Michael Schumacher was born in Huerth-Hermuehlheim, Germany, on January 3, 1969, into a family of modest social and economic conditions. His father Rolf, a passionate mechanic and owner of a Go-Kart circuit in Kerpen, passes on his passion for racing to Michael and his second son Ralf. Following his results in kart racing, in 1984 Michael was contacted by an entrepreneur called Jurgen Dilk, who was impressed by the young German's talent and decided to support him financially.
In the following years he won both the German junior title and the European Championship in Gothenburg, Sweden. The leap in quality took place in 1988 and Michael made his debut on single-seaters with the help of Jurgen Dilk. The results obtained did not go unnoticed, and the German began to enjoy an excellent reputation as a driver. In the same year, Michael participated in three championships: in the German and European Formula Ford series, with which he obtained respectively a sixth and a second-place finish, being beaten by Mika Salo; and in Formula Konig, winning nine out of ten races in the latter, becoming champion, thus repaying the efforts made by Gustav Hoecker, the Lamborghini dealer who allowed him to race in this series as well.
Unfortunately, the driver's talent is faced with the problem of budget, which is not enough to compete in the next season in Formula 3. Dilk and Michael seem resigned when - in 1989 - an owner of a Formula 3 team, called Willi Weber, was amazed from the talent of the German, offers him a two-year contract to compete in Formula 3. At his debut in the German Formula 3 Championship, Michael immediately battled for the title, but was beaten by Karl Wendlinger by only one point, having to be content with a second-place finish. In 1990 Schumacher continues to compete in the category by winning the title, and obtaining two very prestigious extra-championship victories at the Macau Grand Prix and the Mount Fuji Grand Prix. At the end of the season, the German takes over under the protective wing of Mercedes, which allows him to win the first world championship race of his career, namely the 480 km of Mexico City on the C11 Group C, paired with Jochen Mass.
Initially, Mercedes aims to return to Formula One after retiring in 1955, with Michael as the lead driver. But the high costs made Mercedes abandon this project, and the German thus raced in the World Sports Prototype in the following year. In 1991 the occasion for the debut in Formula One took place. Jordan needs a driver to replace Bertrand Gachot in the Belgian Grand Prix, under arrest in London due to a fight with a taxi driver due to an accident. Mercedes hands Eddie Jordan the German driver. But in order for the Irish team to approve this candidacy, first Eddie Jordan gives Schumacher a quick shake-down at Silverstone, and later Willi Weber, manager of the German, assures that Michael knew perfectly the Belgian track, declaring later twenty years later that he was not at all so:
"I told Eddie that Michael knew Spa like the back of his hand, living just a few kilometers from the track. But that wasn't true. Later the lie was exposed, but at that point it didn't matter, as Michael had set seventh time in qualifying".
Michael gets a chance and uses it in the best way possible, stunning the world for the first time with a resounding seventh place in qualifying. Unfortunately, the magic did not have a sequel, the race lasted only a hundred meters due to the breaking of the clutch.
Fatality has it that Schumacher, at the end of the warm-up, had reported a problem of clutch slip, but Eddie Jordan replied to the German driver:
"It costs too much, keep that".
Michael Schumacher is noticed by everyone in the Formula 1 world, and in particular by Flavio Briatore, director of Benetton, who offers him a contract for the following season and the following ones, joining Nelson Piquet. The contractual practice with the Jordan team ended with an exchange between drivers, at Benetton Michael Schumacher, and at Jordan Roberto Moreno.
"I immediately called Willy Weber, we met in London and we closed the deal. It was a big drama for Eddie Jordan, because he thought he had a contract with Schumi, and he was very greedy. The first time he ran with us was in Monza. I proposed. Roberto Moreno to pay him for the whole season, so at the end of the year he would have been out of the team, complete with a bonus to leave the seat to Michael. But he didn't agree, and this was a problem. First of all, with Piquet, with whom I had a big argument, because he didn't want Moreno's dismissal. And I was also close to sending Piquet away to take Zanardi, our test driver at the time. We were able to get Michael into the car, because he didn't have a contract, and he was immediately incredibly fast. The engineers came to me and said: Boss, he was right, this guy is fantastic. I thought: Why, I've been here for three years, these people have been there for twenty years…".
"There was a lot of talk in the newspapers in those days about the Schumacher controversy, and Senna was also against me, again because Moreno was Brazilian. I told Luciano Benetton that having him in the team was the only way for us to win a championship, with a talent that grew with us. Michael was able to motivate everyone, he was immediately faster than Nelson. We realized we had an exceptional driver in the team. I asked the designers to make an honest car, then Michael would have put in those three-four tenths that they would have made a difference. We started building the team and winning races. He never gave up".
"I remember that he was the first with excellent physical preparation. For this reason, I decided to build a gym for him in the factory. He never gave up, if the car had a problem, he thought about how to solve it. Other drivers would have said: The car is shit. He talked to the engineers for hours, putting pressure on him but in a positive way".
"My relationship with him was super. I fought for him. The night before Monza we were at Villa d'Este, with Eddie Jordan and Bernie Ecclestone. It was the first time I saw Bernie drunk, jumping from my sofa to that of Eddie to try and sort it out. This was Formula One. Bernie had no idea who Michael Schumacher was. Nobody was convinced of Michael's choice, they told me he was too young, too much this, too much that. I was very determined, everyone was doubtful".
In the following race at Monza the German collects his first championship points, finishing fifth at the finish. In subsequent races, Schumacher will finish sixth in both Spain and Portugal.
In 1992 the German began to enter the top positions of the standings, giving rise to a heated rivalry with the Brazilian champion Ayrton Senna. The rivalry between the Brazilian and the German started already in the early stages of the season, when in Brazil Michael accused Senna of incorrect behavior (slowdowns actually due to electronic problems in the McLaren Honda engine), and especially in France, when Michael hit the Brazilian on the first lap: following the interruption of the race due to rain, Senna argued animatedly with the German, reproaching him for his behavior in Brazil, and asking him for explanations while they were on the grid waiting for a restart (the German following contact managed to continue the race). The rivalry also continues at Hockenheim in Germany during the tests, when Senna accuses the German of having dangerously hindered him during a fast lap, finding him in full trajectory. This happens a few days after Magny Cours. The Brazilian, furious, showed up in the Benetton pits and took the German by the collar of his suit.
The 1992 season is undoubtedly excellent for Schumacher, given that with three races to go, with the world championship already awarded to Nigel Mansell, Schumacher is involved in the fight for the second position in the standings: with only three Grands Prix remaining, the German leads Senna and Patrese only one length apart. In the end, Patrese managed to finish second, while Schumacher had to settle for third in the world rankings, ahead of Senna, who was betrayed on several occasions by an often-unreliable McLaren. Already in the first full season in Formula 1, Schumacher manages to place himself firmly in the leading positions, obtaining his first career podium (third) already at the second Grand Prix, raced in Mexico, up to the first victory in the Belgian Grand Prix.
At Spa, Schumacher starts third, but at the start it is Senna who takes the lead ahead of Mansell and Patrese. The two Williams drivers manage to overtake Senna in the following laps, but after a few laps it starts to rain; most of the drivers immediately return to the pits to mount wet tires, while Senna stays on track until lap 10, hoping that the rain will quickly stop falling. The gamble does not pay and the Brazilian has to stop in the pits, returning to the track far behind. Mansell is therefore in the lead ahead of Patrese and Schumacher. But when the track begins to dry up, Schumacher is one of the first to mount slick tires, while the two Williams drivers hesitate, losing a lot of time. When Mansell finally decided to change tires, it was too late: Schumacher took the lead. The British driver quickly recovered on his rival, but then he was slowed down by problems with an exhaust and had to slow down, contenting himself with second place.
Schumacher wins for the first time in his career on the circuit where he made his debut the previous year:
"I can't describe my emotions. Today when I was in my motorhome, I felt that I could win this race. And I'm happy I won not because the others had accidents or had car problems. I won this race alone".
In 1993 Michael renewed for two seasons with Benetton, declaring that he had inserted a clause that established the desire not to have teammates like Senna or Mansell, to avoid internal competitions. This season, Benetton gets an exclusive supply of Ford engines, superior to the customer version supplied to McLaren, which instead benefits from the British Grand Prix. This allowed the German driver to obtain a good consistency of results, often finishing the races on the podium and giving good hope for a future competitiveness of the car in order to fit among the contenders for the title.
The 1993 vintage ended with a victory on the Estoril circuit, a circumstance in which Alain Prost became world champion for the fourth time and announced his retirement from racing. In 1994, all eyes were on Ayrton Senna's Williams, who was a sure winner of the Formula One World Championship. Unfortunately, however, the fate of the two Formula One stars, Michael Schumacher and Ayrton Senna take opposite paths: the German finds the victory of his first world title, while the Brazilian star disappears following the tragic accident in Imola. Following that event, Flavio Briatore stated that Michael seriously thought about retiring, only to rethink and become president of the Grand Prix Driver Association, which reformed after twelve years by the will of the Brazilian driver himself.
"Schumacher changed after Senna passed away. He had even seriously considered retiring. Fortunately for all of us, however, he has decided to continue".
1994 is the year of the German's first title. Schumacher immediately wins the first four races in Brazil, Japan (Aida), Italy (Imola), and in Monte Carlo, gets a second place in Spain with the gearbox locked in fifth gear, and returns to win in Canada and France. After seven races, the German's advantage over his immediate rival, Damon Hill, is 37 points (66 points against 29 for the English driver). However, at Silverstone the German driver was disqualified after passing Hill in the reconnaissance lap and failing to serve the penalty imposed on him by the stewards, and suspended for two races. However, the FIA accepts the request not to suspend the German for subsequent races. Briatore, who asks to serve his sentence in the Italian Grand Prix in Monza (a circuit that would have been hostile to the Ford-powered Benetton, against the powerful Ferrari and Renault engines) and Portugal, obtains what is proposed also following the huge following of the public that Michael would get at the next German Grand Prix.
After retiring due to engine problems in Germany, Schumacher returned to win in Hungary and Spa, but at the end of this last race the German was disqualified by the FIA commissioners for excessive consumption of the car's wooden bottom. The victory therefore goes to the second classified Damon Hill, who with this triumph reduces to 21 points away from the summit. In the following Grand Prix, thanks to the disqualification remedied in Great Britain, Hill reduces the gap from the top to just one point, but at Jerez Schumacher gets another victory thanks to an excellent strategy: in fact, Schumacher took the lead after the stops at box and gave Hill no chance.
Instead, the strategy dictated by the Benetton garage will slow down the German's title race at the penultimate round of the championship. In Japan it rains, and Schumacher, who started from pole, commands the race. However, after a while the safety car enters the track and the drivers follow suit. Martin Brundle, however, goes off the track and runs over a course commissioner. It is then decided for a new start, with the final classification calculated by the sum of the times. Schumacher is in the lead, but Hill's strategy with one more stop, albeit significantly slower than his rival in the wet, relegates him to second place just four seconds behind. We arrive at the last appointment with Hill and Schumacher divided by a single point.
In Australia the pole position is for Nigel Mansell, but Michael Schumacher, second in qualifying and also unscathed from a bad accident in Friday practice, is the fastest at the start, immediately taking the lead. In the first part of the race the German driver manages to stay in the lead, keeping an advantage over Damon Hill of about a second. The pace is demonic, and on lap 35, at the East Terrace curve, the German hits the wall with the right front tire and damages the suspension; back on track, at the next corner, he closes the trajectory to the oncoming Damon Hill who tries to brake, but the collision is inevitable. Schumacher flies through the air, then ends up with the nose of his car in the escape route, in front of a stack of tires, while Hill manages to continue.
However, it soon becomes clear that the British car was also damaged. And while Michael, leaning on the safety net, is desperate because he is convinced he has lost the championship, Damon returns to the pits. The mechanics quickly realize that there is serious damage to the left front suspension wishbone arm: it would have taken at least fifteen minutes to replace it. The accident, at the center of numerous controversies over the alleged intention of the German driver to voluntarily damage his rival, was immediately judged as a normal race contact. Michael Schumacher wins his first title keeping a point behind his rival in the drivers' standings.
"I dedicate this championship to the great Ayrton Senna".
Schumacher then said, stumbling over the sentences and swearing, incredulous at the luck that had happened to him:
"My car was understeering, difficult to drive. However, I thought I would be able to pull off Damon. Instead, I found myself passing some laps and he was always there. I went over a small bump and the car started off to one side. I checked it but ended up on the grass and then against the wall. I felt like I could continue, I took the bend when I saw that Damon was right beside me. We hit each other. I flew into the air and was afraid of It was a terrible moment, because my rival was moving forward. Then I heard on the speaker that he had a problem. When I saw Mansell pass two or three times in front of me without Hill, I understood... This year I made heavy comments against Damon, I said I didn't respect him. I have to admit I was wrong, because what he has done in the last two races and for what he must have endured before has been exceptional. I was a great opponent and I'm sorry for what I said about him. I want to congratulate him. For my part I don't think I have forsaken the title. Basically, I skipped four races and fought hard all season, even winning when it seemed very difficult. When Senna was there, I thought he would win the title. He was a good driver like no other".
In the 1995 season, Benetton fitted the same Renault V10 engine used by Williams. The first phase of the world championship is controversial: in Brazil the German wins the race, thanks also to Hill's retirement, but the victory is initially canceled due to non-compliance of the fuel used; the final decision of the FIA however is to confirm the drivers 'placement and to subtract the points from the teams for the constructors' championship. After a bad accident in Imola, Schumacher returns to victory in the Spanish Grand Prix, while at Silverstone (as will happen later in Monza) he is hit by Hill while they were fighting for the first place.
After eight races Schumacher was leading the standings with 11 points clear of his English rival. Schumacher makes himself the protagonist of one of his most beautiful victories at Spa-Francorchamps. The German driver wins the race starting from sixteenth place and duelling for several laps on a wet track with dry tires against Hill, equipped instead with rain tires. After a second place and a victory in the European Grand Prix, the German conquers his second title with two races to spare in Japan, at the Aida Circuit in the Pacific Grand Prix.
For 1996 Ferrari carried out a thorough internal overhaul, starting with the technicians and drivers, with the aim of bringing the titles back to Maranello, which have been missing since 1979 (the drivers one) and since 1983 (the constructors one). Schumacher’s debut in Ferrari, however, is not easy. Tense weather and an important technical gap compared to the English teams are the conditions the German has to deal with in order to fulfil the arduous challenge of bringing the horse back to glory. The car has the biggest problem in reliability, as well as not being able to properly manage the wear of the rear tires. Despite this, Michael wins three podiums in the first five races. The German does not give up and gets a pole position in Monaco, while the race sees him retired already on the first lap after slipping on a wet curb that leads him to hit the barriers.
