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  Sunday, 28 April, 2002, 17:32 GMT 18:32 UK
Ralf rues 'stupid' error
Juan Pablo Montoya closes in on team-mate Ralf Schumacher
The Williams duel ended with Schumacher's mistake
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By Andrew Benson
BBC Sport Online motorsport editor in Barcelona
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Ralf Schumacher has admitted he made a "stupid mistake" to throw away a podium finish in the Spanish Grand Prix and hand second place in the world championship to team-mate and rival Juan Pablo Montoya.

The German Williams driver ran wide at Campsa, one of the Circuit de Catalunya's fastest corners, while under pressure from Montoya on lap 29 of the race.

The incident damaged the car and forced Schumacher to make a pit stop to change his tyres and the front wing of his car, ending any hope of a finish in the points.

Schumacher said he was "angry" about the error, which came after three laps of intense pressure from Montoya.


What caused him to do that I don't know
Williams technical director Patrick Head
Schumacher had built a lead of almost three seconds after 14 laps, but Montoya quickly closed the gap before the drivers' first pit stops and was right behind after they came out of the pits.

Schumacher said: "I made a silly mistake, which I very seldom do and that's why I am so angry about it."

But despite Schumacher's claims, it is not the first time he has gone off under pressure from a team-mate.

He spun out of the American Grand Prix last year when unable to keep up with Montoya, and did the same when Jenson Button was ahead of him in Japan in 2000.

Intense rivalry

The error in Spain on Sunday ended any hope Schumacher might have had of building on the momentum he created in the previous race, the San Marino Grand Prix, where he was conclusively faster than Montoya.

Williams technical director Patrick Head said: "Juan was behind him and he said he slightly missed an apex and understeered off the track.

"I'm sure Ralf isn't too happy about what happened, but what caused him to do that I don't know.

"After he had been off he was very uncommunicative to us in terms of telling us what had happened.

"He didn't say I've been off and I've damaged the front wing. He just said there may be something wrong with the front wing.

"So when he came in we changed the nose but there was loads of grass and rubbish hanging from the car."

Michael Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya on the Barcelona podium
Montoya finished second to Michael Schumacher
Montoya resisted the temptation to score any psychological points in public, even though the rivalry between the two men is intense.

"I didn't see much," he said. "As I was coming up the hill I noticed him miss the apex, and then when I got to the top of the hill, he was off on the gravel."

The two Williams drivers have fallen further behind championship leader Michael Schumacher following the German's dominant win in Spain, but it is now Montoya, not Ralf Schumacher, who is the Ferrari driver's closest rival.

Montoya is 21 points behind the world champion, with Ralf Schumacher three points adrift of the Colombian - an exact reverse of the positions of the two Williams drivers before the race.

Montoya was expected to bury Schumacher this season after coming on increasingly strong in the later part of 2001.

Ralf has started the new season stronger than some had expected, and has capitalised on some mistakes Montoya made while battling with Michael Schumacher.

But to lose out so obviously in a straight race between the two men could well mark an important turning point.

Links to more Formula One stories are at the foot of the page.

 

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