Formula 1 leaves Australia and moves to Malaysia for the second round of the season. The first race gave show and surprises. Among the promoted must certainly mention David Coulthard. His victory will not have been unforgettable, but the history of Formula 1 is also full of performances by accountants (Lauda and Prost, so as not to name names), that when he was marking badly thought above all not to make mistakes. If the various Michael Schumacher, Juan Pablo Montoya and Kimi Raikkonen have made serious mistakes, worse for them. Raikkonen is however to be saved: he started from last place, with brave choices and aggressive driving he finished third after holding behind Michael Schumacher. Jarno Trulli and Fernando Alonso (Renault) and Heinz-Harald Frentzen (Sauber-Petronas) also had a great race. Many, instead, are sent back to Sepang, in particular Ferrari and Michael Schumacher. People make mistakes, especially if it happens once every three years. The car begins to feel the weight of the months, but - explains the technical director Ross Brawn - nothing would have changed if he had raced the new car: the Grand Prix was lost by men with their mistakes. From Italy, however, there is no better news, because Tuesday, March 11, 2003, the test driver Luca Badoer goes off the track during some tests at Mugello with the new F2003-GA. For him, transported by helicopter to the CTO of Florence, only bruises, but it remains to be examined whether it was a pilot error or a car problem. Returning to talk about the Australian Grand Prix, it is also worth reviewing the performance of Juan Pablo Montoya: he was in the lead, 10 laps were missing, no one tormented him, yet he ended up in a spin. Not even the four debutants at the start of the Grand Prix, no one arrived at the finish. Antonio Pizzonia figure in the standings because he has covered 52 of the 58 laps. Friday and Saturday, on the other hand, this Brazilianman from Amazonia was among the worst on track. Probably the Jaguar team advised him not to run and he did the homework like a good taxi driver. Ralph Firman (Jordan-Cosworth) went off the track after 7 laps. Cristiano Da Matta after 8 laps. Debuting in a race-chaos is difficult, but it can also take you to the top: in Australia a year ago the pet Mark Webber gave Minardi the only 2 points of the season. Switched to Jaguar, in Melbourne he broke a suspension when he was sixth. Rubens Barrichello is unfortunately among the losers, flawless only until the race. His early departure of a second is incomprehensible: did he or Ferrari’s electronic system make a mistake? However, Rubens Barrichello still deserves the rejection for the exit on the sixth lap. The Minardi was also bad: Saturday’s issues, with a return to the pits without concluding qualifying to exploit a gap in the rules, was not very sporty and did not serve: Jos Verstappen came last at the finish line after he had risen too eighth place at the start. Just 11th Justin Wilson. Ralf Schumacher deserves an appeal: victim of his mechanics, who failed to replace a tire, he did not even attempt the comeback, running in the wake of Fernando Alonso and Jarno Trulli.
"The Malaysian Grand Prix is the toughest of the season".
Word of Michael Schumacher. Waiting to move to Sepang, where he is expected Wednesday, March 19, 2003, the Ferrari driver analyzes the next engagement.
"The heat and humidity are very high. So it is important to get used to these conditions, also in terms of training".
Michael Schumacher spends the break between the two races in a warm and secret location where - knowing the meticulousness - he will have trained in the hottest hours to acclimatize. It doesn’t change the German’s opinion about the Australian Grand Prix:
"It was a good race, certainly promising as a season opener and interesting for spectators. It has nothing to do with the new rules. There’s been an unpredictable series of events, like rain and safety cars. Our old car is still competitive. I think it’s good to be able to use a car that we know so well in a race that takes place in such extreme conditions. We have a good chance of winning".
The Formula 1 World Championship restarts from Malaysia. Michael Schumacher is looking for revenge on the circuit that in the past has been favorable to him: two wins, a second and a third place out of four editions, accompanied by four pole positions.
"It will be an interesting Grand Prix, also for the weather. In Sepang it is very hot and the high humidity demands a lot from the drivers: I suffer less than others. The track is quite wide, which makes it difficult to choose the ideal trajectory. I am sure we can look forward to this race and we will fight for victory".
