After the Monaco trip, Ferrari looks forward to the eighth race of the 2000 season, participating in a test session at the Monza circuit. The Maranello team tries to minimise any information leakage on the two cars engaged a few days earlier in the Monte Carlo race, emphasising that they were linked to the characteristics of the street circuit. In any case, at Monza, in the late evening of Tuesday, June 6, 2000, a red pickup truck crosses the gates of the National Circuit bringing with it a couple of unseen discharges, not so much in form as in materials. That is why the following day Rubens Barrichello completes a Grand Prix simulation, accompanied by a couple of supplies: the pit operations are followed by engineer Pino D'Agostino, who is in charge of the Maranello engines on track and of the office that designed the high discharges. The race simulation turns out to be rather troubled, a bit for other people’s faults (a couple of red flags caused by Junqueira and Zonta), but above all for the sudden failure of the tension of the right rear suspension, which causes a spin at the exit of the Waalweg. Fortunately, in this section Barrichello runs in second gear, a little more than 100 km/h of speed, but obviously the failure alarms the Maranello technicians who, when they recover the car, carefully examine the broken suspension. Barrichello only resumes the tests in the afternoon, putting together about seventy laps. On Thursday, June 8, 2000, after participating in an initiative of the Senna Foundation, Rubens flies by helicopter to Fiorano for a further session of tests. The test session at Monza is also characterised by the vicissitudes of Ricardo Zonta, now accustomed to rather serious accidents. In the afternoon of Wednesday, June 7, 2000, for an anomalous locking of the left front wheel at the braking of the Parabolica, where drivers pass at about 250 km/h, the Brazilian loses control of his BAR: the latter, after touching the edge of the internal guard-rail (causing the marshall to flee from his place), heads off and crashes with its left side against the triple tyre barrier at the end of the outer escape route. The loom is to be thrown, while Zonta recovers a strong contusion to the knees. As a precaution, the Anglo-American team decides to interrupt the tests of Manning and Lemarie. But at Monza, there are also the two main rivals in the fight for the title with Schumacher: Hakkinen and Coulthard, who in the morning suffer several electronics problems. The mood of the two reflects the result of Monaco: Hakkinen refuses to open his mouth, while Coulthard, galvanised by the success, advances his candidacy for the World Championship.
"Without the disqualification in Brazil now I would be just six points from Michael, and anyway except for the retirement in Australia I always ended up on the podium, a sign that this could be my lucky year".
To those who ask him how he feels to beat Hakkinen in the standings at this point of the season, Coulthard answers spicy:
"In 1996-97 I was in front of him, someone has a short memory".
Eddie Irvine, however, even after the Ferrari driver’s defeat in Monaco, does not change his mind:
"Schumacher will win the title, because Mika is now less motivated and David is not consistent enough".
The above-mentioned test session represents the last opportunity for Formula 1 to run on the circuit as it had been redesigned six years before, after the modification to the second Lesmo curve for safety reasons. On July 3, 2000, in fact, works that will cancel the characteristic of the first variant and will change appearance to the second will begin. On the main straight part of the old track that used to be used as an escape route will be restored, and there will be drawn a sharp curve at 90 degrees which goes from 70 km/h to 80 km/h of speed, which at the exit will connect to the current track. Near the Roggia variant, the short straight between the entrance and the exit will be lengthened by about ten metres. The kerbs are new too, which will be raised from five to ten centimetres.
Meanwhile, on the eve of the Canadian Grand Prix, Willi Weber, manager of Michael Schumacher, flatly denies the news published by a German sports magazine about a possible return of the German to Benetton, which will become Renault in 2002. Michael, disinterested in certain groundless rumours, arrives in North America rested and with energy, after a quiet weekend in the American mountains: horse, sleeping bag, woods, streams, Indian canoe. In the middle, for reasons of sponsorship, he visits a factory of the most famous American motorcycles, and with one of these the German has fun running off the road. Schumacher is refreshed and remodelled: the exhaust failures in Monte Carlo seem already an old memory. In Canada the Ferrari driver has always been strong, even when he had less competitive cars than the F1-2000: there is therefore no doubt that he can fight for the win, provided that there are no unforeseen events like the accident of 1999, when he went into the wall coming out of the last chicane. In addition, Ferrari seems to have solved the problem of split exhaust pipes, as explained by the Maranello technicians:
"In Monte Carlo for over a third of the circuit the engine is being released, and in these cases a lot of fuel remains unburnt: when it passes through the exhaust pipes it ignites and raises the temperatures very high. For precaution we have reinforced the pipes, but here the inconvenience does not exist, seeing the characteristics of the track".
