#662 2000 Japanese Grand Prix

2021-04-11 01:00

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#2000, Fulvio Conti, Davide Scotto di Vetta,

#662 2000 Japanese Grand Prix

On September 22nd 2000, in Fiorano, Luca Badoer is working on the F1-2000 number 199, doing 141 laps and setting the best time of the day with a 1’00”


On September 22, 2000, in Fiorano, Luca Badoer is working on the F1-2000 number 199, doing 141 laps and setting the best time of the day with a 1'00"451. Already in the previous week, on the eve of the United States Grand Prix, the Ferrari test driver had taken to the track with his eyes turned to Japan, where the penultimate round of the World Championship will take place on the circuit of Suzuka. Badoer had used the fifty kilometres granted by the FIA in the weeks before the Grand Prix with the precise objective of collecting data on the new aerodynamic solutions developed in the wind tunnel. An opportunity, therefore, to observe the behaviour of new front stripes, an extractor profile and a rear wing. Research aimed at the aerodynamic evolution of the F1-2000 in anticipation of the last two races of the season. A work of preparation that is taken ever further in Fiorano on September 21 and 22, 2000, and at Mugello. In the wind tunnel there are the latest Ferrari solutions also regarding the bodywork: the hypothesis of lowering the nose is not excluded either. Some uncertainty still exists regarding the 049 engine in the C version. In the tests carried out, the reliability goals that are considered minimal to risk their use in the race are not reached. Meanwhile, at Silverstone, rain and strong wind accompany Jordan, Jaguar and BAR on the first day of testing. Both Jordan and BAR mount the latest evolution of the Honda engine, with mixed results: positive is the behaviour of the C version of the Mugen Honda MF301, which allows Trulli to perform forty-three laps with the best time of 1'28"34, while the BAR of Jacques Lemarie stops twice on track with the new Honda called Special Suzuka Step. Returning to Jordan, Trulli and Frentzen will not use the Suzuka engine tried at Silverstone, but a totally new version, which will make its debut on track only in qualifying. Eddie Irvine, on the other hand, with his Jaguar mainly does a job of tuning tyres. In this sense, Bridgestone announces that Suzuka will provide only one compound, medium-hard dry, in addition to two types of rain tyres. McLaren also had a test session, with Olivier Panis at Magny-Cours in the company of Prost di Sarrazin, for Williams, at Estoril with Jenson Button, and for Sauber, busy at Mugello with the young Kimi Raikkonen and Bernoldi. On September 28 and 29, 2000, it is the turn of Michael Schumacher, leader of the World Championship that has the first match-point at Suzuka to bring the drivers' title back to Maranello after twenty-one years of waiting.


Title that would also be the third of his career after the two won with Benetton. However, Michael makes it known that he does not intend to be constrained by the calculations, but that he wants to attack in order to close the accounts. Words that were already spoken at the end of the race in Indianapolis, and repeated during the tests at Mugello, where on September 28, 2000, Michael runs fifty-six laps with an excellent time of 1'24"709. In addition to testing new tyres for the upcoming season, aerodynamic work is carried out, interrupted in the afternoon due to transmission problems. The next day, Michael focuses on race simulations, and in fact completes as many as one hundred and five laps, the best in 1'24"056. The Suzuka track could deliver the first real joy to the Maranello team after so many disappointments over the years. The Japanese circuit, in fact, has rarely given good memories to Ferrari: starting from Niki Lauda in 1976, passing through Alain Prost in 1990, up to Schumacher and Irvine: in 1998, when Hakkinen led the standings with four points ahead of Schumacher, who needed to win and hoped that his rival placed third. The duel was expected to be very balanced. The tests saw Schumacher jump in front of Hakkinen. A positive sign; Ferrari was beginning to dream. But on the second start (the first was aborted due to a grid failure of Trulli’s Prost) here is the surprise: Schumacher raised his arm shaking his head. Clutch problem. Goodbye title. In the third procedure, in fact, the German started at the bottom of the group. He managed to recover, but then there was the puncture. Hakkinen won the race and title, Ferrari settled for the second place in the championship. In 1999, then, came another disappointment with Eddie Irvine, for whom the constructors' title represented a meagre consolation. This year, hoping that it will be the good one, Jean Todt explains that the characteristics of the circuit do not particularly exalt the Ferraris of the last seasons, but in 2000, perhaps for the first time, the discourse of an unfavourable Suzuka is no longer valid. Because this is the first time that Ferrari faces it with a well-balanced car, able to enter and exit easily from those fast bends. There are few technical novelties with which Ferrari is preparing to face the Japanese trip: a bit because almost all the cartridges have been fired and remains very little, a bit because Ferrari does not want to take risks. 


They do not want to imitate Hakkinen in the United States Grand Prix, where a broken engine has put the McLaren in crisis. So they want to go to Suzuka with tested material, like the old race engine and the new qualifying engine. In Suzuka, to qualify as World Champion, Schumacher needs to earn at least two points over rival Hakkinen: a win or a second place, with Hakkinen behind him, would be more than enough; in the case of third place, Hakkinen should finish fifth; if he were to finish fourth, Mika would not have to do better than sixth. Finally, in case of fifth place, it will be necessary that the Finnish would place outside the points area. A gap of ten points would be enough thanks to the seven races won by Schumacher, three more than Hakkinen, still at four. For his part, Mika has no alternative: to have serious hopes of winning the title until the end, he must triumph in Japan. Once again, the third in a row, the season will be decided in Suzuka, a circuit that he loves, where he has triumphed in the last two editions that have given him as many titles. In 1998 and 1999, however, he started more or less at the same psychological level with Ferrari, he had the means to fight first Schumacher and then Irvine, he could not afford to make mistakes but did not have the obsession of the great comeback. In 2000, however, the balance fell entirely on Schumacher’s side, especially after the engine failure in Indianapolis that forced him to retire. For Mika it is a titanic feat, because even two possible victories in Japan and Malaysia might not be enough: the reigning champion must hope that the rival does not get two second places. But when the pressure is at such high levels, the Finnish driver gets excited:


"After all, the situation is not very different from last year. Irvine showed up in Japan with four points of advantage. The second place was not enough, I had to win at all costs. Otherwise, goodbye dreams".


But there were dreams. Hakkinen started as a rocketship, his sentence remained famous. He was like a cannonball, annihilated poor Irvine, third at the finish line, and even the returning Schumacher, who two weeks earlier in Malaysia had beaten McLaren, humiliating them to the point where they could bring a stunned Irvine to success. Japan turned into hell for Ferrari and now Hakkinen hopes that history will repeat itself.


