Michael Schumacher regards the Spa-Francorchamps circuit, omitted from last year’s racing calendar over a cigarette advertising row, as a second home. Scene of some of his greatest moments, the track also lies very close to his home town of Kerpen, a fact that assures the champion ample vocal support from the partisan crowd. Last weekend, Schumacher had the opportunity to be crowned World Champion for a record seventh time. All he had to do was to score two more points than his only challenger, Ferrari team-mate Rubens Barrichello.
Trulli proved fastest in qualifying, taking pole, but Schumacher was right up there with him, sharing the front row on the grid. Alonso started in third, with Barrichello only holding sixth place. The safety car was out soon after the start, which saw a multiple pile-up after the first bend, involving five drivers. Following the all-clear, Schumacher found himself in fourth behind Trulli, Alonso and Coulthard with Raikkonen challenging strongly. The Finn slipped past the champion with Montoya in his wake relegating Schumacher to sixth. Alonso then spun off and Coulthard damaged his car, promoting Schumacher to the front ranks. Barrichello languished in 11th, with Schumacher going into the pits, emerging in fourth behind Raikkonen, Button and Trulli in this extraordinary race. With 24 laps remaining, Montoya barged Trulli off the trace, cut-throat driving seemingly working in Ferrari’s favour. With 17 laps remaining, Schumacher was firmly established in second some 12 seconds behind Raikkonen. Two laps later, Button’s tyre disintegrated, taking Baumgartner off in the process and forcing the safety car back on the track. The race re-commenced with 11 laps remaining, Raikkonen’s advantage was cut to 1.60 seconds and Montoya exited with a puncture. In the end, Raikkonen kept ahead of Schumacher and Barrichello who closed up to finish third. Schumacher secured his record seventh championship with second place because Barrichello is unable to surpass his points total.