On Wednesday the 24th of May 2000, during a test session on the Valencia circuit, Giancarlo Fisichella and Jarno Trulli are unlucky protagonists of a new collision after the one occurred a few days before in the early stages of the European Grand Prix. In Spain, Fisichella is in the middle of a fast lap when he found himself in front of his compatriot’s Jordan on a curve. Benetton then left the track at a speed of 240 km/h, destroying itself. Fortunately, for Fisichella only a few scratches.
Meanwhile, following the fourth victory of the season at the Nurburgring, on 25 May 2000 Michael Schumacher worked with Ferrari at Fiorano, completing forty-three laps. The following day, the leader of the World Cup participates in the football match for Peace, at the Olympic Stadium, but not before continuing to run tests ahead of the Monaco Grand Prix, scheduled for June 4, 2000. In relation to the match, the Ferrari driver speaks of great joy and a historic evening, while as for the Monegasque Grand Prix he says:
"In Munich I am perfectly happy to start in second position. You won’t believe me, but with the new rules of electronics our departures have improved a lot, while Hakkinen doesn’t seem to be always as perfect as last year. In any case the circuit is pleasant, and the car is in place: I am optimistic".
There is also a question about Barrichello and his problems, which Michael does not shirk:
"I don’t feel any problems, between him and the team. But it’s his first year in Ferrari, and he must learn many things. Anyway he has the chance to fight for the pole and for the victory, always for the podium: so far he has done a great season".
As usual, the first two free practice sessions on the historic city circuit of the principality are held on Thursday, and as expected Ferrari is immediately against Mclaren. In the morning session Schumacher lined up, starting with his number one rival, Hakkinen. The reigning World Champion then went back to his interests, scoring the best time in the afternoon with 1'21'387. To separate the two opponents a breath of air, with the German that stops the clock on 1'21'486.
Following the other Silver Arrows driver, David Coulthard, then a surprising Eddie Irvine with the Jaguar. Late instead, Rubens Barrichello, who still seems to struggle to find the right set-up on his F1-2000, and must be content with the tenth place. Lap times for the moment end in themselves; what counts, for now, is the tension, and the premises of a duel that promises already exciting. In the statements of the eve the Mclaren flaunts the usual optimism of facade, but inside the wall you can see some cracks. Hakkinen is sure:
"It will be an exciting championship, which will be decided at the sprint. It will be won by the most reliable car".
And you do not understand, given how it went so far with the various reliability problems accused by Mp4/15, if you say it with satisfaction or regret. At Ferrari there is a new awareness, which this year has returned to join the men of Maranello. For Ross Brawn F1-2000 is the best ever made by the Italian team. Even Schumacher knows this, and he knows that the time has come for us not to make mistakes. Everyone is quick to argue the opposite, but the Monaco Grand Prix looks like a decisive race to give life to a concrete escape in the overall standings. On the roads of the principality Schumacher has already won four times, the last in 1999 in front of Irvine. With a possible five the championship is likely to be well addressed, even if the German does not agree:
"We are not yet at a stage of the season where leaderboards can be considered irrecoverable. Of course I will try to do well as always, but let’s not charge too much meaning this race".
Already absent from the Nurburgring race because his Prost was found underweight after qualifying, Nick Heidfeld continues his nightmare season having to deal with a car for which it is difficult to find merits. During free practice, the German rookie crashed into the barriers seriously damaging the car. In addition, a tire detached from the single-seater goes to hit the cameraman of the FOCA, Giampiero Agosti, which among other things shows to possess a coolness such as to remain stationary framing the tire that comes on him. The camera, however, is centered causing significant damage, however less than those faced by Alain Prost.
"Better to get a tire on you than to see you get against Tomba, as happened to me in Calgary: it would have been the end".
The cameraman comments smiling. At the end of the two free practice sessions, Ron Dennis speaks to everyone about his rivalry with Ferrari, and the plan that Mclaren has to recover the disadvantage that separates the drivers and the team from Schumacher and Ferrari:
Consider every race to itself. That is, to attack. There is a story that makes children smile and that says: do you know how to devour an elephant? Simple, one bite at a time. The same goes for us. If we want to climb up, we have to chew slowly the advantage to Ferrari, it is not thinkable to cancel the margin in two races. There will be races in which we will earn, others in which we will lose, we know".
