#683 2002 Brazilian Grand Prix

2021-08-09 00:00

Array() no author 82025

#2002, Fulvio Conti, Translated by Monica Bessi,

#683 2002 Brazilian Grand Prix

After the unpleasant accident at the start and the consequent punishment imposed on him by the sports commissioners in Malaysia, the Colombian William


After the unpleasant accident at the start and the consequent punishment imposed on him by the sports commissioners in Malaysia, the Colombian Williams driver, Juan Pablo Montoya, says he is sorry. However, the results are good for him.


"It's clear that I'm sorry. I wonder what they should have done to other drivers in much more serious cases. But I don't overreact. The result suits me. I'm very close to Schumacher, Ralf is behind and Williams leads the constructors' standings. In addition, we showed Ferrari what our potential is".


What the driver doesn't lack are courage and determination. He must work on continuity and physical preparation. Despite practising several sports for pleasure, Williams's technical director, Patrick Head, does not spare him certain criticism:


"If he were a little less fat and fitter, no one would ever beat him. Instead, we can't convince him to get busy".


As a matter of fact, the 26-year-old driver born in Bogota has an inside love for four wheels. In 1980, at the age of five, Montoya already made his debut on karts and in 1984 won the national children's championship. Ten years after the debut: the first of the two World Cups of the speciality. And since then an endless series of successes, passing through the various categories. Among the most important titles won, that of F3000, the American Cart championship (together with the Indy 500). Last season, then, the debut in Formula 1, strongly desired by Frank Williams who did not hesitate to push away the promising Englishman Jenson Button, with a single victory in the Italian Grand Prix at Monza.


"There are no relationships with Ralf. We have nothing to say to each other, we are different. The only thing that unites us is the fact that we have to work together to advance Williams. And Michael is an opponent like the others. I don't see why I should have to fear him. In 2001 I had to learn a lot. I didn't know some circuits and there wasn't the right harmony with the team yet. I'm safer and faster now. Two Schumachers are not enough to stop me".


The fight with the Schumacher brothers now continues in Brazil:


"I'm waiting for them at Interlagos, a track that I like and that suits me and my car. They won once each, it's time for the third inconvenience to come".


On the eve of the debut of the F2002 at the Brazilian Grand Prix, Michael Schumacher says he is excited and enthusiastic:


"Beautiful and fast: here's my Ferrari".


The driver had already seen the car on the night between Tuesday 5 and Wednesday 6, February, 2002, a few hours before the official presentation in Ferrari's Nuova Meccanica department, in Maranello. Accompanied by Jean Todt and Nicolas Todt, the son of the director of the Ges, around 11:00 p.m. the German driver had entered the secret area of the Ferrari racing department, where the car was hidden by the classic red tarpaulin. His impressions had been immediately positive, since the first test, carried out in Fiorano four days after the presentation.


"Designing a car is not my job. We have specialists who take care of it. But when one looks at the steering wheel, for example, he sees my list of gifts. I had also presented other rumours to Santa Claus: two seconds less per lap and at least 50 more horsepower in the engine. Jokes aside: the car is fantastic, but I have no credit in this regard".


Although the car is very different aerodynamically from the last ones, it has not undergone revolutionary changes from the driver's point of view, except for the gearbox. Everything was tested for a long time and then approved. Beautiful, slender, fast: these are the adjectives looking at the car and evaluating its chronometric results.


"I realised it at first glance. With this car, we took a big step forward. It was seen right away. I knew the data from the wind tunnel and some components, but before that night I couldn't observe the complete car. I never thought you could build a Formula 1 car with such a low centre of gravity. Our aerodynamics have also taken an aggressive approach. That's right, everything makes sense, each solution is a consequence of the other. As far as I can tell, it's one of the most beautiful Ferraris of all time. I'm convinced that he's also a winner, but we'll only see this at the time of the race".


The new single-seater produced in Maranello is equipped with a rear train leaner compared to the F2001. Under the dome is the new engine 051. Compared to last year's engine, about 50 horsepower have been added, capable of giving two seconds per lap:


"They almost satisfied me. From the first tests, the results were really exciting".


The most extreme element of the car lies in the gearbox:


"We are particularly proud of our change. It's perhaps the most extreme news about the car. It changes gears even faster and is at the same time smaller and lighter. I always have seven gears plus reversing".


