to Barrichellos 74, while Jenson Buttons lonely fourth place today, just over 10s behind Schumacher, moves him further clear of the challenging Trulli. Button has 53, Trulli, who was unharmed in his frightening incident, 46.
Giancarlo Fisichella, who started last on the grid, could have taken fifth for Sauber, but a slightly longer than planned second and final fuel stop, to top up falling engine air pressure, dropped him behind Juan Pablo Montoyas Williams, which finished just a second clear.
There was a similarly close fight for the final point. David Coulthard brought his McLaren MP4-19B home seventh, ahead of a big scrap between Mark Webbers Jaguar and Felipe Massas Sauber. The Brazilian lost time in his second stop when a software problem momentarily prevented him from engaging first gear, and the delay proved crucial.
In a relatively quiet race (Trullis accident apart), Fernando Alonso could do no better than 10th ahead of Takuma Sato who lost ground after a super battle early on with Montoya. Marc Gene was a disappointed 12th ahead of Cristiano da Matta, Christian Klien, Nick Heidfeld and Gianmaria Bruni.
Olivier Panis was the first retirement, his Toyota roiling to a halt on lap 17 after the onboard fire extinguisher set itself off and he went into the gravel. Zsolt Baumgartners Minardi stopped at Copse on lap 30, and after Trullis shunt on lap 40, Giorgio Pantano spun off at Abbey after putting the right rear wheel in the dirt.
There was also drama in the Minardi pit. Gianmaria Bruni was given a drive-through penalty just prior to the second of his three scheduled pit stops for a blue flag infringement. During that pit stop, a misunderstanding saw the Italian attempt to leave the pit before the refuelling nozzle had been fully disengaged from the car, several members of the crew sustaining minor injuries as a result. Bruni went on to finish 16th.