| ||Associated Press|
NUERBURGRING, Germany -- Nobody is better in the rain than
Michael Schumacher, who proved it again Sunday with an easy victory
in the German Grand Prix.
On a chilly, blustery afternoon, the Formula One points leader
won easily at the track located just an hour's drive from his
boyhood home near Cologne. He was cheered on by a crowd of 142,000
that included Chancellor Gerhard Schroedrer.
"To see all these guys come here over the weekend with this bad
weather, I hope I warmed up their hearts a bit," Schumacher said.
The 31-year-old racer called the victory -- his fourth in six
races this season -- "one of the most wonderful days in my life."
The two-time series champion was serenaded by chants of
"Schumi, Schumi," blaring horns, waving German and Ferrari flags.
Starting second to McLaren's David Coulthard on a dry grid,
Schumacher soon was behind McLaren's Mika Hakkinen. He took the
lead from the second row, touching wheels as he went by Schumacher.
But the rain came, and with it went Hakkinen's best chance to
win. Schumacher won by 13.821 seconds. Only Hakkinen, the two-time
and defending F1 champion, was with him on the lead lap at the end.
Coulthard wound up third, followed by the Ferrari of Rubens
Barrichello, Giancarlo Fischella's Benetton and the Arrows of Pedro
de la Rosa.
Schumacher, who covered 67 laps on the 2.831-mile road circuit
in 1 hour 42 minutes 00.3 seconds, averaged 111.520 mph.
The victory gives him a commanding lead in the standings -- 46
points to 28 for Hakkinen and 24 for Coulthard. Schumacher is
trying to give Ferrari its first driver championship in 21 years.
Ferrari also has a 10-point lead over McLaren in the
In two week, Schumacher goes to Monaco, where he has won four of
the last six races. The victory Sunday was the 39th of his career,
two short of tying the late Ayrton Senna for second on list.
"What is more important for me is the fact that this is my
first victory with Ferrari down here in front of the German crowd,
and that makes me very pleased," said Schumacher, who won here in
1995 with Benetton and is the only German with an F1 victory
Battling poor visibility, Schumacher said the most testing
moment came early with a pit stop for wet-weather tires.
"The only critical circumstance was when it started to rain and
you were out on slicks," she said. "None of us front-runners
wanted to go to the pits and pick up rain tires and find you go
slower and the rains stop."
Hakkinen had a fast start and brushed Schumacher's tire going
"It was very close to perfect. It was perfect, actually," the
Finn said. "I knew that was the only chance and knew what I had to
Schumacher gently chastised Hakkinen for bumping him, but said
there was no damage.
"It was probably unnecessary, but I think he knows that
himself," Schumacher said.
Coulthard, never a contender after being beaten off the starting
line by Hakkinen, was driving with three cracked ribs from a plane
crash May 2 in Lyon, France, that killed the pilot and copilot. But
he said the ribs had nothing to do with his race.
"Right from the beginning of the race I was having some
difficulty and when it started to rain it got worse," he said. "I
was in my own little race not going very quickly and really
struggling to keep the car on the track."