The single-seater is 4,495 metres long, 1,796 metres wide and 95.9 centimetres high. According to the regulation, it must weigh at least 600 kilos for the driver sitting in the passenger compartment. The car is fairly lighter to allow mechanics to arrange better balance, depending on the characteristics of the circuits. This improves road holding. As Michael Schumacher argued:


"The air intakes are one of the main secrets for the better functioning of a racing car. The necessary flow to cool the engine must pass through it".


The sidepods of the F2002 are higher and wider on the front and become slender towards the back, forming a kind of funnel. This shape has been studied in the wind tunnel and has aerodynamic advantages. With the increased area on the front, the car can achieve the optimisation of its needs. As for the exhausts of the engine, on the other hand, the solution that sees them still located at the top of the bodywork has been maintained, even if with a different shape.


"This is an innovation studied by Ferrari that practically all Formula 1 teams have adopted in recent times. The small side appendages that look like shark fins are new. Our aerodynamics had a special idea. The hot air emitted by the exhausts must be pushed perfectly towards the rear wing".


Ferrari decided last year to continue the collaboration with Bridgestone for the tyres. This was an advantage in Australia, but in Malaysia, the response of rivals wasn’t long in coming.


"Tyres are a very important factor. With the right tyres, you can earn a lot. Ferrari made a choice and I agree with them, we continue to trust the Japanese. We have been very successful together with Bridgestone in recent years. We know each other and develop new and better compound mixtures together. Williams-BMW and now McLaren also use Michelins. It will be a very interesting challenge".


Incredibly suitable for aerodynamics is also the nose, the front of the car. It distributes the air differently above or under the car. The wings are the result of special studies and are covered after each outing on the track.


"Our mechanics spend countless days in the wind tunnel to find the best solutions. There is a new wing for each circuit. What you saw in the tests will probably not be the same as that used in Brazil. Every time we try to bring something special".


Full of buttons and levers, the steering wheel of the F2002 contains all the adjustments that a driver can make during practice and the race. Among all these changes, it could not miss an improvement in the cockpit.


"To be honest, it takes some time to get used to the news. If someone thinks that the driver is sitting inside the car as in a normal car, he is wrong. I'm practically lying down, almost horizontal. In the F2002 even more than before. I think even a normal driver feels the difference when he arranges the seat of his car. Suddenly the driving sensation is completely different. I like this, the connection with the road has become even more direct".


On Monday, March 25, 2002, thirty-three cars - one for each driver and one in reserve for each team - are already in the pits of the Interlagos circuit. Only the Ferrari F2002 is missing, the one with which Michael Schumacher will face his opponents in the Brazilian Grand Prix on Sunday, March 31, 2002. The German driver will have a spare F2001 at his disposal, while Rubens Barrichello, for the home race, will have two examples of the old model with the latest upgrades. This is a remarkable commitment for Scuderia Ferrari, which will have to manage the two different single-seaters, with their different gearboxes and adjustments. The choice to debut the F2002 was necessary after seeing that in Malaysia Williams-BMW had already improved its performance, enough to become a winner. The focus is particularly on tyres: in the heat of Sepang, Michelin had offered undoubted advantages and Bridgestone ran for cover. In Brazil, it will present a new type of tyre suitable for the heat and the type of abrasive asphalt of the Brazilian track. Being in front of Michael Schumacher with a faster and better car - in theory - than the one used so far does not seem to have disassembled the ambitions of Montoya, who expects himself to be the most likely candidate to climb the top step of the podium at the end of the third race of the world championship.


"Last year with the strategy of a single pit stop, after just over thirty laps I had more than half a minute ahead of Coulthard and Schumacher was even further away, third, with the obligation to make a second pit stop. Unfortunately, it went wrong with the incredible collision I had suffered from Verstappen's Arrows. However, I considered myself the moral winner. I like the circuit and I'll have the cheering of all South Americans".


Montoya goes even further:


"Michael keeps on saying that his brother Ralf must be considered his most accredited rival in the title challenge. It's clear that if I were in his place I would say the same things. But I want to remind him that I'm second in the standings, just two points behind him. So I don't accept his considerations. I want to let him know that I'm the strongest competitor at the moment".


