Ferrari's Michael Schumacher has clinched a record-equalling fifth world championship after winning the French Grand Prix at Magny-Cours. The German had looked to be heading for second place behind McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen, until a mistake by the Finn in the closing laps handed Schumacher victory.
Schumacher's triumph gives him a third successive drivers' crown and he has now won the title a total of five times, matching the legendary Juan Manuel Fangio. His French Grand Prix means he has also wrapped up the championship in record time, with six rounds of the 2002 season still remaining.
Schumacher's victory came after an eventful race which saw him and three other drivers incur drive-through penalties for crossing the white line on the pit exit. He was around a second behind Raikkonen in the closing stages and looked unable to trouble the Finn.
However, on lap 68 Raikkonen ran wide at the Adelaide hairpin, shortly after Allan McNish's Toyota had spun off there, bringing out the yellow flags. Schumacher kept the racing line and moved into the lead that he was never to relinquish, going on to take a record-equalling sixth French Grand Prix victory, as well as the title.
Schumacher, who had seen his team mate fail to even start the race, was understandable emotional in the press conference, saying: "How do you feel? I have never been good at these moments to find the appropriate words. It has just overcome me.
"I thought it would not happen here and then I saw Rubens stopping and the pace we had over Montoya and started to believe in it. Then we had my mistake crossing the white line - I think it was millimetres rather than centimetres but over is over - and it was all over.
"But then ten laps from the end I started to pick up the pressure and suddenly the championship was back in my pocket. That is something I had put aside all weekend so I did not feel it and suddenly when I was leading and feeling it that was the worst five laps in my career!
"Suddenly I realised how much pressure I was under and I am so glad we achieved this together with a tremendous team. I really love all these guys as we have such a great relationship. Thank you is very small words for what you have done for me. Thank you very much."
In contrast, Raikkonen was hugely disappointed after missing out on what had looked to be a certain maiden Grand Prix win. "There were yellow flags but not any flags for oil or slippery surface and I locked the front wheel and ran wide and Michael got past," he said. "It was a very good car and it was my mistake - probably the most disappointing race of my life."
There was also disappointment for McLaren team mate David Coulthard. The Scot had been putting Schumacher under intense pressure for second place in the latter stages until he, like the Ferrari driver, Ralf Schumacher and Felipe Massa before him, was penalised for crossing the pit exit line.
"I genuinely did not realise I had crossed it, but I made a mistake and have to accept that," he said after clinching third place. "However, it did not really affect my position. But I feel for Kimi as from where I was, I don't know how it appeared on TV, it was a great race. Congratulations to Michael."