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Rediff.com  » Sports » Raikkonen wins crash-strewn Brazil GP

Raikkonen wins crash-strewn Brazil GP

April 07, 2003 11:52 IST
Championship leader Kimi Raikkonen gave McLaren their third straight win on Sunday in an extraordinary Brazilian Grand Prix full of crashes and confusion.

The 700th Grand Prix in Formula One history produced a chaotic thriller full of drama and heartbreak, starting with a torrential downpour to make conditions treacherous and ending early in a wreckage-strewn finale.

Raikkonen was declared the winner after the race was stopped with 18 laps to go, leaving the 23-year-old Finn 11 points clear of team mate David Coulthard in the overall standings after three remarkable races.

McLaren lead with 41 points to Renault's 23. Ferrari, champions for the last four years in a row, are languishing in third place with just 16.

"What a race," said Raikkonen, who benefited from being ahead after others had just made pitstops. "I think with some of the bad luck I have experienced in the past, it was time that I was lucky."

Ferrari, with local favourite Rubens Barrichello enduring another day of agony at his home race and five times world champion Michael Schumacher crashing out, were completely sidelined.

There were mixed emotions for struggling Jordan, who thought Italian Giancarlo Fisichella had won them their 200th grand prix only to have their celebrations cut short.

Fisichella, 110 starts without a win, had swept past Raikkonen into the lead on lap 54 only for the race to be halted immediately afterwards and the winner declared to be the driver leading at the end of lap 53.

Fisichella's car later caught fire in the pits before officials announced there would be no restart.

"We were 50 seconds from glory," said team boss Eddie Jordan. "If you'd asked me before the race if we could possibly have been on the podium, I'd have had you certified in an institution. This would have been madness."

Only Raikkonen and Fisichella appeared on the podium, with Renault's third-placed Spaniard Fernando Alonso taken to hospital after being injured when he ploughed into debris in a massive final crash.

The team said the 21-year-old had no physical injuries but was having precautionary tests.

Coulthard was fourth, a poor reward after leading for much of the race, ahead of Germany's Heinz-Harald Frentzen for Sauber and Canadian former champion Jacques Villeneuve in a BAR.

Australian Mark Webber was seventh for Jaguar, despite ripping three wheels off his car after a massive accident on lap 53 that Alonso then ran into.

Alonso's Italian team mate Jarno Trulli picked up the final point for Renault.

"It was a spectacular race," said McLaren boss Ron Dennis.

"There was no driver seriously injured, it was full of incidents and most were coming from the sorts of mistakes that drivers can make when pushing to the limit in these sorts of conditions."

The race started late, due to heavy rain earlier, with the field lined up in a tame procession behind the safety car for the first eight laps.

The safety car was deployed five times in all, with a succession of accidents.

Nearly half the 20 starters had crashed out before the halfway point, with only 10 finishers listed -- although they included Webber and Alonso.

Schumacher was an early casualty, his car aquaplaning backwards into the barriers on lap 27 while he had been challenging in third place.

The accident compounded the German's nightmare start to the season, already the worst of his career, and left him with just eight points from the first three races and contemplating yet another costly mistake.

The same turn three caused repeat mayhem, with the space behind the tyre wall soon turned into an expensive scrapyard for shattered cars.

Schumacher's wingless Ferrari joined the Williams of Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya, the Jaguar of Brazilian rookie Antonio Pizzonia as well as the Minardi and BAR of Britons Justin Wilson and Jenson Button.

"There's a river running off the grass banking and it's changing on every lap," said Wilson. Webber likened the conditions to Russian Roulette.

The safety car was deployed for the second time at the end of lap 19 after British rookie Ralph Firman suffered a catastrophic suspension failure while flat out on the start-finish straight in his Jordan.

The right front wheel broke off on its tethers and Firman became a passenger on the slippery track. A wheel from his Jordan then took the wing off the back of Frenchman Olivier Panis's Toyota but neither driver was hurt.

Source:
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