Barrichello keeps his cool amid the madness

Rubens Barrichello, whose first Formula One victory came after an unemployed Frenchman made a one-man track protest at Hockenheim three years ago, secured his sixth when he overcame the chaos and confusion that followed another unscheduled, and dangerous, human intervention in the British Grand Prix.


Rubens Barrichello (left) celebrates with Juan Pablo Montoya, after winning the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. Montoya took the second slot . — Pic. MARK THOMPSON/GETTY IMAGES-

Rubens Barrichello, whose first Formula One victory came after an unemployed Frenchman made a one-man track protest at Hockenheim three years ago, secured his sixth when he overcame the chaos and confusion that followed another unscheduled, and dangerous, human intervention in the British Grand Prix.

For the Brazilian, overshadowed so often by Michael Schumacher at Ferrari, it was a sweet ending to an unpredictable weekend. But for Silverstone, it may have been one mad moment too many as the old airfield's owners struggle to secure its future as a World Championship venue.

Barrichello's tears marked his long-awaited first win this year and first since he was judged to have 'won' the United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis, last September, when Schumacher failed to synchronise a dead-heat finish.

"I am so happy for Rubens," Jean Todt, Ferrari's Sporting Director, said. "His success has helped to limit the damage to Michael's lead in the drivers' championship and helped us extend our lead in the constructors'."

Silverstone's owners, the British Racing Drivers' Club, and their 'tenants', the race promoters Brands Hatch Circuits, had no such damage-limitation exercise to defend themselves as they were left to face the groundswell of criticism following the security failure that allowed a 56-year-old religious protester to dance on Hangar Straight.

A statement, declaring that a full investigation had been launched, only highlighted the laxity that had allowed it on an afternoon of extraordinary behaviour, dramatic racing and high levels of excitement.

The protester's arrival, prancing in front of the cars as they exited Chapel and rushed on to Hangar Straight at speeds rising from 120mph, not only caused the second introduction of the official safety car, it also rewrote the script for the race. Overtaking, once deemed virtually impossible at Silverstone, was suddenly de rigueur as a tale of the unexpected unfolded.

The outcome, alas, was that Jarno Trulli's leading position, beautifully gained from the start for Renault, was thrown aside as Cristiano da Matta gave Toyota their first appearance at the head of a Grand Prix.

The Brazilian took advantage of the first safety car interruption (due to debris, in the shape of the cockpit safety padding from David Coulthard's car, on the circuit at Copse) to pit after six laps, and then move in front, followed by his team-mate Olivier Panis, when 14 members of the rest of the field chose to do the same when the protester appeared after 11 laps.

This mass diversion into the pits, during which Schumacher, the world champion, had to queue behind Barrichello, resulted in overcrowding and a mixed-up running order that forced the fastest men, with points to win, to start racing through the pack.

Barrichello was eighth, Schumacher 15th; so it was a testimony to Ferrari's speed and strategy that they finished first and fourth after a contest that sometimes resembled a stock-car battle, all thrills and spills, but not too much purity.

"Both safety car periods cost me," said Trulli, the leader who lost out most, finishing sixth. "So, I end up with mixed feelings. On the positive side, I scored three more points, but it is disappointing given where I qualified.

"The car felt perfect at the start and I was pulling away from Kimi Raikkonen, but things did not work out after that. The car's handling changed and I lost grip."

Raikkonen, admirably maintaining his concentration in his McLaren, also enjoyed a spell in front when Da Matta pitted at half-distance of the 60-lap race, until he pitted after 35 laps. Barrichello, fast throughout, then took the lead and reeled off a series of quickest laps.

Raikkonen regained the lead when Barrichello stopped again, after 39 laps, but could not resist the Ferrari driver's charge on lap 42. Barrichello drew alongside him going into Bridge and then emerged in front when the Finn ran wide amid a cloud of dust.

Like the others, he may have been distracted by the extraordinary happenings elsewhere. "I made a good start, to take second, and put some pressure on Trulli," Raikkonen, second in the drivers' championship, said. "I saw the weird guy climbing over the high fence, but I had passed when he actually went on to the track."

Raikkonen, struggling with his car's tyres and balance, momentarily lost control of the rear of his vehicle at Stowe with 12 laps remaining and allowed Juan Pablo Montoya, in his Williams, to steal through for second place, positions they retained as the race finally settled down, leaving Schumacher impotent to improve his position in fourth place.

"Rubens drove a perfect race with some outstanding passing moves and he deserved this," Schumacher said. "For me, fourth is not too bad considering what happened." Hopes of the German's 50th win for Ferrari now turn to the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim.

A driver in one of the support races following the Grand Prix was killed in a high-speed crash. David Gordon Heynes, 56, from Buckland in Oxfordshire, was pronounced dead at the circuit's medical centre after he crashed his Lotus 15 into the tyre wall at the Becketts corner during the Historic Sportscar race.

The results: (British Grand Prix, Silverstone, 60 laps, 191.640 miles): 1. R. Barrichello, Ferrari, 1h 28m 37.554s, 10; 2. J. P. Montoya, Williams, +5.462s, 8; 3. K. Raikkonen, McLaren, +10.656s, 6; 4. M. Schumacher, Ferrari, +25.648s, 5; 5. D. Coulthard, McLaren, +36.827s, 4; 6. J. Trulli, Renault, +43.067s, 3; 7. C. Da Matta Toyota, +45.085s, 2; 8. J. Button, BAR, +45.478s, 1; 9. R. Schumacher, Williams, +58.032s; 10. J. Villeneuve, BAR, +1m 03.569s; 11. O. Panis, Toyota, +1m 05.207s; 12. H. H. Frentzen, Sauber, +1m 05.564s; 13. R. Firman, Jordan, +1 lap; 14. M. Webber, Jaguar, +1 lap 15. J. Verstappen, Minardi +2 laps, 16. J. Wilson, Minardi +2 laps 17. N. Heidfeld, Sauber + 2 laps.

Drivers' standings: 1. M. Schumacher (Ferrari) 69 pts; 2. K. Raikkonen (McLaren) 62; 3. J. P. Montoya (Williams) 55; 4. R. Schumacher (Williams) 53; 5. R. Barrichello (Ferrari) 49; 6. F. Alonso (Renault) 39; 7. D. Coulthard (McLaren) 33; 8. J. Trulli (Renault) 16; 9. M. Webber (Jaguar) 12; 10. J. Button (BAR) 11; 11. G. Fisichella (Jordan) 10; 12. H. H. Frentzen (Sauber) 7; 13. C. Da Matta (Toyota) 5; 14. J. Villeneuve (BAR) 3; 15. O. Panis (Toyota) 2, N Heidfeld (Sauber) 2 17. R Firman (Jordan) 1.

Constructors' standings: 1. Ferrari 118 pts; 2. Williams 108; 3. McLaren 95; 4. Renault 55; 5. BAR 14; 6. Jaguar 12; 7. Jordan 11; 8. Sauber 9; 9. Toyota 7.

Copyright, Telegraph Group Limited, London, 2003