From 7 to 17 March 2002, the Geneva International Motor Show was renewed, one of the most anticipated events of the year by all motor enthusiasts. The Ferrari stand, on the long wave of the triumph in Melbourne, is an ode to victories in Formula 1. Among the cars on display, also a special edition of the 456M GT made especially for Schumacher two-tone painting, customized interior with exceptional hi-fi and satellite-radio navigation. Next, the new 575M Maranello. Montezemolo presents the company’s accounts, announcing yet another growing balance sheet: 4,150 deliveries in 2001 and a turnover of over one billion euros. Then we talk about racing again. Speaking of Melbourne, Ferrari president Luca Montezemolo confesses:
"Immense joy, of course. That said, it would be an unforgivable mistake to think that the situation in Australia will repeat itself. Let’s not be presumptuous or in Malaysia we risk taking a good beating. We have to improve a lot more, especially the departures".
Looking ahead to the next round, Ferrari is still considering whether to present the new F2002. As the president said, tests will be held this week with the test drivers. For now, however, the impression on the new car is positive:
"It grows well, the feedback is exciting, but nobody forces us to take risks".
Ferrari, so much, can count on a very fast car that, thanks to a great job, has established itself very well at the last Grand Prix, despite the few changes being few, just to adapt the electronics to the regulations.
"It doesn’t matter so much that we won, it’s how we won in Australia. We’re still hungry. We believed it from the start. You are not by chance the fastest for three days in a row. The rowing of Schumacher is also ours".
Speaking of the German driver, the president of Ferrari adds:
"It makes me laugh to hear about Michael getting gentrified. No one like him is able to give the decisive blow in key moments. This was demonstrated by re-passing Montoya, a very good driver, and then lapping fifteen lap records until the triumph. Thanks to him, to the whole team, and to Bridgestone. We were right not to change partners".
There are also words for the other driver of the red, described by Schumacher himself as a better Barrichello.
"It’s true. Todt also confirmed it to me: more serene, more confident and determined. So stronger".
Driving a Ferrari is not for everyone, and the experience is crucial.
"I will never give a Ferrari to those who don’t really have enough".
Adds the Ferrari president, who does not go out of his way to ask questions about Kimi Raikkonen.
"Hakkinen’s heir is promising, but we have to wait for such a demanding season, before judging him".
Massa, on the other hand, says that before judging him, it takes time. On the other hand, the driver has yet to compete in a full Grand Prix. There are also questions about opponents. Expecting fierce competition, Montezemolo says:
"What we’ve seen in Australia doesn’t add up. I hope Sauber becomes the fourth team behind us, McLaren and Williams. In winter practice it went strong. Yes, it will still be a three-way race, as between Inter, Juve and Roma. Like last year: a fantastic, exciting duel".
To conclude, the president also mentions the hypothesis of bringing Ferrari on the Stock Exchange:
"It is a reflection to be made, assuming that quoting is useful and convenient. It will not be something tomorrow morning".
About ten days before the Malaysian Grand Prix, Scuderia Ferrari decided that the second race of the World Championship would also be held with the F2001. After a quick consultation with the technical managers, on Thursday, March 7, 2002, the Scuderia Ferrari team principal, Jean Todt, announced:
"The development of the F2002 is continuing well. The work carried out by Luca Badoer at Mugello is giving good indications: we have completed a race simulation. That said, we believe that the F2001 proved to be competitive in the Australian Grand Prix and that it can also be competitive in Malaysia, where we will presumably find different weather conditions. In the meantime, we will continue to work on the new car in order to bring it into the race as soon as possible".
After the Australian Grand Prix it is clear that it is useless to take risks, especially considering that in the past three editions held in Malaysia, Schumacher won twice. If you then consider that in 1999, after going to the lead, he had left the position to comrade Irvine - vying for the title - you could say that the victories of the German in Kuala Lumpur were three. Moreover, it should not be forgotten that changing all the material would entail enormous costs in terms of technical effort. The F2022, however, should be ready for the Brazilian Grand Prix at the end of March. Last year, on the same circuit, the F2001 had some problems. Schumacher and Barrichello, therefore, will have to drive once again the car that someone has described as Cinderella. A protagonist with whom the German driver and the Brazilian hope to continue to enchant the prince, namely the podium. For this reason, at Fiorano, Luciano Burti continues to work on the F2001 tests, with starting tests and a great attention to tires. Meanwhile, the opponent’s front gets more and more nervous. Bmw and Mercedes are thinking of rejecting the cost reduction plan that provided, from next year, the use of only one engine per race weekend.
"It’s too late to do that".
Both representatives of the two German car manufacturers declare. Even Patrick Head - technical director of Williams - suggests that, with only one engine available, Ferrari would have advantages because the teams that use Michelin tires have to cover more kilometers to break them in and would have been in trouble. One thing is certain: everyone is getting ready to the maximum with the new cars to hunt down Ferrari.In contrast, only Jaguar, since its R3 is proving too weak to redesign in a short time. So, the team led by Niki Lauda is considering whether to bring back to Brazil the old R2. For Malaysia it is too late. After Schumacher’s victory in Melbourne, the opponents are ready for revenge. Montoya has not yet accepted the overtaking suffered by the German Scuderia Ferrari driver and is more determined than ever to take this victory. At the same time, Ralf Schumacher fears the supremacy of his teammate, so he will not be able to allow himself any more mistakes. The Scotsman David Coulthard, after being beaten by Kimi Raikkonen, will be forced to push hard. Finally, Rubens Barrichello knows he has wasted a great opportunity with the accident at the start of the Australian Grand Prix. The atmosphere is tense and the expected high temperatures that will surround the Malaysian track will make it more difficult.
In the days leading up to the race weekend, the thermometer reaches 40 inches C. This is not the first time that we ran in extreme heat: in 1984 we ran in Dallas, Texas, with the asphalt melting due to the deadly temperature. And here, at Sepang, we have been racing since 1999 without too many problems; all you need is the right tyres. But the speech is wider and is also applicable to dry or wet asphalt conditions. For this reason, the challenge between teams is added to the exasperated one among the tyre suppliers. In Australia, out of eight cars that crossed the finish line, only one, the F2001, was fitted with Bridgestone tyres. Nine single-seaters had been eliminated from the initial caramboles. All the others had Michelin covers.