The Colombian driver, in great shape, prepares for the challenge. Ralf Schumacher, on the other hand, comes to Brazil in a different mood after having to pay a 10.000-euro fine for causing - months ago - an accident on a highway near Cologne. As for Eddie Irvine, the Irishman won a case against a radio station that had improperly used his image for publicity, with a rigged photograph. The court awarded him compensation of about 8,000 euros, but the driver refused the reward. Therefore, the judge ordered him to pay his own legal fees: nearly 600.000 euros. Meanwhile, the radio station was allowed to appeal the ruling. 


The Interlagos circuit, 850 metres above sea level, runs counterclockwise; the asphalt is undulating and abrasive, and there are many ups and downs. Last year, Michael Schumacher was overtaken on the track by Juan Pablo Montoya and finished behind David Coulthard. This year there are new unknowns, the biggest of all being the new F2002. A difficult debut, precisely because of the characteristics of the circuit, so much so that a further twist cannot be ruled out: the F2002 on the track in qualifying, to give the reigning world champion a better chance of taking pole position, and the F2001 in the race. The Maranello team can afford this option because, unlike the other teams that use new single-seaters, it takes advantage of the data collected last year with the F2001. Free practice on Friday and Saturday morning will be decisive. Juan Pablo Montoya does not give too much thought to the F2002's debut.


"It will be a challenge, but mostly for them. For now neither we nor them really know what it is worth. We don't have to worry about others, we just have to give our best and collect results. By now, since last year everyone has realised that the air has changed, that Michael can no longer master it as before".


The Colombian driver says he is radically thwarted by the new rule that punishes the driver considered guilty with ten positions in the next Grand Prix.


"If one committed an irregularity, he would have to pay for it in the race itself. And then there is always the question of the measure of judgement. In Malaysia, for example, it wasn't my fault: now, should I be ten positions down on the starting grid in Brazil?"


Weather conditions will also be unknown. São Paulo is located on the Tropic of Capricorn, characterised by a warm humid climate alternating with showers of rain. The tyres will be decisive: the Bridgestones supplied to Ferrari were superior in Australia, and the Michelins (of Williams and McLaren) in Malaysia. The two companies play the decisive challenge in Brazil. Michelin announced two new types of tyres, the result of tests carried out last week in Barcelona and different from the previous ones. On Friday, March 29, 2002, during the first free practice, all the eyes of the insiders are focussed on the box of Scuderia Ferrari. The Maranello team organised itself best for this debut: one special team will follow the German and his car, and another will dedicate itself to Rubens Barrichello and his F2001. Based on the results, it will be decided whether to continue with the same system on Saturday, even considering that in qualifying the regulation will allow you to switch from one car to another and therefore Schumacher, if necessary, will also be able to race with last year's updated model. The use of the F2002 also marks the possibility of exploiting the new two-way telemetry system allowed by the regulations from the beginning of the season. An important turning point. While in the past the adjustments could only be made by the driver on the track or by the technicians in the pits, now it will be possible to intervene remotely, while the car runs along the circuit. The information, transmitted via radio, starts from the car and appears on the computers of the technicians at the pit wall. If they intend to change something, they can do it by sending a series of impulses directed to the car. At the moment there are about fifty parameters taken into consideration and concern all the functions of the engine, the gearbox, the clutch and the differential. There is no shortage of risks, which is why Ferrari and now almost all the other teams that use the new system proceed with caution and could limit or suspend its use. One of the negative factors may be an imperfect radio reception. Moreover, there would be - in theory - the possibility of being hit by computer hackers who manipulate information. However, the broadcasts are encrypted and for now, the only real danger would be a sudden block of telemetry that would affect all the teams. Electronics is one of the key topics this weekend. For the rest, the eve passes with the usual declarations and clarifications. Ralf Schumacher says he is very confident:


"Williams was already more than competitive here in 2001. The current car has improved in all sectors: aerodynamics, mechanics, engine, and tyres. So let's aim for victory. There are no stories, old or new Ferraris".


Rubens Barrichello, on the other hand, found himself in the usual Brazilian chatter. A newspaper in São Paulo wrote that at the end of the season he will leave Ferrari because he is not happy. But the Brazilian driver clarifies, saying that these are:


"Subjective interpretations expanded by the media. I'm really fine in this team and with everyone. Of course, I would have liked to have the F2002 right away, they explained to me that there is only one for Michael. I'm convinced that the F2001 will still be up to par. In the first two races I was unlucky, I hope to have a better one. This race for me is the most awaited of the championship. We will run in the circuit where I was born as a driver".


