Originally created 05/13/02

Schumacher wins Austrian GP after Barrichello yields



SPIELBERG, Austria -- Michael Schumacher didn't need the fastest car to win the Austrian Grand Prix.

Schumacher cruised to victory Sunday when Ferrari teammate Rubens Barrichello - following team orders - yielded the lead in the final straightaway, allowing the four-time world champion to take the checkered flag.

Barrichello, the polesitter who led the entire race, settled for second as Schumacher claimed his first Austrian GP and fifth victory in six races this season.

"It was probably the wrong decision to do it this way, I am not very happy," Schumacher said. "I take no joy from this victory."

A disappointed Barrichello, who had his contract with Ferrari extended last week, stood by the call by his team.

"It's a team decision, I just signed another two-year contract," Barrichello said. "I was asked to do it. Obviously, I wish they hadn't said anything today."

Juan Pablo Montoya finished third, just ahead of BMW-Williams teammate Ralf Schumacher, the younger brother of Michael.

Schumacher, trying to win a record-tying fifth Formula One title, defended the way in which he claimed his 58th career victory.

"I know the decision is not popular, but imagine if we had lost the championship by this number of points at the end of the season - the team would look stupid," said Schumacher, who increased his lead in the standings to 27 points.

Ferrari team officials said the strategy of putting Schumacher ahead of Barrichello would continue until their is no risk that the German could lose the championship.

"Michael broke his leg in '98. Anything could happen in the championship. We don't take the slightest chances," said Ross Brawn, Ferrari's technical director.

Team chief Jean Todt defended the decision to have Schumacher pass Barrichello.

"Sometimes one has to take difficult decisions and today was one of those times," Todt said. "In the past we lost the title in the last race three times in a row and we have to make the most of every situation."

The bizarre ending drew boos from the crowd and grumbles from other teams.

"In 22 years of auto racing I had never seen something disgusting like this," Patrick Head, technical director for BMW-Williams, said.

Schumacher talked with Barrichello and patted his teammate on the cheek after the race.

During the victory ceremony, Schumacher stepped down and let Barrichello take the winner's place while the German national anthem played. Barrichello smiled and the drivers shared the podium for Italy's national anthem, played for the winning team.

It was not the first time Barrichello let Schumacher pass near the end of a race. In last year's Austrian GP, Barrichello let Schumacher take second place.

"I am not very pleased about this, obviously, neither of us is. I have to thank Rubens, he had an outstanding race," Schumacher said.

"Last year, I was much more closely involved in the championship and this time it didn't even cross my mind."

Schumacher is trying to match Juan Manuel Fangio's record of five Formula One championships.

"Surely, this wasn't the way I wanted to win the race, but I have to thank him for the 10 points," Schumacher said.

Asked if he would ever return the favor, Schumacher said, "The way he's running now, he's going to win a race sooner or later, without me."

Schumacher covered 71 laps on the A1-Ring in 1 hour, 33 minutes, 51.562 seconds. Barrichello was .182 seconds behind. Montoya, who lost ground to Schumacher in the driver's standings, was 17.730 seconds back.

Giancarlo Fisichella was fifth in a Jordan-Honda, and David Coulthard, the defending champion, was sixth in a McLaren-Mercedes.

Michael Schumacher started third, but beat his brother to the first curve to move into second place.

Barrichello was more than 30 seconds ahead of third-place Ralf Schumacher when the pace car came out for the first time on lap 25, after the engine of Olivier Panis' BAR-Honda caught fire.

The two Ferraris immediately went to the pit area for fresh tires and fuel.

Japanese driver Takuma Sato sustained minor injuries in a collision with Nick Heidfeld on the 28th lap.

Sato's manager, Andrew Gilbert-Scott, said the driver injured his right thumb, but did not appear to have any broken bones. He said Sato was to be kept overnight in Graz's University Hospital for observation.

Both cars virtually disintegrated in the crash, but Heidfeld walked away from the accident.