To acclimatize, many drivers arrive early in Malaysia. Like Michael, Rubens Barrichello is expected Wednesday, March 19, 2003:
"I spent a few days in Brazil with my family, also treating my back. In Melbourne we realized that there is not much time to adjust the set-up. We will have to make the most of the practice days. The F2002 is still competitive and there is no mystery about the new rules: we just have to learn how to deal with them".
Meanwhile, the English tabloid Sun writes that Ferrari would have proposed a new contract for the future to Schumacher, with a reduced salary of 5.000.000 euros (the current one, which expires at the end of the year, contemplates 40.000.000 euros). From Maranello no comments.
"Everything is on schedule".
This is how the FIA expresses itself in the meantime, whose president Max Mosley remains mysteriously absent even at Sepang, at the Malaysian Grand Prix. The Iraqi crisis and lung infection do not stop Formula 1. Malaysia, a Muslim country, does not live with apprehension on the eve of the conflict. As for the health problems which have alerted South-East Asia, there have been no cases and no special precautions are in place. The stables begin in serenity the great maneuvers of the eve. Ferrari immediately wants to forget the Australian Grand Prix and show that the Australian debacle was an episode. Confidence in the old car, which will also compete in Brazil: the debut of the F2003-GA is scheduled in Imola, the first European race, Sunday, April 18, 2003. Michael Schumacher comes from the Maldives, where he spent a vacation with his wife.
"I will end my career in Ferrari".
Michael Schumacher promises. And so he cuts off speculation about his future, the rumors that wanted him on the market after 2004 because Ferrari would like to cut his salary.
"I know nothing about cuts. Ferrari told me that I will decide whether to continue after the contract expires. It’s the best compliment I could get".
The German driver talks about his future at a press conference organised by Scuderia Ferrari in Kuala Lumpur, where the Malaysian Grand Prix will be held. When will you decide whether to continue?
"I don’t know. Some choices are made suddenly. Mine will come at the right time. I certainly don’t see myself in other teams".
Encouraged by his holiday in the Maldives, Michael Schumacher arrives in Malaysia in search of revenge. On the Sepang circuit, in 2002 there was the double of Williams-Bmw, but the precedents are all for Michael Schumacher. On Friday 21st March 2003, pre-qualifying will take place, which in the new regulations will determine the starting order of Saturday’s qualifying. In race perspective, one of the problems is the heat. Bridgestone and Michelin have prepared new compounds for the tires, the engines will have to sacrifice some horses to the cooling systems, but the pilots have no escape: trapped in fireproof suits, they risk dehydration. During the more than ninety minutes of a race they come to lose two to three pounds of weight, although they have a liter of water supply with mineral salts that they drink through a small tube stuffed into the helmet. In the final stages, they are precisely the most trained to maintain lucidity. Michael Schumacher is meticulous in physical preparation, which he devotes up to four hours a day between aerobic activities, weights and various sports. In the years of the challenge with Mika Hakkinen, the difference was evident: removed the helmet, the Finnish World Champion in 1998 and 1999 was the mask of fatigue, while Michael Schumacher seemed to return from a picnic. Nutrition also plays an important role. The meal before a torrid Grand Prix must be light and based mainly on carbohydrates like pasta. Water, juices and salt supplements are taken by pilots to prevent that, with the loss of fluid, decreases the ability to concentrate. Even if they perform very limited movements, the riders suffer very strong stress: their heart beats at an average of 160-170 beats per minute (as much as that of a marathon runner) and the muscles of the neck and shoulders endure accelerations up to four times that of gravity. Training and diet, in these conditions, can be worth a few tenths per lap. And so, both for the physical preparation and the technical preparation, Friday, March 21, 2003, in Malaysia, back to shine the red: best time of Michael Schumacher, then Rubens Barrichello, finally the others. The revenge of Ferrari? In the pits of the Maranello team prudence has never been lacking, but now the superstition is added. Two weeks earlier in Melbourne, it was Rubens Barrichello who dominated the official Friday practice. But in the race it went bad. Friday there is no story: between the World Champion and Juan Pablo Montoya, third with the Williams-Bmw, there is the abyss of a second. The other Schumacher, Ralf, loses focus behind the rumors about his private life. The German weekly Auto Bild a few days before the Malaysian Grand Prix published a photo of his wife Cora in the company of a stranger. He denied, explaining that the mystery man is a family friend, a hairdresser from Salzburg named Michael Leitner. But the interview given by the driver to make things clear turned out to be an own goal, because the newspaper titled it:
"I am not homosexual".