"The World Championship will not end in Suzuka".


Ron Dennis asserts, and this refrain is obsessively repeated from all over the world. In McLaren, another convinced assertor is precisely Hakkinen:


"It’s a circuit that exalts me, where there is only one point where you can overtake, the last chicane before the last straight".


As extraordinary as it could become his career, if he managed to avoid the triumph of Schumacher and to win the third consecutive World Championship. To enter history Hakkinen also clings to sisu, that Finnish magic word that translates into inner strength. With the season coming to an end, the president of the FIA, Max Mosley, already makes some anticipation of the next year and goes on to consider his future and that of Formula 1. He does not make predictions about who will win the title:


"No predictions on the title: they accuse me of being pro-Ferrari".


Then he talks about safety. There were crazy and bloodless accidents during the year that happened to Fisichella, Zonta, De la Rosa and others. In Monza, a cursed wheel has flown over the guard-rail taking the life of a fireman:


"The FIA has done so much for safety, but it is obvious that not only the drivers are at risk on the track. Unfortunately, little can be done for those who work in a Grand Prix".


But the cables that had to hold the wheels did not work:


"It took an accident like the one in Monza to prove it. We have already planned a more robust solution for 2002. With double cables. We’ll triple it if we have to".


What else will change in Formula 1 in 2001?


"There will be many new regulations aimed mainly at the safety of the cars, the robustness of the bodies. The other things will be of little account. Like the interruption of the championship in August, maybe not immediately though. In addition, we will give more tyre sets available to the teams on Friday. But the practice will remain free. For two reasons. First of all, it’s a great show for restricted qualifiers only on Saturday, when there’s a television audience, when there’s people on the stands because Saturday doesn’t work. Second: in the official tests the cars run with another set-up and other engines, with a considerable expense".


Will there be a test restriction between one Grand Prix and another?


"There is an agreement not to perform tests on the tracks where you will run, in the twenty-eight days before the race. I would have preferred not to do tests of any kind on the tracks where you run, but once more the teams said no. If we think that the cost to run with a Formula 1 car is $ 2,000 per mile, it is stupid to throw money away".


For some time now, Mosley has been under the spotlight of some important teams that no longer want him as president of the FIA:


"I am not elected by the Formula 1 teams but by the 151 national federations. When these constituents of mine say I’m no good anymore, I’ll back off. I’m not going to do it because Formula 1 teams don’t like me. However, anyone who wants to is free to organise a private series of international Formula 1 races, such as the American Cart. I mean that if some teams want it, they can set up an alternative championship with the rules set by them. We, as the FIA, would only intervene on security issues. But if these teams, which are a minority, want to continue to run in the Formula 1 World Championship, must do so in compliance with the rules of the FIA, under the Concorde Agreement".


At the root of a certain dissatisfaction with him is the fact that the FIA seems no longer able to handle a complex topic such as electronics. There are now too many rumours of infractions that seem evident to the naked eye. And that the Federation fails or maybe - according to its enemies - does not want to stop:


"One solution could be what is on everyone’s lips, to authorise traction control. But at that point other freedoms in the field of electronics should be allowed. Our goal is that in the end the role of the driver remains predominant and central. But if it will be too difficult for the teams to comply with our rules, then all there is left is to simplify everything that is electronically applied to a Formula 1 car. And that’s what we are thinking, even if in a thousand cautions".


In the dispute against him there is also the fact that some teams accuse him of being openly on the side of Ferrari:


"It’s true. In every circumstance there is someone who sees you in favour of one side or the other, even if in lack of evidence. The refrain is that Ecclestone and I would like Ferrari to win the World Championship because this would create more audience and movement in the Formula 1 marketing. The truth is that there would be no difference compared to a defeated Ferrari. The important thing for me, for us, for the sport, is that Ferrari is competitive. And to do so it does not need us. To those who have claimed this point I said to imagine a World Championship with only two English teams, one of which is competitive, against seven Italian teams, one Swiss and one French. A World Championship in which the person who manages the money is an Italian, with an Italian race director, with an Italian electronics verifier and so on. What would the leaders of the two British teams say? In short, we are correct and what happens sometimes can annoy Ferrari and other teams beyond the English Channel. Unfortunately, there are a couple of teams, with a very limited view of things, which sees us in favour of Ferrari. Paranoia".


After spending three days relaxing on a Thai beach, on October 4, 2000, Schumacher arrives in Japan. Preparation for the second to last weekend of the season is very different for Rubens Barrichello, who had to spend two days in Tokyo for sponsorship reasons. However, the warm welcome of the Japanese fans amazes him a lot. Michael focuses on the collaboration of the Brazilian to facilitate his way to the third world title:


"I can imagine that Coulthard will want to stand in front of me to block me and leave me to Hakkinen. The same thing we plan to do with Rubens: we want him to start absolutely in the front row, so we can control the race. Suzuka is a particular circuit with a particular combination of curves of different types and speeds. It is one of the preferred tracks by us drivers even if it is rather dangerous because it tends to push down even in very demanding corners. Tradition says that Ferrari finds itself well here, especially in qualifying".


And Rubens reassures him:


"I will do everything I can to help Michael in the fight for the World Championship. The track of Suzuka is very fast and represents one of the most challenging events, both for drivers and for cars. On this track it is essential to find the right balance between the aerodynamic load and the mechanical grip. In the past it has often happened that the Grand Prix was affected by rain".


But how does the German driver feel on the eve of the Japanese Grand Prix?


"As usual I’m very relaxed, especially since the last tests went well. I’ve had a few days to get used to the weather and I’ll have other days to adapt to the time zone. I still sleep more here than at home, where my kids wake me up at night. I just need to focus on my run, like it’s completely normal, no questions and think about the one goal: winning. We want to end this, because I do not know what could happen in Malaysia, and the only way to do that is to win: that is what we will do. No tactics at all. Then if during the race I find myself second I will not make harakiri manoeuvres to go on but I will manage the situation as in any race. I have to look at the points too".


Who between him and Hakkinen is ahead on the track?


"After Belgium, this is my favourite circuit. I don’t see any advantages for either of them".


Will the start procedure be discussed in the meeting with the FIA?


"There will be no madness of someone who will influence the outcome of the World Championship, but it will be discussed. This is a very slippery circuit compared to the others, it will be rather difficult to make a good start".


Can Schumacher feel psychologically ahead of Hakkinen?


"In the past I have seen that there were no psychological advantages and neither will there be any here. I do not like this type of analysis. I hope the fans take a very strong coffee and watch the race with their fingers crossed".


