| Juan Pablo Montoya on the podium after winning the German GP in Hockenheim on Sunday. (Reuters)
Hockenheim: Juan Pablo Montoya left his rivals in the shade and staked a serious claim for the world championship title on Sunday when he cruised to victory in the German Grand Prix.
Colombian Montoya closed the gap to world championship leader Michael Schumacher to six points at a sizzling Hockenheim circuit after leading the race from start to finish to claim his second victory of the season.
He had been forced to settle for second place behind teammate Ralf Schumacher and Ferrari driver Rubens Barrichello in the last two events but both they and championship contender Kimi Raikkonen were forced out in a first lap collision.
That left the way clear for Michael, who started from sixth on the grid, to challenge for second but he was cruelly denied a podium finish when he suffered a puncture three laps from the end.
Scot David Coulthard was promoted to second place for McLaren, with Italian Jarno Trulli claiming his first podium finish this season in third with his Renault teammate Fernando Alonso fourth.
The Toyota pair of Frenchman Olivier Panis and Brazilian Cristiano da Matta claimed fifth and sixth ahead of Schumacher. Briton Jenson Button claimed the final point with eighth place for BAR-Honda.
Montoya made a clear run at the start but Ralf was slow to get away and squeezed Barrichello as Raikkonen tried to move past the pair on the outside into turn one. Ralf tapped Barrichello’s rear tyre with his front left wheel and knocked him into Raikkonen, who speared right and hit Ralf’s sidepod before spinning and crashing heavily into the tyre barriers.
Raikkonen’s McLaren lost three of its four wheels and emitted a lick of flame before it came to rest. He was taken to the circuit medical centre but later released with a bruised leg and a stiff neck.
Barrichello also parked up his Ferrari at the side of the track and Ralf Schumacher retired in the pits at the end of the lap when his car was deemed impossible to repair.
Behind the leaders, Briton Ralph Firman became involved in a second crash when his Jordan collided with the back of German Heinz-Harald Frentzen’s Sauber and both were forced to retire. Briton Justin Wilson retired from his debut race for Jaguar just ten laps into the race after being caught up in the first-lap carnage.
CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS (Top 10)
Drivers — 1. Michael Schumacher (Ger) Ferrari, 71 points; 2. Juan Pablo Montoya (Col) Williams, 65; 3. Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) McLaren, 62; 4. Ralf Schumacher (Ger) Williams, 53; 5. Rubens Barrichello (Bra) Ferrari, 49; 6. Fernando Alonso (Spa) Renault, 44; 7. David Coulthard (GBR) McLaren, 41; 8. Jarno Trulli (Ita) Renault, 22; 9. Mark Webber (Aus) Jaguar, 12; 10. Jenson Button (GBR) BAR, 12.
Constructors — 1. Ferrari 120 points; 2. Williams 118; 3. McLaren 103; 4. Renault 66; 5. BAR 15; 6. Toyota 14; 7. Jaguar 12; 8. Jordan 11; 9. Sauber 9; 10. Minardi 0.