The first victory, almost unexpected, comes at the Spanish Grand Prix, under the flood. Following a bad start, the German is the protagonist of an incredible comeback, gaining almost 5 seconds per lap in the leading group and winning the race with one minute behind Jean Alesi who finished second. It must be said that bad luck helped Schumacher, since during the race, starting from lap 25, a spark plug, probably also due to the humid conditions, stopped working, favoring better traction control of the car. After the exhilarating Sunday in the rain, Schumacher celebrates, as soon as he arrives home in Monte Carlo, toasting with a non-alcoholic beer:
"Then I took a walk with my dogs, Jenny and Floh. And I thought about the race. What happened. At that moment, for the first time, I realized I had one of the best races of my career. But it wasn't just the driver's success. We won that first place together, me and the team. However, we are not in place yet, we need to improve. The car is too sensitive and its behavior varies from circuit to circuit".
The success is followed by five races in which the German can only collect 3 points due to the lack of reliability of the F310. Schumacher returns to success on the track that had seen him debut a few years earlier, namely Spa. The German was the author of a solid and error-free race, despite the fact that the steering was damaged during the race and the steering wheel remained wrong. But the greater power of the new engine that allows greater wing loading and the seven-speed gearbox, the German brings Ferrari back to the top step of the podium.
"I wasn't expecting it. I'm the first to be surprised. The goal was to finish the race and, at most, to get some points. We weren't faster than Williams, but obviously we managed to keep the same pace and we won by guessing everything. The start was excellent. Now the clutch system works well. I could have attacked Villeneuve too, but I was on the outside and I was forced to tag along. In the beginning, to keep up with Villeneuve, I hit the curbs of the chicane. At one point I felt that the steering was no longer perfect and the steering wheel was a bit crooked. I was afraid of having to pit, because at Eau Rouge and Blanchimont, the two most dangerous points on the circuit, I felt that I was missing a I had some control over the car. I consulted with the box on the radio and they reassured me, but I could no longer cut corners as I wanted. When the safety car went out for the Verstappen accident, I knew it. But we didn't change anything about the strategy, because I was expected to stop right on that lap. The tank told me that it was almost dry. In the second stop we anticipated Villeneuve and at that moment I pushed hard to pass the Canadian. I reached the Source corner, he came out of the garage in front of me, but I was launched and faster. And I stayed in first position. position. Then Jacques attacked me, but my car was fine and I was able to resist. We had a really efficient engine and it was possible to fit a wing with more downforce. Then during the race on the asphalt, a lot of rubber landed, and this allowed us to have better grip. So, the rivals were less good than us in strategies. And there is the circuit factor: fast corners are my specialty. The new 7-speed gearbox also helped me, with which I can drive better according to my characteristics. Maybe it's all together. I also ask if there has not been a part of luck. It takes that too in life. When I came to Ferrari, I knew exactly that it was going to be a difficult season. As indeed it has proved so far. In fact, I hope, write it down, that the first place at Francorchamps does not create too many expectations for Monza. As far as the team is concerned, everything is as I expected. Great potential, very good programs, great progress possible. The fans find them a bit too emotional. In some respects, there is a lack of respect for the person. The joy must never change. in an excess. In Monza everyone tries to touch me, one guy even tried to kiss me on the mouth. At least it was a beautiful girl...".
The success is repeated in Ferrari's home race in Monza, certainly not without some thrills, given that during the race it hits the protective tires placed in the first chicane, to which are added two podiums in the remaining two seasonal races, confirming the growth exponential of the whole team. The season sees Ferrari and Michael in third place with three wins, three second places in San Marino, Japan and the European Grand Prix, and two third places in Brazil and Portugal, for a total of 59 points.
The 1997 saw Williams slightly advantage over Ferrari, which however found the reliability necessary to fight for the title with the F310B, also thanks to the arrival of South African designer Rory Byrne. Williams at the beginning of the season is faster than Ferrari, but after only 4 races the German's gap from the top is only 6 points. The start of the comeback took place at the Monaco Grand Prix, where Schumacher took a legendary victory, beating Barrichello, second, for almost a minute. Schumacher obtained the same result in Canada, after the race was interrupted due to the accident that occurred to Olivier Panis, and in France where, thanks to the rain, he managed to stretch over his rival in the standings, reaching 14 points ahead.
From the next race, the gap between Schumacher and Villeneuve always remains constant, never exceeding 14 points. After a retirement at Silverstone, a second place in Germany, and a fourth place in Hungary, Michael gets another victory in Belgium, once again disputing one of the most beautiful races of his career, trimming an abysmal gap towards the second classified (a full 26 seconds). Twenty minutes before the start there is a sudden downpour, but during the race the track dries up as you approach the first series of pit stops. Taking advantage of the changing conditions, Michael Schumacher keeps a pace unapproachable for everyone, mortgaging the victory.
From the Monza Grand Prix onwards, however, Jacques Villeneuve, helped by Schumacher's mistake in Austria, in which he does not realize he is overtaking Frentzen under the yellow flag, and by the error of his brother Ralf who buffers him in the Grand Prix of Luxembourg, recovers the disadvantage and overtakes the German driver in the standings, reaching a good 9 points behind. At the penultimate round, the Canadian Williams driver has his first world championship match point, but does not take advantage of it due to a post-race disqualification caused by overtaking under the yellow flag during free practice on Saturday morning.
During the session, Verstappen stands still on the straight and the stewards wave the yellow flags of danger. The first six drivers who pass do not slow down and are then sanctioned according to article 4. The penalty, as always, is associated with the conditional until the end of the season: among the six drivers there is Jacques Villeneuve, who already runs with the conditional having undergone a similar provision at the San Marino Grand Prix and the Italian Grand Prix. Being a repeat offender, the disqualification is triggered, but Villeneuve is still made to run sub judice, only to be disqualified for what happened in free practice. Schumacher thus finds himself at the head of the world championship, with a point of advantage, postponing the assignment of the drivers' championship to the last race in Jerez de la Frontera.
During the qualifying a curious fact occurs: Villeneuve, Schumacher and Frentzen get the same time valid for pole position, 1'27"072, but the start from pole is given to the Canadian as he had set the time first. The race was dominated for a large part by Michael Schumacher, until the engine of his car accused of problems related to the water pump. The German is joined by Villeneuve, who is in second position after the tire change, and on lap 48 at the Dry Sec corner, the Canadian attacks the Ferrari driver, surprising him. Michael attempts a maneuver similar to the one performed in Adelaide in 1994, but this time the outcome will be different. The German hit Williams when the overtaking was now complete, damaging the right front suspension and going off the track, compromising any chance of winning the race.
Villeneuve's Williams manages to continue the race, even if the Canadian driver slows down the pace so that the damaged car takes him to the checkered flag. In fact, it will be discovered that the car's battery remained attached only to the electric wires, and that therefore an aggressive driving would have compromised the Canadian's race. The drivers title is therefore assigned to Jaques Villeneuve, while the constructors title goes to the English team.
In 1998 the team to beat is McLaren, which presents a very competitive car thanks to the arrival of the British designer Adrian Newey. The English team seems indisputable, making two braces in the first two races, while Ferrari wins in Argentina. This superiority was also given by the third pedal which allowed the braking force to be divided between the right and left side, a solution later defined as illegal and introduced by McLaren with activation by means of a button on the steering wheel. The technical gap with the Woking manufacturer seems unbridgeable, but Ferrari and the German make an incredible comeback starting from the Argentine Grand Prix, which will last for the whole season.
In Buenos Aires, Ferrari presents various modifications to the car, in particular to the engine, rear and radiators, while the Goodyear increases the width of the front tires, allowing Schumacher to qualify in the front row behind Coulthard. And, despite Coulthard and Häkkinen surprising Schumacher at the start, the German attacks the Finn and passes him back to the variant, then throws himself in pursuit of the Scotsman, forcing him to make a mistake. On the fifth lap, Coulthard misses the corner entry and the German throws himself into the gap left free by his rival. The Scotsman closes the trajectory and the two engage, but the McLaren driver has the worst, who spins and starts sixth again.
At the head of the race, Schumacher is constantly lapping faster than Häkkinen, until the rain turns the track slippery at the end. The German goes long in the gravel but controls the car and returns to the track, winning the race. After a second place in Imola, and a third place in Barcelona, a contact with Wurz's Benetton in Monte Carlo precludes a good place on the podium. On lap 37, the Austrian driver is slowed down by some laps and is put by Schumacher at the Loews. Wurz resists turning and goes back to the Portier, but Schumacher doesn't give up and tries to overtake again; once again the cars touch each other and the German's suspension is damaged. Schumacher returns to the pits, getting out of his car, but technical director Ross Brawn invites him to get back in the car while the mechanics carry out the repair, which costs him two laps late.
But finally, after these last few races in the shadows, in the following appointments Michael gets three consecutive victories in Canada, France and Great Britain, where a few minutes from the end, the stewards inflict a Stop&Go on the German driver. However, the communication with the Ferrari garage is rather chaotic and on the last lap, to general amazement, Michael Schumacher crosses the finish line passing into the pit lane to serve the penalty, winning the race. McLaren will file a formal complaint for this action, which will be rejected by the FIA as there was no material time for Ferrari to serve the penalty to its driver for a delay in communicating it.
Following this episode, the sporting regulations will be modified with the imposition of 25 seconds on the final time for non-discounted infractions during the race. Thanks to this victory, the thirty-first in his career, Schumacher reopens the Championship, taking only two points behind Häkkinen. This is followed by a third place in Austria and again a victory in Hungary. The German, however, fails to overtake Mika Häkkinen in the standings, despite the fact that he could have taken advantage of the Finnish driver's retirement at Spa. In the rain, during the first start, Coulthard's loss of control of the car triggers an accident involving almost all the drivers.
At the restart of the race, Häkkinen and Schumacher touch each other, with the Finn spinning and being hit by Herbert's Sauber. The race continues in extreme conditions, contacts, errors, spin, Verstappen's Ford engine explodes, while in the lead Michael Schumacher laps with times unattainable for any other driver. Indeed, Schumacher is preparing to round Coulthard's McLaren, just stopped in the pits for problems. It seems like a triumphal day for the German, until on the straight towards Pouhon, the McLaren driven by Coulthard slows down abruptly on a very wet section and the German, having reduced visibility, hits the rear of the Scottish driver's car.
Following this episode, the sporting regulations will be modified with the imposition of 25 seconds on the final time for non-discounted infractions during the race. Thanks to this victory, the thirty-first in his career, Schumacher reopens the Championship, taking only two points behind Häkkinen. This is followed by a third place in Austria and again a victory in Hungary. The German, however, fails to overtake Mika Häkkinen in the standings, despite the fact that he could have taken advantage of the Finnish driver's retirement at Spa. In the rain, during the first start, Coulthard's loss of control of the car triggers an accident involving almost all the drivers.
At the restart of the race, Häkkinen and Schumacher touch each other, with the Finn spinning and being hit by Herbert's Sauber. The race continues in extreme conditions, contacts, errors, spin, Verstappen's Ford engine explodes, while in the lead Michael Schumacher laps with times unattainable for any other driver. Indeed, Schumacher is preparing to round Coulthard's McLaren, just stopped in the pits for problems. It seems like a triumphal day for the German, until on the straight towards Pouhon, the McLaren driven by Coulthard slows down abruptly on a very wet section and the German, having reduced visibility, hits the rear of the Scottish driver's car.
The 1999 seems to be a good year, even if the start is not the best. In Melbourne, Michael Schumacher's race was compromised by a series of gearbox problems already during the reconnaissance lap. Problems that force the German to start from the back of the grid similar to what happened in the last round of the previous season. Schumacher tries to recover, until a cut tire and a bent front wing force him to make an unexpected first stop; a few laps from the end, a second unscheduled stop to replace the steering wheel, due to electronic problems, slows it down further. Schumacher thus closes the race in last place. The second Grand Prix of the season sees Mika Häkkinen returning to victory, thanks to a winning strategy that allowed the Finn to delay the stop by two laps compared to Michael Schumacher.
But in the next two races, also thanks to a bit of luck, Schumacher returns to victory. At Imola, McLaren is confirmed as the most competitive car and for the third consecutive time, at the end of qualifying, both cars are in the front row. At the start Häkkinen took the lead and accumulated, lap after lap, a great advantage over his rivals. However, during the seventeenth lap, the Finn skids on the curb of the last variant and crashes into the barriers and retires. Coulthard finds himself in command, followed by Schumacher but the German, thanks to an excellent strategy, manages to get ahead of the Scottish driver at the end of the pinwheel of the stops.
Sixteen years later, the Maranello team returns to win on the Imola circuit. In Monte-Carlo, Ferrari and Schumacher dominate the race, winning a historic double. The German completes his masterpiece with an incredible start. After that, the Ferrari driver begins to gain an ever-greater advantage lap after lap. For the reigning world champion there is nothing to do, also penalized by a race strategy that includes a delayed pit stop, unlike Schumacher's Ferrari, which provided for a refuelling halfway through the race.
In Barcelona, Schumacher was forced to settle for third place, as he finished the race behind the two McLarens of Häkkinen and Coulthard; however, after five races Michael leads the Drivers' Championship standings with 30 points, ahead of Mika Häkkinen, who is still on 24 points. In Canada, despite the continuous neutralizations, Schumacher is calmly leading the race, which continues to lead the group up to the 30th lap, when he tackles the last corner before the finish too aggressively and crashes into the famous wall of Champions. As a result, he retired and lost championship leadership to the Grand Prix winner, Mika Häkkinen.
In France, the race is conditioned by variable weather conditions: surprisingly, it is Frentzen who, having saved fuel during the race interruption period, manages to reach the finish line without refuelling and to obtain his second career victory, after the one won. in the 1997 San Marino Grand Prix with Williams. Second at the finish is Häkkinen, followed by Barrichello, while Irvine, who is fourth, in the last laps, to give up the position to his teammate Michael Schumacher, loses two positions, also being overtaken by Ralf Schumacher who will precede them both at the finish. At the end of the race, Michael Schumacher unnecessarily argues with his brother Ralf for overtaking immediately, but the Williams driver will reply:
"In Formula 1 there are no brothers".
