Mon, Mar 10, 2003 - Page 20 News List

Coulthard emerges ahead in Australia

FLYING START With new regulations in place to make F1 more interesting, Ferrari failed to make the podium for the first time since the European Grand Prix in 1999

REUTERS , MELBOURNE

McLaren teammates celebrate as Scotland's David Coulthard crosses the finish line to win the Australian Grand Prix at Melbourne's Albert Park circuit yesterday.

PHOTO: REUTERS

McLaren's David Coulthard won against the odds in Australia yesterday as Formula One's new era started with world champions Ferrari pushed off the podium for the first time since 1999.

Ferrari's five times world champion Michael Schumacher finished fourth in a damaged car, ending his record run of 19 successive podiums, and the early exit of Rubens Barrichello put paid to a 54th rostrum in a row for the team.

The result, in an exciting and highly-strategic race, also broke Schumacher's grip on the championship lead for the first time since September 2000.

Starting 11th, Coulthard found both luck and strategy playing into his hands for a 13th career win that will have had Formula One's rulers rubbing their hands with delight.

After rewriting the rulebook following a year of Ferrari domination, with Schumacher winning 11 of the 17 races, there was change at the top on a day that started with a downpour and ended in bright sunshine.

Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya was second in a Williams, blowing his chances of winning by spinning while in the lead 11 laps from the finish.

McLaren's young Finn Kimi Raikkonen was third, an extraordinary result for a driver who started from the pit lane after a late tire change and a nightmare in Saturday's qualifying. Tire-maker Michelin swept the podium.

"Today is very unusual circumstances," Coulthard said.

"You don't normally see cars starting from the pit lane and so far down [the grid] making the podium."

Schumacher had started on pole and was leading 12 laps from the end when stewards ordered him into the pits after the aerodynamic turning vanes broke on his Ferrari.

A broken "bargeboard," which had been left dangling off the side of the Ferrari, was removed but by then a 65th career victory had been taken out of his hands.

"The changing weather made for a chaotic race today," said the German. "At one point I hit the kerbs, damaged the car quite badly and lost a lot of time because of it."

The gap between second and fourth place was less than a second, with a lively battle to the flag.

It was the first time Schumacher had finished off the podium since Italy in 2001, 20 races ago, while all-conquering Ferrari had been on every podium since the European Grand Prix of September 1999.

"They didn't have the right strategy ... under pressure they can make mistakes," Coulthard said.

Ferrari technical director Ross Brawn agreed that the strategy could have been better. "The race just didn't work for us this time," he said.

"We made the wrong call in terms of which tires we started on and the track had dried more than we thought. The drivers were also convinced that we needed wets."

Under the new points system, changing from 10-6-4-3-2-1 to 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1, the top eight finishers were rewarded. McLaren lead the championship with 16 points to Williams' nine and Renault's six. Ferrari have five.

Italian Jarno Trulli was fifth for Renault, Germany's Heinz-Harald Frentzen sixth in a Sauber and Spaniard Fernando Alonso took the first points of his Formula One career in seventh place for Renault.

Germany's Ralf Schumacher was eighth in a Williams.

Ferrari's hopes of a sixth successive one-two finish had disappeared on the sixth lap when Brazilian Rubens Barrichello crashed out.

Barrichello, a close second behind Schumacher at the time, slid off the track and into a concrete barrier.

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