So that from a story of presumed betrayal spread in Germany, we have moved to a wider (and amplified worldwide) debate on the sexual tastes of the Williams driver, on track only thirteenth. Michael Schumacher’s time is well below the 1'35"266 that last year, with the old regulation, he had earned the pole position.
"As expected, he and Ferrari remain the benchmark".
Commented Norbert Haug, Head of Mercedes Motorsport, who in Melbourne scored the first success of the season with David Coulthard, fifth at Sepang with a time of 1'36"297. The proof is that Juan Pablo Montoya, third with a time of 1'35"939, makes a lap almost perfect. In a suffocating climate (up to 50) the least listed stables suffer. Jaguar, for example, failed to make available to its second driver, the Brazilian Antonio Pizzonia, a car capable of racing the prescribed lap. When it’s his turn, the engine does not turn on and so Antonio Pizzonia is forced to postpone to Saturday his entry on the track. According to the rules in force this year, the Brazilian will have to get on track first; last will be the Ferrari of the German driver, preceded by that of Rubens Barrichello. Formula 1 strategies are decided at the distributor. And so, Saturday, March 22, 2003 the Renault ventures inserting little gasoline in the tank and conquers a historic pole position, which the French manufacturer lacked since 19 May 1984 (Patrick Tambay at Spa-Francorchamps): the fastest on the Sepang circuit is Fernando Alonso, so he deserves the title of best Spanish driver ever. At his side the team-mate Jarno Trulli, who dedicates the front row to a deceased friend, Oliviero Borghi, an entrepreneur who believed in his skills and invested to bring him into Formula 1. There is news in the Circus, although the interpretations are different. Flavio Briatore, Renault’s team principal, attributes the credit to the two drivers, denies having speculated on the amount of fuel and mocks the rivals:
"It was not wrong to choose to take the tests on Friday, limiting those outside the races. The others, the phenomena, made fun of us. Circuit cleaners, we were called. Street sweepers. Instead these two extra hours make us better know the circuit and the cars. You can see that between a fuck and one second other (text, ed) we have made progress".
In the Ferrari box, Flavio Briatore’s shots do not disturb the wait for the second round of the World Championship. As it matured, the disappointment in Australia was filed among the accidents of the route: the race was decided by chance and human errors, more than by an exploit of opponents. The third time in qualifying for Michael Schumacher and the fifth for Rubens Barrichello (among them the McLaren-Mercedes of David Coulthard) could depend on the new regulation, which prohibits the intervention on single-seaters (including the filling of petrol) from the end of the fast lap to the start of the race. The feeling is that the petrol load of the Maranello cars is greater. In this circuit, ten kilos of gasoline slow down by about 0.4 seconds per lap. Comparing the times of Friday (almost empty tank) and those of Saturday you can estimate the amount of fuel boarded for the race. Fernando Alonso got worse by 0.4 seconds, so he should start with about ten kilos of petrol and a theoretical range of about twenty kilometers (four laps). Jarno Trulli got worse by 0.9 seconds, so in his tank there would be over twenty kilos, while Michael Schumacher slowed down by even 2.5 seconds and would keep on track longer than all opponents, as well as Rubens Barrichello. They are theoretical calculations that do not take into account the tuning, the skill of the driver, the conditions of the track, but give an idea of how the new rules have changed the hierarchies of Saturday. Pole position is no longer a test of pure speed: the goal of changing the hierarchies has been achieved, that of improving the show has yet to be evaluated.