Now the ranking sees Häkkinen ahead of Michael Schumacher by 8 points. At Silverstone, Schumacher and Ferrari arrive with the intention of winning at all costs. But qualifying ends with Schumacher obtaining the second place behind Mika Häkkinen as a maximum result. The following day, July 11, 1999, the German is the victim of a serious accident, the worst of his career, which will affect his season. Michael starts badly and is paraded by both Coulthard and Irvine. The desire to remedy the error makes the German drive in a really aggressive way, but due to a bleed nut of the rear left brake, which has suddenly loosened, Schumacher goes off the track at the Stowe curve, while performing an overtaking against the teammate. The accident occurred when the race was suspended, as Villeneuve and Zanardi were stuck on the starting grid, but the communication did not reach the drivers quickly.
With the FIA data it turns out that Schumacher reached the braking point of the Stowe corner at 306 km/h, a much higher speed than that of the theoretical lap (293 km/h). He braked and for a moment everything went well (deceleration of 3.1 G), but immediately afterwards the braking power was reduced by a third (2.1 G), not because Schumacher lifted his left foot, which is used to brake: in reality the German blocks the front wheels (at 204 km/h according to the FIA) and then goes off the track and bounces on the gravel, until crashing into the tires at 107 km/h. The excited phases of the rescue, after the accident, leave no doubt: the situation is very serious. Schumacher gets stuck in the car that has slipped under the guards. Fortunately, the German driver simply has a fractured tibia and fibula in his right leg:
"I thought I was dying. I felt my heart stop. I was sweating, I felt my heartbeat go down, my heart suddenly stopped and everything went black. I don't know exactly how long the unconscious lasted and from what was caused, but that's what I heard".
Excluding serious damage to his body, Schumacher immediately sets to work to recover and get back on track. Meanwhile, however, Eddie Irvine wins in Austria and Germany, and closes the gap to the leader in the standings, Mika Häkkinen.
"If Schumacher is still first driving next year, I'll go away. Schumacher is the fastest, no one beats him for the same number of cars, but speed is not enough. We must avoid mistakes and he makes many, too many. This year we made fewer, we exploit those of others, we are lucky, the car is reliable and we are ahead. Jean Todt is visibly happier when Michael wins. You can read it in his face. Okay, points count for me. With Jean Todt there is a professional relationship, there is no feeling. He is different from me, as is Ross Brawn: They are crazy about Michael. But I work well with everyone. The friends I have in Ferrari are few. With all the others I just work. And between one thing and another there is a big difference".
This is what Eddie Irvine thunders during an interview in which, in fact, he breaks off relations with Ferrari and his teammate, just before the Hungarian Grand Prix. The response of Willi Weber, Schumacher's manager, is not long in missing:
"If Irvine wins the world title, it will not be a catastrophe for Michael because everyone knows why Ferrari has this opportunity today. Even Irvine's title would be the fruit of Michael's sowing".
However, Schumacher returns in the penultimate round of the season in Malaysia, tasked with helping his teammate Eddie Irvine win the title. After only six races of absence, Schumacher is back on track and both he and Irvine dominate qualifying, occupying the entire front row and relegating Coulthard and Häkkinen to third and fourth position. At the start, the two Ferraris take the lead, and after a few laps, Schumacher lets his mate pass, trying to slow down the two McLarens; Coulthard manages to pass him, while Häkkinen gets stuck behind the German.
On lap 14, however, Coulthard was forced to retire due to an accelerator failure; Irvine can thus comfortably manage his race, going on to win. Schumacher continues to keep Häkkinen behind, who struggles a lot to pass Herbert in the final. After the race, the two Ferraris are disqualified due to a deflector that does not comply with the regulations; in this way Häkkinen would be champion, but the Italian team appealed and managed to prove their innocence, seeing the double win returned. With one race to go, therefore, Irvine is leading the championship with 70 points, against Häkkinen's 66.
As in 1998, the world championship is decided at the last race on the calendar at the Suzuka circuit in Japan. The predictions are in favor of Eddie Irvine, who is on his favorite track four points ahead of rival Häkkinen. However, pole position was won by Michael Schumacher. The result is, however, favorable to Ferrari and Irvine, given that keeping Häkkinen behind, the German could give the world championship victory to his teammate. But when the traffic lights go out, Häkkinen sprints better than Schumacher and flies away. Häkkinen wins the race and the Drivers 'title, while Schumacher and Irvine finish in the order behind him, granting Ferrari the victory in the Constructors' World Championship after sixteen years of waiting, with 128 points against McLaren's 124. For the third consecutive year, the title victory, which always seems to be within reach, continues to escape from the hands of the German driver and Ferrari.
In the first year of the second millennium, Ferrari produced the F1-2000, a car that is not unbeatable and at times not even the best, but it gives Schumacher the opportunity to open a long series of world victories. Schumacher obtains five victories in Australia, Brazil, San Marino, in the European Grand Prix and in Canada, and a third place in Great Britain, all in the first eight races, so much so that he commands the world championship with 58 points, while Häkkinen chases with only 32 points.
In Australia, the two McLaren-Mercedes monopolize the front row for the third consecutive year, with Mika Häkkinen in pole position, while the two Ferraris are placed in the second row. But during the race David Coulthard complained of engine problems, which gave way on lap 11 after a long stop in boxing and only seven laps later the same fate fell to Mika Häkkinen: also, for the Finnish the retirement due to the engine failure. The race thus passes into the hands of Michael Schumacher, who accumulates a substantial advantage over Frentzen, who continues to keep Barrichello behind. Gearbox problems on the German's car will still allow Barrichello to gain second position without any problems. Ferrari therefore won a double in the first race of the season with Michael Schumacher ahead of Rubens Barrichello and his brother Ralf, who completed the podium.
Even at Interlagos the McLarens seem impregnable and monopolize the front row in front of the two Ferraris. For this reason, the Maranello team opts for an aggressive strategy, loading less fuel to attack the silver arrows right away. After the first stop, the two Ferraris are in second and fourth place, but on lap 28 Rubens Barrichello is forced to retire due to a broken engine. Three laps pass and even Häkkinen, who is leading the race, is stopped by an engine problem. The race passes into the hands of Michael Schumacher, leading with a great advantage also because Coulthard is delayed by gearbox problems. Schumacher also wins the second round of the season, while after the race the disastrous McLaren day is completed, as the stewards find an irregular front wing on Coulthard's car and disqualify him from the race.
Mika Häkkinen hits his third consecutive pole also at Imola, in the home grand prix of Ferrari. This time, however, Michael Schumacher manages to snatch second place from David Coulthard. But during the race, while Häkkinen returns to the forty-fourth lap to refuel the pits, giving the top to Michael Schumacher, the latter, with the tanks empty, uses the following four laps to push hard and get back on track, after the stop, ahead of the rival. Conversely, the same maneuver succeeds in Coulthard, who blows the third position to Barrichello. In the final stages Mika Häkkinen tries to put pressure on the tread, but Michael Schumacher makes no mistakes and also wins the third race of the season, ahead of his rival by a second.
Ferrari's streak ends at Silverstone, where the McLarens are the ones to take full advantage. Qualifying is conditioned by variable track conditions and Michael Schumacher is only fifth, while teammate Barrichello takes pole position ahead of the surprising Frentzen and the two McLarens on the second row. At the start, things are further complicated for Schumacher, who starts well but, closed by Häkkinen, ends up on the grass and slips to eighth position, where he will be blocked by Villeneuve for several laps.
Rubens Barrichello keeps his head until the thirtieth lap when he is overtaken by the McLaren Scot; the Brazilian's race ended a few laps later due to a hydraulic problem. At this point the race passes into the hands of the McLaren duo while behind them Michael Schumacher, who started with the strategy of the single stop, manages to get behind all the remaining opponents and then climb up to the third step of the podium. McLaren decided not to give team orders, so David Coulthard went on to win his first grand prix of the season ahead of Mika Häkkinen and Michael Schumacher.
In Spain Michael Schumacher gets his first start at the pole of the season ahead of Häkkinen by less than a tenth, while behind them are Barrichello and Coulthard. The next day, at the green light, despite starting with the reserve car, Michael Schumacher keeps his head in front of Häkkinen. As in Imola, the grand prix is actually decided in the pits: due to a mistake by the mechanic with the shovel, Michael Schumacher leaves the pitch early and overwhelms the chief mechanic Nigel Stepney, refuelling officer, who remedies a distortion to the ankle.
The German driver maintains the lead, but at the second stop Stepney's substitute fails to promptly insert the filler in the tank opening: Schumacher loses ten seconds and with them also the lead, who passes to Häkkinen. In difficulty due to an air leak from a tire, Michael Schumacher is forced to suffer a comeback from Coulthard, who takes away the second place. And then a very heated fight for third place takes place between the Schumacher brothers which Barrichello takes advantage of, overcoming both on lap forty-ninth, making Ralf furious. A little later, Michael Schumacher returns to the pits to change the tires and remains confined to fifth place. McLaren take their second double of the season, this time with Mika Häkkinen as the winner.
After the race, Michael and Ralf Schumacher are close to the fight. They didn't come to blows just out of shame or because they didn't meet immediately after the race. Reason for the dispute, the overtaking three: Ralf and Barrichello, in order, engaged in a personal duel, during the race overtook Schumacher's Ferrari, struggling with the tires and slower by almost two seconds. Michael resisted his brother's attack, unwittingly favoring his teammate:
"In racing I don't do anyone any favours and I'm sorry if Ralf didn't understand it. I was defending my trajectory, the regulations allow it. I'd be stupid if I didn't. Racing is racing and I don't do anyone any favours, not even at my brother. Immediately after they called me to the pits, but at that moment I still didn't know I had to stop".
"I had more serious problems to think about. The left rear tire had lost pressure and in some corners the car understeered. I didn't even know Rubens was back there".
"At this point, however, the race was lost. Now we have to understand why we had problems with the tires. The technicians could not understand the cause of my slowdown, because from the data in their possession the car was working well. I was waiting for news; therefore, I didn't come back straight away. The impression is that performance deteriorated a lot as the laps went by".
Michael, in fact, had problems with the tires throughout the race and especially at the beginning:
"I chose the medium ones, the others had the soft ones. I don't know how I would have gone if I had decided otherwise".
And then he lost time in the pits, due to a mistake by the mechanic in the pits:
"The mechanic who halts and starts raised the paddle and then immediately lowered it, but I couldn't stop anymore. I felt that I had passed over something (the left ankle of the refuelling man, Nigel Stepney), I looked in the mirrors and saw a mechanic on the ground. I asked the radio what had happened, without getting an answer".
At first, Ferrari talked about a puncture. Bridgestone, the tire supplier to all eleven Formula 1 racing teams, attributes the loss of pressure to an air leak between the tire and rim. However, Schumacher is sure of the ransom:
"The Ferraris are good and we are able to win. I would have won again today, without all those problems. After all this mess, fifth place satisfies me. I have always maintained that we would not always have lucky races. Today it went like that. two points are fine, everyone in the team gave their all".
His rage subsides, Ralf toasts with Michael, under his father's watchful gaze. Despite bad luck, Michael Schumacher still has a 14-point lead over Mika Häkkinen in the drivers' championship. Despite bad luck, Michael Schumacher still has a 14-point lead over Mika Häkkinen in the drivers' championship. On the Nürburgring circuit the rain, which reached the middle of the qualifying session, freezes the situation present at that moment, giving David Coulthard the pole position ahead of Michael Schumacher, Mika Häkkinen and Rubens Barrichello.
The race starts in the dry and Häkkinen sprints very well, overtaking both Michael Schumacher and David Coulthard. However, after nine laps of the race it began to rain and Michael Schumacher almost immediately took the lead, passing Häkkinen before the last chicane. After an excited second stop, with operations slowed down by a wheel nut problem, Michael Schumacher retains the first position on Häkkinen and ends the race thirteen seconds ahead of the Finn, returning to +18 on Häkkinen.
In the narrow streets of the principality Michael Schumacher hits pole position ahead of an excellent Jarno Trulli. After three routes canceled, Michael Schumacher takes the lead and gradually begins to gain ground on his pursuers, with Trulli keeping everyone behind him. When the differential on Trulli's Jordan broke on lap 36, Coulthard got the green light, but Michael Schumacher is now unassailable for the Scot, while Häkkinen is delayed by a long pit stop, necessary to remove a cable that had slipped under the brake pedal. The race is in the hands of Michael Schumacher, but on lap 55 the rupture of one of his Ferrari's exhaust pipes, which burned the left rear suspension until it gave way, forced the German driver to retire. On the finish line David Coulthard wins ahead of Rubens Barrichello, who makes the most of the misfortunes of others despite a colourless race. Mika Häkkinen finishes sixth one lap behind the winner.
In Montreal, in qualifying the match is between Schumacher and Coulthard, but the German driver wins by less than a tenth. At the start the first two positions do not change while the host Jacques Villeneuve, who started from sixth place, manages to enter third position starting to slow down the pace of Barrichello and Häkkinen. Coulthard follows Michael Schumacher in the early laps, but is then punished with a Stop & Go for an irregularity on the starting grid. After about twenty laps, a first shower of rain arrives but the track does not get wet enough and everyone stays on track with dry tires. In the midst of the numerous changes Michael Schumacher firmly maintains the top while Mika Häkkinen risks and remains on the track one more lap with dry tires, but the rain does not decrease in intensity and the Finnish loses a lot of time. Rubens Barrichello in the final comeback on Fisichella and passes him, thus giving Ferrari the second double win of the season.
In the world championship standings Michael Schumacher increases his advantage to 22 points over Coulthard and to 24 over Häkkinen. With such good results, one would think that the championship is now downhill. However, after such a successful start there are three consecutive heavy retirements in France, Austria and Germany, and only a second place in Hungary, which allow the McLaren duo to cancel the gap in the standings.
Also, at Magny Cours in qualifying there is a close fight between Ferrari and McLaren for pole position. As in Canada, it is Michael Schumacher who wins, who places himself in front of Coulthard, Barrichello and Häkkinen. At the start of the grand prix the German keeps the lead and Rubens Barrichello gains the second position. After passing Barrichello, the two silver arrows, with a clear track, begin to catch up on Michael Schumacher, who is in a tire crisis as well as his teammate, and join him. On lap thirty-three Coulthard tries to attack but Michael Schumacher responds by closing every passage; seven laps later, however, the German driver had to give way to the Scotsman and on the fifty-second lap he had to retire due to an engine failure, giving McLaren an easy double.
After the last excellent performances in qualifying, Michael Schumacher confirms his lack of confidence with the Zeltweg circuit: the world leader closes qualifying fourth behind his teammate Barrichello and more than half a second from poleman Häkkinen. In the race, things fell immediately for Ferrari: Michael Schumacher at the first corner was hit by Ricardo Zonta, turned around and was hit by Jarno Trulli, who broke a suspension and forced him to retire. Mika Häkkinen, without rivals, wins the victory in front of David Coulthard. After the race, the lack of a seal on the ECU of Mika Häkkinen's car is detected, but no sign of tampering with the ECU itself. The federation decides to remove the ten points obtained only from the team, which should have made sure that the control unit was completely sealed, but not from the Finnish driver.