"We do not believe we comply with the regulations. In any case we will have new tires for construction and mixes".
Ferrari is relying on the Bridgestone that in the opening race showed a certain superiority. The tropical climate does not seem to frighten Michael Schumacher, who declares:
"The heat is not an insurmountable obstacle. It’s true, it’s hard to breathe, it seems to be in a sauna at 60 C. Three years ago, at the debut on this track, on a particularly torrid day, in a straight line I changed trajectory to make a few hundred meters in the shade. But it’s more of a feeling I was looking for than a real relief. However, the important thing is that the car is competitive. I think it will be difficult to win, I have the impression that our rivals can already be approached. They will do everything to beat us, to recover the points lost in Australia, to fill the small disadvantage remedied in the first race. A lot will depend on the tires. But in this sense I am confident, we should also be good on the asphalt-grating. The Bridgestones are consistent, last year in a series of tests in Magny-Cours we understood how to work to improve performance with high temperatures".
Last year a downpour flooded the asphalt starting from the third lap, and the race direction was forced to use the Safety Car immediately. Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello had just left the track on an oil stain and were already late. In addition, a moment of chaos in the pits caused both drivers to lose almost two minutes, as they could not find the right front tire for the Rubens Barrichello single-seater. Behind the Safety Car and then in the middle tyre race, in a few laps, Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello made the difference, finishing first and second in front of David Coulthard. In a season in which monsoons are the order of the day, in Sepang a storm capable of upsetting the race again would not be a surprise. The prediction is open: Williams-Bmw and McLaren-Mercedes, caught unprepared in Melbourne, are fierce. We also expect a good performance from Renault, deprived of a brilliant result for the exit of Jarno Trulli when he defended the second position from the attacks of Michael Schumacher. Among other things, the technical director of the French team, Mike Gascoyne, in this regard triggers a controversy against the German driver of Ferrari, guilty of having criticized the Italian driver:
"His opinion on Jarno’s maneuvers was pathetic and unjustified".
But Schumacher does not reply to the engineer of the French team. On the eve of the technical checks of the cars, Wednesday, March 13, 2002, in Kuala Lumpur, everything was still calm. Among the contenders there is no Prost, blocked at the entrance of the circuit because the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile believes that the owner of the cars did not buy the sports rights of the team of the former French champion. One of the drivers of the blue car, Tarso Marques, who arrived in Malaysia, will be forced to stand in the pits to watch the race of opponents. Gaston Mazzacane, on the other hand, stops halfway after learning that he would not run. Prost, however, would have had difficulty qualifying. Ferrari rivals are present. Apart from some tyre tests on the old McLaren with Alesi, and some more in-depth tests of test driver Marc Gené with Williams, the two British teams have not worked much on the track in recent days. However, the technicians have studied in detail the data emerged in Melbourne, to prepare the arrangements in the challenging circuit of Sepang. All of Scuderia Ferrari’s rivals rely on Michelin tyres. The French company has new tires and has brought over 1.800.
The Bridgestone answers of 1.500 tires, of which 720 from wet that probably, if the forecasts are not wrong, they could serve only in the course of the free practices that will be disputed Friday 15 March 2002. The only drivers on track since Wednesday are the two Williams drivers, Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya, obviously at different times, since they do not hang out too much. Ralf Schumacher, 26, married to Cora and father of a young son, 84 races to the credit, three wins in 2001, participates in a promotion in the city and lets go in some public confidences.
"Meanwhile I hope to pass the first corner. If I can, the heat will give us a hand, I’m in great shape. The Malaysian asphalt should be favorable to our tyres. I hope to break Ferrari’s dominance on this track. We have a plan to stop it. Already last year we were close, then the rain stirred the cards and I had to settle for a fifth place. This time it will be different. I am ambitious, I want to fight for the world title. My brother and my teammate are among the opponents. It’s inevitable".
As for the news that Ferrari will fight with the old cars, Ralf says:
"It was a choice he paid for at the first race. But now we won’t be surprised anymore. They will be competitive but not clearly superior as in Australia. I think we at Williams and McLaren won’t leave the road so easily".
The Sepang circuit is 5,543 meters long and runs clockwise. It is one of the longest tracks in the world, with a track that in some parts is around 25 meters. It is characterized by fifteen sharp curves, five on the left and ten on the right, and two very fast straights connected by a very slow hairpin bend in which, however, you can overtake. The first corner, very narrow, looks like a funnel. After about eleven seconds of straight, in which the drivers push hard, they are forced to climb suddenly from seventh to second gear. The fastest corners on the track are fifth and sixth. Sudden changes of direction put the engines - and in particular the oil systems - under pressure.
The asphalt is smooth and very abrasive with high adhesion. The fuel consumption, according to experts, should be medium, with the engine requiring the opening of the butterfly for 60% of the distance of each lap. The Scuderia Ferrari’s strategy will probably also depend on the result of the practice. A possible victory would allow the team principal of the Maranello team, Jean Todt, and his men to get to the third race of the season, in Brazil, with two opportunities: not to risk and continue with the F2001 to take points or to debut the new F2002, in order to best counter the advance of rivals. But much will depend on the tests that will take place in Barcelona, where Ferrari will produce a considerable effort: two new cars and an old one on the track in direct comparison with three drivers. Meanwhile, Barrichello expresses confidence in himself and in the car:
"It was bad in Melbourne. I haven’t talked to Ralf and I don’t think we need to. I’ll try to stay away from him anyway. I want to get a good result. I know that Michael is on the team and that it will be hard. I would never go to fight with a Sumo wrestler, but on the track I feel strong. I can always think of winning, I do not stop dreaming. If I did, I’d stay home".
About the new F2002, which is looking forward to driving, the Brazilian driver says:
"Everyone tells me it’ll go like a missile. I’ll only need three or four days to learn its secrets. If everything goes well, we will have it available in Brazil, but the decision will be up to Todt and the technicians. We have to give our best with the car we have now, then we’ll see"
Friday, March 15, 2002 begins the weekend of the Malaysian Grand Prix with the holding of free practice. In the morning session both Ferraris were confirmed to be the fastest cars on track. Behind them, though at over 1.5 seconds, Nick Heidfeld’s Sauber.