"We aim for victory, this car is reliable".
Says Michael Schumacher, who fears especially the McLaren-Mercedes. And praises Fernando Alonso:
"I’m not surprised because I know he’s very good".
Opinion shared by Barrichello:
"Young people are better prepared today than ten years ago".
According to the Brazilian, the F2002 is still very competitive and it will adapt well to the Brazilian Grand Prix. What he doesn’t like is Hans, the head and neck support system that has been mandatory since this year.
"I’ve talked about it with Sid Watkins (the FIA Medical Director), but it seems that only I complain. I don’t want to look like a crybaby, but it hurts. It gives me back pain, I had to go to Brazil to get treatment from Dr Moises Cohen. I can’t drive compressed, I need to move. And it hurts me. Luckily next week we will try a new model, with double belts on the model of those of David Coulthard, we hope it will be better".
The one who gives up complaining is Ralf Schumacher. Perhaps nervous about rumors about his family life, the World Champion’s younger brother doesn’t get one right anymore. In Australia he finished eighth, in Malaysia he is going even worse. On the starting grid he is seventeenth. Worse than he is only the Minardi and the Jordan of Ralph Firman.
"I have a lot of confidence for future development. The qualifying result is not real, not even the eighth place of Juan Pablo Montoya. We are in the game with McLaren and Ferrari".
Sunday, March 23, 2003 the race is given with good weather with a heat tremendously sultry (air temperature of 34 ºC, asphalt to 46 ºC and humidity on 65%), surrounded by a very weak wind. At the end of the reconnaissance lap Giancarlo Fisichella lined up in the wrong pitch on the starting grid: realizing the error, the Italian driver reaches his correct starting position, but in doing so overheating the transmission, tilting the starting system and standing still on the grid. At the start of the Malaysian Grand Prix Fernando Alonso keeps the lead of the race, while David Coulthard, who started very well, threatens Michael Schumacher. In an attempt to resist the attack the German driver arrives along the second corner, ramming Jarno Trulli, who ends up spinning. The accident caused havoc in the group and Antonio Pizzonia hit Juan Pablo Montoya, whose car lost its rear wing. At the end of the first pass Fernando Alonso passes under the lead, ahead of David Coulthard, Nick Heidfeld, Kimi Räikkönen, Jenson Button, Rubens Barrichello, Olivier Panis and Justin Wilson, author of a spectacular progression from the back of the group. Juan Pablo Montoya, Antonio Pizzonia and Jos Verstappen, also involved in the accident of the first corners, returned to the pits to repair their cars, which cost the Colombian two laps behind the group. In the top positions Kimi Räikkönen immediately overtook Nick Heidfeld, taking third place. The Finnish driver gains another position during the third lap, when his teammate is forced to retire due to an electrical problem. Meanwhile Michael Schumacher returns to the pits to replace the front wing, damaged in contact with Jarno Trulli, taking advantage of the opportunity to make a refill of fuel. In the lead Fernando Alonso keeps his lead over Kimi Räikkönen, but he marks the fastest lap. On lap 9, Michael Schumacher had a drive - through due to an accident with Jarno Trulli, while his team-mate Nick Heidfeld overtook him and moved up to third. The first driver to make the pit stop was Olivier Panis, during lap 12; however, the French driver retired immediately after for problems with fuel pressure. A lap later he also refuelled Nick Heidfeld, who lost a lot of time for a problem with the fuel nozzle, while two laps later it is the turn of Fernando Alonso: the Spanish driver returns to the track in fourth position. In the lead, Kimi Räikkönen pushes hard to overtake the Spaniard.