Qualifying for the German Grand Prix was decided by the copious rain that fell a few minutes before the start of the session and allowed Coulthard, who immediately got on the track, to take pole position ahead of Michael Schumacher, Giancarlo Fisichella and Mika Häkkinen. For Michael Schumacher the start of the German Grand Prix is a replica of that of the previous race: in fact, at the first corner he is hit again, this time by Giancarlo Fisichella, and ends up against the protective barriers, retiring. Surprisingly, however, Rubens Barrichello won his first Formula 1 race after starting from eighteenth position, preceding Häkkinen and Coulthard at the finish line.
On the Hungaroring circuit, Michael Schumacher takes pole with an apparent good advantage over the McLaren duo. But at the start, Mika Häkkinen is the protagonist of an extraordinary shot which, like at the Nürburgring, immediately takes him to the lead ahead of Michael Schumacher and Coulthard. The Finn's pace is unsustainable for the German driver, who instead has to watch his back from David Coulthard. Michael Schumacher manages to resist until the end and takes home the placement behind the unstoppable Häkkinen.
With this victory, the Finn surpasses Michael Schumacher in the standings and leads the world championship (64 to 62) while David Coulthard loses ground. McLaren also manages to overtake in the constructors' championship, where he now drives 112 to 111 against Scuderia Ferrari. In Belgium the redemption of Ferrari is expected, however qualifying is dominated by Häkkinen, who conquers the pole position without rival. Michael Schumacher and David Coulthard finished fourth and fifth respectively. The next day the race begins with a start launched behind the Safety Car for safety reasons, due to the rain that fell in the morning. Mika Häkkinen leaves quite quickly before Michael Schumacher gets the better of Trulli and Button and finds himself free track. The track is drying quickly and the drivers return to the pits to replace the tires: Häkkinen keeps his head ahead of rival Schumacher.
On the thirteenth lap, however, the Finnish makes a mistake at the Stavelot curve: he touches the white line and almost spins in the grass, manages to restart but by now Michael Schumacher has passed. Until the pit stop, the German from Ferrari seems to be able to control, but after the tire change the situation turns in favor of Häkkinen, who begins to recover. On lap 40 the Finn attacks Michael Schumacher's first position on the Kemmel straight, but the German closes it decisively forcing him to lift his foot. The next lap, at the same point, the two find themselves in front of Ricardo Zonta's BAR, who was waiting to be doubled. Michael Schumacher passes outside Zonta but Häkkinen, after using all the available slipstream, manages to find a gap inside and surprises the German driver, then overtaking him at braking and going to win the race ahead of Michael Schumacher.
"I didn't expect it, but I couldn't do anything about it. It flew over me, it was faster or I wouldn't have been able to keep it behind for more than one lap anyway. I was convinced that Mika's spin was the decisive episode. hope until overtaking. Congratulations to him, he was very good".
Then Michael talks about the car, which for some races has not been up to the performance level of the title rivals, specifying that:
"It's not enough to work on the aerodynamics and the engine. The whole car needs improvement. But the guys on the team are excited: I'm sure they'll come up with something good. There has been substantial progress. Unfortunately, it was not enough. This week we will be testing in Monza. The circuit has been changed: I am unable to say if we will have an advantage until I am behind the wheel".
The Finn's victory, on Michael Schumacher's favorite track, seems to put an end to Ferrari's world dreams: Häkkinen increases the lead over his rival to six points and McLaren also goes +8 over Ferrari in the constructors. But in Monza, Schumacher finally returns to win after six fasting races. The race is also remembered for Schumacher's liberating tears worldwide during the conference at the end of the race, after receiving the question:
"Michael, you have reached Ayrton Senna's fourty one wins, does it mean a lot to you?"
In this circumstance, the gesture of Mika Häkkinen is beautiful, who alongside him tries to bring comfort to the German driver and refuses to speak to the microphones, allowing Ralf Schumacher to speak. The victory obtained at Monza allows the German driver to get close to two points from Häkkinen in the drivers' championship, while Ferrari moves to minus four points from McLaren.
From the Italian Grand Prix, Schumacher has been the author of a splendid comeback, also winning in America: the United States Grand Prix returns to Formula 1 after eight years of absence, and does so in front of an audience of over 200.000 people, on the resulting circuit in Indianapolis within that of the 500 Miles. In qualifying Michael Schumacher signs the second consecutive pole position, ahead of the two McLaren drivers and teammate Barrichello. The race starts on a wet track and David Coulthard clearly anticipates the turning off of the traffic lights, managing to gain the first position ahead of Michael Schumacher. Coulthard, waiting for the inevitable penalty, slows down the Ferrari driver to favor teammate Häkkinen, who is immediately behind, but on lap six Schumacher, with a pass outside the first corner to the detriment of the Scot, gains the command of the race.
Mika decides to anticipate the pit stop to mount the dry tires, but finds himself stuck in traffic and even stuck behind Gaston Mazzacane for several laps. Michael Schumacher, on the other hand, delays the stop and, after having made it, returns to the track with a considerable advantage of sixteen seconds over his rival. On the now dry ground Häkkinen can push his McLaren hard and in just ten laps he manages to reduce the gap from the leader to five seconds, but on lap 26 the engine gives way and the Finn is forced to retire.
Michael Schumacher easily wins the race: the result of the Grand Prix allows the Ferrari men to overtake in both world classifications with two races to go. Now, in fact, Michael Schumacher now leads eight points ahead of Mika Häkkinen in the drivers 'championship, while Ferrari extends the gap over McLaren in the constructors' championship to ten points. Unlike in previous years, in Suzuka, if he wins, Schumacher can close the championship in his favor with a race to spare. After an exciting qualifying, where both leading drivers compete on the threshold of tenths of a second, continuously lowering the maximum limit, Schumacher gets pole position against Mika Häkkinen, beaten by just nine thousandths of a second.
But the duel begins right from the start: Häkkinen burns Schumacher and takes the lead, but his overtaking is made useless by the strategy of the Ferrari garage and Ross Brawn. First Michael Schumacher is loaded with more fuel to allow him to stay on track longer; later, during the pit stop, the German driver managed to pass Häkkinen thanks to a record refuelling: six seconds. The last 13 laps are experienced by all Ferrari drivers with bated breath. But on October 8, 2000, at 4:03 pm, Michael Schumacher finally and definitively brings the title back to Maranello twenty-one years after Jody Scheckter. Crossing the finish line, Schumacher claps his palms with all his strength against the steering wheel, releasing all the frustration accumulated over the last three years of waiting. The championship, chased for a long, long time, is finally his. While Schumacher completes the lap of honor, after thanking the team he opens up on the radio saying:
"Give Corinna a big kiss for me".
It is the Schumacher with a human face who comes out of the car, receives the compliments of friends and enemies, and kisses his wife Corinna for a long time, her face streaked with tears and rimmel. The new German champion embraces the whole team, from the cook to the engineers, receives the compliments of his former teammate Eddie Irvine, now at Jaguar, and even those of Jacques Villeneuve, his archenemy in 1997. Even the McLaren mechanics, sportingly, congratulate the rivals from Maranello. At the Ferrari pits there is the taste of a long-awaited triumph, escaped three times in the last race, suffered up to the checkered flag. It is not just a party, the one in the Suzuka box: it is an outlet. After the race, Michael lets himself go and finally celebrates his third title.
"Don't ask me what I feel: there are no words to describe it. When I crossed the finish line, I thought I was holding the wheel from the blows I gave it. It is the best sporting moment of my life. The other two titles World Championships had been too easy. This has a special charm for how it arrived, because it was missing for twenty-one years, because we are in 2000. Until the last lap I did not listen to the car or my emotions. I was too focused on driving. The new asphalt of the circuit is dark and I could not distinguish the wet sections from the dry ones. In the final I slowed down as a precaution. having won the two laps, I was on track while Häkkinen was making the pit stop. Ross Brawn did a masterpiece of strategy today, but he also scared me. On the radio he kept telling me: it looks ok, it looks ok. And I was afraid that from one moment to the next he would tell me: it's not right. When I got back on track and saw Mika behind I realized I could do it. In the end there was some shaking on the track, which was wet at times. And I must admit that my start was bad. On the other hand, I must acknowledge Häkkinen that he is better at the start. It was like that. since the beginning of the championship. We have improved, but it is not enough. We still have to work. To remedy it, the important thing is to adopt the right strategy: thank goodness we succeeded. To tell the truth, when Häkkinen came back for the second I feared the worst when I was in the pits: I found a lot of traffic and before the return lane I dodged a stationary Benetton (Wurz had spun). These are episodes that happen in the race. I remember the year of my debut in Formula 1: at Magny Cours I made a similar mistake. The important thing is that it ended well for us. Now let me enjoy this victory. There will be new goals to reach, I will certainly not lose my motivation and I hope to experience similar moments in the future".
shortly afterwards, the fax of the Chancellor Gerard Schroeder arrives from Germany, and Schumacher can only appreciate:
"I am very pleased. I have to thank many people who have supported me in recent months: my family, the team, the fans in Italy and Germany. I would like to be there with them, but I can't".
Ferrari's winning year also ends with the conquest of the constructors' championship. Schumacher, after obtaining the fourth consecutive pole position, also hits the fourth victory in a row ahead of Coulthard and Barrichello, while Mika Häkkinen, penalized for the early start, reaches the finish line fourth. For Ferrari, which reaches 170 points, for an average of 10 points per race, this is the tenth victory of the season; for Schumacher the ninth. These records therefore add up to the tenth constructors 'championship, two weeks after the tenth drivers' title won by a Ferrari driver.
The new season opens in a similar way to the previous one: Michael Schumacher and Ferrari dominate the scene after obtaining pole position in qualifying, keeping the lead for the duration of the race. On the second step of the podium the Scottish David Coulthard climbs. On the occasion of the second round of the season, raced at the Sepang circuit in Malaysia, Ferrari obtained the first double and the second consecutive victory at the hands of Michael Schumacher. At the start, the two Maranello cars got off to a good start despite a small contact between Rubens Barrichello and Ralf Schumacher, but after a few laps they both went off the track due to the oil lost by Olivier Panis' BAR.
Jarno Trulli took the lead, but a violent tropical storm broke out on the circuit creating confusion, forcing Villeneuve, Heidfeld, Bernoldi and Irvine to retire and the entry of the safety car. Coulthard finds himself in first position, followed by Frentzen, Verstappen, Häkkinen and Trulli, while Barrichello slipped to tenth position, Schumacher immediately behind in eleventh. At the restart, the Ferraris climbed the rankings in a few laps thanks to a happy choice of tires, intermediate for the Italian cars as opposed to the wet ones mounted by the competitors. Favored by the right choice of tires, the two Ferrari drivers are the protagonists of a spectacular comeback, taking the lead as early as the sixteenth lap and quickly gaining a great advantage over their rivals.
At the third round in Brazil, Michael Schumacher gets the third pole position of the season. At the start, Mika Häkkinen remains stationary in his pitch, while Barrichello and Ralf Schumacher come into contact. To allow the marshals to clean the track of debris, the race direction sends the safety car to the track: at the restart Juan Pablo Montoya, taking advantage of the experiences accumulated in the US championship in which the neutralization of the race by a safety car often occurs he immediately stands out by putting Schumacher at the first corner and gaining the lead. Subsequently, a shower of rain forces the drivers to stop in the pits to mount the wet tires. Schumacher, having regained the first position, has many difficulties in keeping the car on the track and is overtaken by Coulthard after a few off the track, who thus wins his first victory of the season.
At Imola, McLaren monopolized the front row during qualifying: Coulthard took pole position while Häkkinen took second position. Schumacher starts fourth, but on the third lap of the Grand Prix he accuses difficulties in engaging the gears at the exit of the Variante Bassa, losing his position to the advantage of Montoya and Panis and being overtaken shortly after by his teammate. On lap 23, Michael Schumacher enters the pits with a flat left front tire. The Ferrari driver returns to the track, but the team realizes that the wheel rim is irreparably damaged by friction with a badly fitted component and decides to have Schumacher retire as a precaution a few laps later.
The race ends with the second place of David Coulthard, who joins Schumacher in the standings, while Häkkinen finds himself 22 points behind in the standings after only four Grand Prix. From the Spanish Grand Prix, however, the Kaiser obtained a terrifying roadmap, made up of eight consecutive podiums, including four victories in Spain, Monaco, Europe and France, while in the remaining three occasions he obtained three second places in Austria, Canada and England. A positive streak of results that ends with the only retirement of the season at the German Grand Prix. In Barcelona, in the race that sees the introduction of new rules on the use of electronics, Michael Schumacher gets his third victory of the season, also facilitated by the technical problems in which McLaren has incurred: David Coulthard does not start during the reconnaissance lap and was relegated to the back of the grid, while Mika Häkkinen retired during the last lap due to the failure of the Mercedes engine when he was leading with almost a minute ahead of his closest rival.
Since the Austrian Grand Prix, the fight for the championship has been restricted to just two drivers: Michael Schumacher and David Coulthard. Häkkinen, who was still regarded by Schumacher as the most dangerous rival before the race, has so far collected only 4 points in six races. At the start the procedure must be repeated as the two Jordans of Trulli and Frentzen (betrayed by the gearbox), the McLaren of Häkkinen (stopped due to the clutch) and the Sauber of Heidfeld remain stationary on the grid. Thanks to the strategy set by the pits, Coulthard refueled only on lap 50, four laps after Schumacher who had brought him behind him and three after Barrichello, who had been the leader of the race until then, and exits the pit lane in first position. At the end of the race Schumacher approaches Barrichello, who is repeatedly asked by radio to let his teammate pass: the Brazilian driver controversially executes the order at the last corner, crossing the finish line in third position.
In Monaco, after taking pole position in Saturday's qualifying, David Coulthard is forced to start from the back of the group as his McLaren dies at the start of the reconnaissance lap. Michael Schumacher took advantage immediately and at the start took the lead ahead of Mika Häkkinen and Rubens Barrichello. The German's race becomes even easier when Mika Häkkinen's McLaren steps away from his driver due to a differential failure: Schumacher and Barrichello with the two Ferraris slow down the pace and manage the conspicuous advantage accumulated, thus setting off to an easy double win.