Were the Mugello tests comforting?


"We worked two days very well, especially for the tyres. The car had the right set-up, it is to be seen if we can have it for this weekend but I’m optimistic".


The worst and best times of the season?


"The lowest point I hit was at Zeltweg and Hockenheim, the most beautiful race was probably that in Monza".


How much difference is there between Ferrari and McLaren?


"They are very close. We have a good car and if we take out the maximum we know we can do it".


The chances to close the World Championship with this race are not low at all. It would be a welcome occurrence, already known to the German:


"Yes, it happened to me once before, in 1995, and everything went well. The only thing I hope is that it will be repeated. I would like to have twenty points of advantage, of course. I am optimistic but not too much, there is no reason to be too sure. Eight points are not few but they are not even many. What happened to Hakkinen in Indianapolis could happen to me".


But what are the feelings of Mika Hakkinen, whose iridescent hopes are hanging by a thread?


"I’ve had better days, but the situation is not so dramatic. Sure, just one mistake and the world championship is over, but I don’t think the championship will end in Japan. In my head there are two races, we will also fight in Malaysia. I know that Schumacher wants to close the discussion here, but he will not succeed. I am not afraid. I must win. And I will not fail".


What makes the Finnish driver so sure?


"The fact of racing for the title in Suzuka. Just this name and immediately any anguish disappears. Here I won two world titles. I love this circuit, with its high-speed curves, its slow variations, its chicanes. A fantastic mix. It is as if they put together, in a single solution, all the best parts of my favourite tracks".


An ideal theatre. But the challenge remains very difficult:


"Terrible is the right word, because Schumacher is one who does not miss a thing, he is very strong and even a victory may not be enough, if he comes second. But there’s no point in panicking or eating up pressure. I just have to think about driving and going as fast as I can. Other thoughts are forbidden: they would make me lose concentration".


All because of that retirement in Indianapolis for engine failure. Same trouble as Australia, the first race of the season, in March:


"Yes, but much more dramatic. Because a broken engine with three races from the end is not digestible as at the beginning of the year. Ten very heavy points thrown to the wind".


It is no coincidence that Norbert Haug, Mercedes' manager, publicly apologised to him:


"That doesn’t change anything. I was very disappointed in Indianapolis and I still am. For a couple of days I didn’t sleep there. I went on vacation to Hawaii and kept thinking about it. But that’s enough: crying is not necessary, this is the best place to reverse the situation. I’m focused and optimistic. I’ll drive as fast as I can, I’ll brake three metres later than usual. You’re off the hook".


Schumacher claims that if Mika gets ten feet further, he will pull out five yards later:


"Bravo, so he ends up on the sand. In the hope of not being together. If he goes out, I have to take back what I left in Indianapolis".


Schumacher also thinks of a duel without the interference of their teammates:


"I hope that Coulthard steals points from him, that he can be super strong and finds himself in the front row with me. And then we clarify the concept: I don’t have a number two in the team, with David we are equal, even this time there will be differences".


Does that mean Coulthard will not help him?


"No need for words, he knows he has to help me, without me asking him. I hope he does. In the situation we are in, speeches are useless. Instead we need a good set-up, lots of power in the engine, great traction, brakes in the best conditions. The battle will be exciting and I need an excellent car".


That of the followers, in fact, is the hottest theme in the days of approaching the race weekend. And David Coulthard seems to be well aware of his role after his hopes of winning the World Championship have finally faded due to the retirement in Monza and the fifth place at Indianapolis:


"Clearly I have to help Hakkinen and I will. This was my best season in Formula 1, I won three races, I often started in the front row. I have matured, I understand that sooner or later I will also be World Champion, that my turn will come too. Why should I ruin everything right now? The plan is clear: in the middle of the race we decide, we will see where we are. Hakkinen has the priority, I have to do the rest".


Schumacher fears - and not a little - dirty games, with the Scottish who with some manoeuvre on the limit could take him off-track. Fears that Michael makes known, but that Coulthard repels annoyed:


"Michael don’t worry, I won’t do anything more than you did this year".


A sentence that, given the controversy between the two - Indianapolis the last episode - is not so encouraging. Rubens Barrichello also hopes to offer a lot. And he is fine with Schumacher asking him nothing:


"So I think less, I don’t accumulate pressure and avoid making mistakes in the race. Schumacher deserves this world title, the whole team deserves it, since the beginning of the year we have been working like crazy. We have always been very fast, competitive, it would be a fair reward for our efforts. Schumacher would win, but this World Championship would be a bit mine, too. I learned a lot this season, now the car has no secrets, I want to finish this championship great by tearing points to McLaren, and already I cannot wait to start the next. With the experience I have accumulated, I will definitely be the protagonist".


In the meantime, if Schumacher ends his speech here, Rubens will soon have a chance at glory. There is a deal between the two, not even so secret, born in Canada, when Barrichello avoided overtaking a Schumacher in difficulty and settled for second place. Those four points won then by the German are now very heavy and in Malaysia Michael would like to return the favour, pushing Barrichello towards the second triumph of his career. Rubinho knows it, and it is no coincidence that he says:


"Michael is not only a great driver, he also has a good heart. And if I could win another race, I would be the happiest person in the world".


On Friday, October 6, 2000 it is time to get on track for the two free practice sessions. The head-to-head between Schumacher and Hakkinen immediately starts. Since free practice, the two title contenders are the fastest on the track. And Schumacher records his best performance in 1'37"728, ahead of his rival who is more than six tenths away. To report the bad accident for Barrichello, who spins and finishes off-track, fortunately without consequences. In addition, practices are temporarily suspended due to a strong earthquake, which in any case does not cause damage to the track. On Saturday, during qualifying, the duel gets to the core. The battle between the two is exciting, without any interference. It starts after twenty-five minutes, because first the two contenders let the others go wild. Schumacher’s first attempt is at the 28th minute, and here comes the provisional pole: 1'36"094. As soon as the time appears on the videos inside the pits, Hakkinen beckons the mechanics to start the Mercedes V10 of his McLaren. Good lap, no mistakes, but insufficient: 1'36"168. He tries again after eleven minutes and this time he manages to get the best time in 1'36"017. At that point it is up to Schumacher, who launches immediately after seeing his teammate Barrichello spinning. Michael is wild and lowers Hakkinen’s performance, bringing it to 1'35"908. Will that be enough for the pole? Schumacher is the first to not be convinced, while Hakkinen immediately re-enters the battle with precision and absolute determination and a car that remains nervous, but safe, on which the height from the ground is modified and more incidence is given to the front wing to have a better entry in the turns. Mika runs at his best: thrilling curves, kerbs, accelerations. Everything perfect: 1'35"834. At this point Schumacher is called to give even more, to go further. And with a great coldness he does it in the best way, with a Ferrari that allows him to, without betraying him. An exceptional performance, 1'35"825. Hakkinen is nine thousandths behind. There are only three minutes to go and the Japanese tifosi, very numerous on the grandstands, rejoice, obviously composed and measured. Schumacher’s time is exceptional, but Hakkinen does not give up and makes one last attempt at the expiration of the chequered flag. It is bad for him because in the final chicane, as already seen on Friday and in free practice a few hours earlier, the McLaren is not as effective as the Ferrari. And so Schumacher can enjoy the joy of his eighth pole of the season. Barrichello made one. 