There is still some concern, however, for the suspensions, which have broken in Monte Carlo, Monza and Fiorano. The race weekend in Monaco was bitter for both the Schumacher brothers, as even Ralf failed to complete his run, crashing at the first corner and injuring his leg. His presence on the Montreal circuit was initially questioned, but then Williams spokesman Nav Sidhu assured that the driver’s condition had improved, and the chances of seeing him run were high. Chances that will become certainties after the visit of Sid Watkins, doctor of the FIA. Nothing to do, then, for Bruno Junqueira, who hoped to replace Schumacher, making his Formula 1 debut. On Friday, June 16, 2000, the drivers takes to the track for the usual two free practice sessions. The first day of practice immediately sees a fight on the razor’s edge between Schumacher and Coulthard. The Scotsman is first in the ranking, nine thousandths ahead of Schumacher, who in turn precedes Barrichello by just eleven thousandths. Hakkinen, however, is far, a second from the first. The cause of the delay is the fact that the Finn performs race simulations with full tank, both to know the consumption, both to test the brakes, rather stressed on the Montreal track. Behind the first the situation is changing, as the teams alternate weekend after weekend in positions close to the two top teams. This time it is Johnny Herbert with the Jaguar to excel among others, ahead of Jarno Trulli. In Ferrari the happiest is Barrichello:
"Yes, it is very comforting to see that every time I went out on the track I was able to improve, a sign that the road taken with my technicians is the right one, and I am sure that I can still go faster. I’m this close to Michael, but I’m also close to Coulthard, and that just means that once more, it’s our cars that excel. I’m not too interested in the fact that Michael goes faster. The fight is not between us two, it’s us two against our opponents".
Schumacher is satisfied too, and reiterates that he does not give importance to the curious statistic that sees from twelve races win drivers who did not start from pole:
"The pole curse? No, I don’t believe it, I don’t know why these randomness are created, but they don’t concern me. What I am pleased to see is that during this period when I was in America the technicians and the team worked well, the car seems to have improved, the troubles of Monte Carlo don’t worry us anymore".
On Saturday, as easy to predict, the qualifying session is on fire. In the first thirty minutes, Ferrari hides, without pushing too much on the accelerator, leaving the two McLarens to fight for the provisional pole. Hakkinen sets the fastest time in 1'19"576, but later he is beaten by Coulthard by four tenths. The Finn gets back in the lead by going faster than the lap time of 1'19"0, with a prompt response from the Scottish who also proves on this track to be equal to his teammate, if not even faster. On the first attempt, Michael Schumacher finishes second at fourteen thousandths from Coulthard, after which Barrichello reaches the finish line, third behind his teammate. Meanwhile, there are two accidents: the first involves Gastòn Mazzacane, who remains in the sand; the second has Jos Verstappen as protagonist, who goes against the wall damaging his Arrows. The Dutchman has to interrupt his practice for a few minutes. At the top, everything is decided in a flash: in his last attempt, Coulthard is slightly faster than Schumacher, who meanwhile has managed to place himself on pole. The German returns to the track, seems not to make it, then crosses the finish line and scores the fastest lap in 1'18"439, ninety-eight thousandths better than Coulthard. Barrichello qualifies third, in three tenths, with Mika Hakkinen behind him to complete the first two rows monopolised by Ferrari and McLaren. The Brazilian is undoubtedly among the most satisfied at the end of qualifying: the former driver of Stewart was called to a confirmation after the good feelings in free practice, and did not disappoint expectations. Otherwise, Hakkinen has the bitterness in his mouth for his fourth position, having to deal with a shock absorber problem that slowed him down, but especially with a Coulthard much faster and bulkier than past years. At the end of qualifying, in spite of everything, the Finnish says:
"There are usually very few of them here, it’s a long run, full of accidents and technical problems. I am very happy with the set-up for the race, we found an ideal balance. I know exactly what I have in my hand, which is why I’m not too worried, even though five-tenths from Schumacher in qualifying is a huge gap. Wait for me to be MIA, it’s not over yet".