Michael Schumacher defends his teammate:


"We work well together, there are no problems between us. Why do I have the F2002 and he doesn't? We only had one ready and we hope it's faster than the cars of our rivals, who were very strong in Malaysia".


Scuderia Ferrari's principal team, Jean Todt, also expresses himself in the story:


"It's not true that Ferrari doesn't consider Barrichello for the future. They're premature speeches".


As the drivers prepare for battle, their team managers and technical directors are still in shock for Thursday morning's adventurous landing. Britain's Boeing 777, with Flavio Briatore, Ron Dennis, Adrian Newey and Ferrari's technical manager, Ross Brawn, comes along the runway at Guarulhos airport, wrapped in a haze. The pilot at fifty metres above sea level raises the aircraft increasing the power of the engines to the maximum and lands in the old Campinas aerodrome, a hundred kilometres ahead. After the fear of what happened, Friday, March 29, 2002, is the day of McLaren-Mercedes, which during free practice turn out to be the fastest car, just like in Malaysia, with David Coulthard who after two hours of testing sets the fastest time. But the weekend is still long and free practice has always reserved surprises and can hide small artifices. It’s not known, for example, who put little fuel in the tank, who pushed to the levels of qualification and who, instead, sought adjustments only for Sunday's race. The final ranking would not be explained otherwise. Behind the Scottish driver follows the stubborn Juan Pablo Montoya, who sports a helmet with new colours. The Colombian driver, in turn, precedes Allan McNish and his Toyota, while his teammate Mika Salo is only fifteenth. Fourth and fifth for Ralf and Michael Schumacher, followed by Kimi Raikkonen and Rubens Barrichello. It's difficult to accurately evaluate the debut of the Ferrari F2002, fifth, 0.5 seconds behind the leader, with Rubens Barrichello driving the old F2001 seventh, just 0.3 seconds behind the reigning German driver world champion. If this were to be the difference between the two Maranello single-seaters, also considering the normal gaps between the Scuderia Ferrari drivers, the response could be disturbing. Nevertheless, there are plausible explanations. F2002 had never travelled on this Brazilian track. Michael Schumacher and his technicians, therefore, had to work, more than on the search for timing, on adjustments and set-ups of the car. The most important problem to solve is that of the third sector of the circuit, where the German driver is slower than his direct competitors. It also seems that given the high temperature (up to 32 °C environmental and 45 °C on the asphalt) Michelin tyres once again have a slight advantage. If David Coulthard did a bit of practice to be in front of everyone, as well as Allan McNish, the timing of Williams-BMW seems realistic, which did not have the slightest problem, apart from a puncture remedied by Juan Pablo Montoya in the first minutes of the morning. In any case, the best time of the McLaren-Mercedes driver - 1'7"075, lapping at an average of 206.625 km/h - is still quite far from what had allowed Michael Schumacher to take pole position last year (1'13"780).


"I'm quite satisfied".


Admits Michael Schumacher, who then goes on to say:


"We didn't have the slightest technical problem and this is already important. Then I worked only for the race and on the set-up. It is clear that we still have to understand well how to fine-tune, especially in the central sector of the track. I'm also happy with the new asphalt escape routes, made to improve safety. I got off the track and if there had still been the lawn I would have damaged the car against the barriers. It wouldn't be right to give a definitive judgement on F2002 now, luckily we didn't have negative surprises".


Rubens Barrichello, after piercing a tyre, ended up off the track on the third lap due to the incorrect adjustment of the traction control:


"Unfortunately, I lost almost an hour of testing, but things don't seem to go wrong overall. I'm sure we'll be in the front rows tomorrow at the start".