If another one arrives in Malaysia he will equal the Ferrari record taken in 1975 by Lauda and Regazzoni. In the second row are placed Coulthard and Barrichello, preceding the Williams of Jenson Button and Ralf Schumacher.


"It’s not the case to celebrate this pole position too much: it’s a good result but it doesn’t mean the victory in the Grand Prix".


Says poleman Schumacher, who then goes on to say:


"It will not be a race like the others, and today we have only made the first step towards the victory of the Grand Prix and the World Championship. Pole doesn’t count anything on this circuit, it’s just starting two metres ahead. Anyway, it couldn’t have started any better than that: I have to stay focused, I’m ready to fight. It was a high-level qualifying session. I could have done twelve laps instead of nine but at the beginning the track was not in perfect condition. Ross Brawn was able to show me the perfect time to go out on track. Nine thousandths of a second are really nothing. We hope to make a good start: for us it is always a difficult time. The opportunity is good but, I repeat it, there is nothing to celebrate".


Mika Hakkinen is disappointed but does not give up:


"I’m a bit sorry because I missed the chance to take pole position just at the last chicane: I found myself without enough power between entry and exit. It would have been a fantastic qualifying. But in the last two years I have always started from the second place here, and I have always won. It is not an easy circuit: there are many kerbs on which to climb and if it rains it is not pleasant".


The sparks, however, are not only on the track, but also outside, and to produce them are the usual arguments: the suspicions on the electronic control of the traction and the position taken by Charlie Whiting in the traditional meeting with the drivers, with the FIA responsible ready to show the white flag to the drivers who will carry out obstructive manoeuvres to the title contenders. Flags that serve to signal to a driver who is behaving incorrectly, and is therefore at risk of disqualification. But Whiting goes further, adding that any culprits will risk, in addition to exclusion from the Grand Prix, even disqualification for one or more races. McLaren executives promptly accuse Whiting, arguing that the rule was adopted to thwart their eventual team play in favour of Hakkinen. Ron Dennis attacks:


"It’s really hard to understand that you decide to change the rules of the game over the course of the season. I asked Whiting if there was anything in there that would tell me what to do, but there’s nothing there. And then who should decide, Whiting or the commissioners? Then there is the question of the time that passes before the decision is made".


In addition, Dennis points out that stonewalling is a highly questionable subject:


"Let’s say that a person starts with so much fuel on board and, thanks to an excellent sprint at the start, is placed in front of a faster opponent because he has the tank almost empty, and is stopped for obstruction, what would happen?"


But to worry Dennis there is also the presence in the college of commissioners, along with the Swiss Paul Gutjahr and the Japanese Takami Sugawara, an Italian commissioner: lawyer Roberto Causo, known for having defended Imola and Williams in the Senna trial, and that the year before was the legal counsel of ACI/CSAI in the Ferrari appeal against the disqualification suffered in Malaysia:


"It makes me rather uncomfortable to know that among the commissioners there is an Italian. And it is inevitable to think that he may have some...nationalistic attitude".


As regards the first question, before qualifying, it seems that McLaren had asked to the FIA to send a technician to the variant that precedes the finish line to verify if Ferrari was using some electronic device banned to help the traction of the F1-2000. And the meeting between Dennis and Todt shortly before the official tests would have served the owner of the Woking team to inform the manager of Ferrari of a possible complaint. And then there was not. As if all this were not enough, Adrian Newey advances some notes to Bridgestone for the choice to bring here a single tyre compound:


"The tyres are harder than we would have liked. This medium compound is comparable to the hard one they brought here in 1998 and that time we chose the soft".


Jean Todt prefers not to answer questions about his meeting with Ron Dennis; better to focus on the race, and not to get too excited for the pole position of Schumacher:


"Between us and the McLaren there were just fifty-six centimetres of difference: it means that the level of the cars is equal. The climate is no quieter than in the past: every year the situation was different. We are reassured by the knowledge that we may have another race to get to the world title. It is not true that we have never been so close to success: in 1997 in Jerez there were only fifteen laps to go, it would have been enough to get to the end. Now there are two races to go".


Todt also responds to a joke by former Ferrari driver Eddie Irvine, who in post-qualifying had said:


"It’s just weird that I’m closer to Schumacher with a Jaguar this year than last year with a Ferrari. I can tell he’s better at driving".


Todt answers, then guarantees that whatever goes there will be no news in the team for the coming season:


"So far we have had a great season: eight races won, 143 points, nine pole positions. As a confirmation of our steady growth that last year, although many do not care, led us to win the Constructors' World Championship. After four years of two-man battles I still see a duel between us and McLaren in the future, although Williams is improving a lot. Since July we have been working on the 2001 car, also because the next season will start a month earlier than in the past".


Todt concludes with a consideration on the value of a world championship at Ferrari, after twenty-one years:


"Winning at Ferrari is more difficult. In the meantime, we are the only ones to build both engine and chassis. Then because we live isolated while everyone else works in what is called the Silicon Valley of Formula 1, in England. Then there is much more pressure here: everything that happens or does not happen in Ferrari the next day is in the newspapers, while the British and Germans do not have the same pressure on them. But this also creates much more interest around us and that is also why a Ferrari victory gives an emotion that has no equal".