This Ferrari, however, is stronger than ever:
"Sure. Schumacher and Ferrari are a formidable challenge. They are very strong and we will have to work hard to be better than them. Only in the end there will be a winner. I don’t believe in an early conclusion of the world championship".
Why did Mclaren have such a difficult start to the season?
"We built a very special car to accommodate the new Mercedes engine with the new gearbox, doing 15.000 km of testing before the start of the World Championship. But two stupid mistakes cost us the first, possible, two victories".
What was the worst moment in these first six races?
"The result of the Australian Grand Prix, when none of our cars reached the finish line. I was convinced that we would win. I was destroyed by it. In such cases, those who are at the top of the structure, as in my case, have to prove to the team that you can rise again, but must indicate a way".
Is that a stronger Ferrari than the one you’ve been waiting for?
"There are some things that have played in favor of Ferrari. For example, when at any moment the FIA decided the restrictions on electronics, the Ferrari was already ready while we wasted time before being in a position to react. We got back in almost equal at the Spanish Grand Prix, but with a pinch more consumption than our plans and a loss of driveability of the car caused by the new rules".
When will Mclaren be able to say that it has absorbed the backlash of the reduction of the electronics, to compete on an equal footing with Ferrari?
"At the Nürburgring we were at 80%, in Munich we are at 100%, hoping that Ferrari or others have not made great progress".
It’s gonna be a tight race on Sunday:
"Yes. And I expect a third wheel between Ferrari and us: the Williams-BMW. Because in the Principality the maximum power will count less than elsewhere. The Williams, then, has really good car".
Schumacher against Schumacher, second half after the duel in Barcelona? Laughter. Then with serious:
"No, mine will be there too. However, Michael is very determined in his maneuvers, as has often been seen. I believe that drivers, in general, must have mutual respect because what happens on the track is in their hands".
A difficult problem, which the team had to face, was the plane crash of Coulthard before the Spanish Grand Prix, a race weekend during which the Scottish driver immediately returned to the car:
"It was easier than you think. Everyone in life has experienced unhappy or even tragic experiences. The death of a family member, a friend, a work companion. With time you get used to being touched in a strong way in the feelings. But in the end it always changes. In the sense that you can become stronger or more fragile. Coulthard came out stronger. He kept the physical pain of his ribs to himself, kept out of his mind what had happened while remaining conscious of the drama that had been consumed. And he stood on the podium of Spain and the Nürburgring with great dignity, without spraying champagne or partying. If he was my son, I’d be proud of him".
Hakkinen is always half mysterious. Is he stronger than in '99?
"Yes. He has everything to gain and nothing to lose, since in two years he has been able to conquer victories and two World Championships. But above all he has become a more mature professional. Even in the way he manages relations with Coulthard and with the team. What he does in the race is before the eyes of all. There is much talk of Schumacher: Mika is certainly not inferior, indeed".
We’re talking about friction between Hakkinen and Coulthard:
"Gossip. There is full harmony between them. It is obvious that if the team gives instructions, these are almost always in the interest of the team. Both know that they have to give their best to beat their rivals and then, if anything, to play between them the victory".
Can we already give an almost confirmation for 2001?
"Now I do. But I never questioned Coulthard’s stay. Or Hakkinen’s. There is no need to make judgments or tighten the times before a contract is not exhausted: there is the risk that the pilot does not give his best because he feels a climate of distrust".
But it is known that Hakkinen wanted to have a treatment from the first guide, after two titles in a row:
"Mika wouldn’t want to have any other teammates other than Coulthard. The reality is that among the drivers of the same team there must be respect and a certain form of friendship: Mika and David respect each other and are somehow friends. I have always reminded them how important a relationship of harmony is. A war internal psychology takes away energy and gives them to rivals, I know well from past experiences. Instead, with harmony one can better accept the defeat from the partner and maybe dissolve the tension with a joke. I see a well-balanced Mclaren today".