The second session in the afternoon is more surprising. Kimi Raikkonen, on board McLaren, has the better of the Scuderia Ferrari drivers. David Coulthard, on the other hand, remains stationary along the circuit because during the tests the left bank of his McLaren engine overheats, burning the exhaust and part of the body. The Scottish driver, to return to the pits and recover the car as soon as possible, pushes it by hand, alone, for about a kilometer, under the tropical sun. Terminal rehearsals, Kimi Raikkonen stops to talk to the media, to which he declares:
"I had a lot of gas in the tank, I didn’t do a qualifying lap" .
His words, however, are immediately denied by the team-mate, David Coulthard:
"He and I were in very different conditions".
There remains the undoubted feeling that, a little for the preparation of the single-seater, a little for the recovery of the Michelin tires with the great heat, the McLaren-Mercedes is already in the attack phase. Michael Schumacher’s session was marked by some unforeseen events. First an off-track exit, then a spin caused by the asphalt too slippery. However, the German driver looks rather relaxed.
"Worried about me? No, not at all. I remain optimistic. The only real problem is the choice of tires. We must not go wrong, because they will be decisive. So important that I did not even bother to prepare the set-up of the car, devoting myself instead to the evaluation of the tires. We knew the others would be faster here, but we have to keep in mind that Friday times are relative and no one knows what exactly the other did".
But Michael Schumacher is not the only one facing some setbacks. Rubens Barrichello’s Ferrari V10 engine almost broke. However, it does not appear that F2001 has lost competitiveness. Indeed. The difference from Melbourne is that the type of circuit and the heat require special arrangements to avoid unforeseen events. In the meantime, Williams-Bmw reported driveability problems during testing, but these could be resolved before the race. The other single-seaters remain behind, even if Toyota hints of continuous growth. As is regularly the case on Friday, the free practice session on Saturday 16 March 2022 is divided into two. The first sees, once again, the protagonists of the two Ferraris, followed by less than a second from the McLaren-Mercedes of the Finn Kimi Raikkonen. In the second and final session, Juan Pablo Montoya’s Williams-Bmw set the fastest time, followed by Kimi Raikkonen and team-mate Ralf Schumacher. A few hours later, the qualifying session was very exciting. Michael Schumacher accumulates centimeter by centimeter, cent by cent, until he becomes unreachable. And so, the German driver managed to earn his first pole of the season, the 44th of his career and the 150th of Scuderia Ferrari, recording a lap of 1'35"266, 0.04 seconds from the record of the circuit that belongs to him. His talent is evident, so much so that he is forgiven even a small mistake. But pole is not everything for the driver:
"It’s the pleasure of driving that counts. After all, qualifying is just about getting the race ready. The victory, the first crossing the finish line, getting on the highest step on the podium, shouting all your joy constitute the drive, the emotions that gratify you to the fullest, that allow you to always find new motivations. It is clear that you can not always beat everyone, but when you get past you already think about the next time, when you will try to take revenge".
And to the voices that say that there are no opponents at his height he replies:
"The rivals are there and seem to be several. I think I have supported many challenges in these years, many challenges, won and even lost. First with Damon Hill, then with Villeneuve, against Hakkinen and against Coulthard. I never had the road paved. And if Ferrari is going strong it is because we all worked hard, from the president Montezemolo to Jean Todt, from the technicians to us drivers, to the last of the mechanics who never comes to the races. We have built success, no one has ever given anything".
However, less than a second behind Michael Schumacher, three drivers qualified: Juan Pablo Montoya (+0.231s), Rubens Barrichello (+0.625s) and Ralf Schumacher (+0.762s). The others follow further apart. A ride like only he knows how to do, that has forgiven him even a small mistake, while Juan Pablo Montoya is forced to settle for second place, Rubens Barrichello to reel in not to make a bad impression, and Ralf Schumacher to suffer from envy, not to mention the two McLaren-Mercedes drivers, Kimi Raikkonen and David Coulthard, so far away that only the stunts appear. Woking’s cars pay a gap of more than a second from Schumacher’s pole position. Nick Heidfeld set the seventh fastest time, ahead of Jenson Button, Giancarlo Fisichella and Mika Salo, driving a surprisingly competitive Toyota in the second Grand Prix of its history.
The difficulties of the Jaguar continued, with its drivers relegated to the back row. Schumacher on certain tracks, such as that of Sepang, manages to keep trajectories impossible for others. It is a question of sensitivity, technique and talent mixed in a deadly cocktail. You don’t, Michael, have the lightning-fast approach of an Ayrton Senna, who was a last-minute rage. The German program, works on the car, studies every detail, takes advantage of everything from Ferrari, the tires, the references that occur along the circuit.You might even take advantage of the shadow of a passing cloud if you want to earn something in the performance. The determination, the way to dedicate oneself totally, when it is on the track and outside, with exhausting workouts, every day of the year. When Eddie Irvine parties, when David Coulthard takes one of his beautiful girlfriends for a walk, Michael Schumacher is there struggling, in the gym, in the pool, on the bicycle.
Even on vacation. The only distraction is the family, they are his wife Corinna, the children Gina Maria and Mick, but without interference on the pilot activity. There are few concessions: one or two grappas before the start of the season, a Cuban cigar smoked without breathing, a few excursions in the most extreme sports, from skydiving to bobsleigh. He is not only a robot of the steering wheel: he plays football enthusiastically, listens to music, he even got two tattoos on his arms. For the rest Michael is always ready to do a test, to try to improve himself and the car. A driver of thirty-three years determined to leave an indelible mark in the history of motoring.Sunday 17 March 2002, all drivers will have to pay attention to the first corner, being narrow, since it looks like a funnel, after a long straight. During the briefing held on Friday, March 15, 2002, Racing Director Charlie Whiting recommends with the drivers:
"Don’t do anything stupid, this time we will be inflexible. Who makes a mistake will have to pay".
In the briefing almost all drivers lined up in favor of Ralf Schumacher against Rubens Barrichello, regarding the incident at the start that occurred during the Australian Grand Prix. Unleash especially the usual Jacques Villeneuve, backed by Eddie Irvine and David Coulthard. The only abstention, because the poor Michael Schumacher is involved, having the story as protagonists of his brother and teammate. The German Ferrari driver, after all, must think about defending himself from attacks, even if those brought by McLaren-Mercedes did not upset him that much.
