After the Monaco trip, Ferrari looks forward to the eighth stage of the 2000 season, participating in a test session at the Monza circuit. The Scuderia di Maranello tries to minimize leaks on the two cars engaged a few days earlier in the Monte Carlo race, emphasizing that they were linked to the characteristics of the city circuit. In any case, at Monza the race starts to change, and so, arrived in Lombardy, 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of Tuesday, June 6, 2000, a red pickup truck crosses the gates of the National Circuit bringing with it a couple of unpublished discharges, not so much in form as in materials.
That’s why the following day Rubens Barrichello completes a simulated Grand Prix, accompanied by a couple of flying supplies: the pit operations are followed by the engineer Pino D'Agostino, responsible on track for the engines of Maranello and the office that designed the high discharges. The simulation of the race 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 travels in second gear, a little more than 100 km/h, but obviously the failure alarms the technicians of Cavallino, who just recovered the car examine with extreme attention the broken suspension. Barrichello only resumed in the afternoon, putting together about seventy laps; 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 characterized by the vicissitudes of Ricardo Zonta, now subscribed 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, which is faced 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 Commissioner to flee the station), he heads off and crashes with his 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 decided to block the tests of Manning and Lemarie. But at Monza, there are also the two main rivals in the fight for the title of Schumacher: Hakkinen and Coulthard, who in the morning suffer several problems of electronics. The mood of the two reflects the result of Munich: Hakkinen refuses to open his mouth, while Coulthard, galvanized by the success, advances his candidacy for the World Cup.
"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:
"Already in 1996-97 I was in front of him, someone has a short memory".
Eddie Irvine, however, even after the Ferrarist defeat in Monaco, does not change his mind:
"Schumacher will win the title, because Mika is now less motivated and David is not constant 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 3 July 2000, in fact, work will begin that will cancel the characteristic of the first variant and will change appearance to the second. On the main straight will be restored part of the old track that used to be used as an escape route, and there will be drawn a dry curve at 90# from 70 to 80 km/ h, which at the exit will connect to the current track. Near the variant Roggia, the short straight between entrance and exit will be lengthened by about ten meters. New also the curbs, which at the first will be raised from five to ten centimeters.
On the eve of the Canadian Grand Prix, meanwhile, Willi Weber, manager of Michael Schumacher, flatly denies the news published by a German sports magazine about a possible return of his assistant to Benetton, from 2002 to become Renault. Michael, disinterested of certain groundless rumours, presents himself in North America fresh and rested, after a quiet weekend in the American mountains: horse, sleeping bag, woods, streams, Indian canoe. In the middle, for reasons of sponsorship, visit to 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 failures of the exhaust 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 F1-2000: there is therefore no doubt that he can fight to win, provided that there are no unforeseen events like the accident of the '99, when he ran 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 Maranello technicians:
"In Monte-Carlo for over a third of the circuit the engine is being released, and in these cases a lot of gasoline remains unburnt: when it passes through the exhaust pipes it ignites and raises the temperatures to the stars. For precaution we have reinforced the pipes, but here the inconvenience does not exist, seen 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 Munich 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 are they 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 and thus make his debut in Formula 1.
On Friday, June 16, 2000, the drivers took to the track for the usual two free practice sessions. The first day of practice immediately saw 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 track in Montreal. 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’s 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. That Michael goes faster, I’m interested to a certain extent. The fight is not between us two, it’s between us two against our opponents".
Satisfied also Schumacher, who 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 curse of pole? No, I don’t believe it, they are randomness that are created I don’t know why, 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 me to have improved, the troubles of Monte Carlo no longer worry us".
On Saturday, as easy to predict, the qualifying session is on fire. In the first thirty minutes, the Ferrari hides, without pushing too much on the accelerator, leaving the two Mclaren to play the provisional pole. Hakkinen set the fastest time in 1'19"576, later beaten by Coulthard by four tenths. The Finn gets back in the lead by descending under the wall of 1'19", 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 finished second at fourteen thousandths from Coulthard, after which Barrichello reached the finish line, third behind his teammate. Meanwhile, a few shivers for two accidents: the first involves Gastòn Mazzacane, who remains mired in the sand; the second has as its protagonist Jos Verstappen, who goes against the wall damaging his Arrows. The Dutchman has to interrupt his rehearsal for a few minutes.