Hakkinen and Schumacher spend Saturday evening at the restaurant of the Garden Flowers Hotel, adjacent to the track, naturally at separate tables, with their wives. Then, they go to bed at 10:00 p.m., for the last troubled dreams before the Sunday World Championship fight. On October 8, 2000, in Suzuka the chances of rain cause a certain worry a few minutes from the start, but at 2:00 p.m., grey clouds do not let a single drop fall. The concern is rather high in McLaren at the formation lap, because from the rear of the car of Hakkinen a small cloud of bluish smoke comes out. When the lights go off, however, the Silver Arrow of the Finnish driver proves to have no problem. Hakkinen makes himself the protagonist of a lightning start against which Schumacher can do nothing. The German tries to close the trajectory as soon as possible, but Hakkinen has already passed in the lead. Bad start for Barrichello, who loses positions and at the end of the first lap is only sixth, behind Coulthard, Ralf Schumacher and an excellent Eddie Irvine. In the initial phase of the race, the two title contenders are divided by just a second, while Coulthard immediately proves not to have the speed to follow them, and constantly loses from the leading pair. The action on the track is very little, apart from Villeneuve who overtakes Johnny Herbert and takes the eighth position. The Canadian is threatening even behind Jenson Button, but cannot repeat himself. Around the twentieth lap the drivers begin to return to the pits for the first of the two stops, including Ralf Schumacher and Villeneuve. Meanwhile, Jarno Trulli is the author of an excursion to the last chicane following an attempt to overtake Fisichella. Shortly thereafter, Jean Alesi ends up spinning in the first sector, due to the failure of the Peugeot engine. The Prost remains stuck in the middle of the track, the Safety-Car is put on standby but the stewards remove it quickly. At this point, the Ferrari box is ready, not to welcome Schumacher, but Rubens Barrichello, rather anonymous until now. On lap 21, with two and a half seconds ahead of Schumacher, Hakkinen makes his pit-stop, which lasts 6.8 seconds. In Ferrari they respond immediately, Michael is doing the lapping and will hardly be able to make a fast lap, thus goes for an overcut. For this reason, the next lap also the Ferrari driver successfully completes the first stop scheduled. At the exit from the pit lane, the gap from Hakkinen is three seconds. 


Compared to Mika, who has fitted used tyres, Michael starts with new tyres and also introduces a greater amount of fuel to lengthen his stint. With the first series of pit-stops completed, the points area presents some variations: Hakkinen, Schumacher and Coulthard still make up the provisional podium, but in fourth place climbs Rubens Barrichello, to the detriment of Ralf Schumacher, fifth. Finally, the sixth position is occupied by Jenson Button. Irvine even drops to eighth place, after being passed by Villeneuve. On lap 26, Hakkinen records the fastest lap of the race in 1'39"189, half a second faster than Schumacher in the same lap. Mika seems to want to try to create a gap, except that after that great lap he raises his times considerably, giving the right opportunity to Schumacher to approach. Hakkinen’s difficulties are mainly due to a light rain that begins to fall on the track. Lap times rise by almost two seconds. With a point of reference in front, in addition to his known abilities in mixed conditions, Schumacher exalts himself giving his best. After thirty of the fifty-three laps planned, with this order of arrival, both the drivers' and constructors' titles would be awarded to Sepang, in the last Grand Prix of the season. But Schumacher does not stop, he has now eliminated the detachment from Hakkinen, and begins to make himself seen in the mirrors. At the braking of the last chicane, Michael runs a good risk in passing Ricardo Zonta, because the two cars do not come into contact for a matter of centimetres. On lap 37, Hakkinen is called for the second stop. Schumacher continues, this time slowed down by the two Jaguars, but he knows that this may be the key moment of the race, and as a result of the championship. He has to give everything to win the leadership of the race. Hakkinen, in turn, also has his hands full with traffic, since Pedro De La Rosa makes him waste a lot of time before stepping aside. Three laps later Schumacher goes to the pits, but before taking the lane towards the pit lane he has to discard Alex Wurz’s Benetton, which remains stationary in the trajectory after a spin. The pit stop is quick: exactly six seconds, more than a second faster than that of Hakkinen. At the exit of the pit lane, to the delight of the many Ferrari fans present on the grandstands, Schumacher is clearly ahead of the McLaren, even four seconds from the rival thirteen laps from the end.


In this situation, the points advantage over Hakkinen would rise to 12 (98 to 86), sufficient to qualify Schumacher as World Champion. For Hakkinen, the challenge of keeping the world championship open is becoming increasingly difficult. His only hope is that the rain, which meanwhile has returned to fall, may increase in intensity and cause some major jolts in his favour. At twelve laps from the end, meanwhile, Ralf Schumacher concludes his race in the gravel at the first corner; thanks to Villeneuve, who climbs to sixth position. In the final stages, Michael Schumacher has no problem administering the advantage over Hakkinen. The expressions of the men at the Ferrari box are tense, but ready to turn into expressions of joy for a long wait of twenty-one years that is about to end. On the last lap, Schumacher does not want to take any chances, and his six-second lead drops to just two. But for Hakkinen there is nothing more to do. Michael Schumacher crosses the line and, winning the Japanese Grand Prix, he graduates as World Champion for the third time in his career, the first with Ferrari. After the finish line, Schumacher begins to clap his hands on the steering wheel, almost wanting to vent the tension accumulated over the months and years. During the lap of honour, his tears of joy are clearly visible thanks to the visor of the helmet raised, as are audible the shouts of joy in his team radios and his ‘Give Corinna a big kiss from me’, to which Jean Todt limits to answer with a simple:


"We finally made it".


When he arrives in the parc fermé, the first to go to the incredulous World Champion is obviously Jean Todt. Then comes the hug from Barrichello, then congratulations from his rival, Mika Hakkinen, who with sportiness shakes his hand and hugs him. The two continue to talk and joke with a smile printed on their faces even later, at the time of weighing themselves, where there is also the cold handshake by Jacques Villeneuve. On the podium, while Corinna watches him from below with tears of joy running down her face, Michael is uncontainable. When Mameli’s hymn is played, he not only does, as he has done before, the conductor, but also begins to hum it. At the time of champagne, the latter is sprayed in full on Jean Todt (who confesses to Michael: "We have accomplished a feat, now nothing will be as before"), both by Schumacher and by the two of McLaren, who complete the podium. This time Michael does not cry, this time he has shiny eyes and looks almost incredulous, as if he was a beginner to the first success. This is how the German lives his world triumph. The triumph with Ferrari after the terrible jokes of recent seasons. When he gets to the press room right after the race, all he can do is stutter:


"Thank you, thank you, I think about the parties in Maranello".


Strictly in Italian. His words are normal, he almost could not explain what to say in such an exciting moment:


"I have no special dedications, now I just don’t know. I would like to celebrate with all those who loved us".


The world applauds him and he calmly tells his story:


"Actually, there are so many things I would like to say right now, talk about the hard times that there were, and the good times. But now the only thing I want to say is that I would like to be in Germany and Italy together with the fans, and celebrate with everyone".