Which element will decide the championship 2000?
"Reliability. That even Ferrari, at times, did not have. Then the strategy in the race: the performances of Ferrari and Mclaren are now equal. They are very good at advertising the goodness of their strategies. And Schumi is very strong in psychological warfare on the subject. But it is a political propaganda that can work with the press or with some team, not with Mclaren. We do not live of fantasies, but of reality".
On Friday, the Formula 1 cars do not take to the track, at least on the Monte Carlo circuit. In fact, as already done the year before, Michael Schumacher gets up early, gets on a helicopter and leaves to reach the track of Fiorano. The reason is always the same: training with departures, a crucial factor on a track where overtaking is impossible. In '99, this training brought the hoped-for results, as when the traffic lights went off, the German jumped in the lead. Once the trials are over, Schumacher disembarks from the helicopter and goes to get the cool on the bridge of the Ginamaria, his twenty-seven-metre boat moored in the port of Fontvielle.
Corinna sets the table, blue checkered tablecloth like campaign, plastic glasses, the menu you don’t know, no one has seen it. Brother Ralf, manager Willy who is so nice in Montezemolo and a few friends also arrive for dinner. As for the day of free practice, Schumacher talks about the fact that the track has been progressively improving, and that those who set the best time, Hakkinen, succeeded mainly because he completed the fast lap at the end of the session:
"It’s no problem, I can go that fast. Sure, pole is convenient here, but since it seems that this year pole does not bring good luck in the race, I would settle for the first row. Everything is about leaving well".
In this key, therefore, Michael and his engineers decide to repeat the session in Fiorano, a bit expensive but evidently profitable. On the home track is waiting for the car number 200 with which you can not travel by regulation more than fifty kilometers. Schumacher also took advantage of the charm of the Principality to show off his new racing helmet, all red, tending to orange:
"Maybe because I’m in love with Ferrari, but also because I wanted to change, I had the old helmet for two years".
It is no longer the super-technological helmet of the previous year: Leds have disappeared that indicated the number of revolutions of the engine, and the reason is simple: In the new Ferrari has been completely rebuilt the dashboard just to allow the German to read it well without complicated artifices inside the helmet. The only innovative part is the nose that can be disassembled to access the radio circuits, while before with tweezers had to act from the inside. Michael returns to Monaco groped by the test of Fiorano, where he performs seven starting tests. It seems that everything worked well, and that in the race Schumacher can count on an incomparable clutch to take the start. Jean Todt, who has been struggling with this clutch system for a year, is not entirely happy:
"It’s not Michael’s fault if sometimes it starts bad, we have to improve. We have made progress but we must never stop if we want to win. Of course it’s always nice to take pole position, but we can settle for the first row, and I hope in a second row for Barrichello. But you have to be careful, because Monte Carlo is very difficult and there are always drivers with great driving sensitivity who can make excellent results here: like Fisichella, Alesi, Frentzen".
Todt’s concern at the moment is Barrichello, who is unable to make great results and is now crushed by the overwhelming power of Schumacher:
"Barrichello is a very good driver, but we have to give him time. He must take it too, the results will come. In the meantime we must help him and protect him: sometimes it is better that a pilot does not know that he is good because he finds more stimuli".
Friday is always a quiet day in Monte Carlo, but not useless: everyone takes the opportunity to think about tomorrow. And this idea of the future is presented by Renault, which bought back Benetton and will officially be back on track with its own name in 2002. President Patrick Faure explains:
"We bought Benetton because we were in tune with Luciano Benetton when he told us a great truth: Formula 1 is becoming extremely challenging in terms of technology, without a big House you do not go further and so we arrived, because we believe that commitment is more effective with an entire team than with engines alone. We will arrive in two years with something very innovative in terms of engines, we believe in Flavio Briatore, the rest will come".
Saturday 3 June 2000 is time for qualifying. During the first half hour nothing happens, then here comes the first high note of Eddie Irvine, who after a start of the season to forget fishing with a manual lap the virtual pole, overtaking Verstappen and Coulthard, the fastest so far. It’s just a moment of joy for the Northern Irish, as soon after comes his former teammate, Michael Schumacher. The German starts to touch the limit, as well as, on a couple of occasions, the guard-rail, and stops the clock on 1'20'830, which is worth the first provisional place. Even for him it’s just a moment of joy, but spoiling the party is not the usual rival Hakkinen, but Jarno Trulli, who for the first time in his career is in front of everyone.