In Canada, Michael Schumacher dominates the qualifying session, taking only six out of the twelve laps allowed to take pole position. In the race, the Schumacher brothers maintain an unapproachable pace for their rivals, remaining only a few tenths behind each other. Behind them Coulthard, slowed down by a steering problem, struggles to keep up with a train of cars made up of Trulli, Panis, Verstappen and Räikkönen. Towards the middle of the race, Ralf Schumacher, much faster than his brother, begins to put pressure. When the Ferrari driver returns to the pits to refuel on lap 46, the Williams driver sharply raises the pace, obtaining the fastest lap in the race several times. Ralf Schumacher makes his pit stop five laps after his brother, returning to the track in command with a good margin over his rival.
Michael closes the race in second place, but in the Championship Coulthard's retirement, caused by the engine failure, allows Michael Schumacher to further increase his advantage, putting a serious risk on the title. At the Nürburgring, Germany, Michael Schumacher secured his seventh pole position of the season, followed by an excellent win. At the start, Ralf Schumacher still annoys, as the German driver sprints better than his brother and follows him, but he is pressed against the pit wall by the Ferrari driver and therefore has to brake and follow his rival. The two remain very close until the first pit stop, which they make at the same time as lap 28. Michael Schumacher maintains command of the race, while his brother, in exiting the pit lane, slightly crosses the boundary line of the acceleration lane, thus incurring a penalty. Thus, Michael Schumacher obtains his fifth win of the season ahead of Montoya and Coulthard, further consolidating his advantage over his rivals in the world rankings.
The fight between the two brothers continues on the Magny Cours circuit, where the two duel for pole position. In this circumstance it is Ralf who wins in his second attempt, lowering the lap record of the transalpine circuit and beating his rival by just one hundredth of a second. At the start Ralf Schumacher maintains the lead ahead of Michael Schumacher, but the race is decided during the first series of pit stops, which began on the twenty-fourth lap: Ralf Schumacher loses a lot of time due to difficulties in fixing the right rear wheel, while David Coulthard deactivates unintentionally the speed limiter in the pit lane, suffering a penalty. Michael Schumacher thus finds himself alone at the head of the race, managing a growing advantage over his brother Ralf, also slowed down by an ineffective set of tires. Michael Schumacher gets his fiftieth career success in front of his brother Ralf, Barrichello and Coulthard, who in the final race approaches the Brazilian Ferrari driver without being able to overtake him.
Qualifying at Silverstone was held with the track gradually drying up and the best times were therefore set in the final part of the session, which was characterized by intense traffic on the track. Eventually Michael Schumacher scored his fortieth career pole position, beating Häkkinen by about eight cents, while Coulthard placed himself in third position. At the start Michael Schumacher and Häkkinen maintain their positions. Behind them Trulli tries to overtake Coulthard, but the two come into contact; the Scotsman managed to return to the pits but had to abandon the race two laps later due to the damage caused by a suspension. In the following laps, Montoya approaches Schumacher and on lap eighteenth the Colombian driver overtakes the German, moving into second position. On the thirty-ninth lap Häkkinen and Schumacher stop at the same time in the pits: the former maintains the command of the race, while the German returns to the track behind his teammate and Montoya, recovering the second position after the latter's pit stops. Michael Schumacher therefore concludes in second place and brings Coulthard to 37 points.
At Hockenheim, Michael Schumacher was first slowed down by a gearbox problem, being hit by Burti, who, with the view covered to the last by Panis' car, was unable to avoid contact. While, after the second start, the German was forced to retire due to a fuel pressure problem, which he encountered immediately after refuelling. Luck, however, laughs at the Kaiser, as Coulthard is betrayed by the engine of his McLaren on lap 27. Incredibly, Michael Schumacher can finish the championship in his favor already at the Hungaroring, should he win the race. The German wastes no time, and right from qualifying he proves to be the most competitive, beating the track record, which belonged to Prost since 1993, and inflicting more than eight tenths of a gap to the second classified, Coulthard. Averted the danger of a car breakdown during the reconnaissance lap, after going off the track, Michael Schumacher sprints well at the start and keeps the first position, while Barrichello enters behind him overtaking Coulthard.
During the race there were no significant events until the second series of pit stops, when Barrichello regained the second position, lost in the meantime, to Coulthard's detriment. The Scottish driver remains close to his rival until the finish, but without being able to overtake him. Thanks to this victory Michael Schumacher mathematically won the world drivers title, the second in a row and the fourth in his career. The German driver reaches Alain Prost in second place in the ranking of the most titled drivers ever, equalling the record of 51 career victories that belonged to the French driver himself.
"It's really too much, excuse me. Maybe I'm a good driver, but I'm not able to show my enthusiasm. Thanks to all the guys from Maranello, it's great to work with them, very good Rubens, I'd like to hug the fans because they were great. The party is improvised because I don't like to prepare it in advance. Ferrari is particularly capable of this and has already shown it. I will avoid going down in history as a teetotaller who does not toast. The secrets of success? When you work in a fantastic team it's normal to bring out the best in yourself. My lucky charm here in Hungary was Gina Maria's kiss before I left. For me the only thing more important than work is family. I had some concerns during the reconnaissance lap, when I went off the track at a chicane and I feared I had damaged the bottom of the car. I admit, it was a second of terror. The doubts passed after the start and during the race did not have any problems or difficult situations. My and Rubens' first set of tires were not very stable, but the situation was resolved after the two pit stops. After the first stop, David Coulthard got back on track in front of Barrichello and did a series of fast laps. I knew that the new tires would give him an advantage for a few laps, but I didn't know exactly his performance because up until that moment. had been behind Rubens. The Hungaroring is a very difficult circuit for overtaking, unless one makes a mistake. I was happy for Rubens, who after the second refuelling returned to second position and with his placement, he would have allowed us to win the constructors' championship. Especially since it acted as a buffer and kept me safe from surprises. It was a perfect scenario. On Friday I said to Jean Todt: I'm afraid this is not the right time. But in the last three laps I thought: I was wrong, it is the right weekend. In the end, my biggest concern was not to make mistakes on the last lap, because there was oil on the track and I would have looked stupid if I had had an accident. Passing in front of the pit wall, I got goosebumps. The team guys are fantastic, human, they work with passion and determination. Driving a Ferrari is wonderful, the best professional experience of my career".
At the same time, Ferrari also became world constructors champion well in advance. Schumacher wins the world title already in July in Hungary with four races to spare, but anyway he does not quench his desire to win. The German climbs to the top step of the podium also in Belgium and Japan, also obtaining a second place in the United States Grand Prix. The only discordant note concerns the Italian Grand Prix, given that following the attacks of September 11, 2001 and the very serious accident that occurred to Alessandro Zanardi in a Cart championship race on the Lausitzring, in which the Bolognese driver loses both legs, several drivers ask not to take part in the race. Their request, however, is rejected by Bernie Ecclestone, mainly in order not to lose the money from the television rights.
On Sunday morning, as a consequence of the news about Zanardi's accident and of the accident that took place the previous year in which a route marshal had lost his life, during the usual meeting of the drivers it is proposed not to overtake in the first two corners. However, the decision is openly opposed by Flavio Briatore and the managers of BAR and Arrows, who forbid their pilots to join the initiative. therefore, as there is no unanimity on the decision, the race is held regularly. The pilots, however, observe a minute of silence before the race to remember the victims of the attacks, and they obtain the cancellation of the award ceremony. For the same reason, Ferrari decides to remove the sponsors' writings and logos present on the suits of all members of the racing team, including other gadgets, both on the cars themselves; the noses of each Ferrari single-seater are painted black, just as each driver also wears a band on one arm in black.
In 2002 Ferrari dominated the championship from the very first rounds. Williams is the only team that tries to oppose the overwhelming power of Ferrari, with Juan Pablo Montoya and Ralf Schumacher but from the Monaco Grand Prix the team from Maranello definitely takes off, also thanks to a newfound competitiveness of Rubens Barrichello. Ferrari chooses to field, in the first races of the season, an evolved version of the previous year's single-seater, based largely on the chassis used by Michael Schumacher alone in the last race of the 2001 season. In Melbourne, the inaugural race of the season, during free practice on Friday on the cars of Schumacher and Barrichello the front wing used in the tests on the new F2002 is mounted, but in the race both drivers prefer to use the ailerons already used in the last Grand Prix of 2001. In Australia, during qualifying, after about twenty-five minutes of regular testing, the rain began to fall on the track, effectively freezing the situation. Barrichello then found himself in pole position, one of the few to have made two full attempts in the search for the best time.
The Brazilian was just five thousandths behind his teammate Michael Schumacher, clearly faster than his rivals in the last sector of the track, but forced to give up his first attempt due to the red flag. At the start Barrichello keeps the lead of the group, while Ralf Schumacher overtakes his brother and, having reached the first detached, tries to undermine the Brazilian. However, Barrichello closes the Williams driver, so Ralf Schumacher's car takes off accordingly, landing on all four wheels on the escape route. At this stage, Michael Schumacher and Räikkönen have to go off-piste to avoid the accident. Given the importance of the accident, the race direction decides to let the safety car enter the track. After yet another neutralization of the race, Schumacher suffers the overtaking of Montoya. The German driver is, however, much faster than his rival and keeps him under pressure until the 17th lap, when he overtakes him at the first corner, immediately accumulating a great advantage. At the head of the race Schumacher continues to increase his advantage over his pursuers, crossing the line in first position ahead of Montoya.
In Malaysia, awaiting the now imminent debut of the F2002, Ferrari again deploys two modified F2001s for Michael Schumacher and Barrichello, on the sides of which additional vents are opened, larger in size on the right side. In qualifying, Michael Schumacher gets his first pole position of the season, just over two tenths ahead of Montoya. The race, however, will not bring great satisfaction to the German driver. At the first corner, Montoya, who started better, joins Michael Schumacher on the outside. The two come into contact and the German driver loses the front wing, while the Colombian ends up in the escape route, returning to the track in eleventh position.
Ralf Schumacher wins the Grand Prix, while behind him Button defends the second position until the end from the assaults of the comeback Montoya and Michael Schumacher, only to be overtaken on lap 44 in favor of the Colombian, while the German, despite being much faster of his rival, manages to catch up and overtake him only one lap from the end, when the rear suspension gives way to the Englishman's Renault. At the third Grand Prix, raced in Brazil, Ferrari brings the new F2002 entrusted in this circumstance to Michael Schumacher alone. The new single-seater of the Italian team has several peculiar technical characteristics, which allow for a significant increase in aerodynamic efficiency compared to the previous car. Particularly accurate are the sides, very low and with very small dimensions in the area adjacent to the rear wheels thanks to an innovative arrangement of the radiators, inclined towards the front of the car. The gearbox, made of cast titanium (a solution brought to the race up to that moment by Minardi alone) is very compact, as is the entire rear part of the car body.
During the days of testing, the high temperatures recorded in Sao Paulo push the technicians of Maranello, as well as those of many rival teams, to make additional openings on the sides of the cars, in order to improve heat dissipation. In addition to this, precisely as a result of the high temperatures, the Michelin tires prove to be more competitive than their rivals Bridgestone, so much so that of the top ten classified at the end of the qualifying session, seven are driving cars equipped by the French manufacturer. Pole position is therefore conquered by Montoya, about a tenth of a second faster than Michael Schumacher.
But at the start Michael Schumacher sprints better than Montoya and joins him inside the first corner. The Colombian driver tries to resist, but ends up widening the trajectory too much, giving way to his rival. Montoya tries to recover the lead immediately, attacking Schumacher on the next straight. However, the Williams driver misses the maneuver, colliding with the German and breaking the front wing of his car. Michael Schumacher's car was undamaged, but on lap 14 he had to be overtaken by his teammate. The German driver returned to lead the race two laps later, due to the explosion of the engine on Barrichello's car. In the final laps, Ralf Schumacher tries to tail his brother, but without being able to seriously worry him. Michael Schumacher therefore wins the Brazilian Grand Prix.
In Imola, for the fourth round of the season, Ferrari brings four examples of the new F2002 to the race, also allocating one to Barrichello, who in the previous race had competed with the B version of the old F2001. On Saturday the fight for pole position is restricted to the two Ferrari drivers, with Michael Schumacher only managing to set a better time than Barrichello on his last attempt, beating him by 64 thousandths of a second. At the head of the race Michael Schumacher maintains the first position until the end, proving to be unapproachable for his rivals, gaining on average almost a second per lap over his brother. The German driver precedes his teammate at the finish.
In Barcelona, Ferrari introduces several modifications to the F2002, which had already won in the previous Brazilian and San Marino Grand Prix: in this race weekend, new torsion bars are fitted, the screens behind the wheels are modified front and introduced new ailerons both front and rear. Qualifying is again dominated by the Ferrari drivers, the only ones able to compete for pole position. Michael Schumacher sets the best time, beating the previous lap record, on the third attempt, after having changed the set-up of his car on the model of the one adopted by Barrichello, up to that moment faster than his teammate. In Spain, therefore, it seems that Ferraris can dominate the scene. However, at the start of the reconnaissance lap on Barrichello's Ferrari the transmission broke, forcing the Brazilian to retire even before the start of the race. It is certainly better for the outgoing world champion, given that after the start Schumacher immediately begins to gain a considerable advantage over rivals, unable to keep his pace. At the end of the race, the German crossed the line with a thirtyfive second advantage over his direct rival, Juan Pablo Montoya.
The 2002 season dwarfs the competition, but above all it unleashes controversy over the management of the drivers, especially at the Austrian Grand Prix, as Barrichello is given the order to be overtaken by Michael but the Brazilian, disappointed for having dominated the race, makes him pass by slowing down dramatically in the last meters of the race. At Zeltweg, Barrichello dominates qualifying, setting the best times in all sectors of the track. Schumacher, less fast than the Brazilian for the whole session, is also slowed by traffic and the red flag exposed for the engine failure on Trulli's car and only qualifies in third place.
At the start Barrichello keeps the lead, while Michael Schumacher and Heidfeld overtake the two Williams, moving into second and third position ahead of Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya. At the head of the race, the Ferrari drivers maintain a pace that is unapproachable for their rivals, so much so that on the tenth lap the gap between Barrichello and Ralf Schumacher is already seventeen seconds. However, in the final laps, due to a team order already discussed in the days before the race, Barrichello slows down, letting Schumacher approach and making him pass almost under the finish line.