The McLaren-Mercedes driver made his first pit stop on lap 19, returning to the track just ahead of Fernando Alonso. Rubens Barrichello, who supplied three rounds later, handed the race to Kimi Räikkönen. The Finnish driver leads ahead of Fernando Alonso, Rubens Barrichello, Ralf Schumacher, Jenson Button and Jarno Trulli. On lap 35 Fernanod Alonso returned to the pits to make the second refueling. When Rubens Barrichello refuelled three laps later, he returned to the track ahead of the Spaniard, taking second place behind Kimi Räikkönen. He refuelled during lap 40, keeping the lead of the race with twenty seconds of advantage over the Ferrari driver. Ralf Schumacher retained fourth place, while behind him his brother Michael surpassed both Jarno Trulli and Jenson Button during lap 41. The Ferrari driver must, however, stop at the pits once again; back on track again behind the two, Michael Schumacher quickly recovered the gap, reaching again the rivals during the last lap. After the race was full of ups and downs, Kimi Räikkönen won the Malaysian Grand Prix and achieved his first career success, ahead of Rubens Barrichello, Fernando Alonso (youngest driver ever to be on the podium) and Ralf Schumacher. During the last lap Jenson Button, pressed by Jarno Trulli, missed a braking, giving way to the Italian of Renault and Michael Schumacher, who finished in fifth and sixth position. The English driver has to settle for seventh place, while Nick Heidfeld closes in eighth position. The best win. That is, the best driver, the most competitive car on average, the team that got everything right, from strategy to the choice of the right tyres. But the race, apart from the agitated initial stages, was not beautiful, nor uncertain, nor spectacular. It only takes a few figures to understand that the uncertain challenge that Max Mosley, president of the FIA, sought by imposing new regulations was missing. First Kimi Raikkonen, second Rubens Barrichello at 39.286 seconds, third Fernando Alonso at 1'04"007, fourth Ralf Schumacher at 1'28"026, the others all rounded. It is a wrong formula that Formula 1 faced in the first two championship races. The qualifying system that rewards the gamble and maybe even the bluff is not convincing (the very fast and talented Fernando Alonso, despite having conquered the pole position, in normal conditions not only could never win, but not even get on the podium), it is ridiculous and anachronistic not to allow teams and therefore drivers, technicians and mechanics to fine-tune cars before the race.
This is probably also a risky situation that could cause accidents on some occasion. Above all, it is difficult to accept the rule that it is necessary to refuel the cars for the first stretch of the Grand Prix on Saturday when the only timed lap available has yet to start. A whole series of handicaps that take away from Formula 1 the immediacy it had until last year and the necessary ease of understanding even for the non-experts. Bernie Ecclestone, who knows a lot, has already made it known that he doesn’t like a lot of things, that they need to be changed. After the next Brazilian Grand Prix, the team leaders will meet to discuss what happened and try to find remedies. Not to mention that Ron Dennis and Frank Williams have sued the FIA for unilaterally changing the rules of the game and that the judgment of the Sports Court has not yet been expressed. It should be considered, however, that after winning the first two races of the World Championship, McLaren-Mercedes could also be tempted to maintain the status quo, given the results. Having said that, it is necessary to underline how the beginning of the World Championship has highlighted some positive news. The first concerns the drivers: the new levers (Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso) press on the accelerator and announce a spare part worthy of being carefully observed. To Flavio Briatore, the Spanish driver remembers the first Michael Schumacher, the one who arrived young at Benetton and became twice World Champion. Fernando Alonso, 21, from Oviedo (Spain), responded to the compliments with a pole position and a third place. At the end of the race he still finds it hard to believe, dazed by effort, heat and fever. On Saturday, when he heard about it, his mother had recommended him to put on his wool shirt, even if in Sepang there are between 35 mid-cand 40 mid-c. He, a good son, said yes and took to the track with unchanged grit and that bit of recklessness given by the fever.
"Everything went well. Our strategy worked as expected. In the first part of the race it was good to be in the lead, then I fought with Barrichello and in the end I had some problems with the gears (Briatore reports that he did not enter the fourth and fifth gear, ed). I was lucky to finish the race. I have to thank the team for this fantastic weekend".
