A start to finish win for Ralf Schumacher

Germany's Ralf Schumacher led from start to finish to clinch victory in the French Grand Prix as a Williams one-two threw the race for the 2003 world championship wide open.

Germany's Ralf Schumacher led from start to finish to clinch victory in the French Grand Prix as a Williams one-two threw the race for the 2003 world championship wide open.

Ralf Schumacher, flanked by his teammate Juan Pablo Montoya (left, runner-up) and his brother Michael Schumacher, shows the thumbs up sign after winning the French Grand Prix. — Pic. AFP-

The 28-year-old finished 13.8secs ahead of team-mate Juan Pablo Montoya, who had started beside him on the front row, to register his second win in a row after triumphing in the European Grand Prix at the Nurburgring.

World champion Michael Schumacher was third in his Ferrari, 19.5secs behind, with McLaren pair Kimi Raikkonen and David Coulthard, Jaguar's Mark Webber, Ferrari's Rubens Barrichello and Toyota's Olivier Panis making up the points scoring positions.

Michael still leads the championship with 64 points ahead of Raikkonen, 56, Ralf with 53 and Montoya on 47 after 10 rounds.

It was a processional affair in the French countryside with only a disaster in the pits for Coulthard livening up the afternoon.

The Scotsman had pulled away from his final stop with the fuel hose still attached to his car and, in his haste to rejoin the action, had taken along the refuelling man who was left reeling on the floor.

Ralf led from pole but it was a disastrous beginning for Ferrari with Michael Schumacher, who had been chasing a seventh win at this track, losing third place to Raikkonen in the charge to the first bend before going on to surrender fourth spot to Coulthard.

However, Raikkonen was to fall off the pace while Coulthard went back to fifth after his final, miserable stop.

Barrichello, in the other Ferrari, started in eighth position but spun in the finishing straight at the end of the first lap and was relegated to last place before mounting his late fightback.

After the first lap drama, the race, as feared, settled into a procession as Ralf consolidated his lead and by the 15th lap was 4.4secs ahead of Montoya who in turn led Raikkonen by four seconds.

The real battle was for fourth between Michael Schumacher and Coulthard with the Scotsman under a second behind the German before he came in for his first pit-stop.

The Renaults of Jarno Trulli and Fernando Alonso were running sixth and seventh at the time just ahead of Webber.

On the 16th lap, Raikkonen, Webber and Trulli all stopped while Montoya and Michael Schumacher came in on the next lap, but Montoya's stop was a disaster taking over 10 seconds.

Ralf came in on lap 18 and was out in just 6.4secs.

With the leading drivers all having stopped, the major change had seen Coulthard get past Michael into fourth while Barrichello had recovered to 13th place.

Jenson Button became the first retirement on the 22nd lap when his BAR lost power.

By lap 30, Ralf's lead was up to 8.2secs over his teammate with the remainder of the top six unchanged while Michael was 24.6secs behind his younger brother.

In the second round of stops, the top eight remained the same but Raikkonen, in third, was a massive 23.1secs behind the leader.

The top eight changed in the 44th lap when the engine on Alonso's Renault blew up while a similar fate befell Giancarlo Fisichella's Jordan, who was running 19th, on the 45th.

Trulli, in the second Renault, also pulled out with engine trouble on the 47th lap while Barrichello was continuing his fightback reaching eighth place.

By the 50th lap, Montoya had cut the lead to just 2.5secs while Coulthard suffered his miserable stop on the 48th.

Montoya stopped again on the 50th lap while Ralf followed on the 51st. His was marginally quicker and he got back out on the track just in front of the Colombian and had a lead of 1.9secs by lap 53.

Michael Schumacher then came in on the 52nd lap and emerged 30.8secs off the pace but he had reclaimed third place from Raikkonen while Coulthard's disastrous trip to the pits had put him back to fifth.

With the pattern set, Ralf concentrated on consolidating his lead and opened up a comfortable gap over his teammate, which he held onto until the end.

The results (French Grand Prix, 70 laps of the 4.411-kilometre (2.74-mile) Nevers-Magny Cours circuit): 1. Ralf Schumacher, Germany, Williams-BMW, 70 laps, 1 hour, 30 minutes, 49.213 seconds, 203.866 kph (126.70 mph); 2. Juan Pablo Montoya, Colombia, Williams-BMW, 70 laps, 13.813 seconds behind, 1:31:03.025; 3. Michael Schumacher, Germany, Ferrari, 70, 19.568, 1:31:08.781; 4. Kimi Raikkonen, Finland, McLaren-Mercedes, 70, 38.047, 1:31:27.260; 5. David Coulthard, Britain, McLaren-Mercedes, 70, 40.289,1:31.29.502; 6. Mark Webber, Australia, Jaguar, 70, 66.380, 1:31.55.593. 7. Rubens Barrichello, Brazil, Ferrari, 69, 1:30.50.156; 8. Olivier Panis, France, Toyota, 69, 1:31:07.144; 9. Jacques Villeneuve, Canada, BAR-Honda, 69, 1:31:32.508. 10. Antonio Pizzonia, Brazil, Jaguar, 69, 1:31:33.401; 11. Cristian DaMatta, Brazil, Toyota, 69, 1:31:41.234; 12. Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Germany, Sauber-Petronas, 68, 1:31:00.155; 13. Nick Heidfeld, Germany, Sauber-Petronas, 68, 1:31:23.765; 14. JustinWilson, Britain, Minardi-Cosworth, 67, 1:30:59.279; 15. Ralph Firman, Ireland,Jordan-Ford, 67, 1:31:31.286; 16. Jos Verstappen, Netherlands, Minardi-Cosworth, 66, 1:31:36.188

Drivers' standings (after 10 races): 1. Michael Schumacher, Germany, Ferrari, 64; 2. Kimi Raikkonen, Finland, McLaren-Mercedes, 56; 3. Ralf Schumacher, Germany, Williams-BMW, 53; 4 Juan Pablo Montoya, Colombia, Williams-BMW, 47; 5. Rubens Barrichello, Brazil, Ferrari, 39; 6. Fernando Alonso, Spain, Renault, 39; 7. David Coulthard, Britain, McLaren-Mercedes, 29; 8. Jarno Trulli, Italy, Renault, 13; 9. Mark Webber, Australia, Jaguar,12; 10. Giancarlo Fisichella, Italy, Jordan-Ford, 10; 11. Jenson Button, Britain, BAR-Honda, 10; 12. Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Germany, Sauber-Petronas, 7; 13. Cristiano Da Matta, Brazil, Toyota, 3;14. Jacques Villeneuve, Canada, BAR-Honda, 3; 15. Olivier Panis, France, Toyota, 2; 16 Nick Heidfeld, Germany, Sauber-Petronas, 2; 17. Ralph Firman, Ireland, Jordan-Ford, 1.

Constructors' standings: 1. Ferrari, 103, 2 Williams-BMW, 100, 3. McLaren Mercedes, 85, 4. Renault, 52, 5. BAR-Honda, 13, 6. Jaguar, 12,. 7. Jordan-Ford, 11, 8. Sauber-Petronas, 9, 9. Toyota, 4.