But the maneuver of the Ferrari drivers creates several controversies at the end of the race. Several prominent exponents of different teams, including Norbert Haug and Gerhard Berger, express their disappointment at the team order imposed by the Maranello team, and even the public welcomes the maneuver badly, whistling Schumacher on arrival and on the podium. The gesture of the German driver is worthless, as he puts his teammate on the top step of the podium, personally handing him the winner's trophy, thus breaking the procedure of the award ceremony. The then Technical Director of Ferrari, Ross Brawn, will say a few years later:
"The fact of Austria, on reflection, was a mistake. The underlying circumstances were a little more complex than people might think, as we had discussed before the race how we would handle the situation - if it had happened - according to which Rubens would have been in front of Michael, but at some point, he would have let him pass and we would have continued the race. It was all pre-agreed. Then in the race, when Rubens was ahead of Michael, we said to him: OK, now can you let him pass? But Rubens replied: No. Don't let me do this. It's my big chance. to win this race. You can't do this to me. Michael was also on the radio at this point, eager to know when Rubens would let him through as previously agreed. How to reconcile this if we didn't do what we said we would do in the pre-meeting? So, this was ultimately, the reason why we told Rubens he had to do it, and obviously that got a big deal. The situation then got worse, because Michael saw the reaction of the crowd and put Rubens on the top step of the podium, which we were fined a million dollars by the FIA for. What followed was much more damaging and distracting for the team, compared to if we had left Rubens alone and given him a spanking in private. If I could have repeated it, I would not have done what we have done, because the consequences have been deeper than we could have considered. Something that should have been an internal team issue has become political".
On June 26, 2002, Ferrari will be convened before the World Council by the FIA, where initially it will be proposed to recognize the order of arrival of the drivers of the Maranello team, but to reduce 4 of the 10 points obtained by Schumacher and accredit them to Barrichello, with the payment of a related fine to be paid by Ferrari; in the end, however, the Maranello team will be sanctioned only with the payment of a fine of one million dollars for failing to comply with the procedures laid down during the ceremony on the podium, while the team order itself, although deemed deplorable in the way which it was implemented, will not be considered punishable by the FIA.
In Monaco, Michelin tires proved more effective than their rivals Bridgestone during qualifying, so much so that at the end of the session the only cars among the top ten qualified equipped with Japanese tires were the two Ferraris of Michael Schumacher and Barrichello, third and respectively fifth. In the race, from the first laps Montoya and Michael Schumacher remain just a few tenths of a second behind Coulthard, who commands the race, but without being able to attack the Scottish driver.
On lap 44 Michael Schumacher was the first driver of the leading trio to refuel, but three laps later in Montoya's car the engine broke, forcing the Colombian driver to retire. In second position is therefore Ralf Schumacher, who stops in the pits for his stop at 51st, at the same time as Coulthard. The Scottish driver returns to the track just ahead of Michael Schumacher, while Ralf Schumacher will occupy the third position at the exit from the pits; the three maintain their positions until the finish line. Also, in Canada, Montoya wins the second consecutive pole position after the one obtained at the Monaco Grand Prix, while Schumacher and Barrichello have to settle for second and third places.
At the start Montoya keeps the first position, while Barrichello, who started with a tactic on the two stops, overtakes Michael Schumacher and moves to second place. The first two begin to detach Michael Schumacher, who started to make only one pit stop, but during the ninth lap on the Villeneuve BAR the engine breaks down on the straight in front of the pits: the marshals are unable to remove the Canadian's car, with the transmission blocked, and at the 14th lap the race direction decides to let the safety car enter the track, cancelling the gaps.
Montoya took the opportunity to refuel early, returning to the track in fifth position. Ferrari, on the other hand, left Barrichello on the track: however, the Brazilian driver was unable to accumulate a sufficient advantage over his pursuers, returning to the track in sixth position after the first stop, made on lap 26. Now, at the head of the race, Michael Schumacher progressively distances Montoya, but when he makes his only refuelling, on lap 38, he re-enters the race behind his rival. In an attempt to maintain the first position, Montoya pushes to the maximum, also getting the fastest lap, but after his second stop, on lap 51, he finds himself third. The Colombian driver recovers a position when Barrichello also enters the pits for the second time, but is forced to retire on lap 57 due to an engine failure. Thus, Michael Schumacher wins the Canadian Grand Prix ahead of Coulthard and Barrichello.
At the Nürburgring, the ninth round of the championship, Ferrari introduces an aerodynamic evolution of the F2002, characterized by a lower and narrower engine hood in the rear, and begins to use the bidirectional telemetry system, which had played a fundamental role in the victory of David Coulthard in the previous Monaco Grand Prix allowing McLaren to modify the car's operation directly from the pits. On Saturday, the qualifying session is quite close, so much so that in the end the first three drivers were separated by just thirteen hundredths of a second: Montoya is the fastest of all, beating his teammate Ralf Schumacher by just nine thousandths, while in third place went to Michael Schumacher, clearly faster than his rivals in the central sector of the track, but the author of an error in the last corner that cost him a few tenths and the possibility of undermining the Colombian's time.
At the start, Barrichello overtakes Schumacher and at the end of the first lap the Brazilian also overtakes Montoya, at the first corner after the finish. A few corners later Michael Schumacher overtook his brother, also overtaking Montoya during the third lap, taking him to second position. The two Ferrari drivers immediately gained a large margin over their rivals: after ten laps Barrichello had an advantage of around sixteen seconds over Ralf Schumacher, third, and eighteen over Montoya, fourth. In the central part of the race Michael Schumacher reduces the gap to his teammate, bringing him to less than a second after Barrichello's second stop.
The Ferrari garage decides, however, not to take risks with a duel on the track, requiring the drivers to maintain their positions until the finish line. Thus, Barrichello wins his second career victory ahead of Michael Schumacher. Qualifying at Silverstone is characterized by an intense fight for pole position between Montoya and the two Ferrari drivers: the Colombian won on his last attempt, beating Barrichello by a few cents and Michael Schumacher, third despite having scored in the first sector of the track, an intermediate time more than three tenths faster than those obtained by all the others.
At the start Montoya keeps the lead of the group, ahead of the Schumacher brothers, while Barrichello, who remained stationary on the grid at the start of the reconnaissance lap, is relegated to last position on the starting grid. In the first laps Montoya tries to defend himself, with difficulty, from the attacks of Michael Schumacher, who follows him within a few tenths of a gap. The pursuit continues until during the sixth lap it starts to rain: in a few laps the track gets completely wet and at the end of the thirteenth lap the great majority of the drivers except Coulthard and de la Rosa stop in the pits to change tires. Ferrari drivers choose intermediate tires, while Williams prefer to use rain tires. The move of the Italian team proved better and Michael Schumacher quickly recovered the disadvantage accumulated by Montoya, overtaking him during the sixteenth lap.
The rain stops falling and on lap 36, but only twenty laps from the end, with the track now dry, the Ferrari drivers and Montoya return to the pits to mount dry tires. Immediately after the last refuelling, Montoya passes Barrichello, but is overtaken by the Brazilian on lap forty-sixth; from this moment there are no further changes of position until the finish line. Michael Schumacher thus conquers the seventh win of the season, and having accumulated a distance in the standings of 54 points over his teammate (86 points the German, 32 points the Brazilian), the Ferrari driver can win the world title already from the Grand Prix following.
For the occasion, starting with the French Grand Prix, Ferrari introduces important changes to the rear of the F2002, integrating the rear wing fixing point with the deformable structure above the gearbox and with the upper part of the extractor profile. At the end of a rather hard-fought session, Montoya obtains the fifth consecutive pole position, beating Michael Schumacher by a few thousandths of a second, to whom the times in two laps launched for cuts in the chicanes are canceled.
Even on the Magny Cours circuit, at the start of the formation lap, Barrichello's Ferrari remains stationary on the grid. The Brazilian's car is pushed to the pits, but the Ferrari driver is forced to retire. At the start Montoya keeps the lead, followed by Michael Schumacher. In the following laps, the Colombian, penalized by a wrong choice of the type of tires to use in the race, struggles to contain the group behind him, but maintaining the first position until the first series of pit stops. During the first series of stops, Michael Schumacher refueled on lap 26 and returned to the track ahead of Montoya. However, on re-entering the German driver crosses the boundary line of the acceleration lane, incurring a penalty. After the stops of Räikkönen and Coulthard, Schumacher took the lead, but on lap 35 the German returned to the pits to serve a drive-through, later returning to the track behind Montoya and Räikkönen.
At the end of the second series of pit stops, the situation stabilized with Räikkönen first ahead of Michael Schumacher, an order of arrival following which the drivers' championship would have remained mathematically open. But with four laps to go, however, McNish's Toyota broke the engine, spreading a large amount of oil on the track making it slippery. Räikkönen, one of the first to pass in that area of the track, does not notice and comes along under braking, being overtaken by Michael Schumacher. The German driver controls his rival in the final laps of the race, crossing the finish line in first position and winning his fifth career drivers' world title after only eleven races. On July 21, 2002, Schumacher equalled the record - which until then remained unapproachable - of five world titles won belonging to Juan Manuel Fangio:
"I thought I would get the title at home in a week, then I got lucky when Raikkonen skidded. After the first pit stop, I found myself in the lead, so virtually world champion. Then I crossed the white line out of the pits and after the penalty I was third. I took a sigh of relief, because I was still in the top positions. Up to five laps from the end Raikkonen was in front of me and I thought the decisive race would be next, in a week at Hockenheim, in front of the German fans. And instead, Kimi ended up on a slick. He is good, He already drives like an experienced driver, but under such circumstances experience is useless. So, with a little luck, I found myself in a position to win the title again. I looked in the mirrors, listened to the radio communications and suddenly I saw the checkered flag".
At the end of the race, the German driver will say, moved by the incredible conquest of the third consecutive title with Ferrari, adding a note of love towards Ferrari and his men:
"Fangio didn't have the support of a team like mine behind him".
In the remaining races, Schumacher wins pole and victory at the Hockenheimring, repeating this result also at Spa and Suzuka, while at the Hungaroring, Monza and Indianapolis he obtains the second place behind his teammate on all occasions. On the other hand, the arrival in the parade on the Indianapolis circuit is curious, given that in the last laps Schumacher and Barrichello slow down considerably, preparing for a parade finish. But on the finish line Barrichello overtook his teammate, winning by just eleven thousandths of a second. Initially, the public seems that Schumacher had confused the finish line with the starting line, placed further back, slowing down more than necessary. However, at the end of the race, the German driver declared that he independently decided to let his teammate pass, to repay him for the gesture he made in the Austrian Grand Prix, when Barrichello had given him the victory at the finish line after receiving a controversial team order.
"The truth is that we wanted to break another record. We wanted to reach the finish line together. We didn't succeed for a very short time, but we hit another seasonal record: the shortest gap between first and second. These things are possible because we are a fantastic team, Rubens and I have always supported each other, there is absolute solidarity. That's why I thought it would be fantastic, today, to get together".
In an attempt to make the competition more exciting after the previous world championships had been dominated by Ferrari and to improve the economic situation of the small teams, the FIA introduced new rules for the 2003 vintage for qualifying and the conduct of the race weekend. Qualifying is now divided into two sessions, to be held on Friday and Saturday afternoon. In both, the drivers would take to the track one at a time: the Friday session, with tanks empty, would have determined the order in which the drivers would make their only attempt in the Saturday session, in which the cars should have been already supplied with the petrol needed to face the first part of the race. At the end of the qualifying session on Saturday it would no longer be possible to make changes to the cars, which would remain in the parc fermé until the start of the starting procedure.
In addition, the distribution of points is changed, which now rewards the first eight classified who will receive 10, 8, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1 point respectively, and finally the FIA has some new rules from a technical point of view, among which the most important is undoubtedly the new abolition, just one year after its reintroduction, of bidirectional telemetry. As announced at the end of the previous season, both Ferrari and McLaren choose to delay the debut of their new cars. However, while the Italian team limited itself to fielding the car of the previous year, without modifying it significantly, McLaren brings to the track a widely revised version of the MP4-17, characterized by a completely new rear end and by several aerodynamic refinements both at the 'anterior than posterior.
In Australia, at the first round of the season, the new qualifying procedure effectively leads to a reshuffling of the values on the field, even if the front row is once again occupied by the two Ferraris of Michael Schumacher and Barrichello. However, the victory was obtained by David Coulthard who, starting eleventh, managed to make an important comeback also thanks to the problems of his opponents. The other McLaren Mercedes driven by Finnish Räikkönen completes the podium while, surprisingly, the reigning champion Michael Schumacher closes at the foot of the podium, stopped by the loss of the right flow diverter of his Ferrari which forces him to a further pit stop.
The race is full of twists and turns, due not only to the debut of the new rules, but also to adverse weather conditions and consequent errors. Schumacher and Barrichello, with wet tires, sprint to perfection and make a void in the first four laps, while behind them a fierce fight full of overtaking breaks out. But during the race, Schumacher, due to the deterioration of the intermediate tires mounted, suffered a comeback from Montoya and the German's quick pit stop did not prevent the Colombian from taking the lead in the Grand Prix.
Montoya remains in the lead while Räikkönen and Schumacher engage in a good duel behind him. The German's most important attack on his Finnish rival takes place outside the first corner at the end of the main straight, but the Finn defends himself well. However, the exciting duel was interrupted due to a penalty imposed on the Finn, guilty of speeding in the pit lane. Schumacher thus inherits the second position without further risk and then, when Montoya makes the second stop, the head of the race, but due to an exit from the track he begins to lose pieces of the right flow diverter of his car and must return to the pits by order of the commissioners. Montoya returns to the lead but shortly after spins that allows Coulthard to take the lead and his thirteenth and final victory in Formula 1.
The second Grand Prix, raced at the Sepang circuit, still sees Ferrari in pain. In qualifying Michael Schumacher, author of the fastest time in Friday's session, is in third position, behind Fernando Alonso and Jarno Trulli. In the race, first at the finish line is the young Kimi Räikkönen in his first career victory in Formula 1. The Finn signs the second McLaren success and takes the lead of the standings, seriously candidates for the title, while behind him Brazilian Barrichello, who saved Ferrari's balance sheet in a race conditioned by the error at Schumacher's departure. The German rider, after a few hundred meters, crashes into Trulli and is forced to a chase race, finally reaching sixth place thanks to the spin of the BAR-Honda of the British rider Jenson Button.
In his home Grand Prix, in Brazil, Barrichello gets his first pole position of the season, just eleven thousandths ahead of Coulthard, while Michael Schumacher is only seventh, slowed down by some inaccuracies in the first sector of his fastest lap. Shortly before the start on the Interlagos circuit it begins to rain. The departure is therefore postponed for a quarter of an hour, in order to wait for the decrease in rainfall intensity. The race will see several riders go off the track, including Michael Schumacher on lap 27.
