Two aborted starts, a rain shower and even a near-disastrous pitlane fire could not stop Michael Schumacher from winning the Austrian Grand Prix for Ferrari on Sunday.

Two aborted starts, a rain shower and even a near-disastrous pitlane fire could not stop Michael Schumacher from winning the Austrian Grand Prix for Ferrari on Sunday.

The five-time world champion had to expedite his second stop after a problem with Ferrari’s refuelling equipment had caused Schumacher’s F-2003 GA to catch fire in the pit lane earlier in the race… Nevertheless, the German completed a string stunning lap times to take victory at the A1-Ring from McLaren-Mercedes' Kimi Raikkonen and Ferrari team-mate Rubens Barrichello.

Cristiano da Matta's Toyota developed an electrical problem on the grid, causing the first start to be aborted. With Da Matta demoted to the back of the field, the grid lined up again after the second formation lap. To Toyota team boss Ove Anderson's embarrassment, exactly the same thing happened again.

Bernie Ecclestone and race director Charlie Whiting had some rapid discussions on the pit wall but the cars got away after the third start. All except the Sauber of Heinz-Harald Frenten - he ran back to the pits for the spare car but never got out of the garage.

Renault's Fernando Alonso, who was 19th on the grid, started from the pit lane in the spare car after a hydraulic leak on his race car. The Spaniard was joined by Mark Webber in the Jaguar.

Schumacher took the first corner in the lead and Juan-Pablo Montoya got his Williams-BMW up to second ahead of Raikkonen. Barely had the pack got round the first corner, Jos Verstappen's Minardi ground to a halt at the end of the pit straight.

The safety car was deployed because Verstappen’s stricken car was stuck at Turn One. Once the Minardi was cleared, Schumacher bunched up the field up for the re-start, much to the irritation of Montoya who did some agitated fist waving in the Ferrari's direction. The safety car period made for some hasty changes of strategy and Olivier Panis dived into the pits, only to pull off track a lap or two later for his fifth retirement of the season.

Schumacher was streaking away at the front, lapping in the 1m09 bracket, and Barrichello closed in on Raikkonen. Webber, who benefited from the safety car period and was up to 16th, got a ten second stop-and-go penalty for breach of parc fermé regulations.

Apparently, Jaguar refuelled Webber’s car while he was waiting for the restart in the pit lane and parc fermé conditions are not lifted until the pack leaves the grid.

Rain on some parts of the track caused a slight pause in Schumacher's charge and Montoya closed the gap down to around three seconds. Quite a few drivers went into the pits but nobody opted to switch to wet weather tyres. There were some slippery moments as the rain got heavier - the Renault of Jarno Trulli spun at Turn One, but he managed to keep going, and Jaguar's Antonio Pizzonia, who was running in the top ten, went wide at the last corner.

The rain eased off after a few laps and the next drama was Ferrari's pit stops. Barrichello came in first and had a long delay with a fuel hose problem - the stop took nearly 20 seconds. Michael came in a lap later and his problem was even worse. The hose jammed on the car and while the mechanics tried to uncouple it, flames started leaping from it.

As the hose detached, a burst of flame followed and everyone scrambled for fire extinguishers. Schumacher sat calmly, waited for the flames to be doused then rejoined the race.

While the German was in the pits, Montoya had taken the lead in front of Raikkonen. There were some battles going on in the midfield: Giancarlo Fisichella, Jacques Villeneuve, David Coulthard and Webber were battling for position and Alonso had fought through all the way up to sixth. Starting from the pit lane had given the young Spaniard the opportunity to take a one-stopper and he pitted on Lap 38.

Williams-BMW’s run at the front of the field did not last long though… Montoya’s engine blew and Schumacher nipped past Raikkonen as the ailing Williams crawled back to the pits.

Barrichello overtook Jenson Button to take third place. Button drove a strong race, but his BAR could not match the speed of Ferrari. Villeneuve lost his chance when he stalled in his pit stop. He managed to rejoin but finished twelfth. Schumacher, meanwhile, was setting a series of fastest laps – leaving Raikkonen in his wake.

The remaining Sauber of Nick Heidfeld was struggling with a misfire, losing ground to Coulthard and eventually retiring to the pits. Alonso was the next retiree, all his hard work that got him up into the top six came to nothing when he spun off at turn one with engine failure. "I spun off because the rear wheels locked with an engine problem," he explained. "It was a good race until then, one of my best. I started from the pit lane and was up to sixth or fifth."

The Renault engine had left oil on the track. As a result, Schumacher and Button both ran wide at the first corner. Raikkonen was back in the lead until his second stop then the order reverted to Schumacher, Raikkonen, Barrichello and Button.

Ralf Schumacher was behind Button and complaining of very bad understeer. Coulthard was homing in and when Ralf locked up and went wide into the gravel, the McLaren-Mercedes was quick to take advantage. Pizzonia and Trulli were also fighting for the final points scoring position of eighth.

Schumacher had a comfortable lead in the final laps but it was Raikkonen's turn for some tension. Barrichello was homing in, the Ferrari clearly faster than the McLaren-Mercedes but Raikkonen had better traction in the corners. The Brazilian hounded the Finn, who fought hard to keep the Ferrari behind him. The pair went side by side though the Lauda curve, Barrichello edging ahead but Raikkonen holding the line to keep the second place.

The Brazilian harassed Raikkonen all the way to the line but just couldn't find a way past. Fisichella was the last disappointment of the race, pulling the Jordan off track with a fuel pressure problem just a few laps from the finish. Justin Wilson again managed to complete a race distance and came home thirteenth and last.

Final top eight classification: M. Schumacher, Raikkonen, Barrichello, Button, Coulthard, R. Schumacher, Webber, Trulli.