The momentary pole of the Jordan driver is like a breath of sudden wind; the trials come alive, they warm up. The magnificent four of Ferrari and Mclaren are not going to leave the stage and the glory to an intruder, and so they dive on the track ready to take back what is due to them. The quickest to put things right is Coulthard, who finds a free track and manages with surprising ease to break Trulli from the top of the standings. The Silver Arrows, however, do not have much time to celebrate, because Schumacher gives the encore: with a thrilling ride he places himself in the front row. His teammate, Barrichello, cuts off his ticket to third place.
At this point only Hakkinen is missing, lost in the traffic of the circuit and forced to travel far, far away from the positions that count. To complicate the situation a spin of the Minardi of Genè, which comes out unscathed accident. Frentzen did not get caught up in the queue of blocked cars behind the Minardi, and placed second in the provisional position. As for Trulli previously, Coulthard, who attacks Schumacher, always leader, is able to get rid of any outsiders from the front row.
The last nine minutes are intense: Hakkinen jumps to the track to make up for lost time, and with Schumacher ready to defend himself with his teeth. In the duel Trulli is again inserted, who feels he can live his day as the first of the class. The Pescarese still went on pole, but Schumacher snatched it a second later, relegating the Italian to second position. There is no respite, the chronometers run and in the pits of Mclaren the tension rises. Hakkinen continues to find no free corridors, this time for the yellow flags waved after an exit of Verstappen, and six minutes from the end of the official session is far, even in seventeenth position. The Finn tries to put on track a cursed day with the last lap, but there is nothing to do: he is fifth.
For Schumacher it is the second pole of the season after the one in Spain, but this is made even more beautiful by the fact that he conquered it on the track where the fast lap of Saturday counts much more than other tracks. In addition, there will be neither the Mclaren of Hakkinen, nor that of Coulthard, third and unable to reposition in the final in the front row, but the Jordan of Jarno Trulli. Next to the Scotsman, Frentzen’s other Jordan. If he were superstitious, Michael Schumacher would be desperate: the pole of Monte Carlo is his, but nobody won this year starting in front of the others. But German is not the type to be discouraged for so little. So he takes with rage and talent the best time in the official tests, and gets out of the car with the sure air of who knows exactly where he wants to go. A performance of applause, after an exciting session full of surprises.
The driver of the day, however, is in effect Jarno Trulli, the first to recognize that he did something exceptional:
"I didn’t expect it, I still don’t have the car I want, I was aiming to finish in the first six. The second place is a dream. Having made it here, on a track where the driver makes the difference and not the car, makes me enjoy like a crazy. I was perfect, especially at the entrance of the Swimming Pools. It exalts me that point, it causes me an incredible emotion".
An unexpected guest in the great Ferrari delirium for the pole of Schumacher, that could be already satiated, and that instead is not satisfied:
"I always leave very well, Schumacher sometimes hesitates. No, don’t tell me I want to win, Ferrari and Mclaren are giants, Jordan is not yet. But at the first corner I could be in front. And if that happens, it would be funny. Because in Monte Carlo you do not overtake and one in the head must dream".
It was from 1992 that an Italian driver did not win the first row in the streets of Monte Carlo. The last was Riccardo Patrese, who is also the last Italian to have won a race, also in '92, but in Japan.
"For us Italian drivers these abstinences seem spells. To break them once and for all would be fantastic".
Jarno will try, taking the risks of the case:
"Because there are at least six points you can hit, the first corner, the Santa Devota, the Casino, the Portier, the Tabaccaio curve, the entrance to the Piscine and the Rascasse. It’s a long, stressful race, where anything can happen. But in Monte Carlo you can’t back out. I gave my best today and I could have been on pole if I hadn’t been slowed down by a Mclaren in the last attempt. However, traffic in Monte Carlo is an inevitable thing. You must have luck and no fear. I touched barriers left and right, but in the end I was rewarded. I want to thank my mechanics, who worked all night on Thursday and Friday. With the car I still do not feel able to play on par with others, today it took the heart, I hope that in the race enough. I exploited the mistakes and problems of the great ones, of Hakkinen, of Barrichello. And now they must come and get me".