Jean Todt only praises his drivers and the timing with which the team sent them on track:
"I want to see what they will find to criticise those who like to criticise us".
It’s true, this time there is nothing to complain about, especially for Schumacher:
"Michael is like this, he is always like this: his great ability to attack with strength and determination. He always does it, it’s his thing, but sometimes it can happen that things don’t go well. This time everything went well, when I saw him make the last attempt to recover the pole that Coulthard had just taken away I thought: he makes it, he makes it. Let’s tell the truth: we have the potential to do these things, the technical and the human one, but you can never know what will happen on the track".
For his part, Coulthard jokes about the missed pole for less than a tenth, because, as he reminds everyone, pole sitters have not won twelve races.
"I was lucky. Don’t you always say that pole leads to bad luck? Aren’t there twelve races that people who cheer on Saturday despair on Sunday? I want to win the race, it is at the first corner that you have to be in front, not after qualifying. Starting in the front row is enough for me, it’s a great result: I did a fantastic lap, I found no traffic, I gave my best, I have no regrets".
Then he recognizes the greatness of Schumacher:
"He’s a phenomenon, we have to find something special to beat him".
But he does not feel defeated at all at the start:
"My car with a full tank of fuel is perfect, the times of Friday say it as I was the fastest. This year, Ferrari is very strong on the single lap, but in the race we are still the best. I have great confidence, I can triumph and really aim for the world title".
On Sunday, June 18, 2000, Schumacher confirms to be the fastest in the morning warm-up by running in 1'18"932, ahead of his teammate Barrichello, just over a tenth away. The two Silver Arrows follow in third and fourth place, but are eight tenths away with Hakkinen, and nearly a second with Coulthard. Excellent session for the two Italians Jarno Tirulli, fifth, and Giancarlo Fisichella, seventh. There is also an off track of Pedro Diniz’s Sauber, who spins along the last chicane. There is very high concentration at Ferrari: at 7.30 a.m. the team is already on track to simulate a series of double pit stops. In particular, refuelling and tyre change are tested, in case the two single-seaters have to stop at the pits a few seconds away from each other. An event not to be excluded, especially because in the afternoon the chances of rain are high. At 13:00 p.m., the cars are lined up to kick off the Canadian Grand Prix. A few moments from the start of the formation lap, however, the Mercedes engine of Coulthard’s McLaren turns off. The mechanics intervene quickly to restart it, complete the operation successfully, but violate the rule that you cannot touch the car less than fifteen seconds from the start. Inevitably, Coulthard is being investigated by the Federation. The Scotsman, for the moment, can only focus on doing his job and try to worry Schumacher. When the traffic lights go off, the Ferrari driver starts well and immediately closes the trajectory to his opponent, while behind, at the first corner, Hakkinen brakes with excessive caution, unlike Jacques Villeneuve, sixth, who goes deep and rises to third position. Barrichello, surprised by the Finn from the first metres, heavily blocks the front wheels to avoid contact with the rear of the Finnish car. Eddie Irvine is instead stationary on the grid, who remains in his cockpit while the stewards take him to the pit lane, from where he will start his race a couple of laps later. On the first lap, Michael Schumacher leads the race ahead of Coulthard, Villeneuve, Barrichello, Hakkinen and Frentzen. The Canadian BAR does not have the pace of Ferrari and McLaren, and immediately slows down the drivers who follow him, while encouraging Schumacher and Coulthard to create a gap.