During the Malaysian afternoon of Sunday, March 17, 2002, the drivers prepare on the grid to face the next fifty-five laps of the Malaysian Grand Prix. The temperature is around 40 , C, the asphalt is even higher. In these conditions, riders after a race lose about three or four pounds of weight. Michael Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya are in the front row, followed by their team-mates, Rubens Barrichello and Ralf Schumacher. The third row is occupied by McLaren’s Kimi Raikkonen and David Coulthard. Seventh and eighth positions for Nick Heidfeld and Jenson Button. Giancarlo Fisichella and Mika Salo finished the top ten ahead of Heinz-Harald Frentzen’s Arrows and Jarno Trulli’s Renault. In the seventh row, Jacques Villeneuve and Felipe Massa; in the eighth, Takuma Sato and Enrique Bernoldi, followed by Pedro De La Rosa and Olivier Panis. The grid is closed by Allan mcnish, Eddie Irvine, and the two Minardi drivers, Mark Webber and Alex Yoong. The pole is located on the outside of the main straight, the more rubberized one; therefore, during the warm-up, Juan Pablo Montoya passes several times on the inside, to deposit a little more rubber and have more grip at the time of the start.
When the traffic lights go out, Michael Schumacher shoots well and closes the trajectory of Juan Pablo Montoya, who however has an exceptional cue and struggles to take the first position together with Rubens Barrichello. The German Ferrari driver, however, closes a little too much at the first corner and goes to collide with Juan Pablo Montoya, who is about to overtake him. Michael Schumacher thus loses the spoiler, which ends up under the right front wheel of the Colombian driver’s car. Juan Pablo Montoya continues along the external trajectory of the curve and loses many positions. Rubens Barrichello takes advantage of this situation, led by Ralf Schumacher, who in turn tries to gain ground on the Brazilian driver, Kimi Raikkonen and David Coulthard.
Michael Schumacher continues in fifth place, with the damaged car, while Juan Pablo Montoya tries to recover ground against Felipe Massa. In the meantime, the Ferrari mechanics are getting ready, and the German driver returns to the pits. After a pit stop of 12.5 seconds, Michael Schumacher returned to the track in last position. Meanwhile, during the second lap, at the Pangkor Chicane a contact between Giancarlo Fisichella and Takuma Sato makes the two Jordan-Honda drivers lose the rear wing and the front wing respectively. In the collision, the diffuser of Giancarlo Fisichella’s car remains damaged, but against all odds the mechanics of the Jordan manage to fix the Italian driver’s single-seater, which returns to the track even if separated from the rest of the group, having lost in the meantime four minutes.
As these events unfold, Juan Pablo Montoya is in ninth place, but soon recovers until recovering the sixth position, passing Mika Salo, Jarno Trulli (slowed down by technical problems) and Jenson Button. Further on, Rubens Barrichello, in the first position, brings to 2.735 seconds the advantage that separates him from Ralf Schumacher’s Williams.Michael Schumacher makes a record lap of 1:39.7, but still has a delay of fifteen seconds from Mark Webber, who is in eighteenth place, but above all has more than 43 seconds to recover against Rubens Barrichello, who manages to gain an additional 0.5 seconds over Ralf Schumacher. Michael Schumacher has the free track ahead of him, but Rubens Barrichello and Ralf Schumacher run a separate race, giving a different pace to the race and turning on times of 1'41"0, about a second faster than the drivers who had started from the third row of the grid.
At the same time as Barrichello runs the team-mate, Michael Schumacher (1'40"9), still in nineteenth position, three seconds away from Mark Webber. Meanwhile, at the pits of Williams-Bmw comes an unpleasant communication: the commissioners open an investigation on the maneuver made at the start by Juan Pablo Montoya and, therefore, on the contact with Michael Schumacher.At the moment, the Colombian driver is in seventh place, followed by the Toyota of Mika Salo who is surprising everyone, scoring a time in 1'41"8. Also the other Toyota driver, Allan mcnish, who started nineteenth, is the author of a wonderful comeback. Towards the seventh lap comes the verdict of the commissioners: Juan Pablo Montoya will have to pay the drive-through, in the passage through the pit lane with the limiter inserted.
During the seventh lap Pedro De La Rosa was forced to return to the pits without wing, following a contact that involved him with the French driver Olivier Panis. Back in the pits, the mechanics of the Jaguar team found it difficult to extract the wing of the Spanish driver’s car, which got stuck under the car. After a stop of almost thirty seconds, the pilot is ready to start again.Rubens Barrichello, meanwhile, led Ralf Schumacher to 4.3 seconds ahead of Scuderia Ferrari. The other Ferrari, that of Michael Schumacher, which is in fifteenth position, is also catching up. After a brief pit stop during the eighth lap, Jarno Trulli is forced to retire, as the temperatures of his car are too high, especially that of oil.
"After one lap I lost a lot of power and then all the cars passed me. Too bad, because I made a good start".
Comments, a little bitter, the Italian driver. At the same time the car of Olivier Panis, who had previously had a contact with Pedro De La Rosa, also stopped at the pits. The mechanics drag it off the track. In this case, the French driver’s BAR-Honda is stopped by the clutch malfunction. In the paddock there is a bad mood when Juan Pablo Montoya returns to the pit lane, during the ninth lap, to make the drive through: the Colombian driver of the Williams-Bmw shakes his head. Montoya, however, is not the only one to be regretted: many believe that the penalty is not fair. Back on track following the drive through, the Colombian lost two positions to the advantage of the two Toyota of Mika Salo, in seventh position, and Allan mcnish, in eighth position.
Rubens Barrichello led the Malaysian Grand Prix with 4.9 seconds ahead of Ralf Schumacher during the 12th lap. Kimi Raikkonen, David Coulthard, Nick Heidfeld, Jenson Button follow. Michael Schumacher, in thirteenth position, turns in 1'40"4 and is 0.8 seconds from Jacques Villeneuve. Angry is the response to the penalty suffered by Juan Pablo Montoya, who recorded the best time in 1'38"8. Micheal Schumacher, author of a great comeback after also passing Jacques Villeneuve, has the left side slightly damaged. But, from its performance, this does not seem to have any effect on the behavior of its F2001. The Scuderia Ferrari’s technical choice to start with only two profiles on the upper wing of the rear wing proved to be successful, as it allowed the driver to take advantage of the trail to overtake his opponents. Despite not being studied for this role.