After the triumph, the race. Never been afraid to lose?


"The last few laps I’ve been so focused. I was afraid of the dark asphalt traits, because I didn’t understand if they were dry traits or if they were wet. So I even slowed down a bit, just in case".


The key moment here?


"Certainly the two laps where I stayed out while Hakkinen returned to the pits. There I pushed hard, and the car responded well. But that choice was a masterpiece of Ross Brawn. And of the whole team, which at the pit stop was perfect. That was the decisive moment: because while I was stationary Ross on the radio said it seemed ok, but I was afraid that at any moment he would say no, no more. Then everything was fine, and I understood".


He understood that he would be back in the lead and that at the end of those thirteen laps he would have won of the World Championship:


"But until the second pit stop it was the toughest race of my life. Because today Hakkinen was very strong. For half the race we both went to the limit, both he and I ran as if we were in qualifying".


The only drawback, the start, also recognized by Schumacher himself:


"At the time I was a bit disappointed, it was actually a bad start. Actually in the starts we have to improve. While Hakkinen proved once again to be very strong. If we go to review the start of all races we will see that Mika was by far the best. Then we thought only of the tactics to follow. And I must say that Ross Brawn was once again a master. But compliments go to everyone, it is the victory of all".


That little touch with Zonta could have been dangerous:


"Zonta? Was it really so close? I was so busy that I didn’t notice anything; maybe I touched him, yes it’s possible, but I didn’t notice him".


Were you expecting a party like this from Ferrari?


"Yes and no, in the sense that we had agreed not to organise anything and in fact nothing had been planned. We think about winning the World Championship, we said, and then we’ll see for the holidays. What comes, comes. And in fact it was all an improvised thing at the time with what we had. Ham and melon and then many types of freshly cooked pasta. All very spontaneous, one thing among us, the most beautiful. I think the team deserves all this because I know how much they have worked, how much they have suffered and this title satisfies them all perhaps more than me. I saw people crying that I was used to seeing laughing and smiling. Very nice, this was the party I dreamed of inside me and they made it for me. But I prefer to think of it as a party for all of them. We came close for three years to this title and every time we found ourselves there to hide what we had prepared for the party. Now we have done it. It is a great burden that we all take off, a moment of rare emotion, of intimate happiness. It was a good race but I also had many nightmares; at certain moments I said to the car: do not break now, please. And then the slippery slope, some thrilling laps. I tried to be focused to the maximum: losing another world championship at the end would have been difficult to swallow".


And now?


"Now we have other goals to pursue. Hakkinen after his first World Championship immediately wanted to win another. And then there is still the Constructors' World Championship at stake, and Ferrari wants it. And so do I".


After observing him singing Mameli’s hymn on the podium, the German press runs to ask him why. The response of the three-time World Champion is as follows:


"I don’t know, but this is the first time that on an official occasion I spontaneously spoke Italian. I had done it many times in Maranello with the mechanics but in public it did not come, I wanted to but I could not. This time I did it".


Then on a German television, while he explains this situation in his own language, he says another nice sentence in Italian:


"Sono felicissimo di questa vittoria non solo per me ma per la squadra e per i tifosi. A tutti voglio dire: Grazie, grazie, grazie". ["I am very happy for this victory not only for me but for the team and for the tifosi. I want to say to everyone: Thank you, thank you, thank you", ndt]


But what are the feelings for his third world title?


"It’s hard to explain, I can’t find the words but as I crossed the finish line I was assailed by a wave of confused emotions. Even now I’m struggling to separate my feelings, it will take some time and I’m sure that slowly I will come to an earthquake of emotions. The comparison with the previous two titles is easy to do. The first is always the first, it is something that you do not forget. I won the second title here in Japan, not in Suzuka but on the other circuit called Aida. I also won the second pit stop. Good memories, important moments for my life and my career, but this is something else. With all the respect and gratitude I owe and feel, the history of Benetton was not then and is not today the history of Ferrari". 


A German journalist arrives and gives Michael a fax from Chancellor Schroeder covering him with compliments. Schumacher reads it and then he opens his eyes and says:


"Wow, that’s nice. But how did you send it so soon, just after the race? I’ll have to thank him, what do you do in these cases? Can I call him?"


And they take him to a room to phone his head of government. The German driver also pays tribute to the defeated:


"Hakkinen is a great person. You realise that in these moments. Other drivers would react badly to defeat, accusing or taking it out on someone. Mika instead is loyal, correct, is my best opponent. I hope that our fight goes on for many more years".


And he has words of gratitude for Barrichello:


"Rubens was often very fast and ran for the team. We form a good team. We can do well in the future".


At a certain point, in the middle of the festivities, among the many red T-shirts a white and blue shirt emerges, that of the other Schumacher, Ralf:


"I’m really happy for my brother. I don’t think anyone can doubt that this year Michael and Ferrari were the best pair around. They had a real decline in August, when in Italy they all went on vacation... I joke of course, the team has recovered great. And now that he’s off the hook, repeating himself next year might be easier".


The Ferrari guys hug and scream and no one can say a word. It is only after the shower of the podium, back in the box, that they start to calm down again. The return to lucidity is celebrated by picking up Luca Baldisserri, Schumacher’s track engineer, and placing him on a chair with a tricolour flag placed on him like a barber towel. An electric razor comes out, a kind of sheep shear, and Baldisserri’s hair is cut at great speed. But not all, he is left with an unseemly bowl at the top. On the other hand he had decided: if we win, I will get shaved, he had said. But this is really unpleasant. A mechanic says amused:


"He is ugly as hell, but did you see his face?"


Baldisserri, known as Baldo, is watched by everyone with grimaces of disgust and decides to cut off what remains of his hair. The long Ivan Short, a telemetry technician, until that moment proudly wears a ponytail. With the Canadian you go straight to the full shearing, without intermediate steps. Then the box suddenly remains empty, a spare car abandoned on one side, the floor covered with hair as in a barracks barb. Short sneaks in, looks for and recognizes his former tail and stuffs it in his pocket as a souvenir. Suzuka celebrates in its own way: it rains. It has been over an hour since the Grand Prix ended and the Ferrari team decides it is time to get a group photo taken. At the cry - photo!, photo! - everyone rushes in front of the pit wall. And they are greeted by a roar of trumpets, applause and flags in the wind. No one left from the grandstand, they were waiting in confidence. And they will not move until late at night. The tension starts to drop, the choirs start:


"Siamo la squadra più bella del mondo e ci dispiace per gli altri... chi non salta tutto nero è". ["We are the most beautiful team in the world and we feel sorry for others... who doesn’t jump is wearing black", ndt]


In a corner of the box, Balbir Singh, Indian-German physiotherapist of Michael, shakes his head slightly and, crying loudly, turns in a circle whispering:


"Madona, Madona mia".