At the top, everything is decided in a flash: in his last attempt, Coulthard surpasses by nothing the time of Schumacher, who meanwhile had managed to place himself at the helm. 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 qualified third, in three tenths, with Mika Hakkinen behind him to complete the first two rows monopolized 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 the 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 criticize those who like to criticize us".
It’s true, this time there’s 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’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, but you can never know what will happen next on the track".
For his part, Coulthard jokes about the missed pole for less than a tenth, because, as he reminds everyone, pole players 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:
"It’s a phenomenon, we have to find something special to beat it".
But he doesn’t feel defeated at all at the start:
"My car with a full tank of gas is perfect, say the times of Friday, when I was the best. This year the Ferrari is very strong on the single lap, but in the race the best are still us. I have great confidence, I can triumph and really aim at the world title".
Sunday, June 18, 2000, Schumacher confirmed to be the fastest in the morning warm-up by turning in 1'18"932, ahead of team-mate Barrichello, just over a tenth away. The two Silver Arrows follow in third and fourth, but pay eight tenths with Hakkinen, and nearly a second with Coulthard. Excellent session for the two Italians Jarno Tirulli, fifth, and Giancarlo Fisichella, seventh. Of note is the exit of the Sauber track by Pedro Diniz, finished in a spin along the last chicane. Very high concentration at Ferrari: at 7.30 am the team is already on track to simulate a series of double pit stops. They are tested in particular refuelling and changing tires, in case the two single-seaters had to stop at the pits a few seconds from each other. An event not to be excluded, especially because in the afternoon the chances of rain are high.
At 13:00, the cars are lined up to kick off the Canadian Grand Prix. A few moments from the start of the reconnaissance lap, however, the Mercedes engine of Mclaren Coulthard turns off. The mechanics intervene quickly to restart it, complete the operation successfully, but violate the rule that you can not 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 went off, the Ferrari driver jumped well and immediately closed the trajectory to his opponent, while behind, at the first corner, Hakkinen braking with excessive caution, unlike Jacques Villeneuve, sixth party, which detaches deep and even rises to third position. Barrichello, surprised by the Finn from the first meters, 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 with a couple of laps late.
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 the escape of Schumacher and Coulthard. 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 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 even to flank him on the long straight before having to go back for the superior power of the Mercedes engine.
Meanwhile, the FIA announces the investigation against David Coulthard, who is meanwhile busy following Schumacher nine tenths away. On lap 13 comes the sting: Stop&go ten seconds for the Mclaren driver, and race that sees the only driver able to worry Schumacher cut off from the games. Granted the penalty, Coulthard is back on the track tenth, behind the group formed by Zonta, Trulli and Verstappen. After almost twenty laps passed unscathed, Hakkinen tried to move the situation in the top positions, trying to overtake Barrichello at the first corner. The Ferrarist 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 the 20th lap, when the Spaniard makes his first pit-stop.
Three laps later, on the circuit begins to fall a light drizzle that enlivens and not a little the race. Barrichello becomes more menacing behind Villeneuve’s back. In turn 6, the Ferrarist flanks the BAR, the two are paired in the straight that follows, and at the next break, favored by the internal trajectory, Villeneuve seems to have maintained the position. But at the hairpin, Barrichello sank the detachment and finally managed to make his second position. At the same time, Verstappen finished long in turn 8 and, behind him, Coulthard was the author of a spin that relegated 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 overcome 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 problems with the brakes. With the end of the rain the track dries, as evidenced by the fast lap recorded by Rubens Barrichello. On lap 34, Michael Schumacher was called back to the pits for the only pit stop scheduled. On the German car, in addition to changing tires and refuelling, there are also adjustments to the front wing, all in 9.5 seconds.
The next lap, Hakkinen finally managed to overtake Jacques Villeneuve, with a deep break at the first corner. The two-time world championship, with free track, 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 applies to timing, which also applies to Barrichello and Villeneuve, who are returning to the next part-session. Again the race leader, Michael Schumacher is among the first to make another pit-stop to mount wet tires, on lap forty-sixth. Barrichello imitates his teammate, but the mechanics are not ready with his tires, and Rubens loses several seconds in the pits. If the timing was not ideal for some, it is perfect for those like Giancarlo Fisichella makes a single stop, putting in the necessary petrol to get to the finish line and mounting directly wet tires.