This certainty also pervades Juan Pablo Montoya and Ralf Schumacher, very happy with the behaviour of their Williams-BMW and the tyres available. The challenge for taking pole position in qualifying is likely a matter between the team led by Gerhard Berger and Scuderia Ferrari, while McLaren-Mercedes could fall back in the classification even if it has slightly changed the aerodynamics to be faster. On Saturday, March 30, 2002, the drivers take part in the qualifying session that is held during the afternoon to win the best place on the starting grid. Each driver is allowed to cover a maximum of twelve laps. With high temperatures, Michelin tyres prevail over Bridgestone tyres, so much so that out of the top ten finishers at the end of the qualifying session seven are driving cars equipped by the French tyre manufacturer. That's how Juan Pablo Montoya manages to earn his first pole of the season with a time of 1'13"114, 0.127 seconds faster than Michael Schumacher's F2002. Rubens Barrichello is only eighth, after being penalised for starting with the red light during free practice in the morning, as happened in Takuma Sato.


The dominant reason for the race still concerns the tyres. Ralf Schumacher qualifies in third position and is therefore happy with the set-up of the car. David Coulthard is less satisfied with the performance of his McLaren-Mercedes. The quartet is followed by Kimi Raikkonen and the Renaults of Jarno Trulli and Jenson Button. Michael Schumacher's main enemy, therefore, is confirmed to be Juan Pablo Montoya, who does not hide the intention of making a double blow by beating the German brothers. There was, as far as the timed laps are concerned, that situation feared before the start of the championship. Although having the best car and the fastest driver, Ferrari is behind those who use tyres from the French manufacturer. But the final result, almost certainly, will be determined by the race tactics and the reliability of the single-seaters. While the McLaren-Mercedes still seem to have some problems, crowned by that of Kimi Raikkonen's hydraulic system during Friday's free practice, the Williams-BMW proved to be super competitive.


Last year, Juan Pablo Montoya and Ralf Schumacher were able to adopt a tactic related to a single pit stop. Success was missing only because they were involved in two incidents, the German with Rubens Barrichello and the Colombian because they were buffered by Jos Verstappen's Arrows while he was in the lead with a great advantage. Also this year, Ferrari will be forced to make two pit stops, with the hope of being able to count on a lighter car. The goal, however, is to collect as many points as possible, also counting on the recovery of Rubens Barrichello. Sunday, March 31, 2002, will be a special day regarding the starting phase of the Brazilian Grand Prix, as well as future starts, thanks to the introduction of the new rule of the sports code that will allow the race direction to penalise drivers considered guilty of incorrect manoeuvres. Three different orders of measures can be decided by the commissioners, two during the race and one in the next. The offence deemed slight will be punished with drive-through, that is, with an obligatory passage from the pits, non-stop. Stop and Go is more severe, with ten seconds of the stop. Finally, after the race, if responsibility is ascertained, the opponent found guilty will suffer a retreat of ten positions in the next Grand Prix, compared to the position obtained in qualifying. 


A necessary stance to avoid excesses, especially at the start. On Sunday, March 31, 2002, a few minutes before the end of the warm-up, Enrique Bernoldi is the victim of an accident near the Seine curve. The Brazilian driver, fortunately, remains unharmed. The medical car is involved in the investigations, but when the driver of the safety car, Alex Ribeiro, opens the door, Nick Heidfeld's Sauber arrives. The car of the Swiss team suffers serious damage, but neither the German driver nor Ribeiro is injured. A few hours later the drivers prepare on the starting grid to face the 71 laps of the Brazilian Grand Prix at the Interlagos circuit, which measures 4,309 metres. Michael Schumacher is surrounded by Williams-BMWs, with Juan Pablo Montoya ahead and his brother, Ralf Schumacher, who follows in third place, flanked by David Coulthard's McLaren-Mercedes. The third row is occupied by Kimi Raikkonen's other McLaren-Mercedes and Jarno Trulli's Renault. Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello follow, who only have to settle for eighth, ahead of Nick Heidfeld and Mika Salo. Eleventh and twelfth position for Pedro de la Rosa and Felipe Massa, followed by Eddie Irvine, Giancarlo Fisichella, Jacques Villeneuve and Allan McNish. Olivier Panis' Honda and Heinz-Harald Frentzen's Arrows occupy the ninth row. Takuma Sato, Mark Webber, Enrique Bernoldi and Alex Yoong close the grid. Juan Pablo Montoya's Williams-BMW starts well when the signal is turned off, closing Michael Schumacher's F2002 trajectory. The sprint of the Schumacher brothers is also excellent. Entering the Seine corner, Montoya's Williams-BMW arrives slightly long under braking, opening the passage to Michael Schumacher's Ferrari.