But the real protagonist of the very first phase of the race is Pedro De La Rosa, who started with a lighter tank than the others, and therefore is on a two-stop strategy. Starting ninth, the Spaniard gets to sixth position thanks to the overtaking of Frentzen at the hairpin, and then clings to the car of Hakkinen, managing to get side by side with him on the long straight before having to go back for the superior power of the Mercedes engine. Meanwhile, the FIA announces an investigation against David Coulthard, who is meanwhile busy following Schumacher nine tenths away. On lap 13 comes the penalty: a ten-second Stop&go for the McLaren driver, and the one who seems the only driver able to worry Schumacher is cut off from the fight. Granted the penalty, Coulthard is back on track in tenth place, behind the group formed by Zonta, Trulli and Verstappen. After almost twenty laps passed unscathed, Hakkinen tries to overtake Barrichello at the first corner. The Ferrari driver resists, and everything is back extremely stationary, with the two, together with De La Rosa, braked by Villeneuve. The distance from the solitary leader Schumacher, in fact, amounts to eighteen seconds. De La Rosa’s adventure in the points area ends on lap 20, when the Spaniard makes his first pit-stop. Three laps later, a light drizzle that enlivens - and not a little - the race begins to fall on the circuit. Barrichello becomes more menacing behind Villeneuve’s back. In turn 6, the Ferrari driver flanks the BAR, the two are paired in the straight that follows, and at the next brake, favoured by the internal trajectory, Villeneuve seems to have maintained the position. But at the hairpin, Barrichello sinks the detachment and finally manages to take the second place. At the same time, Verstappen goes wide in turn 8 and, behind him, Coulthard is the author of a spin that relegates him even further back in the standings.
With Coulthard bogged down in the middle of the group and the two Ferraris leading the race, Mika Hakkinen must absolutely overtake Villeneuve to keep alive McLaren’s hopes of being able to fight for the victory. Meanwhile, Jarno Trulli climbs to fifth position after passing his teammate Frentzen, who a few laps later has to retire due to brake problems. With the end of the rain the track dries, as the fast lap set by Rubens Barrichello shows. On lap 34, Michael Schumacher is called back to the pits for the only pit stop scheduled. On the German car, in addition to changing tyres and refuelling, there are also adjustments to the front wing, all in 9.5 seconds. The next lap, Hakkinen finally manages to overtake Jacques Villeneuve, with a deep break at the first corner. The two-time world champion, with free air, immediately lowers the limit of the fastest lap. It is the forty-second of the sixty-nine laps planned when Hakkinen makes his stop. But unfortunately for him, the timing is not optimal. In fact, just as the Finn enters the pits, it starts to rain again, but this time in a more copious way. The same timing also applies to Barrichello and Villeneuve. Race leader Michael Schumacher is among the first to make another pit-stop to mount wet tyres, on lap forty-sixth. Barrichello imitates his teammate, but the mechanics are not ready with his tyres, and Rubens loses several seconds in the pits. If the timing was not ideal for some, it is perfect for those like Giancarlo Fisichella, who makes a single stop, putting in the necessary amount of fuel to get to the finish line and directly mounting wet tyres. When all the drivers have done the tyre change, the points area is composed in this order: Schumacher, Fisichella, Barrichello, Hakkinen, Trulli and Wurz. The Benetton driver, who was not even in the points area until recently, finds himself on the podium, but due to an error in Turn 1 he gives back the second place to Barrichello. The track is very slippery, to the point that many are committing the same mistake as Fisichella, including Schumacher, who ends up making a mistake, but from the top of his huge advantage over Barrichello does not lose the position. Close to the points zone, Jacques Villeneuve and Ralf Schumacher engage in a good fight for the seventh position, with the Canadian driver who, after losing the battle, almost risks to end up against the wall. Pedro De La Rosa is unable to avoid his fate: the Arrows driver is forced against the barriers by Pedro Diniz and damages the right rear suspension.
