FERRARI HAD its adventures, with Michael Schumacher going off the road momentarily and Rubens Barrichello losing agonising seconds in the pits when his team did not have the right tyres ready, but a rain- spoiled Canadian Grand Prix nevertheless yesterday yielded a satisfying one-two result to the Italian team. Schumacher eased off at the end, but Barrichello kept racing and they finished side by side after a crushing demonstration that increased their world championship advantage.
"For me, that was an excellent race," Schumacher beamed. "This fellow - Barrichello - was pushing me hard, but I really could not have asked for a better result." McLaren had hung out silver balloons to celebrate their 500th grand prix, but one by one Dame Fortune burst them. On the grid formation lap David Coulthard's car developed a problem, but although the Scot quickly got going the damage was done. For the first 10 laps he stayed within a second of Schumacher, but just as the gap opened beyond that margin on the 11th lap McLaren were informed of a 10 second stop- and-go penalty.
Coulthard's mechanics had worked on his car on the grid after the 15- second board had been shown. The rule outlawing such practice was strengthened in the 1980s after an incident in Belgium when an Arrows mechanic was injured. Had Coulthard raised his hand he could have started from the back of the grid, but it was a moot point whether he would have lost more time doing that than starting from the front row and waiting to see what officialdom would do.
The semantics were unimportant. The race for the lead, and Coulthard's hopes of increasing his points score, was over. After a pit stop on the 14th lap, the Scot dropped down among the midfield runners and never really recovered.
In Schumacher's wake, Barrichello fought his way up to second place the hard way. At the start Mika Hakkinen had beaten him off the line, only to be pushed wide in the first corner as Jacques Villeneuve moved up to third. Barrichello seized the chance to regain fourth place, but it took him until the 25th lap to find a way past Villeneuve's BAR-Honda. By then the Brazilian was 27 seconds behind his team leader.
The complexion of the race changed at the 20-lap mark when the first spots of rain fell. Initially, it was insufficient to prevent Schumacher and Barrichello trading fastest lap, but then it increased and sent everyone scuttling to the pits for wet-weather tyres. Barrichello had actually reduced Schumacher's lead a little by the time they were ready for their refuelling stops, but the German's went without problem in 9.5sec on the 34th lap, and when he resumed he was right on the Brazilian's tail. Meanwhile, Hakkinen finally outfoxed Villeneuve going into the first corner to grab third place, but the Finn had a mountain still to climb.
Free of Villeneuve, Hakkinen began setting fastest laps as Schumacher coped with a full load of fuel and suddenly it was clear just how much he had suffered in the BAR's wake. By lap 40 he was sizing up the Ferrari driver, nine seconds behind Barrichello, who, like Hakkinen, had yet to stop.
After 42 laps Hakkinen finally stopped to refuel, while further back Ralf Schumacher's stop promoted Coulthard to sixth place. A lap later Barrichello came in, handing back the lead to Schumacher, while Coulthard dropped back to ninth with his stop. Villeneuve's great drive was spoiled when his stop on the 44th lap coincided with the heavy rainfall. Vainly he called for wet-weather tyres, but was sent back out with dry rubber. It was an opportunity lost.
Schumacher was the first to stop for wets that lap, followed by Barrichello. However, Ferrari faces matched their red livery as the correct tyres were not immediately to hand. It was Nurburgring 1999 all over again. Villeneuve, too, lost further ground when he came in a lap later for the right rubber. The track was now like a skating rink.
Benetton had it right when they put Fisichella straight on to wets during his stop, but the Italian risked his bonus second place when he slid momentarily off the road in the first corner and fell back behind Barrichello. Then Schumacher did the same thing on the 47th lap. But after his disaster, Barrichello was still more than half a minute behind.
In their wake, Hakkinen sloshed after Fisichella but did not quite make it, while Jos Verstappen provided thrills with a superb drive against Alexander Wurz and Jarno Trulli for fifth place. Coulthard moved to seventh when Villeneuve collided with Ralf Schumacher but it was not quite enough.
It was a disastrous day for Jaguar, with Johnny Herbert retiring and Eddie Irvine finishing 16th, while Jenson Button was a troubled 11th despite being one of the fastest runners in the wettest part.
RACE DETAILS 1 M Schumacher (Ger) Ferrari 10pts
1hr 41min 12sec, ave speed 313kph
2 R Barrichello (Bra) Ferrari 6pts.
3 G Fisichella (It) Benetton-Playlife 4pts.
4 M Hakkinen (Fin) McLaren-Mercedes 3pts.
5 J Verstappen (Neth) Arrows-Supertec 2pts.
6 J Trulli (It) Jordan-Mugen-Honda 1pts.
7 D Coulthard (GB) McLaren-Mercedes
8 Zonta Bar Honda
9 Wurz Benetton Supertec
10 Diniz Sauber Petronas
11 Button Williams Bmw
12 Mazzacane Minardi Fondmetal
13 Irvine Jaguar Ford
14 R.Schumacher Williams Bmw
15 Villeneuve Bar Honda
16 Gene Minardi Fondmetal
17 De La Rosa Arrows Supertec
18. Salo Sauber Petronas
19 Alesi Prost Peugeot
20 Heidfeld Prost Peugeot
21 Frentzen Jordan Mugen-Honda
22 Herbert Jaguar Ford
CONSTRUCTORS' CHAMPIONSHIP: 1 Ferrari 84pts; 2 McLaren 66; 3 Benetton 18; 4 Williams 15; 5 Jordan 10; 6 BAR 6; 7= Sauber, Jaguar, Arrows 3.