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Schumacher wins in Melbourne 03 Mar 2002

Reigning world champion Michael Schumacher won the Australian Grand Prix for Ferrari after an incident-packed race, which saw just eight cars make it to the finish. Juan Pablo Montoya was second for Williams, with Kimi Raikkonen making the podium on his McLaren debut.
Drama struck at Albert Park right from the start when the Williams of Ralf Schumacher ran into the rear of pole-position man Rubens Barrichello. As Schumacher was launched skywards chaos ensued behind as everyone tried to avoid the carnage, leading to the retirement of almost half the field.

Ralf Schumacher made an excellent start from third on the grid to immediately pass the Ferrari of his brother. However, as he lined up a pass on Barrichello into the first corner the Brazilian appeared to slow early, leaving the Williams driver nowhere to go. His car flew over the top of the Ferrari, landing damaged in the gravel trap, but with its driver unharmed.

Giancarlo Fisichella's Jordan was then struck from behind as he attempted to weave his way through the debris. The Saubers of Felipe Massa and Nick Heidfeld, the Renault of Jenson Button, the BAR of Olivier Panis and the Toyota of Alan McNish were forced to retire as a result of the incident.

With the safety car out it quickly became clear that the race would not be stopped, despite the drama. At the end of lap one David Coulthard was leading for Mclaren, from Jarno Trulli's Renault and Michael Schumacher's Ferrari, while Raikkonen took advantage of the safety car to pit and replace his damaged nose-cone.

The safety car peeled off on lap five, but was back out just four laps later. Under pressure from Schumacher, Trulli had lost the rear-end of his Renault, spinning it into the wall before coming to a rest precariously in the middle of the track to join team-mate Button in retirement.

With Trulli's car cleared Montoya made the most of the restart two laps laters, getting the jump on Schumacher and powering past the Ferrari. Coulthard was less fortunate, running wide across the grass, dropping him from first to fifth.

For a dramatic five laps Schumacher then did everything he could to find a way past Montoya. He was finally successful on lap 16 after a brave move around the outside of the Colombian and immediately started to power away in the lead.

Montoya soon found himself under pressure from Raikkonen for second, the young Finn putting in a fine performance in his first race for McLaren. However, he couldn't find a way past on the track and had to wait until the pitstops to move into second, thanks to quick work from his mechanics.

Raikkonen's advantage was short lived though. With his new tyres not quite up to temperature he made a minor excursion across the grass, allowing Montoya to retake second place. Despite setting the fastest lap of the race the Finn was unable to find a way back past the Williams and was forced to settle for third.

Coulthard was less fortunate in the other McLaren. On lap 23 his MP4-17 started to slow dramatically with gearbox difficulties and the Jaguar of Eddie Irvine past him for fourth place. Irvine was soon followed by Mark Webber's Minardi and the BAR of Villeneuve. McLaren decided they could do little about Coulthard's problem and instructed him to continue, despite his lack of pace. The car finally expired on lap 26, grinding to a halt at Whiteford and ending Coulthard's hopes of a first 2002 win.

Villeneuve's challenge came to a more dramatic end just three laps after Coulthard's retirement when the rear wing appeared to fail on his BAR, sending him into the gravel at Waite. Unharmed, a motorcycle ride took him back to the pits to join team-mate Panis.

At Jaguar Irvine made the most of the retirements around him to finish fourth, while Pedro de la Rosa trailed the field home five laps down in eighth after several visits to the pits. The team will be very relieved to have already scored their first points of the season.

It was Minardi who drew the biggest applause at the end of the race. Both cars made the finish with local hero Mark Webber taking fifth place on his formula1 debut after fending off a late charge by Mika Salo in the Toyota. Malaysian team-mate Alex Yoong came home seventh. "It's just fantastic," said Minardi boss Paul Stoddart afterwards.

Toyota were pretty pleased too after taking a point for Salo's sixth place in their very first Grand Prix, even though he nearly threw it away when he spun attempting to pass Webber just a lap from home. The car was very quick in a straight line and had Alan McNish not suffered suspension damage in the first-lap incident they may have done even better.

However, Arrows and Jordan experienced miserable days in Melbourne. Arrows saw both their cars stall on the grid and then both their drivers disqualified from the race - Heinz-Harald Frentzen on lap 19 for leaving the pits under a red light and then Enrique Bernoldi on lap 24 for using the spare car to rejoin the race.

At Jordan, first-lap victim Fisichella was joined in retirement by team-mate Takuma Sato, who was forced out by electronics problems on lap 15.

As a rather astonishing Australian GP came to an end, with only 8 cars making it to the chequered flag, Michael Schumacher looked to set to begin 2002 as he ended 2001 - in front of the rest of the pack.
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