Felipe Massa, who is easily overtaken by the German driver’s Ferrari, is the loser. Michael Schumacher is currently in 11th position, but the Brazilian Arrows driver, Enrique Bernoldi, is already on target. On lap 15, after a first overtaking attempt gone wrong, the German Ferrari driver managed to overtake the Brazilian Arrows driver.But the joy for the tenth place does not last long, because after the Pangkor Chicane Enrique Bernoldi manages to recover the position, taking advantage of the braking close to the Langkawi curve. Michael Schumacher tries to answer, but without success. Obviously the German driver did not give up and shortly after he took advantage of the Arrows' trail, delayed braking at the turn and, without the opponent’s hindrance, succeeded in overtaking. Meanwhile, on lap 15, David Coulthard returned to the pits and retired with the engine not working. It is his second consecutive retirement in the league.
"We had an engine problem. It kept losing power".
The Scottish McLaren-Mercedes driver comments. The race, in the meantime, proceeds smoothly, with the return to the pits, at the same time, of Allan mcnish and Michael Schumacher, to make the refueling. The stop of the German driver lasts about 9 seconds. The Scuderia Ferrari mechanics load 83 liters of petrol, which will be enough to make the next twenty-one laps. This means that the Scuderia Ferrari engineers decided to make a two-stop strategy with the German driver.Meanwhile, Allan mcnish is slower to refuel, so Michael Schumacher manages to gain another position. Soon after, Minardi’s Malaysian driver, Alex Yoong, also made his way to the pits. At the Ferrari box we are getting ready for the arrival of the second single-seater, that of Rubens Barrichello, on which the team decides to make two stops, having supplied 49 liters of gasoline that will serve him to complete twelve laps. When the Brazilian driver left the pits, Kimi Raikkonen managed to take his position away.
Juan Pablo Montoya and Mika Salo also returned to the pits to refuel. The Williams-Bmw team opted for the assembly of a set of used tires, and the Colombian driver returned to the track, managing to stay ahead of the Brazilian driver Felipe Massa for a few meters. On lap 20, Enrique Bernoldi’s Arrows was forced to stop because of a problem at the gas pump. The Brazilian driver was eighth at the time of his retirement. On the way out of the Berjaya hairpin bend, Rubens Barrichello approaches the McLaren-Mercedes of Kimi Raikkonen. Ahead of them, Ralf Schumacher is in first position. It is an important phase for the Brazilian driver of Ferrari, who must be able to overcome the McLaren-Mercedes of the Finnish driver not to remain penalized losing the position in favor of Ralf Schumacher. While Barrichello is engaged in the maneuver, suddenly, during the braking phase, during the 24th lap the Mercedes engine of the Raikkonen single-seater explodes. Both McLarens are down.
According to the opinion of the Finnish driver, there had been no warning signal of a technical failure before the explosion of the German engine. Rubens Barrichello now has the green light, and Jenson Button is currently in third position with his Renault. The performance of the British driver and the French engine, the same used in qualifying in Australia, is excellent. While Rubens Barrichello managed to recover 0.3 seconds over Ralf Schumacher, Mika Salo returned to the pits. Although it remains in the cockpit, technicians place the fans in the vents. Considering also the pit stop made by Felipe Massa, in the meantime Michael Schumacher gained two more positions, scoring even a time of 1:40.2, corresponding to the third fastest time so far recorded in the race. The German driver breaks into the points, in sixth position.
Those who choose the single stop tactic should head to the pits between lap 28 and lap 29. You have to wait two or three more laps to see all the drivers stop and understand how the games will change. Who for sure will not stop for the only stop is the Jaguar of Eddie Irvine, since he returns to the pits with part of the aileron damaged. This is because during overtaking, the trajectory of the Northern Irish driver was closed abruptly by the Malaysian driver of the Minardi, Alex Yoong. In the pits, the mechanics of Jaguar meet many difficulties, given that the Northern Irish driver’s car has also shut down the engine. Eddie Irvine starts from the pits in an angry way, also because already at the end of the warm-up he had already admitted that if he did not see improvements, he would be ready to leave.
During the 29th lap Ralf Schumacher made his last lap in 1'39"1, gaining 0.4 seconds over Rubens Barrichello who was 24.4 seconds behind. Michael Schumacher’s beautiful comeback continues, from the sixth position, he spins in 1'39"8, gaining 1.1 seconds on Nick Heidfeld’s Sauber-Petronas. Meanwhile Ralf Schumacher, next to the pit-stop, records a new record turning in 1'38"369. The German driver must take advantage of having a clear road ahead of him, and to have a lighter car available, to increase the margin that separates him from Rubens Barrichello. The German driver of the Williams-Bmw starts the thirty-first lap, while his mechanics remain inside the box, sitting in front of the monitors. It seems that the Anglo-German car will remain on track for a while.
Mark Webber returns to the pits of Minardi, and Jordan-Honda mechanics are also preparing to welcome Takuma Sato and Giancarlo Fisichella, and Renault mechanics for Jenson Button. Meanwhile, Alex Yoong retired with the second Minardi, due to the malfunction of the gearbox, during the twenty-ninth lap, and Eddie Irvine, due to the malfunction of the electrical system, during the thirtieth lap. Ralf Schumacher finally returned to the pits to change the tires, now very worn, and make the refill of fuel. Rubens Barrichello recovers the first position, but he must make the most of this moment to increase the advantage over the German driver of the Williams-Bmw, since he will surely wait another stop.
The gap between Rubens Barrichello and Ralf Schumacher went from three to five seconds. The Brazilian driver of Ferrari is about to pass Allan mcnish, in turn fighting with Felipe Massa for the seventh place, which however does not make life easy for him. During the dubbing, Rubens Barrichello appears rather annoyed and makes a gesture with his hand. Thirty-fifth round. Twenty laps to the end of this second round of the 2002 season. Ferrari mechanics return from the box, ready to welcome Rubens Barrichello, and take the opportunity to remove some debris from the air intake. Meanwhile, Ralf Schumacher is passing in front of the finish line, recovering the first place. Rubens Barrichello follows him.