Two years earlier it was Mrs Hakkinen who received her husband’s kiss under the podium as a fresh world champion and Schumacher’s wife consoled her husband, who was defeated by the duel with the Finn. This time the roles are reversed and Corinna cries tears of joy. The wife of the new world’s champion pronounces only a few words:


"I’m really happy, especially for all the guys at Ferrari, who worked hard to get these results. I want to keep to myself what we said to each other after the race. I really don’t think our kids can understand the significance of this big day for their dad, they’re still too young. I guess by the time they really know what happened today, Michael’s probably already retired from racing".


More talkative is Erja Hakkinen, who after the race also has the strength to be able to joke:


"Even if the World Championship ended badly, my husband will definitely receive a nice award".


She says caressing his belly. Then she adds, observing the big party on stage at the Ferrari pits:


"I’m very happy for them, they have been waiting for this world victory for a long time; this year they really did a great job".


Hakkinen talks with two Italian journalists, an hour after the end of the race that saw him come out defeated:


"Give me a hand and don’t write negative things about me. I’m always one who won two titles. And the most positive thing, I think, is how I spoke as a loser, how I accepted the verdict. Remember: to be a great winner you must first know how to collect the days of love, respect the joy of others".


But Mika has nothing to worry about, because his image as a champion does not come out of the Japanese Grand Prix. In Italy, in front of televisions or giant screens, they applauded for a long time when immediately after the arrival he complimented Schumacher, hugging him. The decision had just arrived, he had to abandon the throne in the same way that a McLaren mechanic had torn the number one from his car to deliver it to the German. He did not hesitate, the defending champion. He tried, he tried hard, with his usual flying start, with those thirty-seven laps in the lead without ever giving the chance to the rival to pass, it went wrong and now it makes no sense to lose patience. It is not his philosophy, even if he could screw up his team for the bad strategy and Schumacher himself for a start really to the limits of the regulation. And yet nothing:


"Congratulations to Michael, he deserved this triumph, he was the most consistent".


On the incandescent start he does only a statement, but at the end of all interviews, away from microphones and cameras, almost informally:


"If Michael had touched me I would have been really angry and I would have gone to face him at the pits. But nothing happened and then it’s okay. He tried to cut me off, it wasn’t too sporty, but when he realised there was nothing to do and got out of the way. Anyway I was prepared to go straight, in those moments you can no longer stop. I would have taken him".


And the strategy, Schumacher overtaking him in the pits?


"It cost me the race and the championship, but I don’t like to look for alibis. I am very sad, disappointed, but my stops were good, the mechanics did a fantastic job. We just miscalculated, the Ferrari was more skillful than us. I won the last two years, and in life you can’t always win. And if it was up to another, it is right that it is him. A great champion. Like me".


In his head the images of the entire season flow:


"We started badly, in the first two races I did not collect anything, after three races I had twenty-four points of distance, a gap which was too heavy. We’ve had too many ups and downs, you can’t win like that. But now it’s not a big deal. I gave my best, he was better than me, I have to recognize it. Life goes on, races go on, I do not quit, I will win again. You’ll see other interesting battles like this, I still want to have fun".


2000 makes him fall from the throne. But he still has a great consolation, to which his wife has already mentioned:


"I am expecting a son, the first. Life is more important than anything else. He will not know a losing father, because here I have triumphed for two years. This page is bitter, but it is not the only one in the book. No one can take my titles away from me. And they will not be the last".


The reality now speaks of one team, the perfect Ferrari, and another, the eternal enemy McLaren, which in terms of strategy has lost its face. Often at the pits the Maranello team had built its successes. Often the red mechanics were superior to those in black. And this time their masterpiece acquires a very important value. Technical Director Ross Brawn, the ultimate strategist, explains:


"We saw that Hakkinen on lap 22 was returning to the pits for the first stop, we decided to wait for the twenty-third, to calculate how much fuel he had put in and when he should have stopped again. We added extra fuel to Michael, which is why we were six-tenths slower in the supply. He had to go three more laps than Hakkinen, as he did. However, calculations alone are not enough. Schumacher, though heavier, always had to stay close to the Finn, and this was his great skill, the crucial moment. Then in the three laps, despite the traffic, he had to go to the ball. He ran one of the most beautiful races of his life. It was the only way we had to overtake the McLaren, all was perfect, even the traffic was kind to us. A masterpiece".


Haug, the Mercedes mind, tries to defend his strategy:


"I don’t think it was wrong. We went back to the pits at the right time, we were quick in refuelling and changing tyres. Those four, five seconds that cost us the race are traffic-related. And Hakkinen’s tyres, immediately after his second stop, had little grip. We were unlucky. Just that".


In Maranello, meanwhile, after the end of the race, the festivities obviously begin: the Ferrari flags are hung all over the windows, other entirely red flags are carried around the city, where people hug themselves with joy. The streets of Maranello are full of festive fans and toast is wasted. The roars accompanied every lap made by Schumacher in the lead. The strongest was of course when the German champion, after having delayed the tyre change, came out of the pits in front of Hakkinen. Ferrari’s president, Luca di Montezemolo, watched the race in front of the television in his home, in the hills of Bologna. For him, as for Jean Todt, the moment of triumph has come. One in Italy and the other in Japan are united by the same, uncontainable joy. For Jean Todt, just emerged from the champagne bath to which Schumacher subjected him, happiness is uncontainable:


"It is a great joy, this result was the goal of this year, as it was for previous years. I’m happy and honoured to have a great team and a great driver like Michael. I am also delighted for all the 550 people of the Ges, who have worked hard in recent years to reach this goal. With all the attention focused on Michael today, we must not forget the great contribution of Rubens Barrichello and Luca Badoer to this result".


In Maranello, however, there is a wall of hands and flags in front of the gates of Ferrari.


"Luca, Luca. Speech, speech".


He, Montezemolo, raises his hands, as if to embrace everyone. Perhaps, in the courtyard of the factory, for a moment he thought about what would have happened if for the fourth time Ferrari had failed the target. What would have happened in the case of a fourth disappointment?


"I don’t even want to think about it. I don’t wish it even to the worst enemy to lose in the last race for three years in a row. But this also means that in recent years we have remained at the top, losing only at the last corner".