Mika Hakkinen is on the ground, buried by bad luck, by a fifth place that threatens his race. Understandably, Mika has little desire to talk. His is just a list of failed attempts, all for accidents or traffic:
"To achieve a decent time I had to try five times. You tell me if anyone in qualifying has ever happened to be in the way of three accidents. I never had such bad luck. Once I came back because there was a fight between a Benetton and a Williams, in another I caught the accident of Gené, in a third went to bang De La Rosa. And even in the fifth attempt, Mazzacane got sideways. Luckily I passed the Rascasse a few tens of seconds later, otherwise I would have broken every record of bad luck".
For the race it gets very hard:
"Don’t overtake me here, I’ll have to come up with a strategy".
Mclaren is also ready to accuse itself, and it does so by the mouth of Jo Ramirez, the sports director:
"We went out too late, we ruined qualifying and now it’s a big deal".
So, an unusual starting grid, which also surprises the poleman Schumacher, especially with regard to Hakkinen’s performance:
"I’m surprised by Mika’s performance too, but it’s not his fault, poor guy. But even from fifth place he represents a danger for me. I’m happy, therefore, to have Jarno behind me: he is not running for the world title and I don’t think he wants to risk an accident at the first corner. Trulli is a very good start and I just have to try to leave better than him".
Rubens Barrichello’s problems continue instead: in 1999, with Stewart, he placed fifth; this year, at the wheel of a Ferrari much more competitive than the car then taken over by Jaguar, he is only sixth, almost a second behind the team-mate.
It happens that almost every Grand Prix the Brazilian can not find the set-up that most satisfies him, the team is necessarily inclined to suggest solutions that Schumacher found good, but he does not get used to because he has a completely different way of driving. Rubens states in dismay:
"For the race I have to try to change the set-up, because even if I am badly on the grid, in Monte Carlo something always happens that allows you to go ahead".
The only real question for Sunday is given by the tires: Trulli chooses extra-soft tires, while Schumacher and Mclaren will start with a harder compound. All aim to make a single pit-stop, because when you start again from the pits there is no way to make an overtaking, and so the less you stop the better. The only one to have no doubts of any kind is Schumacher:
"It’s all right, I have a big car, I’m well focused, a grill better than that I couldn’t dream about. I can win big, and if I win I’ll dedicate the victory to Mama Rossella".
Sunday, May 4, 2000 is Barrichello the fastest in the morning warm-up, with a time of 1'21"251, fifty cents better than Schumacher, second. The session was suspended six seconds before the end due to the accident at the Tabaccaio of Pedro De La Rosa, who crashed and destroyed his Arrows. Third position for Ralf Schumacher, ahead of Coulthard, Trulli and Hakkinen, sixth eight tenths from the two Ferraris.
At 14:00 everything is ready to start the seventh round of the World Championship 2000, on the street circuit of Monte Carlo. Starting for the reconnaissance lap, we must immediately deal with the problems occurred on the car of Pedro Diniz, who manages to leave only when the other drivers are on the second sector of the track. The Sauber Brazilian, according to the regulations, must start from the last position, and not from what was for him the nineteenth box. When everything seems ready to start, however, Alexander Wurz shakes his arms to signal the commissioners that the Supertec engine of his Benetton has gone out.
The start is aborted, Wurz should start from the pit-lane, but since the damage to the car is irreparable, and the forklift is thirsty for Fisichella, can not be changed quickly, being Wurz much higher than the Italian: for the Austrian comes the retirement. After completing the second round of reconnaissance, the race begins and Michael Schumacher holds the position on Trulli and Coulthard. Everything remains unchanged in the leading positions, until you reach the Loews, where Hakkinen surprises Frentzen by climbing to fourth position.
