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A birthday boost for Ralf
- European Grand Prix l Michael manages fifth position despite collision with Montoya

Nuerburgring: Ralf Schumacher led a Williams one-two in the European Grand Prix on Sunday after a dismal afternoon for Formula One’s two title frontrunners.

Ralf’s teammate Juan Pablo Montoya finished second. Michael Schumacher had been running second behind his brother, when Montoya tried to go past into turn seven on lap 43 of 60, colliding into the Formula One leader. Michael then skidded into the gravel.

As the Williams driver turned in for the corner, the cars touched and the Ferrari spun off. “We were going head to head and he was making it difficult for me,” said Michael. “The corner got tight and we came together. It was a normal racing accident in my view. But there was no blame to assess. No-one is guilty — that’s racing,” the German said.

The five-times world champion moved up to fifth place three laps from the finish when McLaren’s David Coulthard skidded off in a cloud of dust, narrowly missing Alonso.

The German almost took fourth place at the line, nearly touching the rear of Alonso’s car as he desperately sought a way past, but he still became the first Formula One driver to score 1,000 points, taking his tally to 1,003.

It was Ralf’s first win since Malaysia last year, his fifth career victory, and it came on the eve of his 28th birthday. Ralf beat Montoya by 16.8 seconds in a race that exploded into action after a processional start. He led untroubled from the 26th lap when an engine failure ended Kimi Raikkonen’s hopes of recapturing the overall lead. Brazilian Rubens Barrichello was third for Ferrari, ahead of Spain’s Fernando Alonso in a Renault.

Australian Mark Webber was sixth for Jaguar, with Briton Jenson Button seventh and Germany’s Mick Heidfeld eighth for Sauber.

McLaren’s Raikkonen, still runner-up in the standings with 51 points to Michael’s 58, started on pole for the first time and led from the start until a plume of smoke billowed out of his Mercedes engine.

He made no attempt to disguise his disappointment, pushing away a marshal who tried to help as he climbed from the car. After scrambling over a gate, he returned to the paddock on a scooter, pushing past reporters.

‘Agreement in sight’

Meanwhile, Formula One is close to reaching an agreement over its finances and future direction, according to McLaren boss Ron Dennis. Dennis said that after recent talks between banks, Bernie Ecclestone’s family trust and five European car manufacturers a settlement was now closer.

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