Alonso was the first Spaniard and the youngest driver ever to take pole position. An even more special performance when you consider that he raced in sub-optimal conditions:
"Fever? It’s pretty high. Actually, I’m not feeling very well right now. I dedicate this race to all the people who supported me since I was a child, to my family, to the team and to those who couldn’t see the race because he went to heaven".
The reference is to the grandfather who died recently.
"I enjoyed it, it was rewarding. I proved that I can be very valuable in any category. I’m now starting to count point by point. I don’t think you can ask for more. I’m breaking records, I’d like to be the first Spaniard to win a race and the youngest ever to do so".
At the age of 21, the Spanish driver had names like Troy Ruttman, Bruce McLaren and Jacky Ickx before him, who did so at the age of 22.
"It was the best weekend of my life, and I really didn’t think it would come so soon".
Even Jarno Trulli - always unlucky - with a car finally competitive, is showing its value, to the satisfaction of Italian fans. On the other side of the coin, one cannot believe, as some would already argue, that we are witnessing the slow decline of Michael Schumacher. The German made only two fatal mistakes, in Australia and Malaysia. Usually he turns two or three per season, it is not excluded that he has not already finished the moment of gifts. In Sepang, however, he scored the fastest lap, ahead of team-mate Rubens Barrichello and Kimi Raikkonen.
This also means that Ferrari remains at the top in terms of performance. In Sepang without the initial troubles he could have won, even with the Brazilian if he had not been stuck in sixth place at the start. In fact, he could have passed Kimi Raikkonen at the pit-stop, if all went well. The fact remains that McLaren-Mercedes, with an old car completely redone (and new engine) has grown a lot. Renault is a reality, the cars available to Fernando Alonso and Jarno Trulli are agile, easy to drive, very balanced. And the Michelin tyres have so far been right for the Bridgestones. Williams-Bmw appears in crisis with Ralf Schumacher unrecognizable and Juan Pablo Montoya struggling with mistakes and faulty accidents. However, the FW25 is still under development and may recover. In a nutshell: Ferrari can still maintain the leadership, but it will no longer have to do anything wrong to complete what is proving to be a chase.
"I will do everything to win the World Championship".
Kimi Raikkonen has won the first race since he is in Formula 1 and now looks far. Last year in Magny-Cours he failed to win just a few corners from the finish by sliding on a spot of oil, and opened the door to the fifth world triumph of Michael Schumacher. Two weeks ago in Melbourne he was penalized by a poorly tuned speed limiter and suffered a penalty that probably denied him success. After collecting, at the Grand Prix number 36, the success that leads to 49 points his personal loot, the man who often in qualifying was ahead of David Coulthard, but who in the race ended up behind the Scotsman, this time he hit the goal, accomplice to the error of Michael Schumacher. And he enjoy the moment:
"I understood that we were strong already from yesterday’s warm-up. I pushed like crazy from the beginning, and at the start I didn’t even have a chance to understand what happened. I managed to pass without problems. Now I won my first race, and I have to congratulate the team for the fantastic work they did. I don’t know if this is the beginning of a new McLaren era. I’m just convinced that I will do everything to get the title. Things are looking good for us".
Kimi Raikkonen confesses that he had the only problem to overcome the Sauber-Petronas of his former teammate Nick Heidfeld:
"It wasn’t easy. But in the last thirty laps I drove without problems".
He arrived in Formula 1 in 2001. Peter Sauber found him out and firmly wanted him, despite the fact that he still didn’t have the super license required of the Circus drivers. Last year he joined McLaren to replace his illustrious predecessor, fellow countryman Mika Hakkinen.
"We talk sometimes".
Says Kimi. Saturday, March 29, 2003 the football match Italy-Finland will be played, Kimi Raikkonen beat Ferrari.
"I hope that my countrymen will grant encore. But I think that in football it is more difficult for us Finns".