For the two Silver Arrows, this represents a frustrating first part of the race. Everything remains unchanged until the two drivers' retirement from the pit-lane: Button, out for boredom to the BMW engine, and Wurz, finished on the wall at Sainte Dévote. Benetton is promptly removed, so as to avoid the entry of a Safety-Car that would have been a real joke for Schumacher, since the German in the meantime continues to earn an average of one second per lap on the duo Trulli-Coulthard.
A few laps later ends the weekend of Minardi: first Gené retires due to exchange problems, then Mazzacane becomes the second victim of the day of Sainte Dévote. After thirty laps, Frentzen seems slightly in pain with his tires, and his times rise to such a point that behind him, in addition to Hakkinen, also Ralf Schumacher, and although slower, even Alesi, who for his part controls Barrichello without any problem. Unfortunately, shortly after the Frenchman had to leave the seventh position at Barrichello for a problem with the semi-axle, decreeing the umpteenth withdrawal of his season, to be exact the fifth in seven races. Alesi inaugurates a frantic phase of the race, since soon the leading positions are distorted.
On lap 36, Hakkinen suddenly slowed down through the tunnel, losing several positions before returning to the pits. It would seem a formality to decide to withdraw the two-time championship. But the mechanics examine the problem, which seems to be on the front-end, and after fifty-three very long seconds, they manage to solve the strange inconvenience manifested on the Finnish car: a cable wiring the brake control, In fact, it ended up under the pedal board, preventing Hakkinen from being able to drive properly. He returns to the track, but he is definitely late, even twelfth.
The trouble, however, does not only afflict the Mclaren: in the same lap, Jarno Trulli sees his dreams of glory broken because of the usual problems of reliability of Jordan. The Italian driver can only slowly bring the car back inside the box and leave the road free to Coulthard, who demonstrates all his speed by immediately recording the fast lap of the race. Worse still goes to Ralf Schumacher, who in the next step slams violently at Sainte Dévote. The German driver of Williams limps out of the car, climbs over the guard-rail with difficulty and then is rescued for a deep cut to the leg. For Ralf, fortunately, no fractures of any kind.
On lap 40, therefore, the points area sees different protagonists: Schumacher continues to make the pace in complete solitude, Coulthard follows him at a distance in second position, while Frentzen is third. Barrichello, without doing anything, finds himself fourth, ahead of Fisichella and Irvine. Hakkinen tried to shake by recording the fastest lap in 1'22"123, but from twelfth position his race could be said to be compromised. Later, Schumacher and Coulthard repeatedly lower the time of the Finn, giving rise to a long-distance battle played on the edge of the hundredth.
It’s the forty-ninth lap when the Ferrari driver returns to the pits for the first and only stop scheduled. Everything goes perfectly, and Schumacher easily retains the first position. When even Ricardo Zonta imitates some of his colleagues crashing at the first corner, the remaining drivers in the race are only twelve, and with over twenty-five laps still to be completed it is easy to think that the number is destined to shrink again, in one way or another. Meanwhile, Rubens Barrichello hooks up Frentzen for the third place. The two pit-stop at the same time but both teams of me.
Then, on lap 55, on the main straight, the twist: the left rear suspension of Schumacher’s F1-2000 suddenly jumps, with the German who is forced to make a full lap on three wheels, because the front right tends to rise. Coulthard thanks and finds himself in the lead of the race, he also takes the opportunity to make his stop, and return to the track as a leader. When Schumacher returns to the pits, Ferrari mechanics work frantically, but in the end they have to realize that there is nothing to do. It’s retreat, the first of the season, arrived when the victory seemed now in the pocket. And that’s how a dream day suddenly turns into a nightmare.
As Coulthard flies off to an unexpected success, Hakkinen tries to make sense of his race by engaging in a duel valid for sixth place with the old rival in the minor categories, Mika Salo. The fight became the fifth place when, eight laps from the end, Frentzen lost his concentration for a fraction of a second, becoming the sixth victim of the day of Sainte Dévote. An unforgivable mistake of the experienced German driver, who throws a precious podium for Jordan. He found himself on the podium, behind Rubens Barrichello and Giancarlo Fisichella. In the final Hakkinen goes straight to the Chicane del Porto, settling for sixth place. His race can be perfectly summarized in the dubbing suffered by his teammate in the last kilometers to go.