Meanwhile, Michael Schumacher chases Nick Heidfeld, overtakes him and takes the fifth position. Now, only 2.9 seconds separate the German Ferrari driver from Jenson Button, who is fourth. During the 34th lap the race was also for the second Minardi, that of the Australian driver Mark Webber. During the 37th lap, Ralf Schumacher had a 24-second lead over Rubens Barrichello, who in turn had a six-second margin over Juan Pablo Montoya. Jenson Button, meanwhile, is being harassed by Michael Schumacher. Nineteen laps from the end, on the main straight , the German Ferrari driver managed to overtake the British driver’s Renault, thus bringing himself to fourth position.Michael Schumacher has a delay of eighteen seconds against Juan Pablo Montoya, but he still faces the second pit stop, if we exclude the start of the race
The Colombian driver, meanwhile, records a new fast lap in 1'38"049 and goes to attack the second position occupied by Rubens Barrichello. Juan Pablo Montoya returned to the pits to pit 7.8 seconds, and returned to the track in fifth place. On lap 39, the Scuderia Ferrari mechanics also left the pits, but not to wait for Michael Schumacher. In fact, Rubens Barrichello returns to the pits passing in the pit lane, and raising the visor of the helmet. Even on the Brazilian driver’s car there were engine problems from the right bank. During Friday’s free practice the Brazilian driver had already broken an engine. Rubens Barrichello is forced to leave the car inside the Scuderia Ferrari box, where Luca Colaianni, the new head of the press office, announces:
"The driver had not reported any problems in particular. Now we will have to see what happened to the car".
Now Michael Schumacher is fighting alone, against the two drivers of the Williams-Bmw team. The German driver returned to the pits to make the second pit stop, along with the Scottish Toyota driver, Allan mcnish. Pedro De La Rosa and Mika Salo are back on track. Ralf Schumacher has a 48-second lead over Jenson Button, who is being chased by Juan Pablo Montoya. On lap 42, the two are in full battle, so Michael Schumacher could take advantage of this possible slowdown to recover ground on his opponents. With eleven laps to go, Juan Pablo Montoya showed up and took advantage of Jenson Button’s Renault to attack his rival at Pangkor Chicane.
Jenson Button conceded the inside to the Colombian driver of Williams-Bmw, to avoid contact, but managed to keep the position. But on the next corner, the Langkawi, Juan Pablo Montoya has the upper hand over the British driver. The two Williams-Bmw cars are now leading the Malaysian Grand Prix. During the 47th lap both Sauber-Petronas of Nick Heidfeld and Felipe Massa were fifth and sixth respectively. Currently, only thirteen drivers remain in the race, although Giancarlo Fisichella and Mika Salo are three laps behind, and Pedro De La Rosa and Takuma Sato two laps behind race leader Ralf Schumacher. The German driver of the Williams-Bmw can rest assured, he has a wide margin from his teammate. Michael Schumacher was 16.2 seconds behind Jenson Button. The German Ferrari driver earns a few tenths of a second per lap, so it seems difficult that he can recover in just five laps the British Renault driver.
Michael Schumacher, however, is the author of a wonderful comeback, going from being 21st - after the contact with Montoya - to fourth. The final lap begins. The Williams team is about to score the 31st brace in its history. The two drivers of the British team, Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya, cross the finish line in first and second place. Meanwhile, surprisingly, Michael Schumacher is very close to Jenson Button. The Englishman slows down in the last corners, because his car has a technical problem. Michael Schumacher takes advantage and overtakes him, going to cross the finish line in third. Jenson Button followed with his Renault, which finished the race in fourth place, and the two Sauber-Petronas driven by Nick Heidfeld and Felipe Massa.
The doubts of the eve were well founded. The pole position won by Michael Schumacher, with minimal gaps, had made it clear that Williams-Bmw would be a fierce competitor in the race. The German driver at Scuderia Ferrari said he was optimistic and confident, but he couldn’t even count on the fact that he would experience the race from the back and not from the top. And, once the World Champion was out, Ferrari defended itself well with Rubens Barrichello, at least until the Brazilian’s car engine broke down. Nothing to do, in any case, with Ralf Schumacher, who had two goals to achieve: win and above all beat team-mate Juan Pablo Montoya, the most uncomfortable you can have.
After all, the Colombian, tangling with Michael Schumacher at the start of the race, has done a double favor to his teammate, making his life easier with the two main opponents forced to a hard recovery. If Bridgestone had given competitiveness to the old F2001 in Australia, in Malaysia Michelin would have given additional strength to the cars of the Anglo-German team. Frank Williams, Patrick Head and Gerhard Berger had studied a double tactic: sending Montoya to the attack, who was in the front row of the grid with a two-stop strategy and playing at a distance with Ralf Schumacher, One stop to change tyres and refuel the vehicle.
Failed, in a sense the first, the second strategy came out well. Ralf Schumacher, fast and regular, first chased Rubens Barrichello through the lead, then hunted him down and then passed, as the Brazilian would have to stop twice. Without the slightest problem against the two McLaren-Mercedes, immediately slower and still out of the race after a few laps with broken engines. So Williams scored a great double, which Growe’s team had not been able to achieve since the 1996 Portuguese Grand Prix, under Jacques Villeneuve and Damon Hill. Four wins last year. One in two at the start of the season. But above all three cars in points against only two of Ferrari, which now chases with eight lengths of lead in the Constructors' classification.
The Maranello team, however, in an unhappy day, managed to save a series of prestigious placings. From 37 races in fact, Ferrari had always arrived with at least one car on the podium. It seemed that the record was about to break because on the penultimate lap Michael Schumacher was still fourth with a handful of seconds behind Jenson Button’s Renault. A mechanical failure, however, slowed down the dismayed English driver and a few corners from the end the German driver of Scuderia Ferrari grabbed a miraculous third place that allowed him to climb to 38. A little satisfaction, but it’s not enough. The result of Sepang sounds like an alarm for Scuderia Ferrari. It would be stupid and wrong to talk about crisis, but it is clear that this Williams-Bmw is really dangerous, to be feared, in all respect. As a team, for the couple of drivers, for the engine and the means available.