For Schumacher there could not be a worse start: after the first three races the German driver is only eighth in the general classification with 8 points, against the 24 already conquered by Kimi Räikkönen. In order to win again, Schumacher requests and obtains from Ferrari the return of Luca Baldisserri in the role of technical manager of the track, in place of the Australian engineer Chris Dyer. After the first intercontinental trips, Formula 1 arrives in Imola for the first European appointment. The race is held on the day in which Easter is celebrated in Italy, while in Germany the mother of Michael and Ralf Schumacher disappears. While racing also on this occasion with the F2002, Michael and Ralf dominate the tests of the Grand Prix at Imola, respectively obtaining first and second place on the starting grid. With Saturday's qualifiers concluded, Michael and Ralf fly to Cologne on a private plane for a last hug to their mother and in the evening they return back to Imola.
But at the start Ralf Schumacher sprints better than his brother, taking the lead at the first corner. At the head of the race Michael Schumacher is much faster than his brother, but he is unable to overtake him until the latter is refuelled. On leaving, Ralf runs into a hesitation that costs him a lot of time, allowing Michael Schumacher to take the lead and cross the finish line in first position, not celebrating the victory for the death of his mother, which took place the night before the race. Behind the German driver comes Räikkönen, strengthening his first position in the championship.
No one would have forced the two brothers to get behind the wheel of a single-seater, not Ferrari and Williams (we would never force a driver to race if he doesn't feel like it, says Jean Todt), not the organizers, who had exempted them from the various ceremonials. and they would not have taken it upon themselves to insist that they take to the track in such difficult psychological conditions. But both drivers, before the race, decide to race also in honor of their mother:
"My mother would have liked to see us race. She loved being on the tracks. She liked it when we drove the old karts on the home track. She was happy to see us race. Mom and Dad have always supported us, they made it possible for us to become what we are. we are now. It made it possible for us to become what we are now".
Before returning to Germany for the funeral, the German champion thanks the guys of the team:
"Everyone, I mean everyone, from the president to the engineers to the technicians to the mechanics to the cooks, everyone has offered me great support, they have given me a sense of how close they are to me".
In Spain, Ferrari finally brings the new F2003GA to the track, after facing the first four races of the season with the F2002. The most innovative element of the car is undoubtedly the rear suspension, in which the front arm of the lower triangle is no longer linked to the gearbox, but to the engine block, further reducing the weight of the box. The car is also characterized by an asymmetrical arrangement of the engine cooling system, also highlighted by the presence of asymmetrical openings on the sides to improve heat dissipation.
The new Ferrari F2003GA immediately proved very competitive, so much so that Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello occupied the entire front row. The German driver, also at the top of the standings in Friday's empty tank session, leads his teammate by two and a half tenths, scoring the best performance in the second and third sectors of the track. At the start Michael Schumacher keeps the lead of the group, while Barrichello, turned wide at the first corner in an attempt to undermine his teammate, in turn resists the attack of Alonso, keeping the second position ahead of the Spaniard. In the middle of the group Pizzonia remains stationary on the grid due to a problem with the automatic starting system and is involved in an accident caused by Kimi Räikkönen, who having had his view covered by other cars does not notice the presence of the Brazilian driver.
At the end of the first refuelling sequence Michael Schumacher remains in the lead, while Alonso overtakes Barrichello, moving into second position. At the head of the race Michael gradually accumulated the advantage over Alonso and at the end of the third series of refuelling the German won ahead of the Spaniard, taking second place in the drivers' standings four points behind Kimi Räikkönen. In the next round in Austria, Michael Schumacher conquers pole position with just four hundredths ahead of Räikkönen, despite the German driver making a mistake in the first sector. At the start of the Grand Prix, the start went smoothly on the third attempt, with Michael Schumacher keeping the lead, while Montoya overtook Räikkönen. After about fifteen laps, a few drops of rain begin to fall on the circuit without causing any particular unforeseen events, with the exception of a long by Schumacher, which cost the German driver a good part of the advantage accumulated over his pursuers.
Having recovered from the incident, the German driver continues to lead ahead of Räikkönen and Button. But when the three return to the pits at the same time, during the 23rd lap, during the pit stop of the German driver there are again problems with the refuelling equipment: petrol comes out of the filler due to a defective valve, ending up on the hot exhausts and catching fire. The fire, of a rather minor entity, is quickly extinguished and the Ferrari driver starts again, losing several seconds. Thanks to this inconvenience Montoya takes the lead ahead of Räikkönen and Michael Schumacher. The Colombian driver, however, was forced to retire during the thirty-second lap due to the failure of the BMW engine. At the same time Schumacher, clearly faster than his rival, overtook Räikkönen, taking the lead again. In the final laps, Michael Schumacher quietly managed his lead, while Räikkönen had to watch out for Barrichello. However, the Brazilian's attacks were unsuccessful and the McLaren driver retains the second position, closing the race behind Michael Schumacher.
In Monte Carlo, Ferrari brings a new rear wing to the track, characterized by the dihedral shape of the profiles, useful for trying to bring home the fourth consecutive victory. However, the pole is won by Ralf Schumacher, who precedes Räikkönen by just thirty-six thousandths, while Michael Schumacher is only fifth. The German driver is fastest of all in the first part of the track but almost half a second slower than his brother in the central sector. At the start Ralf Schumacher keeps the lead, but Juan Pablo Montoya will triumph in one of the most tactical editions of the Principality Grand Prix, were it not for the final, when Michael Schumacher pushes hard to reach the leading pair, given that the Finnish Kimi Räikkönen is behind the Colombian. Even by virtue of the new rules, the Grand Prix is proving to be more tactical than it usually is, leaving the feeling that, if they had had better qualifying, both Schumacher and Barrichello could have achieved more.
In Canada, Ferrari brings an enhanced version of the engine to the track, as well as new screens behind the front wheels and a new rear wing, with the hope of being able to return to victory. However, it is not the Ferraris that dominate the scene in qualifying, but the Williams, capable of monopolizing the entire front row. Friday's empty tank session is held in the rain, reshuffling the exit order in Saturday's session which, as mentioned, are dominated by the Williams-BMWs of Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya, first and second respectively. Behind them is Michael Schumacher, just a thousandth of a second faster than Alonso.
If during qualifying the Williams seem destined to dominate on Sunday as well, in reality neither of Sir Frank's drivers is able to make the most of their car in the race. The Colombian spun during the first lap, while Ralf Schumacher was unable to gain a sufficient margin to defend himself from his brother. During the first series of pit stops Michael Schumacher, who was on the track longer than his brother, managed to overtake him. In the following laps Ralf Schumacher tries to tail his rival, without however becoming dangerous even in the last stages of the race, when the Ferrari driver reduces the pace to the point that Montoya and Alonso can catch up with them. Despite the narrow gaps between the leading drivers, there are no noteworthy overtaking attempts and the top four cross the finish line in the same order, with Michael winning and Kimi Räikkönen, the German's main title rival, forced to settle for sixth. place.
At the halfway point, Michael Schumacher has finally recovered the disadvantage he had accumulated in the first races against Kimi Räikkönen and now leads the standings with 54 points, three more than his rival. On the Nürburgring circuit, in the empty tank session on Friday, partly disturbed by a sudden downpour, Räikkönen set the best time, almost four tenths ahead of Michael Schumacher. The Finnish driver also repeats himself the next day. Behind him is Michael Schumacher again, this time behind by just three hundredths of a second. In the race, Räikkönen immediately sets a great pace until his engine breaks down. The head is inherited by Ralf Schumacher, followed by teammate Montoya, while Michael Schumacher, who started second, spun due to an overtaking from Montoya. Taking advantage of the pit stops, Montoya overtook Barrichello, then quickly recovered on Michael Schumacher.
On the forty-second lap the Colombian driver sets a time almost two seconds faster than that of his rival, bringing his attack during the following passage. Montoya joins his rival on the outside of the Dunlop hairpin: Schumacher tries to resist inside but ends up in contact with the Colombian's car, spinning and stopping astride the curb. The German driver manages to keep the car's engine running and the marshals, given the dangerous position his car was in, help him get away by pushing his car. In the rest, the race reserves very few emotions and ends with the Williams brace with Barrichello closing the podium, while Alonso defends fourth place from the comeback Michael Schumacher.
The next stage takes place in Magny-Cours, France. Friday's session with tanks unloaded takes place with the track drying quickly, altering heavily to the advantage of the last riders to take to the track, the only ones able to fit dry tires, while in the Saturday session the situation returns to normal, with Ralf Schumacher and Montoya who occupy the entire front row for Williams. The Michelin tires prove to be clearly more competitive than their Bridgestone rivals, so much so that in the top ten only the Ferraris of Michael Schumacher and Barrichello are equipped with the tires of the Japanese supplier. Also, in France there is the second consecutive double for Williams, with Ralf Schumacher winning followed by Montoya and Michael Schumacher.
At the start the two Williams keep the lead, while Räikkönen shoves Michael Schumacher, moving into third position. During the race, the German driver, in trouble with his tires, loses ground against Räikkönen and even undergoes a comeback and overtaking by Coulthard in the refuelling sequence. As the laps go by, Michael Schumacher approaches Coulthard thanks to a slightly postponed stop, but fails to concretely undermine the Scottish driver until, on lap 48, Coulthard returns to the pits but during his stop there are problems with the fuel filler, which does not enter the tank.
The mechanics then use the spare equipment, but the Scottish pilot leaves when the refuelling has not yet been completed, wasting even more time. In this phase, Michael Schumacher pushes hard to try to pass both the Scot and Kimi Räikkönen. The German driver returned to the pits during the fifty-second lap, manages to get back on track in front of the Finn, as the latter is slowed down by some laps. In the final laps Ralf Schumacher managed his advantage over his rivals by going to win, while Michael Schumacher, who finished third ahead of Räikkönen, increased his advantage over the Finn, despite the driving difficulties created by the Bridgestone tires.
After Michelin tires showed clear superiority over the Bridgestone’s in the French Grand Prix, the situation is back in balance at Silverstone. Barrichello conquers his second pole position of the season, despite having completed his own timed lap second, after going off the track in Friday's session, while Räikkönen is on the second row. Michael Schumacher, slowed down by a mistake at the Abbey corner, had to settle for fifth position. At the start Barrichello starts badly and is overtaken by Trulli and Räikkönen, who move to first and second position. On lap 12, a man dressed in a kilt (who was later discovered to be a former Irish priest named Cornelius Horan) makes an invasion of the track, running in the opposite direction to that of the cars on the very fast Hangar Straight.
The man, waving a sign reading Read the Bible and The Bible is always right, is tackled by a commissioner after being shunned by several cars. The invasion of the track leads to a new entry of the safety car, during which practically all the drivers enter the pits to refuel. At the end of the neutralization of the race, the two Toyotas of da Matta and Panis lead the standings, but after a few laps Montoya took the lead, while Barrichello and Schumacher remained in back positions. The Brazilian began to recover, overtaking both Kimi Räikkönen and Montoya, while the German was blocked for a long time by Jacques Villeneuve, from whom he struggled to free himself and then reached the finish line fourth.
The race ends with the victory of Rubens Barrichello, followed by Montoya and Räikkönen, while Michael Schumacher reaches the finish line only in fourth position. Despite this, the German driver manages to keep the lead in the drivers' standings, with 69 points against the 62 of the young McLaren driver. At Hockenheim, Germany, with high temperatures, Michelin tires prove to be superior to their Bridgestone competitors, so much so that the only cars among the top ten equipped with Japanese tires are the two Ferraris. Williams dominates the scene, occupying the entire front row, while Räikkönen and Michael Schumacher, penalized by the choice of harder compound tires, qualify for fifth and sixth place.
At the start Montoya sprints well from pole position, keeping the lead. Behind him, however, Ralf Schumacher and Barrichello are overtaken by Trulli, who enters second position, while Räikkönen joins the Brazilian Ferrari driver on the outside. Ralf Schumacher, in an attempt to defend his position, crosses the entire track, squeezing Barrichello between his car and that of Räikkönen. The Brazilian driver, left without space, collides with the German's Williams, crossing and hitting the car of Räikkönen, who loses control of his McLaren and crashes violently into the barriers. The situation remains unchanged even after the first series of pit stops, until the thirtieth lap, when thanks to a mistake by Alonso, Michael Schumacher gains the third position.
After the second phase of the pit stops, Montoya continues to increase his margin over his rivals, while Michael Schumacher has to beware of Coulthard, who comes back from behind and begins to follow him. Meanwhile, the Renault engine of the car driven by Jaro Trulli accuses a drop in power and Michael Schumacher, who follows him, takes the opportunity to get closer. After several attempts rejected by his rival, during the 58th lap the German got the better of Trulli, overcoming him with a decisive maneuver and also taking advantage of the external part of the track.
When it seems that Schumacher can finish the race by conquering an excellent position, on the sixty-third lap in Schumacher's Ferrari the left rear tire punctured, perhaps due to the off-track excursion made to overtake Trulli. The German driver manages to reach the pits and slips to seventh place. Montoya thus conquers the second victory of the season, crossing the finish line with more than a minute ahead of Coulthard, and thanks to the setbacks of the Schumacher brothers and Räikkönen, the Colombian driver relaunches himself in the Championship, where he climbs to second position, overtaking the Finnish. As in the previous German Grand Prix, the high temperatures and characteristics of the track in Hungary also favor Michelin, whose tires are more competitive than rivals Bridgestone. Also on this occasion the only two cars among the top ten qualified to mount Japanese tires are the two Ferraris of Barrichello (fifth) and Michael Schumacher (eighth).
The Hungarian appointment is characterized by the first career victory of Fernando Alonso, who thus becomes the youngest driver to win a Formula 1 Grand Prix. The young Spanish driver succeeds in dubbing the world champion and holder of several record, namely Michael Schumacher, driving a Ferrari in great crisis with the tires and only eighth at the finish. The German still maintains one point ahead of rival Juan Pablo Montoya (third at the finish) and two over Räikkönen (second at the finish).
The weeks leading up to the Italian Grand Prix were characterized by a long controversy over the alleged irregularity of the Michelin tires. The French company is accused by Ferrari of supplying front tires which, subjected to the aerodynamic load of the cars, deform when cornering, increasing the footprint and exceeding the 270 mm tread width limit imposed by the FIA, even though it falls within the checks. post-race static. In the weeks leading up to the Grand Prix, race director Charlie Whiting sent the teams an official notice on the matter. Therefore, in the tests held on the Brianza circuit at the beginning of September, Michelin supplies new specification tires with a tighter tread, in order to avoid any disputes in the subsequent Grand Prix.