David Coulthard won the Monaco Grand Prix, climbing to two victories in the season and especially 34 points in the standings, which earned him the second place in the drivers' standings. The distance from the leader Schumacher is reduced to 12 points, while the lead over Hakkinen, third in the ranking, is 5 points. Despite the many difficulties, Rubens Barrichello can celebrate on one of the most prestigious podiums of the calendar thanks to the second place, obtained mainly thanks to the misfortune of others. Third Fisichella, ahead of Eddie Irvine, who conquered the first historic points for Jaguar, Mika Salo and Hakkinen.
Once again, those who start from pole position do not succeed in winning on Sunday. Michael Schumacher hoped to break this curse, but the first problem in the season highlighted on his F1-2000 prevented him. To benefit from it is David Coulthard, who may even look like an intruder in what from the beginning of the season is said to be a head to head between Schumacher and Hakkinen. However, the Scotsman holds a hit like he had never done in previous years:
"I feel at the top of my career, at the height of my physical and mental maturity. I make fewer mistakes, I can handle situations, I think I’ve reached the maximum of my potential. So why hide? I aim for the world title, I’m more than ever in the race, I don’t care if there are those who don’t consider me. I can do it and I won’t give up until the last race".
For now he has already achieved one goal:
"There were four games that I absolutely wanted to win, with today I closed poker. I was aiming at Monza, because the Italian fans are the best, at Spa, a fantastic circuit, at Silverstone, because I run at home, and at Monte Carlo, the track where the driver counts the most. I may have won only eight races, but they are all prestigious successes. In this circuit you can not overtake, I at the start I was screwed by Schumacher and Trulli, I could go to the wreck, try to attack them at all costs, instead I began to run in defense, thinking of keeping the car on track, to bring home a valuable result anyway. And this tactic rewarded me. Also because this time the Mclaren was fantastic, reliable, unlike the Ferrari. I told you Schumacher’s car would break down sooner or later. Now we must hope that history will repeat itself, that Ferrari will continue to withdraw. In terms of performance we are on par, episodes can determine the difference. It happened here, it will happen in Canada".
He believes it, the two victories of this year have transformed him, but he doesn’t feel like putting the stable to the wall, to reclaim more space, now that he is the hare and Hakkinen trudges behind:
"Mika is a World Champion, deserves the utmost attention. Today he had an inconvenience, but remains a phenomenon".
The Finn has little reason not to smile; perhaps only one, namely the fact that Schumacher did not win. Mika had to go to a lot of trouble to bring home only one point:
"All in all it went well like this. In a Grand Prix so tormented I could stay dry. And then Schumacher broke up, for once I feel lucky".
At Ferrari we wonder about the problem of Schumacher. Jean Todt seems to find no peace, and he declares to the press:
"Honestly, it’s gonna take me a few days to work off a disappointment like that. We will have to understand if the crack in the exhaust was determined by the vibrations that inevitably a car accuses on a track like this, or if it derives from something else. I had indicated in the start, in the strategy and in the reliability the three fundamental things to achieve success; the first two went very well, unfortunately the third one betrayed us incredibly. No, to the curse of pole I do not want to believe, I will always try to put my drivers in a position to conquer, of this you can be sure. We have already made three of them this year, and it is undoubtedly a confirmation of our improvements since in the past on Saturday we were often not brilliant. Now we will immediately get to work to prepare Canada; two days in Monza with Barrichello to be praised for having already brought a good score to Ferrari, and two more to Fiorano with Badoer. In the meantime we will study with the utmost attention what happened to those drains, you can be sure of it; reliability has long been our pride and must remain so. You’ll see that he will stay".
Todt also explains that no one at the wall, during the race, had been able to realize the problem at the exhaust:
"But we realized from telemetry that even in Barrichello there was something anomalous".
