Frank Williams had more to smile about this week as Ralf Schumacher once more delivered the goods and brought home a few useful points but once again there was no finish, let alone any points, for Alex Zanardi.
After the recent strides forward any gain was less obvious on a circuit that has more to do with speed than anything else. This resulted in a couple of poor qualifying positions with both Williams drivers finishing in the lower half of the grid. Once again Schumacher out qualified Zanardi, this time by 3 places, Schumacher in 11th and Zanardi in 14th.
From such starting positions it was always going to be difficult to do anything spectacular – but that’s exactly what Ralf Schumacher did the moment the lights went out. From 11th on the grid by the first corner the German was 7th having passed four cars in the first 100 yards and a touch with the Prost of Trulli. Zanardi meanwhile managed to retain his starting position.
Barrichello’s demise brought Schumacher up one place to 6th but 15 seconds behind the leader Hakkinen. Zanardi was making his usual progress based on attrition rather than any other means and was up to 10th. However once again this was to be short lived as the team brought the Italian in to retire him. Patrick Head would only comment that “Unfortunately for Alex, he had a technical problem with his car in the race. A probable mechanical failure was causing excessive drag and eventually he had an electrical shut down that made us conclude that it was better to retire the car.” .
As a result of others misfortune Ralf found himself up in 4th after the pit stops. Those to loose out were Hakkinen spinning off and Coulthard receiving a 10 second stop-and-go penalty.
In the closing laps Coulthard started to gain on Schumacher but by this point it was too late, the Williams was just too far up the road.
Move valuable points for the team putting some fresh air between themselves and Benetton in the constructors championship. Things would be looking a lot better if only the team had two Ralf Schumachers. The German is displaying just the sort of driving that the team enjoys and Frank Williams was happy to acknowledge the fact “I think that Ralf drove ten tenths in every lap, again a display of remorseless aggression in pursuit of the cars in front of him. I am very pleased.”
Whether Williams feels the same about it’s Indy import is another matter…