Michael Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya immediately fight, until Ferrari prevails at the head of the race. The Colombian driver is not there and tries to overtake his rival, but the two come in contact and the Williams-BMW driver loses the front wing. The safety car must take in, while Juan Pablo Montoya heads to the pits. Rubens Barrichello climbs to sixth position. Three cars go into the pits: Juan Pablo Montoya, Giancarlo Fisichella and Allan McNish. After only two laps Michael Schumacher has a 2.3-second lead over his brother, Ralf Schumacher. Rubens Barrichello, meanwhile, is the author of an extraordinary comeback. The Brazilian driver gains the third position and approaches Ralf Schumacher's Williams-BMW dangerously. In Ferrari, the engineers decided to give the Brazilian driver a lighter car to facilitate overtaking. The weight difference with Williams-BMW should be about 40 kilos. Rubens Barrichello travels around 320 km/h, takes the slipstream of Ralf Schumacher's car, passes inside the corner and overtakes him. The audience is wild. The Brazilian driver gains 1.2 seconds per lap on Ralf Schumacher. On the seventh lap, Giancarlo Fisichella's Jordan stops in the smoke after the Honda engine broke. Since the beginning of the season, the Italian driver has never been able to cross the finish line and has always run only a few kilometres. The Honda engine of the single-seater does not live up to expectations. Back in the pits, the Italian driver comments:


"I was sorry, but it had already started badly since traction control didn't work. I had to start it manually, but I lost positions. Then at Turn 3, there was the accident and some pieces of carbon fell on my wing and broke it".


During the eighth lap, Juan Pablo Montoya is still in the twentieth position, behind Alex Yoong, while lapping on the times of the Schumacher brothers (1'18"0). At the end of the tenth lap, Rubens Barrichello records a new fast lap, 1'16"813. However, Williams-BMW continues to travel eight seconds behind the two Ferrari drivers. This detachment does not help the Italian cars, considering that - except for surprises - they opted for a two-stop strategy. Given the pace set by Rubens Barrichello, meanwhile, at the Ferrari garage, one begins to wonder if the driver did not devise a three-stop strategy with Jean Todt. It might seem like an unthinkable choice but, given the speed of the Brazilian driver, this option is not to be excluded a priori. Speaking of Barrichello's extraordinary performance, a huge roar comes from the public when the driver overtakes his teammate, Michael Schumacher, taking the lead of the race. The fifteenth lap ends with a new record lap for the Brazilian driver, who now has an advantage of 2.18 seconds over his teammate and 10.1 seconds over Ralf Schumacher's Williams-BMW.


Meanwhile, further back, David Coulthard fits between the Renaults of Jarno Trulli and Jenson Button. Takuma Sato, on the other hand, manages to pass Eddie Irvine. Enrique Bernoldi, author of a bad accident during the warm-up, retires during the nineteenth lap, due to a suspension problem. During the sixteenth lap, Rubens Barrichello's car also slows down suddenly due to a problem with the hydraulic system. Michael Schumacher overtakes him. The Brazilian driver, disappointed, tries to carry on the car, but there is nothing to do. Barrichello raises his hand and greets the public who supported him, before parking his car on the grass. Ferrari pits talk about an hydraulic problem, more precisely at the gearbox, which has created problems with the gear selector. Once in the pits, the driver comments:


"From where I started, making a single stop would have been hard. With two stops I had a few more chances. After a somewhat chaotic weekend, today I had a chance".


