Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher returned to form in thrilling fashion by outclassing title rival Juan-Pablo Montoya at the Scuderia’s home track of Monza. Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix was also the fastest race in F1 history.

Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher returned to form in thrilling fashion by outclassing title rival Juan-Pablo Montoya at the Scuderia’s home track of Monza. Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix was also the fastest race in F1 history.


After a lacklustre performance at the Hungaroring two weeks ago, the five-time world champion wowed 60 000 of ecstatic Tifosi and increased his lead over Montoya in the world championship standings to three points. For his part, the Colombian made a fiery challenge on the first lap but couldn't get past the Ferrari and he remained behind Schumacher until the end. Schumacher’s team-mate, Rubens Barrichello came home in third place after keeping McLaren-Mercedes driver Kimi Raikkonen at bay.


Giancarlo Fisichella was thwarted at the start of the formation lap when his Jordan crawled off the grid with electronic gremlins. He ducked into the pits and started the race from there. A clean start saw at the front Schumacher lead from pole but at the back, Renault’s Fernando Alonso, who spun in qualifying and was demoted to the rear of the grid, hit the back of Jos Verstappen's Minardi and had to pit for a new nose cone.


Montoya made his charge on Schumacher through the Lesmos and they went side by side, but it was Schumacher that held the lead from the Williams-BMW. While that scrap was going on, Jarno Trulli, who jumped up to third at the start, had a go at Montoya but then abruptly slowed and the Renault came to a halt at the side of the track with a suspected hydraulics failure.


Wilson suffered transmission problems from the outset and was in the pits almost straight away. He rejoined the race but returned to the pits shortly afterwards, this time for good. Cristiano da Matta had the only big drama of the afternoon when, early on, his Toyota blew a tyre and sent him spinning off the tack at Parabolica.


After the initial excitement, the race settled down into a fairly static event. Schumacher was pulling away from Montoya and while fourth placed Raikkonen was in touch with Barrichello, in third, the McLaren-Mercedes was never really a threat.


Montoya had a slight front wing adjustment in his stop after complaining of oversteer and it seemed to have made a difference for a while. The order remained the same but Montoya started reeling Schumacher in until he was less than a second behind, but not quite close enough to overtake.


Jenson Button, who was running sixth for BAR, developed a gear box problem and had to retire. Alonso, who was running a lap down after his initial incident, skipped the chicane and again the Renault left the ground, parts of the car floor flying off after hitting the speed bumps, but the Spaniard carried on regardless.


Despite Montoya's charge in the middle stint of the race, the second round of pit stops saw the order remain the same. The second Toyota of Olivier Panis coasted to a halt at the side of the track with a brake problem, promoting Sauber's Heinz-Harald Frentzen to seventh but he lost out when his car failed on the final lap.


Montoya got entangled in traffic in the closing stages and seemed to lose his momentum, the gap between him and Schumacher widening to over second seconds again. Raikkonen was closing on Barrichello but never enough to do anything about him and Williams-BMW substitute driver Marc Gené was edging up to David Coulthard’s McLaren-Mercedes. He didn't have to make the effort to challenge as Coulthard's car broke down on the pit straight and he pulled off into the pit lane.


The retirements shuffled everyone up the order resulting in a sixth place finish for Jacques Villeneuve, after a good race for the Canadian. Mark Webber, who had a fairly anonymous time in the Jaguar, moved up to seventh. Alonso's eventful afternoon translated into eighth after he overtook Sauber's Nick Heidfeld in the closing laps.


Schumacher's win moves him three points ahead of Montoya in the title fight and Raikkonen's fourth keeps him just in touch, four points behind the Colombian. Gené's commendable fifth keeps Williams ahead of Ferrari in the Constructors' standings, but two Ferraris on the podium at Monza closes the gap to four points.


A good, trouble free drive from Schumacher, aside from the contretemps with Montoya on the first lap, resulted in a deserved win and the German's 50th victory with Ferrari. A three-way fight still exists for the title, although Raikkonen would need an awful lot of luck, and the top two equal bad luck, for him to succeed.


Indianapolis is next, a circuit that usually suits Williams, but, of course, that doesn't necessarily guarantee anything. Ferrari will be eager to consolidate its good performance at Monza and with only two races to go, it's going to be a fight every inch of the way. Final top eight classification: Schumacher, Montoya, Barrichello, Raikkonen, Gené, Villeneuve, Webber, Alonso.

Original article from Car