Motor Racing: German wins to tighten his grip

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The Independent Online
MICHAEL SCHUMACHER and his colleagues dispensed with the champagne shower, confining themselves to the basic formalities on the podium. This had not been a day, or a weekend, for celebration.

Schumacher inherited the lead in this cruelly fated San Marino Grand Prix when Ayrton Senna's Williams-Renault plunged into the wall and he was effectively in command for the rest of the race.

The 25-year-old German maintained his concentration to the end, claiming his third consecutive victory in his Benetton-Ford and tightening his grip on the Formula One world championship.

Second, to the joy of the locals, who poured on to the track doubtless unaware of the severity of Senna's condition, was Ferrari's Nicola Larini. Third was Mika Hakkinen, in a McLaren-Peugeot, fourth Karl Wendlinger, in a Sauber-Mercedes, fifth Ukyo Katayama, driving a Tyrrell-Yamaha and sixth Britain's Damon Hill, in the other Williams.

Schumacher's only problem after the restart was presented by the red Ferrari Gerhard Berger stuck in his path. Schumacher was still ahead on aggregate times, but trailing the stubborn Austrian on the road. Schumacher harried and probed, eventually forcing his way past on the 13th lap. The grand prix was in his control.

Berger and the rest were never able to come to terms with his pace and judgement. Berger, who survived an inferno at Tamburello five years ago, retired after 15 laps. He had run over debris from Senna's accident and even after a pit stop was unhappy with the car's handling.

He said: 'The car was very nervous, very difficult to drive. When I went through Temburello I could not go flat, so I decided there was no point to go on.'

Berger's retirement handed the Ferrari standard to Larini, deputising for the injured Jean Alesi, and his disciplined performance earned the Italian team third podium finish in as many races.

Hakkinen gave a similarly composed effort to provide the new McLaren-Peugeot combination their first points. The young Finn said: 'It was exciting, but our problem all weekend was lack of straight-line speed and I knew we would have problems overtaking.'

His compatriot, J J Lehto, making his first appearance for Benetton after missing the opening two races through injury, did not leave the grid. When the lights turned to green, he sat helpless, stationary as cars started left and right of him.

Portugal's Pedro Lamy, however, sensed the problem too late. His Lotus-Mugen smashed into the left rear of the Benetton, sending debris high into the air. Some of it fell over the fence, injuring eight spectators and a policeman. One piece landed on the roof of the stand.

The incident evoked dark memories of the accident which killed Italy's Ricardo Paletti at the start of the 1982 Canadian Grand Prix. He ploughed into the back of Didier Pironi's stalled Ferrari. Fortunately, Lamy and Lehto walked away.

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