The Spaniard is therefore forced to retire. The other Arrows of Jos Verstappen, meanwhile, gets excited on a wet track: the Dutch gets rid of Villeneuve and Ralf Schumacher, then puts in the crosshairs the sixth place of Alex Wurz. The rain does not bring big changes to the race of David Coulthard, who climbs in ninth place, but with still some feeble hope of gaining some points. On lap fifty-eighth Verstappen overtakes Wurz and, not happy, passes in a short time even Jarno Trulli: the Dutchman appears unstoppable. At the head of the race Schumacher runs on very high times, limiting himself to manage the car up to the finish line, unlike Barrichello who is instead the fastest on the track, so much so that he gains about two seconds per lap on his teammate. Verstappen also has the upper hand on Trulli, for his part in clear difficulty. Not surprisingly, behind the Italian of Jordan a row of drivers eager to earn that only point that offers the sixth position is formed. The drivers in question are: Wurz, Ralf Schumacher, Coulthard and Villeneuve. The latter perseveres on a couple of occasions in delaying the braking at the hairpin, and if on the first occasion he avoids the collision with Coulthard, on the second he overwhelms an innocent Ralf Schumacher. For the two comes the inevitable retirement. Climbed in eighth position, Coulthard forces a manoeuvre at the first corner at the expense of Wurz: the two go to the contact, end up on the grass, and despite the reckless manoeuvre, Coulthard gains the position on the Austrian driver. For him, however, there is no more time to attack the sixth place of Trulli. The race ends with the two Ferraris of Schumacher and Barrichello crossing the finish line divided by just a tenth. Michael celebrates his fifth win of the season, number forty in his career, one less than Ayrton Senna. Not only that: with this success, he finally breaks the curse that lasted for twelve races, according to which those who started from pole could never win the race. Barrichello completes the triumph of Ferrari, Fisichella, with the second consecutive podium, gives his fellow countrymen a podium in some ways all Italian. Fourth position for Hakkinen, author of a colourless performance, the exact opposite of that of Jos Verstappen, who comes fifth ahead of Trulli.
Five wins, 56 points in eight races, and the advantage over Coulthard and Hakkinen climbs to 22 and 24 points respectively: Michael Schumacher is simply enthusiastic, but he is aware that the title is anything but awarded.
"Things have gone well today, but I know perfectly well that it will not always be so. Having 22 points ahead of Coulthard doesn’t mean you’ve already won the World Championship. In Formula 1 now I have seen so many unexpected things that it is better to think about the next race".
At the press conference the German gives a special thanks to his teammate, and reveals that after all his F1-2000 was not so good:
"Today Rubens was fantastic, and he gave me incredible help to keep the opponents behind. I hope to pay him back. Rubens is a really good guy: he covered my back in an exceptional way. A sensor gave me the alarm signal. I can’t explain the exact reason. When I went back to the pits for the first stop, anticipating it by a few laps, they told me to calm down, that it was nothing, that the brakes were okay, that the rear axle did not have problems. I went on the grass once, at turn 1: I had all the brakes on the front, but I don’t think I did any damage there. At that point the escape route is wide, it is more risky to try to straighten the trajectory than to control the car off track".
A triumph for Ferrari, therefore, to be taken without triumphalism, because this victory hides but does not eliminate the risks run in Montreal by the Maranello team:
"Today we also benefited from special circumstances: for example, the Stop&go of Coulthard allowed me to do my race at the beginning without having to worry about having some pressure behind me. Although I must say that I didn’t pay much attention to his absence, I always tried to make my race. But I felt that the car had something strange, even if I did not understand what it was. From the pits they told me to relax, that everything was fine".
Michael debunked the pole curse, thanks to his special amulet:
"First of all, I had the hair brush of my daughter Gina Maria, the one I also had at the Nurburgring, on the day of my last victory, and that I had not brought to Monte Carlo. This hair brush does wonders. I had it sent by post to have it here in Canada. From Monte Carlo I went directly on holiday in the USA, there was no time to go to Switzerland to get it".
And after the hair brush?
"Thirteen, my lucky number. I knew that tradition would end at the thirteenth Grand Prix. I tried so hard to get pole position, because I was sure he wouldn’t betray me this time. Then there was my wife Corinna, who watched all five victories live this year. I mean, I was covered".
That in Canada is the fortieth victory of his career; he is a single triumph away from Senna:
"I hope to join him soon".
Finally, a special dedication:
"My team always deserves it. They’re all great. But I would like to give this success to the guys at the kart track in Kerpen, my hometown. I know they saw the race on television. Guys, squeeze your fists. This year we can do it".
Ferrari president Luca Cordero di Montezemolo also rejoices:
"I am very happy, because it was a great victory, after we had lost some points that were ours in Monte Carlo. I must compliment the drivers, a great race from Schumacher, a very good one for Barrichello, and cars that, both in practice and in the race, have proven to be better than those of our competitors. Everything worked perfectly and now we must continue like this".
