Scarlet cars return to a one-two finish formation
Last years Spanish Grand Prix saw Michael Schumachers and Ferrari's fifth successive win of the season, as once again a superlative race strategy kept the world champions a step ahead of their ever-improving rivals, who were left to fight over third place.
Following a pattern set at the previous round at Imola, Ferrari blitzed Fridays opening practice and then, apparently happy with their progress, took a back seat for the second in which BARs Jenson Button led the way. Saturdays final session hinted that qualifying would be another Ferrari-BAR battle, as Takuma Sato narrowly outpaced Michael Schumacher.
In the end it was the world champion who proved unbeatable. In a reversal of the preceding San Marino meeting, this time it was Button who made the crucial error to end up 14th on the grid. Schumachers lap wasnt perfect, but it was still good enough to beat Williams Juan Pablo Montoya by over half a second. It was left to Takuma Sato to maintain BARs honour. The Japanese driver was third fastest, his best ever qualifying performance at the time.
Come the race and grid spots one to three were rendered irrelevant by the fast-starting Renault of Jarno Trulli. The Italian rocketed from fourth to first by Turn One and held off Schumacher until the first round of stops. From there though, the champion took the lead and with it control of the race - or, more accurately, Ferrari did.
A regular three-stop strategy kept Schumacher ahead until the flag, despite a broken exhaust, while a two-stopper for Rubens Barrichello (one of only three men on such a strategy) helped vault the Brazilian from fifth to second to ensure another scarlet one-two.
Sato was unable to match his qualifying performance, and was forced to give best to the Renaults of Trulli and Fernando Alonso, while for Williams and McLaren it was another difficult afternoon. The former underestimated the amount of brake cooling needed. The error forced Montoya to retire and left Ralf Schumacher down in sixth with a very long brake pedal.
McLaren at least got both cars to the finish, though race pace was sorely lacking. With David Coulthard tenth and Kimi Raikkonen 11th, the Mercedes-powered team found themselves beaten by both Saubers (crucially on two-stoppers). Button, meanwhile, clawed his was back up to eighth to take the final point, albeit a lap down on the leaders.
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