And without forgetting that the next race, in Brazil, could give a further boost to the team of Juan Pablo Montoya and Ralf Schumacher: last year in Interlagos David Coulthard won with McLaren-Mercedes, but Montoya remained in the lead of the race for thirty-eight laps, before being hit by the reckless Jos Verstappen. The challenge starts with the tires - it’s not new - to have a decisive weight on the balance on the track. It is difficult to make predictions, because in Formula 1 everything changes quickly, but Ferrari must block the escape attempt that the current opponent is putting in place. The rush is a bad advice, the new car will not be used in the San Paolo track if reliability is not assured. But further delays could favor the attack plans of Williams, which has now taken the role of main antagonist. At the conclusion of the podium celebrations, during the press conference Ralf Schumacher comments on his victory, saying:
"The team did a fantastic job, throughout the race we did very well, especially after the second pit stop. It was really an easy game. I still can’t believe how fast the car was today. Thanks again to the team".
The German Williams-Bmw driver also states that he was partly lucky with the accident between his brother and teammate and that, looking at Saturday’s practice, he would not have expected to win, as he was six tenths slower than Juan Pablo Montoya. On the one-stop strategy, however, he says:
"It was rather difficult to drive the heavy car, with the petrol load in the very first few laps. But when a car is so well balanced it is even a pleasure to suffer a little. I had tried the two stops tactic several times in the past, but I didn’t like it. My idea was to have a race on the rhythm. If there are no particular obstacles and your direct opponent is not much faster than you, you can always win this way. It was a good move, I’m happy and satisfied. I’ve been waiting a long time for this moment, in Melbourne I was frustrated and disappointed. In Australia I said we weren’t worried. Often at the beginning of the season we didn’t start well, it happened also in 2001.But we knew the situation could change quickly. The car is fine, it works in the right way with aerodynamics and the engine pushes hard. If you put together the whole package, with Michelin tires, you realize that in the end it is not a big surprise to be the best".
Is there any need to think about a season as protagonists to aim for the World Cup? And the next race in Brazil to whom will be more favorable?
"Last year at Interlagos we were better than the Ferraris. And Juan Pablo was unlucky. So I’m optimistic. I can aim to at least get on the podium and make life difficult for Michael and Rubens".
The double of Williams-Bmw made, however, particularly happy a person, that is the manager of the German company, the former Ferrari driver Gerhard Berger.
"The accident? A normal story. I don’t care. The two different strategies of Montoya and Ralf Schumacher? It was a good idea. What counts is this result, a fantastic result. That we hope to repeat several times in this championship. Allowing opponents, of course".
If someone thought that Michael Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya, once they got out of the cockpit of their car, would be beaten, they are wrong. The two maintained a glacial detachment. The Colombian went to congratulate Ralf Schumacher and so did Michael. Among the protagonists of the accident not even a glance. Although Juan Pablo, he had menacingly shaken a hand immediately after the collision and again when he knew he had been penalized. During the press conference, Montoya answered the journalists' question about the incident:
"I saw that Michael was coming from the right. I gave him enough space, he touched me and ended the story. There is little to say. I was a bit angry with him. I was frustrated because the car was going really well. But I think in the end the strategy worked".
About the penalty, however, states:
"I think it’s very unfair, because I gave him space, he approached me and touched me. It’s a race accident, of course. Immediately afterwards I had to run a bit extreme and this penalized us in the end. But I don’t dramatize. On the contrary. The result is fine. I’m very close to Schumacher, Ralf is behind and Williams leads the constructors' championship. In addition, we showed Ferrari what our potential is".
Michael Schumacher’s answer comes soon after, when he is given the floor.
"If he had moved a little bit more we wouldn’t have touched each other. He didn’t do it so there was no room for me. It was a shame. I lost the first position and a lot of time at the pit stop. However, I have to say it was an exciting race".
Calm statements, each maintaining its own point of view, and serene explanations. Both agree on the definition of a race accident, and the German Ferrari driver even claims that the punishment inflicted on the rival was excessive:
"Honestly, I think Juan Pablo was treated a little too harshly. We have seen much more extreme situations in the past where no action has been taken. Today there was a little touch, something quite normal".
But behind the pits, at least on the part of the Williams driver, it feeds the fire of anger. Talking to his mechanic, Juan Pablo Montoya lets himself go, and says:
"I had to drive him because he drives the fucking red car? To hell with him".
And then he adds:
"We are not here to travel like snails behind the Safety Car".
A real resentment, with the obvious thought that the responsibility for the accident that happened at the first corner of the Malaysian Grand Prix is entirely of the World Champion in charge. Yet, the sports stewards were clear. It reads in the judgment:
"After receiving the report of the race director - Charlie Whiting, ed. - according to which the driver of car No. 6, Juan Pablo Montoya, was involved in a collision with the car No. 1 of Michael Schumacher, the commissioners decide to impose a drive-through on the Colombian for causing an avoidable accident".
This is the first time this punishment has been imposed: drive-through, which means driving through the pits, of course. And Montoya had to go back and run the whole pit-line at the maximum speed of 80 km/h, which took him 24 seconds. Less serious, however, than the classic Stop and Go stop with ten seconds. Yet, Juan Pablo Montoya disagrees:
"It was not a correct decision. At the start Schumacher wanted to move, as was his right, to the right. I was able to flank him on the outside. His car obviously went into oversteer and moved towards mine. He hit me, Michael confirmed it too. I had given him space but he couldn’t hold the line".
In truth, the German driver of Ferrari was already moved on the curb of the curve and when he found the Williams-Bmw of the Colombian driver next door he could not do anything because the collision was inevitable. However, Michael Schumacher explains to the media:
"Everyone has their own opinion. They all saw the television images. I had taken the narrow curve and could no longer avoid contact. I couldn’t brake or change the line, it closed me too much. It was impossible to react differently. He didn’t give up, that’s what happened. Anyway, there was no malice, it was a race accident. The rules allow me to make a shift when I’m in the lead. Mine was a maneuver if we want hard, but I respected the rules".
If the trouble of the first corner hadn’t happened, with a two-stop strategy, would a victory have been possible?
"We could have won, even with the two stops. I don’t know exactly how much I lost to replace the front of the car. In the end I was lucky, I didn’t expect to finish third. Renault gave us a gift, even if I feel sorry for Button. I had a lot of fun. Every now and then you win and you’re not satisfied. This has been a day that I will remember for quite a while. Many battles. Nobody gave me any problems, they were all corrected, only with Bemoldi I had to make a double overtaking, but it was for my mistake.In Australia the opposite had happened, we had dominated. It will happen often: once we and one of them. It will be a difficult season, but they all are. The F2002? When it is ready Feirari will send it on track. Not before, it would be a mistake".