When all the drivers returned for the tyre change, the points area is composed in the order of Schumacher, Fisichella, Barrichello, Hakkinen, Trulli and Wurz. The Benetton driver, until recently not even in the points area, found himself on the podium, but due to an error in Turn 1 he returned 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 pay any kind of duty. Close to the points zone, Jacques Villeneuve and Ralf Schumacher feed a good fight for the seventh position, with the Canadian driver who after losing the battle almost risks to end up on the wall. Pedro De La Rosa is unable to avoid this 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 wet track: the Dutch gets rid of Villeneuve and Ralf Schumacher, then puts in the crosshairs the sixth place of Alex Wurz. The rain did not bring big changes to the race of David Coulthard, climbed only in ninth position, but with still some feeble hope of gaining some points. On lap fifty-eighth Verstappen overtakes Wurz, and not happy hooks 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 gained about two seconds to the lap on his teammate.
Verstappen also has the upper hand on a Trulli, for his part in clear difficulty. Not surprisingly, behind the Italian of Jordan is formed a row of drivers eager to earn that only point that offers the sixth position. The drivers in question are Wurz, Ralf Schumacher, Coulthard and Villeneuve. The latter persevered on a couple of occasions in delaying the braking at the hairpin, and if on the first occasion he avoids the collision with Coulthard for nothing, in the second he overwhelms an innocent Ralf Schumacher. For the two comes the inevitable retreat. Climbed in eighth position, Coulthard forces a maneuver decidedly Garibaldi at the first corner at the expense of Wurz: the two go to the contact, end up on the grass, and despite the reckless maneuver, 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, it 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 an advantage over Coulthard and Hakkinen climbed 22 and 24 points respectively: Michael Schumacher is simply enthusiastic, but 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 Cup. In Formula 1 now I have seen so many that it is better to think about the next race".
At the press conference the German gives a special thanks to his team-mate, 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 be quiet, that it was nothing, that the brakes were okay, that the rear axle did not present problems. Once I went on the grass, in 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 the brace 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 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 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 brush does wonders. For having it here in Canada I had it sent in the mail. From Monte Carlo I went directly on holiday in the USA, there was no time to go from Switzerland to get it".
And after the brush?
"On the thirteenth, 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 live all five victories this year. I mean, I was covered".
That in Canada is the fortieth victory in career, to a single triumph 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 heavy victory, after we had lost some points that were ours in Monte Carlo. I must compliment the drivers, great race of Schumacher, very good Barrichello, and cars that, both in practice and in the race, have proven superior to our competitors. Everything worked perfectly and now goes on 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 victory. Because I was flying on the water. In the final 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 problems with the clutch. 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".
Never as Barrichello was close to victory this time; he came close to a breath from Schumacher, even though he lost ten precious seconds during the second pit stop. The tires marked his race: the first stop had just begun to rain, he could put the tires wet, but he did not risk.
"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 home, you’re wasting your time. But I said: better to wait a bit at the pits than to stay on track. Where, with dry tires, I leave five seconds per lap".
In this way, however, he lost a dozen at the box, also because of a television operator who filmed the tire change of Schumacher:
"You see that it is my destiny to touch only 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 pilot 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 wet tyres:
"A choice of my own, and my courage has been rewarded. This Benetton I did collect 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 your 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. We overturned but the race 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. Many Grands Prix are missing, our opponents are strong, many things can still happen. Our priority was to strengthen Michael’s position at the top of the world championship, 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 for too long we have been chasing this title, we must have determination and coldness. We can not let go with dreams now".
In short, the sacrifice of Rubinho, who almost had to force himself not to overcome 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 quiet knowing that he had Rubens protecting him".
Ferrari gives the impression of having surpassed the 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 rumors 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 overcome it. 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 double in complicated asphalt conditions. Team orders that remain a thorny issue at Mclaren-Mercedes, since both drivers are candidates to become the number one opponent of Schumacher in the fight for the title, and therefore, destined to take away points with each other. For Ferrari, however, the hierarchies are increasingly outlined, and that title that has been missing since 1979, is no longer a mirage.
Davide Scotto di Vetta