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Business as usual for Schumacher

NUERBURGRING (GERMANY), MAY 30. Michael Schumacher rebounded from his crash at Monaco by winning the European Grand Prix from pole position on Sunday. Ferrari teammate Rubens Barrichello was second almost 18 seconds behind, the fourth time this season they have finished 1-2.

It was Schumacher's 76th career Formula One victory and sixth in seven races this season. Jenson Button was third after his BAR-Honda teammate Takuma Sato blew an engine late in the race while running second.

The Renaults of Jarno Trulli and Fernando Alonso, the only two cars to beat the Ferraris since last August, were fourth and fifth over 60 laps on the 5.1-kilometre Nuerburgring.

From the pole, Schumacher led easily into the first turn then pulled away with astonishing ease. He put laps nearly two seconds better than the field, initially headed by Kimi Raikkonen of McLaren-Mercedes.

After five laps, Schumacher led by 11.5 seconds. Two laps later it was apparent that Schumacher was on a light fuel load. He came in at the end of the eighth and rejoined in sixth place.

However, nearly all the other contenders came in over the next three laps and by the time things sorted out, Schumacher was back in front ahead of Sato, with Barrichello third.

At 20 laps Schumacher had a 16.4-second lead over Sato. By the next round of pit stops at the end of 40 laps, Schumacher was cruising with an 18-second advantage over Sato.

Sato dropped away after an incident at the start of the 46th lap when he was trying to overtake Barrichello. Sato had pitted and that put Barrichello into second barely.

Sato tried to squeeze through on the inside on the first turn and the cars bumped and Sato lost a piece of the wing. He came in, replaced the front wing but went out in a cloud of smoke a lap later.

That placed the Ferraris first and second, and stayed that way to the end.

In the drivers' standings Michael Schumacher extended his lead with 60 points. Barrichello has 46, Button 38.

Button had been making the most consistent runs at Schumacher this season, taking two seconds and three thirds in the last six races.

Schumacher's car hasn't failed in a Formula One race since the German GP in 2001, an unrivalled string of 45 races.

Schumacher limped out of the Monaco race after 43 laps with his front left wheel dangling. His run-in with Juan Pablo Montoya ended his season-opening five-race winning streak.

This time Ralf Schumacher, last year's winner here, was out of the race on the first turn after banging into Montoya, his Williams-BMW teammate. Ralf Schumacher was squeezed between several cars and hit Montoya.

Montoya had to go in for a front wing change at the end of the first lap and was never in contention, finishing eighth more than a lap behind.

Giancarlo Fisichella in a Sauber-Petronas was sixth and Mark Webber in a Jaguar was seventh.

The McLarens blew up.

It was another quick exit for Raikkonen. After 10 laps his engine gave off in a huge plume of smoke. It was his fifth non-finish in seven races. He limped to eighth and 11th places in the other two, one time starting from the back.

At this race last year, Raikkonen claimed the pole and led early, only to retire when his engine blew up after 20 laps. Raikkonen also had the fastest times in Friday's practice.

Last year he was in contention for the overall title until the final race of the season before losing to Michael Schumacher. David Coulthard had the same fate as Raikkonen but in a smaller trail of smoke. His race ended on the 27th lap.

The series moves to North America with the Canadian Grand Prix on June 13 followed by the U.S. Grand Prix a week later.

The results (driver, country, car, laps completed, time and leader's speed): 1. Michael Schumacher, Germany, Ferrari, 60 laps, 1 hour, 32 minutes, 35.101 seconds, 200.159 kph; 2. Rubens Barrichello, Brazil, Ferrari, 60, 1:32:53.090; 3. Jenson Button, Britain, BAR-Honda, 60, 1:32:57.634; 4. Jarno Trulli, Italy, Renault, 60, 1:33:28.274; 5. Fernando Alonso, Spain, Renault, 60, 1:33:36.088; 6. Giancarlo Fisichella, Italy, Sauber-Petronas, 60, 1:33:48.549; 7. Mark Webber, Australia, Jaguar, 60, 1:33:51.307; 8. Juan Pablo Montoya, Colombia, Williams-BMW, 59, 1:32:46.774; 9. Felipe Massa, Brazil, Sauber Petronas, 59, 1:33:16.843; 10. Nick Heidfeld, Germany, Jordan-Ford, 59, 1:33:17.176.

AP

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