Barrichello masters the maelstrom - Motor Racing - Sport - The Independent

Barrichello masters the maelstrom

German Grand Prix: Brazilian dedicates emotional victory to memory of Senna as Schumacher spins out at first corner for second race running

He stood, arms by his side, trembling, looked up to the heavens and cried like a baby. All the pent-up emotions of Rubens Barrichello's entire racing career spilled out as he listened to the strains of the Brazilian national anthem. It had not been heard at a Formula One victory ceremony for nearly seven years, since the last win of Ayrton Senna's life. And now it sounded confirmation of Barrichello's maiden success after 123 races. Appropriately, it came with a performance worthy of his revered countryman.

He stood, arms by his side, trembling, looked up to the heavens and cried like a baby. All the pent-up emotions of Rubens Barrichello's entire racing career spilled out as he listened to the strains of the Brazilian national anthem. It had not been heard at a Formula One victory ceremony for nearly seven years, since the last win of Ayrton Senna's life. And now it sounded confirmation of Barrichello's maiden success after 123 races. Appropriately, it came with a performance worthy of his revered countryman.

Barrichello's 10 points, from an absorbing and fluctuating German Grand Prix, denied the McLaren-Mercedes pair, Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard, the opportunity to overtake his own Ferrari team-mate, Michael Schumacher, at the head of the world championship.

Schumacher had been the victim of a first corner skirmish for the second successive race and failed to finish for the fourth grand prix in five. His lead had been reduced from 22 points to two but at least he still had the lead, by two points, from his McLaren rivals.

However, even in front of his home crowd, Schumacher had to defer to another. For a few moments, all the aggression, cynicism and recriminations of the title contest were rendered meaningless. The attention, the admiration and genuine warmth was wrapped around the little Brazilian sobbing his heart out at the top of the rostrum, clutching his national flag.

He wiped his eyes to conduct the Italian anthem and savour the spraying champagne as few have ever done. And then he was hoisted on to the shoulders of Hakkinen and Coulthard, the second and third place drivers, who appreciated the significance and poignancy of Barrichello's achievement.

"I looked up and was really dedicating the race to Ayrton," Barrichello said. "He changed my life because I followed him when I was young. It hurt me quite a lot when I thought about that. A lot of people put me in his place when he died. Some liked that, some didn't. But to those who stayed with me and especially to my father, thank you. To win my first grand prix in a race like this is very special."

Barrichello, starting 17th on the grid (Jenson Button was relegated to the back) after a traumatic qualifying session, drove boldly and ultimately with a master's touch on a wet track to steer his Ferrari beyond reach of the McLarens.

Hakkinen, the leader for three-quarters of the grand prix, played safe, pulled into the pits as rain fell and discarded his dry weather tyres. Coulthard, sensing the chance to capitalise and make up for the earlier confusion which relegated him from second to sixth, followed Barrichello's lead and stayed out on the ever more treacherous track.

For five tense laps Coulthard maintained his pursuit without making any impression on the Ferrari. Then, after sliding wide at a corner and gratefully keeping his McLaren on the circuit, the Scotsman elected to cut his losses and make for the pits.

Barrichello took the flag and the delirious acclaim of the Ferrari team seven and half seconds in front of Hakkinen. Coulthard was a further 14 seconds adrift.

An excellent fourth was the 20-year-old Englishman Button, who provided further evidence of his blossoming talent. He had started at the back after his engine cut out on the grid before the formation lap. Little wonder Benetton are ready to sign him when Williams-BMW announce his release on "loan" to make way for Juan Pablo Montoya.

At the other end of the grid Coulthard, as good as his pre-race word, gave Schumacher a taste of his own medicine, cutting in front of the German. As they concentrated on their own tussle, Hakkinen slipped into the clear. Worse was to come for Schumacher a split-second later. He veered into what he thought was safe territory only to be struck by Giancarlo Fisichella's Benetton. Both cars careered across the gravel and into the barrier.

Schumacher, condemned by Coulthard for his aggressive driving, said: "I was put out of the race because of Fisichella, not David. When it happens to you once you think that's racing but when it happens a second time it's hard to take. Giancarlo said he was sorry but that does not help. He should have braked earlier."

Coulthard tried not to gloat over the irony and demise of the German but did say: "Maybe there is a racing god after all. What goes around comes around. I don't mind whether Michael wants to blame me or not. The stewards are the people who decide what is right and wrong."

Another McLaren white-wash was in prospect, despite Barrichello's charge through the field. But then, midway through the race, a 47-year-old Frenchman, protesting at being dismissed after 22 years' work for Mercedes-Benz, appeared at track-side in a white smock bearing his message. As marshals approached him, he ran across the track, in sight of cars hurtling towards him at 220mph.

The man was finally arrested, but by then the safety car had been sent out. Teams hurriedly called in their drivers for pit-stops, yet although Coulthard was scheduled to make his stop, it was Hakkinen who came in. Coulthard later revealed he had misunderstood instructions over his radio and decided to stay out an extra lap, unaware of the safety car's intervention.

Then the rain made its fateful contribution and Barrichello emerged as a driver and a relieved Schumacher said: "I have got to thank Rubens for keeping my lead in the championship."

Button said ruefully: "I really enjoyed the race and now I'm eighth in the championship - and I am getting the sack!"

Eddie Irvine, driving a Jaguar, was 10th, while his team-mate, Johnny Herbert retired with a gearbox problem.

GERMAN GRAND PRIX (Hockenheim; 45 laps, 307km, 191 miles): 1 R Barrichello (Bra) Ferrari 1hr 25min 34.418sec (ave speed: 215.340 kph,133.834mph); 2 M Hakkinen (Fin) McLaren-Mercedes +7.452sec; 3 D Coulthard (GB) McLaren-Mercedes +21.168; 4 J Button (GB) Williams-BMW +22.685; 5 M Salo (Fin) Sauber+27.112; 6 P de la Rosa (Sp) Arrows +29.079; 7 R Schumacher (Ger) Williams-BMW +30.897; 8 J Villeneuve (Can) BAR-Honda +47.537; 9 J Trulli (It) Jordan +50.901; 10 E Irvine (GB) Jaguar +1:19.664; 11 G Mazzacane (Arg) Minardi +89.504; 12 N Heidfeld (Ger) Prost-Peugeot, + 5 laps. Not Classified: H-H Frentzen (Ger) Jordan 39 laps; J Verstapen, (Neth) Arrows 39; R Zonta (Bra) BAR-Honda 37; M Gene (Sp) Minardi 33; A Wurz (Aut) Benetton 31; P Diniz (Brazil) Sauber, 29; J Alesi (Fr) Prost-Peugeot 29; J Herbert (GB) Jaguar 12; M Schumacher (Ger) Ferrari 0; G Fisichella (It) Benetton 0. Fastest lap: Barrichello, 1:44.300 235.570 kph (146.407 mph).

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