Nobody is better in the rain than Michael Schumacher, who proved it again Sunday with an easy victory in the German Grand Prix.
On a chilly, blustery afternoon, the Formula One points leader won easily at the track located just an hour's drive from his boyhood home near Cologne. He was cheered on by a crowd of 142,000 that included Chancellor Gerhard Schroedrer.
"To see all these guys come here over the weekend with this bad weather, I hope I warmed up their hearts a bit," Schumacher said.
The 31-year-old racer called the victory his fourth in six races this season "one of the most wonderful days in my life."
The two-time series champion was serenaded by chants of "Schumi, Schumi," blaring horns, waving German and Ferrari flags.
Starting second to McLaren's David Coulthard on a dry grid, Schumacher soon was behind McLaren's Mika Hakkinen. He took the lead from the second row, touching wheels as he went by Schumacher.
But the rain came, and with it went Hakkinen's best chance to win. Schumacher won by 13.821 seconds. Only Hakkinen, the two-time and defending F1 champion, was with him on the lead lap at the end.
Coulthard wound up third, followed by the Ferrari of Rubens Barrichello, Giancarlo Fischella's Benetton and the Arrows of Pedro de La Rosa.
Schumacher, who covered 67 laps on the 2.831-mile road circuit in 1 hour 42 minutes 00.3 seconds, averaged 111.520 mph.
The victory gives him a commanding lead in the standings 46 points to 28 for Hakkinen and 24 for Coulthard. Schumacher is trying to give Ferrari its first driver championship in 21 years.
Ferrari also has a 10-point lead over McLarenthe constructors' standings.
In two week, Schumacher goes to Monaco, where he has won four of the last six races. The victory Sunday was the 39th of his career, two short of tying the late Ayrton Senna for second on list.
"What is more important for me is the fact that this is my first victory with Ferrari down here in front of the German crowd, and that makes me very pleased," said Schumacher, who won here in 1995 with Benetton and is the only German with an F1 victory here."
Battling poor visibility, Schumacher said the most testing moment came early with a pit stop for wet-weather tires.
"The only critical circumstance was when it started to rain and you were out on slicks," she said. "None of us frontrunners wanted to go to the pits and pick up rain tires and find you go slower and the rains stop."
Hakkinen had a fast start and brushed Schumacher's tire going by.
"It was very close to perfect. It was perfect, actually," the Finn said. "I knew that was the only chance and knew what I had to do."
Schumacher gently chastised Hakkinen for bumping him, but said there was no damage.
"It was probably unnecessary, but I think he knows that himself," Schumacher said.
Coulthard, never a contender after being beaten off the starting line by Hakkinen, was driving with three cracked ribs from a plane crash May 2 in Lyon, France, that killed the pilot and copilot. But he said the ribs had nothing to do with his race.
"Right from the beginning of the race I was having some difficulty and when it started to rain it got worse," he said. "I was in my own little race not going very quickly and really struggling to keep the car on the track."
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