The German Ferrari driver is convinced that, if it wasn’t for the accident, they could have won. Embittered, Ferrari driver Rubens Barrichello confesses:
"It’s a shame not to be there. I would not have won, because Michelin was stronger today, but I did everything I had to do and today was a podium".
From Tuesday 19 March 20002 Rubens Barrichello and Luca Badoer (joined by Michael Schumacher on Thursday) will be on track in Barcelona for an important series of comparative tests between F2001 and F2002. The new car will not be used on the São Paulo track unless reliability is assured. But further delays could favor the attack plans of the Williams-Bmw, which has now taken on the role of main antagonist. Compared to the beginning of last season, when the Scuderia Ferrari achieved two successes in the first two races, the situation is almost reversed. But, says the team principal of the Maranello team, Jean Todt:
"We must not let ourselves be overwhelmed by emotions".
This means that Ferrari will not take excessive risks to debut the new F2002:
"We will do comparative tests with the F2001, and only if we have a reasonable certainty on the reliability of this year’s car will we try to bring it to Brazil. We are convinced that it is faster than the previous model, but we proceed calmly. We were not taken by surprise. We knew that the competition was strong, that they would replicate our success in Melbourne. However, it was not just a matter of tires, always important and decisive. Some environmental conditions, the complete package, car, tuning, strategy. According to calculations, our two pit stop tactic was the best option. And we don’t know if he would have had any luck if there had not been a collision between Michael and Montoya in the first corner. The two drivers have given their versions, we respect them, as we respect the decision of the commissioners to penalize the Colombian. The facts remain: fortunately the world champion remained at the top of the standings, albeit with narrow margins, and in the Constructors' championship we found ourselves chasing. So Williams was better than us. Of course I can’t be satisfied with the result. The only one who can be is Frank Williams".
Speaking of strategy, Todt confirms that for the type of car, the choice of the two stops was the best for Ferrari, even if you can not have certain confirmation, since the accident and technical failure have jeopardized the race.
"To recover, Ferrari will do what it has always done. It will do its best. This is not the first time we have to chase. We still had a small lead last Saturday in qualifying, we lost it in the race. However, there is no guarantee that the situation in Interlagos will not change again. In addition, it should be considered that, despite the problems encountered, I always consider McLaren a rival to be feared and I see Renault growing rapidly".
After the race, Renault team principal Flavio Briatore commented on the sudden slowdown of the French car:
"I think it was a car problem and not an engine problem. A bit of bad luck, but in the end we gained points and that’s fine. The car was competitive so we are happy".
Going back to what happened at the start of the Malaysian Grand Prix, Juan Pablo Montoya adds:
"It is clear that I am sorry. I wonder what they should have done to other pilots in much more serious cases. But do not dramatize. Indeed. The result is fine for me. I am very close to Schumacher, Ralf is behind and Williams leads the constructors' championship. In addition, we showed Ferrari what our potential is".
One thing is certain, however. Among the pilots of recent generations, Montoya is the one who has impressed the most. He brought to Formula 1 something that had not been seen for some time: courage and determination, along with the show. From him there is always something special to expect. He still lacks two things: continuity and physical preparation. Although he plays various sports for pleasure, Juan Pablo is mostly a flying animal. So much so that Patrick Head, technical director of Williams does not spare him certain criticisms:
"If he was a little less fat and in better shape, no one would ever beat him. Instead we can not convince him to get busy".
In fact, the 26-year-old from Bogota has for the four wheels a visceral love, equal only to what he feels for his girlfriend Connie. At the age of 5, in 1980, Montoya already debuted on karts and in 1984 he won the national children’s championship. Ten years after the debut of the first of the two World Championships of the specialty. And since then an endless series of successes, passing through the various categories. Among the most important titles won, that of F.3000, the American Cart Championship (together with the 500 Indianapolis Miles). In the past season the debut in Formula 1, strongly wanted by Frank Williams who did not hesitate to drive away the promising Englishman Jenson Button, with a single victory, important, but in the Italian Grand Prix at Monza.
"There is no relationship with Ralf. We have nothing to say to each other, we are different. The only thing we have in common is that we have to work together to make Williams progress. And Michael is an opponent like any other. I don’t see why I should be awestruck by her. I had to learn a lot in 2001. I didn’t know any circuits and the team didn’t have the right chemistry yet. Now I’m safer and faster. Two Schumachers are not enough to stop me".
So far, Juan Pablo Montoya has always confirmed words with deeds. His overtaking of the World Champion is an icon in the Formula 1 of the last two years, even if the Colombian had to suffer some from the German driver.
"And there will be others. The challenge continues. I’m waiting for them at Interlagos, a track that I really like and that suits me and my car. They won once each, it’s time for the third wheel".
Bridgestone tyres will be one of the most delicate factors of the championship. Because if there will be a superiority of the cars that mount Michelin tires, Ferrari will risk being in front in qualifying and perhaps even in a race from four to six cars (Williams-Bmw, McLaren-Mercedes and Renault). A challenge that, in this case, must be faced alone, because the Sauber-Petronas is able, at the moment, to fight only for the positions of relief.On the side of the Italian team, however, there are two important unknowns: the internal rivalry between Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya and a latent crisis between McLaren and Mercedes. The two drivers of Williams-Bwm will certainly not help, at least in the race, while tensions begin to emerge in the Anglo-German team. It seems that McLaren team principal Ron Dennis, in the days leading up to the Malaysian race, has blamed the performance of the engines produced by the Stuttgart-based company for most of the problems encountered so far, including since 2001.
Not so much because of the two breakups recorded at Sepang, but because of the not exceptional potential of the Mercedes V10. But Ferrari must rely above all on itself and its drivers. On this front especially Michael Schumacher, author in Malaysia of an extraordinary pursuit, remains a security. In short, it all starts from the beginning. Everything seemed easy for Ferrari, after the debut victory in Australia. At a distance, Schumacher is hunted in the standings not by a single opponent, but by the pair of Williams-Bmw, with Juan Pablo Montoya at 2 points and Ralf Schumacher at four lengths, while Rubens Barrichello, twice out of the race, is at zero. Compared to the beginning of last season, when the team of Maranello obtained in the first two races two successes, a second and a third place, the situation is almost reversed.