Meanwhile, McLaren team principal Ron Dennis says:
"Raikkonen and Hakkinen speak the same language and are very fast. Otherwise, they have nothing in common".
Mika Hakkinen was - at the time when he was running - friendly and ironic, Kimi Raikkonen pronounces only on rare occasions - such as victory at Sepang - sentences longer than a monosyllable. Mika Hakkinen struggled to establish himself: the first Grand Prix he won at 28, but then twice he mocked Ferrari and became World Champion. Kimi Raikkonen has moved on, but his message board is still empty. Now that the silver arrows are competitive again, Dennis returns to speak willingly and rejects the insinuation that the merit of the Michelin tires:
"They were great, but it would be reductive to attribute success to them. It’s all the package that is great".
He is not surprised by the success of Kimi Raikkonen and talks about a car, the MP4/17, that is keeping its promises. It is in theory the single-seater of last season, in reality it is a total evolution. The only negative detail is the withdrawal of David Coulthard after three laps, stopped by an electrical problem while he was in second position. Despite this, Ron Dennis continues to be hypercritical of the new regulation:
"Even if things are favorable, it must be changed".
Is the Ferrari era over?
"We wait to say it. Ferrari has two great drivers, a great car and a great reliability".
Admitted by him, that’s a huge compliment. Ferrari Team is strong and is consoled by the fact that at Sepang it won more points than its rivals in the Constructors' World Championship standings, eleven against the ten of McLaren-Mercedes and Renault. Jean Todt doesn’t hide the bitterness for a season that starts lower than the expectations and the real possibilities of the team, but accepts this second defeat:
"It was a very difficult race, even though we knew it. The accident at the start, the two extra stops at Schumacher’s pits and the loss of some of Barrichello’s positions certainly affected our result. We understood that our opponents have made progress, this is further confirmation. Now we must work hard and prepare Brazil well. Meanwhile we will continue the development of the F2003-GA which is more competitive than the current car".
Michael Schumacher doesn’t look for excuses after another not bright day, but he performs in a lucid self-criticism as ruthless:
"I am also a human being. I also make mistakes".
The heat of Malaysia seems to have melted the German driver:
"It was a stupid mistake. I was focused on Coulthard, who was attacking me on the right, trying to outdo me, and I tried to avoid him. In these conditions you normally struggle to calculate the space. But I misjudged the distance between me and Trulli. I was too caught up in what was happening on the outside of the track. Jarno was in front and when he turned left, he rightly chose the best trajectory. It wasn’t he who had to worry about what was going on behind it, and there was the collision".
An episode clarified, later, with the apologies of Michael Schumacher to the Italian driver of Renault and a handshake. Was the drive through penalty justified?
"Yes, everything is ok. It has been seen that in the past similar behaviors have been sanctioned with the passage to the pits, so I agree. In fact, I’m glad that, for what happened, I only got off with a fine".
Do the new rules have anything to do with this unprecedented opening of the championship?
"Not at all, because it was a race accident like there have always been".
But Jarno Trulli might not have been in the front.
"In this sense, yes, but we were in a race".
It was noticed that Michael Schumacher often touched his visor during the race? Why?
"Because an air collector came off the helmet and I had a ventilation problem. I would lift the visor from time to time to let in some air. But that was not the biggest problem".
Were you surprised by the first success of Kimi Raikkonen?
"Absolutely not. I think anyone expected his victory sooner or later. Kimi ran a clean race and deserved the success".
Since two races, after nineteen consecutive podiums, you can’t return to the top. Are you worried?
"I have taken many in the past. I’m sorry not to do it now. But the podiums will return".
Are you angry, disappointed?
"Let’s say I’m not very satisfied. But races like this are part of the sport. I’m a human being, too, I make mistakes, like everyone else. And so I can say that at the end of such a day three points are not bad".
Why did you wait a lap to replace the damaged wing after the accident?
"Because we didn’t know if it had broken or not".
Was the F2002 ready for this race?
"We expected a tough race. But, compared to last year in Malaysia, the result was more promising than daunting".