How did the president expect this day?


"The important thing was to win the drivers' title. I was also fine with a win with ten cars in front of us, but so the script was perfect. It’s the best day of my life, the professional one I mean, because there are more important things in life".


As usual, he saw the race at home, on the hills of Bologna:


"I put on a red tie, a little flashy, but sometimes it is necessary. At thirteen laps from the end Gianni Agnelli called me: Luca, it’s done, he told me. Please, I answered. Look, I’m so serene, and so must you. He was right. In the end I jumped into the armchair and hugged my wife and son, the only ones who tolerate me while watching the Grand Prix".


The meeting with the reporters is almost a monologue. The president of Ferrari wants to remove some pebbles from his shoes:


"I dedicate the victory to all those who have believed in us even in difficult times; to the shareholders, to the real fans, to the sponsors who with record contributions have allowed us to beat giants such as Mercedes, Honda, Ford, who have technologies for space, too. We beat them with our technology, we are the only real manufacturers, because our cars are designed and built here in Maranello".


Is it true that Schumacher, after the victory, will leave Maranello?


"No, no. Schumacher has a contract for two more years. I called him immediately after the victory and told him: I immediately congratulate you because in an hour you will be drunk. In Suzuka there is a real party, I cannot think of the bitter years, all the times that the victory has escaped us at the last moment. I have fantastic and tragic memories, I think of the drivers who disappeared with our cars, the great feats touched. The future? For us comes in two weeks, because we also want to win the constructors' title. It bothers us a lot when others conquer it, because we are the only ones who really build their cars".


What criticisms have bothered you?


"I’m surprised, for example, that someone questioned Schumacher, who is the biggest driver. They also criticised me when I called Jean Todt. He was French, he came from rallies and not from Formula 1. I don’t like hasty criticism. Before Monza someone said: Ferrari is in crisis, for Ferrari it is over. We reacted with a beautiful race in Monza and a wonderful 1-2 in Indianapolis. There were difficult years, in which it was necessary to rebuild men and an organisation. But in the company I have always explained that criticism is also good. Bad would be the day when no one had anything to complain about us. It would mean that we are not important".


Twenty-one years to wait are many, they are many for everyone, for Piero Ferrari, the son of Enzo, they are even more. In the eyes and in the heart he had the fierce jokes of the last two seasons with that blessed, cursed driver title that danced on the nose of Ferrari before moving on to that of McLaren. This time no, this time Michael Schumacher has recovered his place on the throne of Formula 1 and the team of Maranello, of which Piero Ferrari is vice president, has recovered his place in the realm of speed. A fairy tale with a happy ending, like the stories Enzo Ferrari loved to tell: stories of drivers and engines, dust and asphalt. When the light of the rising sun warmed the Italian autumn morning, all Ferrari fans thought of him, the Great Old, the creator of the empire. Gianni Agnelli, an excellent fan, said it for everyone:


"I got excited for him".


And his son Piero was also moved; he, like Schumacher, is still struggling to focus on the triumph:


"It’s hard to tell how I feel, how I felt. Certainly a huge, beautiful, beautiful emotion, because we had almost forgotten it in all these years of fasting. Now I feel a sense of relaxation, as after an immense effort, as after climbing a very high peak. We have lifted a burden and we are all happier. Dad, in heaven, is the happiest of all. He will have celebrated but without clamour, without showing it. He always amazed everyone at moments like this with his composed, almost cold attitude. He was not someone who expressed his feelings in public, he preferred a dry joke, a smile. This was enough to make his happiness understood".


The Ferrari party is sweet, because the blackout of the last twenty years has weighed like a boulder. They did not sleep at night thinking about the victory that did not arrive, the seasons that always seemed made to measure to return to excel and then turned into tremendous disappointments.


"This time it was different from the first races. We started to win immediately and it was clear that it could be the right year. Being champions with an early race is proof of our value and our superiority. Although there were bad times, as after Austria and Germany. For a moment I feared that the nightmare would repeat itself, but the reaction of the team was exceptional and the triumph arrived".


As already done by Montezemolo, even Piero Ferrari applauds the work of Todt and his men:


"Their commitment and their preparation were decisive: in every Grand Prix the car was ready to perfection, it was competitive to the maximum and this was a formidable weapon. Then we must not forget the great skill of Michael Schumacher".


The German driver, the cool calculator that many have often described as far from the preferred types of the Drake. It was up to him to put things right in the hierarchy of the Circus:


"I also read that Michael might not have had a connection with my father. But I don’t agree at all. First of all, his type of aggressive driving is just what dad liked. Then, even characteristically, they are not so far away. Because Michael, who in public appears almost unpleasant and distant, is actually a sensitive person, available. A normal guy, one of us. And his tears at Monza are the most evident proof".


It is a sweet party that of Ferrari, full of crossed dedications. That of the founder’s son is simple:


"This victory is for the Ferrari company, a heritage for Italy. The drivers, the technicians, the managers, all pass, the brand remains and this is the most beautiful thing".


And it also remains the memory of those who set up this company. With simplicity, with a smile. After the celebrations at the end of the race, in the evening there is a team dinner, under the steps of the stands, behind the pits and in the middle of the boxes of the material. There could not be a better place: that of work, suffering and finally joy. Better than in a luxury restaurant. Michael and Corinna sitting next to Todt, with every drink a toast, a scream, a cheer, a Ferrari force. After that, it may seem strange to some, but the party moves to a karaoke bar in the company of the men of McLaren-Mercedes. What already happened in 1999, only that the winner at the time was Hakkinen, and the television images of that party irritated the Italian fans, still disappointed by the defeat of Irvine, and also of Ferrari. The scene is repeated this year in the karaoke bar inside the amusement park of Suzuka, with the whole German clan of McLaren-Mercedes and the rival drivers Hakkinen and Coulthard. Norbert Haug reveals it:


"We partied as usual, what’s wrong with it? We always do it, for us it’s normal. But maybe this time Montezemolo does not get angry".


Michael’s arrival around 3:00 a.m. is greeted by the classic We are the champions song sung by Ross Brawn. Then Michael performs with Hakkinen Smoke on the Water by Deep Purple. The next day, Michael Schumacher leaves for Malaysia with Corinna, while the team and the Ferrari material moves to Thailand, waiting to go to Sepang, Malaysia, for the last race weekend of the season, where the team of Maranello has the task of managing the thirteen points advantage over McLaren to also conquer the Constructors' Championship.


©​ 2023 Osservatore Sportivo


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