After the Michelin tires had shown a clear superiority in performance over their rivals Bridgestone in the two previous races, the situation becomes more balanced at Monza. The fight for pole position is characterized by an intense duel between Michael Schumacher and Montoya: the two drivers score practically identical partials in the first two sectors, with the Colombian fastest by a few thousandths of a second, but the third section is decisive of track, in which the German driver earns just over a tenth of his rival. Enough margin to take pole position with an advantage of just 51 thousandths over the Williams driver.
In the race, Michael Schumacher takes victory after starting from pole position and setting the fastest lap, relegating his closest rival Montoya to second place. The race is spectacular, and sees the two rivals face off all the time. During the first round Montoya tries to overtake Schumacher at the variant of the Canal: the two face the curve paired, also coming into contact, but the German has the better, rejecting the attack of the rival.
The duel between the first two is very intense, with Montoya progressively recovering from his rival until he is less than a second behind just before the second series of stops. But the German driver returns to the track ahead of the Colombian, recovering the lead of the race. Schumacher and Montoya then resume the duel for the lead: the gap between the two is about a second and a half, but during the dubbing of Frentzen the Colombian loses even a second. From this moment Montoya is no longer able to keep up with his rival, beginning to accumulate an increasingly consistent gap. Thanks to this event, in the final stages of the race Michael Schumacher controls his rival from a distance and wins in front of the home crowd:
"It's the best day of my career".
After 69 Formula 1 successes and five world titles, Michael Schumacher is still thrilled by a victory. So much emotion comes from the fact that in the environment there were already those who were ready to say that the decline had come, which made him suffer enormously.
But Schumacher proves once again that he is the best. The determination and courage in the first corners, when it is necessary to keep Montoya behind at all costs, the technique when it is necessary to stretch, the intelligence when it is necessary to contain the opponent's return and a small personal revenge, the dubbing on Alonso on the ninth lap:
"Have you seen the duel with Juan Pablo? Hard but fair, what people love. I won. After the start, at the end of the straight I blocked the brakes and almost cut the chicane. I had to choose between going straight or setting a wrong line and I opted for the second solution, even though I could have lost first place. And it almost happened, because Montoya joined me. It was vital to maintain my position".
After the initial lap unscathed, the most exciting moment for the German driver was the return to the track at the end of the second pit stop:
"I saw a Williams dart in front of me. I thought about Montoya and wondered how it was possible. I didn't count. I was sure I pulled him off and made a quick pit stop. It took me a while to realize that it was Gene. Even in the pits it took a while to realize what had happened. I hit the accelerator like mad, until I had confirmation. The tension didn't fade away. I kept worrying. until I realized that Juan Pablo had been slowed down by the traffic of the dubbed. Juan Pablo was getting closer. I don't know why, but the second set of tires didn't work as well as the first and third. However, in the last part I managed to recover something. I came from two races that ended badly. Then there is the fact of fifty victories at the wheel of Ferrari, the importance of ten points that could be worth my sixth world title, the pleasure of seeing our fantastic supporters rejoice. I never stopped believing in ourselves. Bad times come and go. The goal was to get behind Montoya; you understand how important it is to have a three-point lead with two races to go. The future is still very uncertain. Here at Monza, we had an excellent aerodynamic package and an exceptional engine, which helped us a lot. Our starting system has also been perfected. We must continue to work; the title will be won by those who improve. I am not interested in the future now. First, I have to analyze the race with the engineers, because we must not neglect anything. Afterwards I will think about relaxing. The great celebration of the Ferrari people under the Monza podium As I remember, Indianapolis is a circuit with characteristics similar to this. In short, the sensations are good".
On stage, the German makes his typical jump, legs apart and one arm raised. Over the years he has succumbed to a habit that had been contested three years earlier by Francesco Cossiga; gesticulate like an orchestra conductor on the notes of the Mameli. He did it for just a moment. After the usual celebrations, from the top of the Monza stage, a round platform suspended over the track, Michael greets the raving red crowd:
"I am grateful to all the guys at Ferrari, from the mechanics to those who do the cleaning. They were motivated, they gave over one hundred percent. I love them all. This result is the best way to motivate them. From up there the show is great. Thanks again. To everyone".
The victory allows the German to increase his advantage over his rivals, bringing him to three points against Montoya and seven points against Räikkönen. A narrow margin with two more races to go, considering that Bridgestone tires do not guarantee a sufficient competitive edge to repel the opponents' attacks. Two races from the end of the championship, most of the teams do not bring substantial updates of their cars, being now focused on the following season, but the three teams still engaged in the fight for the world titles are obviously an exception. Ferrari and BMW bring enhanced versions of their respective engines, as well as various refinements of the cars' aerodynamic appendages, while McLaren brings minor aerodynamic changes.
Due to the variable weather both on Friday and Saturday morning, the majority of the teams are unable to have enough data to define an ideal set-up, favoring a reshuffling of values on the field. Kimi Räikkönen takes pole, while Michael Schumacher, author of several errors and dissatisfied with the set-up of his car, marks only the seventh fastest time. At the start Räikkönen keeps the first position and at the end of the first lap leads in front of Panis, Ralf Schumacher and Michael Schumacher, passed by his teammate during the first lap. In an attempt to recover the positions lost at the start, during the third lap the Colombian driver decisively joins Barrichello and the two touch each other, forcing the Brazilian to retire. Around the sixth lap a light rain begins to fall: in these conditions the Michelin tires prove to be much more effective than their rivals Bridgestone and Michael Schumacher is forced to give up several positions, while Montoya is recovering up to third place.
The rain stops after just two laps, but Räikkönen continues to lead the race ahead of Ralf Schumacher, Coulthard, Montoya, Alonso and Michael Schumacher. As the track dries up, the German Ferrari driver resumes running at competitive times, also setting the fastest lap. Towards the fifteenth lap it starts to rain again, but none of the leading riders who make the first stop chooses wet tires. However, the rain considerably increases in intensity and the other riders are also forced to return to the pits to mount suitable tires. Meanwhile, Montoya is given a drive-through penalty for contact with Barrichello. Upon returning to the track, the Colombian driver sinks to the rear, returning to the track in eleventh position.
The race classification is thus revolutionized but now, in completely wet track conditions, the Bridgestone tires are much more competitive than the Michelins. Schumacher immediately passes the two riders ahead of him and in the 28th lap overtakes even Räikkönen. Four laps later the German driver also overtook Frentzen, then quickly recovering the disadvantage from Button and overtaking him on lap thirty-six. As the laps go by, the rain stops falling and the track dries up again. During the second series of stops, opened by Räikkönen during the forty-second lap, all the drivers are on dry tires, but there are no significant changes in position: Schumacher continues to lead ahead of Frentzen and Räikkönen until, in the following laps, he driver McLaren progressively catches up on its rival, overtaking it during the fifty-fourth lap.
In the final laps Schumacher manages the advantage and wins ahead of Räikkönen. With this victory the German mortgages the sixth world title of his career, given that the only opponent still mathematically in the game remains the Finn, trailing by nine points. Montoya, ten points behind the top, must instead say goodbye to the possibility of winning the world championship, because if the Colombian were to win the next Japanese Grand Prix with Schumacher out of the points, the German would still win the title for the most number. of victories won. Even the Finnish driver, to win the title, would have had to win the race with his rival out of the points, because in the event of a tie in the final score, the title would still go to Schumacher thanks to the higher number of victories won by the reigning German champion, you are against any two of Räikkönen.
At the last race of the championship, the only teams to bring news on the cars are those still fighting for the two world titles. Ferrari, McLaren and above all Williams carry out the latest refinements to the aerodynamic look of their cars, trying to adapt them to the demanding Japanese circuit, with the use, by Williams, of new front wings and modified aerodynamic appendages on the body car.
In Japan, qualifying was heavily conditioned by a shower of rain falling on the track in the last minutes of the session, which compromised the performance of the last riders to take to the track. Barrichello conquers pole position, almost seven tenths ahead of Montoya, but already when the Brazilian is making his timed lap the rain had begun to fall insistently. Räikkönen, fifth on Friday, must even remain in the pits due to the commercial interruption scheduled every five timed laps, taking to the track when the track is clearly wet. The Finnish driver is unable to do better than the seventh time, being beaten immediately after by his teammate Coulthard and then slipping to eighth position. Worse goes to Michael Schumacher, who finished only fourteenth, while neither Ralf Schumacher nor Trulli, the fastest in Friday's session, managed to finish their timed performances.
At the start Montoya attacks Barrichello already during the first lap, overtaking him at the Spoon Curve and immediately gaining a good advantage, which stabilizes around 4 seconds. On the sixth lap Michael Schumacher, recovered in tenth position, tries to overtake Sato, but ends up touching the Japanese and damaging his car. The German driver must return to the pits to replace the nose, slipping to last position. On lap nine Montoya was forced to retire due to a mechanical problem, giving the lead to Barrichello. Räikkönen, to whom team-mate Coulthard had given way during the third lap, then briefly leads the race and, with Michael Schumacher in sixteenth position, virtually becomes world champion. The Finnish driver refueled on lap thirteenth, followed by all the other drivers.
Barrichello continues to increase his advantage over the McLaren drivers, with Räikkönen who, slowed down by a set of tires with less-than-optimal performance, also loses ground against his teammate. Michael Schumacher struggles to recover from the back of the group, finding himself stuck for a few laps with his brother behind Sato. The two therefore anticipate the second stop, returning to the pits on lap twenty-four. During the second phase of the race, Da Matta and the Schumacher brothers engage in an intense confrontation for the seventh position, which ends when Ralf Schumacher collides with his brother, damaging the front wing. Luckily Michael can continue keeping eighth place firmly, while the Williams driver is forced to the pits for repairs. The eighth position is enough for Schumacher to get the sixth world title and the German driver is therefore content to follow Da Matta, while at the head of the race Barrichello controls the situation ahead of Räikkönen and wins ahead of the two McLaren drivers.
Michael Schumacher thus conquers the sixth world title of his career, perhaps the most difficult due to the Bridgestone tires not always up to the level of the opponents, while thanks to the victory of Barrichello and the setback of Williams Ferrari conquers the constructors' title for the fifth consecutive time. Champagne is raining from the podium and Schumacher remains on the ground. The organizers, however, admit it to the television conference reserved for the first three. The champion talks about a difficult season, a tough finish and the most exciting, confused and whirling Grand Prix he has ever had to experience:
"It's all fantastic, wonderful. But it seems so strange to me. I was tense too in the last few days, but I couldn't let you know. Today we had an extraordinary race. I'm in love with all the fans and this team. In the race I committed a stupid thing. I was behind Sato, we were recovering and everything was fine. At a certain point he opened the door for me, that is, he gave me the space to pass, I said to myself: thank you, and I slipped in. I didn't think it would suddenly close the line. Other riders noticed that I was faster and very correctly let me pass. I was afraid of losing the world championship. After the repairs I returned to last position. I had to push to the maximum, luckily the car was exceptional. To be calm I had to climb up to eighth place, because I was informed via radio that Montoya he retired and the two McLarens were following Rubens. You never know what can happen in a Formula 1 race. Even with Ralf he had some problems ... another great fear. I did not understand the reason for the impact, because I have not yet seen the television images. I do not know if he was attacking me or if he was too close. I tried to overtake Da Matta, but I had to brake sharply, so I flattened a tire. The vibrations were so strong that I had problems with visibility on the straight. I was also afraid of a puncture and was just trying to get to the finish line. Until the last lap I was in tension. What a crazy race. I told you it wouldn't be easy. When you start in fourteenth position, as it happened to me because of the rain during qualifying, you never know what's going on in the front rows. This title is particular, completely different from the others. Today we have achieved an incredible feat. I can't even find the words to describe it".
In the stands, thousands of Japanese fans keep watch until late at night so as not to miss the group photo of Ferrari. Of the team that - thanks to Schumacher - has laboriously entered history:
"It is not my record that counts, the important thing is to have reached the two goals of the beginning of the year with Ferrari, that is my sixth World Championship and the fifth consecutive constructors'. We can say that the team and I have written history together. Rubens' victory made the day even more incredible. At the risk of repeating myself, I go back to mentioning the guys in the team. On the eve they were tense like me, but did you see them when I came back with a broken nose? They were ready even though the stop was not prepared, they changed the tires and put in petrol. They won. On the other hand, the numbers speak for themselves. In a season there are always more difficult times, it is part of this sport. I have maintained the utmost confidence in my team. I have been working with them for many years, I know that I am large".
Given the difficulties with which the fourth consecutive title had been reached, Ferrari is beginning to assume that for the 2004 vintage it would have been impossible to repeat the results obtained in previous years. But Schumacher has no doubts, 2004 will also be his year, and he expresses his thoughts openly within the team:
"Every time someone tells me I'm old and reminds me I'm thirtyfive, they ask me: how do you still get all these stimuli? I answer them, I'm great, I've never felt so fit, and I say it also to myself. I think my feelings are known, I like the competition, the speed, the overtaking, everything excites me tremendously. I quickly forget the world championships won, the 2003 one is already a memory. season, we start from scratch. And for me it's a great moment. An extraordinary emotion. I am still the same, hungry as usual. And our new car, the F2004, looks much stronger than the old one. Indeed, it certainly is. Melbourne will tell us how much and if the step forward is enough to destroy the opponents. This could be my most difficult season, it is likely, we will see. I expect a lot of competition, all rivals faster. But I have faith in Ferrari, we will still be ahead of everyone".
Of course, the doubt remains about the strength of the Bridgestone tires, but Schumacher extinguishes any allegation in the bud:
"I think the tires are more important, but I have great faith in Bridgestone, in this respect I am calm. They say it is a disadvantage to work only for a top team, that Michelin is favoured, supplying the tires to Williams, McLaren and Renault. For me the opposite is true, it is no coincidence that we were the ones who won the last World Championships".
As had already happened with the F2003 GA and other Ferraris, the newborn F2004 also sets new records on its debut. In the presence of the entire Ferrari staff, starting with president Luca Di Montezemolo, Jean Todt, Ross Brawn, Rory Byrne, Paolo Martinelli and Luca Baldisserri, the only one in overalls, in the hands of Michael Schumacher on the Fiorano track new Ferrari breaks the wall of 57 seconds. The best lap time on the 21 laps is 56"850, two tenths below the best time of the F2003GA at its debut on February 11, 2003.
"This new machine looks promising".
In 2004 Ferrari repeats the script already written in 2002, with Schumacher winning the first five races of the season in Australia, Malaysia, San Marino and Spain. The 2004 season begins with two important changes to the technical regulations: each driver would have had to run the entire race weekend with only one engine, with a penalty of ten positions on the starting grid in case of replacement of the same (converted into a start from the back of the grid if the change had taken place after qualifying), while the number of rear wing profiles is increased from three to two.