Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher may have been out of sorts in Sunday’s inaugural Chinese Grand Prix, but his team-mate, Rubens Barrichello, cemented second place in the world championship with a hard-fought win at the Shanghai circuit.

Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher may have been out of sorts in Sunday’s inaugural Chinese Grand Prix, but his team-mate, Rubens Barrichello, cemented second place in the world championship with a hard-fought win at the Shanghai circuit.


Barrichello clinched pole position on Saturday and led for most of the race, but the Brazilian was pressured throughout, initially by McLaren-Mercedes star Kimi Raikkonen and BAR Honda’s Jenson Button.


Button moved up to second when he made one less pit stop than his rivals, and just managed to hold off a charging Raikkonen on the final lap.


By contrast, Schumacher had an eventful race after starting from the pit lane and could finish only 12th. The German spun on his qualifying lap, and Ferrari chose to start him from the pit lane to give him the best possible strategy.


He fought up to ninth place by lap 15 despite banging into Christian Klien's Jaguar but a quick spin dropped him briefly down to 12th delaying his fightback by a few seconds.


Then he suffered a puncture in his left rear tyre while running 11th on lap 35, dropping him further back down the field.


Schumacher was behind Jacques Villeneuve's Renault after both incidents and struggled to pass the Canadian both times. After making three pit stops, the German had to settle for 12th place behind the man to whom he lost a battle for the 1997 world championship.


Barrichello never needed to defend an attempted passing maneuver from Raikkonen, but the McLaren driver nevertheless kept the pressure up until their second stops. The Woking-based team’s plan to leapfrog Barrichello with a short third stint backfired when Raikkonen ran into traffic.


The Finn slipped back behind Button, and while the McLaren closed right up on the BAR in the last 10 laps Button was able to hold Raikkonen off.

Barrichello said: "It was hard. I was under pressure but was able to be cool at the stops, open a decent gap and maintain first place.


"We knew at the beginning that we would have some trouble because we were graining the front tyres a little bit, but the tyres did a superb job. They held on really well.


"Towards the end I didn't push that much because I had an eight-second lead, but the graining stayed longer and I was struggling a little bit."


It was Barrichello's second win in a row and he said he was pleased to be finishing the season strongly.


"It's been a season where I have been playing catch-up to Michael. He started at a high level and for some reason I wasn't able to chalIenge him, but now things are going well," he said.


Ralf Schumacher, in his first grand prix since his dramatic accident at Indianapolis, was on course for fifth place in his Williams-BMW, but his rear suspension was broken when McLaren’s David Coulthard hit him from behind on lap 37.


The German eclipsed team-mate Juan Pablo Montoya, who said he struggled with his car at the technically demanding Chinese track. The Colombian inherited his team-mate's fifth place.


Coulthard, who has yet to secure a drive for next season, was an unconvincing ninth behind Takuma Sato's BAR and the Saubers of Giancarlo Fisichella and Felipe Massa.