Meanwhile, Alex Yoong's Minardi ends up on the paved escape route, after a trailhead. During the nineteenth lap, David Coulthard approaches Jarno Trulli. To understand where McLaren-Mercedes has the advantage over Renault, the classic elastic situation is created. The two turn at the same time, but Coulthard cannot catch the slipstream. Against all expectations, Enrique Bernoldi is back on track. In the pits, they repaired his car. Jenson Button, engaged in a desperate run-up against David Coulthard, is dangerously pursued by Kimi Raikkonen, only 0.5 seconds away from the British driver. Nick Heidfeld, Mika Salo, Felipe Massa and Jacques Villeneuve follow at short distance, closing the top ten. Juan Pablo Montoya tries to catch up, but at the moment he is in the seventeenth position. Starting from the twenty-fourth lap, the first pits begin for those who opted for a two-stop strategy, first with Alex Yoong and then with Jacques Villeneuve. Subsequently, when Olivier Panis returns to the pits, during the restart phase, the car remains stuck and is pushed by the mechanics. Meanwhile, David Coulthard is looking for the slipstream of the Renault that precedes him, but Jarno Trulli resists the attacks of the Scottish driver. The two are very close and in the meantime, Jenson Button, who approaches McLaren-Mercedes, also takes advantage of the fight.  The distance between Jarno Trulli - who must be looked after by David Coulthard - and the Schumacher brothers increases. The problems continue for Olivier Panis and his Bar-Honda that suddenly stops near the exit of the pit lane. It's a dangerous point, especially considering that now the drivers are returning to the pits for their pit stops and refuelling. During the twenty-fifth lap, Heinz-Harald Frentzen's Arrows is also forced to stop due to the breakage of a suspension.


During the twenty-ninth lap, Michael Schumacher's Ferrari has a 7.8-second lead over his brother Ralf Schumacher's Williams-BMW, but on the last lap, the German driver of the British team gains 0.7 seconds. Juan Pablo Montoya rises into the tenth position but remains 1'12"0 behind the drivers in the lead. The Colombian driver also passes Eddie Irvine and immediately after exploits the external trajectory to subtract the position also from Pedro de la Rosa. Thirty-six laps are left at the end and Michael Schumacher gains 0.9 seconds over Ralf Schumacher, who is delayed by 6.8 seconds. The German driver on board his Ferrari F2002 is managing the race very well. Historically, those who opted for a stop made it around the thirty-eighth and the fortieth lap, therefore, it's expected that the single-seaters will soon begin to stop. Once again Ferrari surprises everyone by adopting a different tactic than expected. Meanwhile, the German driver continues to score record laps, lapping at a pace of 1'16"235. Further back, Kimi Raikkonen passes Jenson Button, climbing to the fifth position. The Finnish driver - in his first season in Formula 1 - is showing great talent. Shortly after Michael Schumacher returns to the pits during the thirty-ninth lap, to change the tyres and refuel, and when he returns to the track he finds himself 22.795 seconds behind his brother, Ralf Schumacher. Meanwhile, Juan Pablo Montoya climbs up in the seventh position after overtaking Nick Heidfeld, who shortly after returns to the pits. Williams-BMW mechanics are also preparing, and the Colombian driver heads to the pits. At the same time, due to a spin, Allan McNish's Toyota ends up on the grass during the fortieth lap. The Scottish driver can no longer restart the car, so he unhooks his seat belts and retires.


During the forty-first lap, Felipe Massa tries to overtake Alex Yoong, but the two come into contact and the Brazilian's car ends up on the escape route on asphalt. The car is pushed off the track by the stewards. Ralf Schumacher also returns to the pits during the forty-fourth lap, who was 24 seconds ahead of Michael Schumacher's Ferrari. Despite his pit stop lasting 2 seconds less than Ferrari's, Michael Schumacher manages to regain the first position. This debut of the F2002 is surprising. Saturday, among the various technicians of the other teams, a happy Ferrari was predicted if it had won the podium. Today the situation has reversed, with a Williams-BMW that - despite being strong - has to deal with a Ferrari that has made an incredible comeback. Lap after lap, however, Ralf Schumacher - also taking advantage of the slipstream - gains tenths of a second over his brother, reducing the gap between the two single-seaters, becoming increasingly threatening. On lap fifty-seven it is practically a duel between the two: Ralf Schumacher begins to study his brother's trajectories and the potential of the Ferrari F2002. The other drivers are more than 50 seconds from the two brothers, who travel a few thousandths away from each other. Whenever he approaches, Ralf Schumacher's Williams-BMW is disturbed by Michael Schumacher's aerodynamics of Ferrari, so he can't overtake it, while Juan Pablo Montoya scores another record lap with the second Williams-BMW, lapping in 1'16"221. Luca Colajanni comments at the Ferrari garage:


"Michael is doing very well. It's a beautiful battle".