The fourth podium in Ferrari is bittersweet for Rubens Barrichello, who shows a steady growth, but still insufficient to worry Schumacher. The Brazilian took close to his teammate in the final stages of the race, and, to the microphones of journalists, although without wanting to argue, states with regret:
"I deserved the victory. Because I was flying in the wet. At the end Ross Brawn told me to slow down, because I was getting too close to Schumacher and according to him I was taking excessive risks. But I told him: I’m already going slowly, I have clutch problems. I have great respect for the team, but I don’t know how much longer I could have slowed down, already doing it for three or four laps cost me a lot".
Barrichello has never been as close to victory as he was today; he came close to a breath from Schumacher, even though he lost ten precious seconds during the second pit stop. The tyres marked his race: the first stop had just begun to rain, he could mount wet tyres, but he did not risk it.
"Because after the Nurburgring, when I stayed on the track one more lap, we agreed with the team that we would avoid any risk".
The risk, however, occurred two laps later, when he arrived at the pits immediately behind Schumacher:
"On the radio, they told me: look, Michael’s coming to the pits, you’re wasting your time. But I said: better to wait a bit at the pits than to stay on track where, with dry tyres, I lose five seconds per lap".
In this way, however, he lost a dozen at the box, also because of a television operator who filmed the tyre change of Schumacher:
"You see that it is my destiny to only touch the victory. But I do not give up, sooner or later it will come".
Fisichella thinks so too, logically happy to have won the podium in Montreal for the fourth consecutive year. A feat that the Roman driver dedicates to the national football team, and that makes him rejoice enormously especially because it came through a stroke of genius. Fisichella was in fact the first to put on the wet tyres:
"A choice of my own, and my courage has been rewarded. With this Benetton I collected 18 points. Briatore keeps me on the ropes? I would stay, but I have many offers. And the more I do results, the more they increase".
Jean Todt, for his part, has words of comfort for Barrichello:
"I understand his disappointment because a driver is happy only when he makes the pole position or wins the race. I am happy with his result, thanks to him we scored a lot of points in a very difficult race which was full of risks. For example, as long as Coulthard was in the race he was very strong behind Michael. If he didn’t have that Stop&go, the race would have taken another turn. The rain, the tyre changes: in those circumstances, nothing is enough and everything ends badly. Schumacher was at the top of the World Championship and is now with more points, but it is not yet a difference that gives us peace of mind. There are many races left, our opponents are strong, many things can still happen. Our priority was to strengthen Michael’s position at the top of the world championship, and to put Barrichello in a position to score points. Sure, I’m sorry Rubens sacrificed himself, but he’s a great driver, he knows he can win and he knows he’s gonna win. But we have been chasing this title for too long, we must have determination and coldness. We cannot dream too much now".
In short, the sacrifice of Rubinho, who almost had to force himself not to overtake Schumacher, is highly appreciated by Ferrari. Feelings, however, must be put aside before the urgencies of the championship. Todt continues:
"Everything went very well. However, it remains that inconvenience that Schumacher had on the brakes that forced him to slow down visibly. A sensor indicated that the temperature of the right rear disc was rising sharply, and Schumacher felt defects in braking. So I had to give the order to both drivers to slow down and stay in their positions. Then we discovered that the air intake of the brakes had a dent that diverted the flow by preventing the disc from cooling. And then Michael slowed down a lot because he was calm knowing that he had Rubens protecting him".
Ferrari gives the impression of having surpassed McLaren:
"Easy, they’re always strong. I don’t know if we are technically superior, but psychologically we prefer to consider ourselves still a little inferior, so we have the incentive to improve".
Later, according to rumours leaked by Ferrari, the explanations of Schumacher’s slowdown diverge from those of Todt. It seems that the German, mindful of previous wet accidents, asked to raise his foot, provided that Rubens did not try to overtake him. Condition accepted, with radio order to the Brazilian to stay behind. Regardless of what the truth is, the fact is that the Maranello team has simply made the most of the McLaren disaster, drowned in the Canadian rain between the problems at the start of Coulthard and the poor vein on the wet track of Hakkinen. Ferrari has so wisely chosen to keep a very important 1-2 in complicated asphalt conditions. Team orders remain a thorny issue at McLaren-Mercedes, since both drivers are candidates to become the number one opponent of Schumacher in the title fight, and therefore, destined to take away points to each other. For Ferrari, however, the hierarchies are increasingly outlined, and that title that has been missing since 1979, is no longer a mirage.