Michael Schumacher wins Australian GP

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/images/thumbnail/ver1/s/schumacher.jpg' class='caption'> World champion Michael Schumacher of Germany led from start to finish to win the season-opening Australian Formula One Grand Prix on Sunday.

Updated: February 25, 2007 10:05 IST
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World champion Michael Schumacher of Germany led from start to finish to win the season-opening Australian Formula One Grand Prix on Sunday. Schumacher's Ferrari team mate Rubens Barrichello of Brazil crossed the line second with Spaniard Fernando Alonso third in a Renault. Ralf Schumacher and his Williams team mate Juan Pablo Montoya finished fourth and fifth respectively with Briton Jenson Button sixth in his BAR. Stephanie Sheene, widow of the late British motorcycling champion Barry Sheene, waved the chequered flag to start the Australian Grand Prix at the Albert Park circuit. Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya made a poor start and ran wide at the first corner trying to go back past Spaniard Fernando Alonso in his Renault, dropping to seventh. McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen, last year's overall runner-up and a championship favourite, made only a brief appearance before joining the spectators as the season's first retirement. The Finn was sluggish off the grid and skidded off at turn three after nine laps while running 12th. It was a race the defending world champion and his Ferrari team were to dominate. Michael Schumacher led a red parade. It was the German's 71st win and one of the more straightforward of a record-breaking career that has brought him six world titles. With Brazilian team mate Rubens Barrichello following Schumacher for lap after lap around the Albert Park circuit, the flaming red cars crossed the line in isolated splendour to celebrate a first one-two finish since Japan 2002. The German was 34.6 seconds ahead of Alonso's third-placed Renault. Schumacher's younger brother Ralf was fourth for Williams, ahead of Colombian team mate Juan Pablo Montoya and Briton Jenson Button in a BAR. Italian Jarno Trulli, in a Renault, and McLaren's David Coulthard collected the remaining points. Both were lapped by Schumacher in a race that suggested an ominous return to the Ferrari dominance of 2002 that led Formula One to introduce sweeping rule changes. Australian hopes were snuffed out on lap 29 when Jaguar's Mark Webber, who had climbed to third place during the first round of pitstops, retired. Schumacher clocked the fastest lap of the race, his record time of one minute 24.125 seconds faster than he had been in qualifying. The world champion was, not surprisingly, pleased with the start to the 2004 season. "It was a tough one because in the beginning, I'd say the first half of the race before Rubens faced some problems, he was pushing very, very hard and it was really a close fight and I couldn't allow any mistakes and it was very exciting I have to say,” Michael Schumacher said. “The great thing, from my personal side, I come home with two more points than last year after three races, so that's at least a good start to the season for me," Schumacher said. Barrichello was second for the whole race, but had problems with his brakes. Alonso had problems early on, but then stayed behind the Ferraris to claim six points in the drivers' championship. The second race of the new Formula One season is the Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang on March 21. (AP)

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