At this point it would be better to drive the F2003-GA?
"I would like to drive it as soon as it is ready. We will not force the situation without being convinced that we can".
McLaren-Mercedes will also be strong in Brazil, after Australia and Malaysia?
"I think they will be competitive throughout the year. Maybe they will be stronger in São Paulo, but then there will be Imola, a circuit that should be better for us. There will be tracks for us, others for them. But since the beginning of the season I have said that it would be a tough battle with McLaren".
What about the Williams?
"Montoya lost a wing and was delayed, my brother Ralf had left 17th. But I say it is good not to underestimate them".
Rubens Barrichello witnessed the accident at the start that also barred him, in his opinion, the road to victory. Obviously he doesn’t talk about the responsibility of his teammate:
"I had almost joined Michael when I saw the car turn upside down. I avoided it, then Trulli went wide and I had to go back inside wasting a lot of time. My Ferrari was fast and I could recover positions, but the recovery compromised my chances of winning. In the end I did not force and I tried only to maintain the placement. I could run without the Hans protection system because it causes me pain. Now we will try to adopt a better one. Brazil? I want to make a good impression. And I remain optimistic".
If you always win for a year, then you can only get worse. The mood in Ferrari is this:
"We want to keep winning, but it’s clear that a drop from the 2002 levels is inevitable. We can make mistakes too".
The goal is unchanged: to win the Drivers' World Championship for the fourth time in a row and for the fifth time the Constructors' World Championship, with the knowledge that it will be much more difficult. Michael Schumacher’s opening incident was remarked more than Rubens Barrichello’s second place. A year ago it got worse: the Maranello team left Malaysia with the third position of Michael Schumacher, four points against the eleven on Sunday. While the technicians examine the data collected at Sepang and prepare the next races, Ferrari will engage four drivers from Tuesday, March 25, 2003 in the Barcelona tests. In Spain are sent a F2003-GA (which then returns to the track) and two F2002 (one is spare). Rubens Barrichello and Luca Badoer will be involved in the first two days, Michael Schumacher and the Brazilian on Thursday, Felipe Massa on Friday. After the Malaysian Grand Prix, Michael Schumacher is already on a plane back home on Monday evening.
"I was away for three and a half weeks, I can not wait to return to embrace Corinna and the children".
"We shouldn’t draw any wrong conclusions from a single event that didn’t go our way. It would be excessive to talk about Ferrari crisis as someone did before Sepang. There were special circumstances in both races, and my mistakes were added".
Jean Todt doesn’t deny that he is worried:
"They always are, even when we win. But we must not make things worse, we cannot always win. I see in the Malaysian race first of all that we have gained a point more, eleven against ten, than our competitors, McLaren. Then it is clear that I would have preferred to take all the eighteen that were available".
The analysis starts from the reborn Anglo-German team. Says the head of Ferrari Sports Management, Jean Todt:
"They did a great job. But we lost the race at the start. I’m not saying we would have won, but there we lost every chance to do it. The accident wasted time for Michael, who was also penalized, and forced Barrichello to stay behind to avoid the collision. I think it would have been very different without the accident. Because Raikkonen, who had gone back to the pits three laps before Barrichello, obviously had more exhaust. If Rubens had been able to follow him, he might have been able to pass him".
Now the World Championship is more open, but the work schedule doesn’t change:
"In Barcelona we continue the development of the tyres and the F2003-GA. The debut is not anticipated. We expect it to happen at Imola, I think with two new cars".
The fuel forecasts they had on board McLaren-Mercedes and Renault were correct:
"We thought instead that Williams could only make one stop, instead it made two. The problems are not just us. It seems to me that Coulthard’s McLaren had a mechanical problem too".
Jean Todt acquits Michael Schumacher from the charge of impetuousness:
"At these speeds you have to make very quick decisions. If Michael were more relaxed he would not do this job".
What happens in Brazil in two weeks?
"It will be difficult. On the other hand it was also a year ago with the new machine".