As a result, the radio team immediately arrived at the Brazilian where he was asked to raise his foot. In fact, the technicians of Maranello, analyzed the two cars used, confirm that a drain of the left bank of the Ferrari number 4 of Barrichello cracked exactly as it happened to Schumacher. The causes hypothesized by the team are three: a material of insufficient thickness; a blow in the welding; or, finally, an anomalous vibration triggered by the very area of the welding. Despite everything, Barrichello makes his second place after two days of practice quietly and a race spent away from the first:
"I was closed a bit at the start, then I did not make a good qualification and then I was penalized by the starting position. In the race I always had to chase, but at the same time I tried to save the car and tires. I think I would have been able to pass Frentzen, because I was faster".
For his part, Michael Schumacher says he is more disappointed than angry at the first retirement of his championship. The Ferrari driver felt himself robbed of a certain victory, of the fifth triumph in seven years in Monte Carlo, the third with Ferrari:
"I was always quiet, focused on what I had to do, and then a drain burst, all of a sudden. The top warmed up the left rear suspension strut, fused it. A bad trouble that I hoped could be fixed at the pits, and instead there was nothing to do. Suspension ruined, goodbye race. Also because you could not replace it. With the broken drains would have destroyed even the new".
Michael also explains when he realized exactly that the triumph was turning into disaster:
"Some laps before. Two or three. I realized something was wrong, but I couldn’t help it. Until that moment everything was perfect, everything worked wonderfully. I did not touch anywhere, I did not make mistakes. I can’t explain why this breakup happened. These are inconveniences that can always happen, unfortunately it happened just today, in a race that I had already won".
Ten points thrown to the wind. Needless to question the state of mind:
"I could be better. It can happen, I have to make sense of it. React, continue to fight, think about the next race".
What does this defeat change in the World Cup?
"There is one positive aspect: Hakkinen, my main opponent, took only one point. This pushes me to say that I am disappointed, but not too much. But the downside says that I already had ten more points in my pocket, that I was going to run away, that I was going to put more pressure on the Mclaren. The championship is still long, will not be the individual episodes to decide it. But of course this year I lived better days".
His brother Ralf got hurt. He got a cut in his left leg, had to apply sutures, then went to the hospital. Are you worried?
"I do, he doesn’t, since it’s nothing serious. I heard about your accident right after the race, and they told me that you only had one wound and that the doctors had to close it. I tried to call him, I still haven’t been able to get in touch with him. But this is little trouble. It’s worse who stays at home, without maybe knowing the reality of who is in the hospital. Ralf will run in Montreal, only miss the tests in Monza. What do you want it to be?"
The Ferrari has always been reliable. And this has been its strength in recent years. Now that it is also very fast, it could overturn. And instead it broke in Munich. We must fear a dangerous reversal of the trend?
"An episode can not make history. Until that time it was a walk, we were perfect for the whole weekend. I may be disappointed with how it ended, but I don’t think I should overdo it. Monte Carlo was a good track for us, so is Canada. In Montreal we will try to get a rematch".
Schumacher has always feared Hakkinen. He could thus run the risk of underestimating Coulthard, but the German does not change his mind:
"I repeat: better that David won and not Mika. I know how to do my accounts well".
From the disappointed face of Schumacher to the radiant face of Fisichella, who wins the second podium of the season:
"The goal was to score points, the third place is a dream. I dedicate this podium to a Roman friend of mine, Fabrizio Tulli. He is a kart driver, he is thirty-one years old, a month and a half ago he had a heart attack on the Parma track while he was running, he went into a coma and now he is beginning to give signs of awakening. I promised him a great result and this is".
Despite the podium, Briatore continues to question it:
"I know that my future at Benetton is uncertain, but so far I have done my best. Anyway, this is mutual, because I too have several offers. Being on the rope doesn’t bother me, but I don’t need to be prodded".
A result that brings up the Italian-English team in fourth position in the constructors, at only one length from Williams, remained stationary at 15 points. Ferrari, which at 15:00 on 5 June in Maranello held a briefing with the whole team to try to understand what could have happened in Monaco, keeps the leadership thanks to the second place of Barrichello, but now the McLaren is only five points away, with 53 points won in the last four races, against the 29 of the Maranello team.
Davide Scotto di Vetta