Coulthard and Räikkönen overtake the two Renaults of Jarno Trulli and Jenson Button using the supplies in their favour, taking third and fourth position. But during the sixty-fifth lap, from the car of Jarno Trulli there is a white smoke. For the Italian driver, the race ends here, a few laps from the finish line. Nick Heidfeld also heads to the pits, but not to refuel. During the sixty-first lap, the German driver leaves the car and retires, due to the malfunction of the brakes. Neither of the two Sauber cars finish the race. On lap 63, Ralf Schumacher’s Williams-BMW is very close to Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari. Two laps later, the gap between the two is below the second (0.861) and continues to decrease in the subsequent laps. While the fight between the two drivers leading the race is getting more and more heated, Kimi Raikkonen's McLaren-Mercedes suffers the failure of the right rear suspension before entering the corner. The car goes off the track and the Finnish driver is forced to retire during the sixty-seventh lap. It benefits Montoya who passes from sixth to fifth place. Also, Mika Salo enters the points with the Toyota. Just a few kilometres to the end, and in the last lap, the F2002 of Michael Schumacher must defend itself from a furious Williams-BMW. The German Ferrari driver starts the last corner, which leads to the straight. He pushes hard and crosses the finish line first. Pelé, former world champion with the Brazilian national football team, with the chequered flag, does not notice him. Nevertheless, the Ferrari confirms another time which car is to be beaten. Ralf Schumacher joins his brother Michael Schumacher to congratulate him. The two brothers parade together. David Coulthard’s McLaren-Mercedes crosses the finish line in the third position. According to Jenson Button, Juan Pablo Montoya, Mika Salo - who carries the Toyota once again to points- Eddie Irvine, Pedro de la Rosa, Takuma Sato, Mark Webber and Alex Yoong. Jacques Villeneuve and Kimi Raikkonen, both retired, are still classified because they have completed 90% of the distance. Seven drivers, instead, are not classified. The words at the end of the race of the team principal of Scuderia Ferrari, Jean Todt, are intense:


"It was a great race. It could go better with Rubens. Yesterday we knew the others were very strong, they have shown it even today. Today was an important step in a very hard-fought and difficult championship. We have great drivers. We will work to also bring up Rubens on the podium because he deserves it".


During the post-race press conference, the race winner, Michael Schumacher, comments on the accident at the start with Juan Pablo Montoya saying:


"I wasn’t very enthusiastic about the first two corners. He braked a lot lately and almost made a mistake at the curve, so I prepared myself to face the second bend better. He left enough space for both of us. I moved to the left to give him space on the right. Then I don’t know what happened next. Suddenly, I see him recede".


As for the fight with his brother, however, the German Ferrari driver says:


"It wasn’t that hard".


For his part, the Williams-BMW driver, Ralf Schumacher says :


"It was an exciting race. I thought I could overtake him, that’s why I was so close to him. However, this time he didn’t do me the favour of making a mistake. Let’s hope it gets better next time. The most difficult moment? It was when I saw that Barrichello was significantly faster than all and also than my brother. Then I realised that Michael would have made one stop. And I was shocked. From that moment on, I just thought I should chase him, hoping he’d make a mistake to pass. But I knew in my heart it wouldn’t happen. He makes mistakes too rarely. I haven’t had the slightest chance of overtaking".


David Coulthard is happy with the performance of his McLaren-Mercedes, too:


"It’s nice to finally be back on the podium. It was not an easy race, seeing the battle with Renault. Our race pace is now quite close to that of our rivals, but in qualifying, there is too much difference. There is still work to be done".


Ralf Schumacher does not appear designed for the future; the German driver is glad to have behind in ranking his teammate Juan Pablo Montoya, but at the same time he is disappointed with the lack of victory, even if it was to the advantage of his older brother.


"He won, not me".


Even Michael Schumacher is surprised by the success obtained.


"I was hoping to, but I wasn’t sure. We took small risks and everything went great. From start to finish, when I didn’t see the chequered flag, but I knew the race was over observing our mechanics that were celebrating. An important statement. I am now much more optimistic than I was in the morning, just before the beginning of the race. The F2002 is faster than the previous model, even more than I thought. After Malaysia and after the last days we had some doubts. The truth is that you take tests and have ideas, but only the race can give you precise answers. The Bridgestone tyres proved to be competitive, in a difficult situation, with over 40 ºC of temperature on the asphalt. And maybe it’s also the F2002 that makes the most of the tyres. Otherwise, I had no big problems. The duel with Ralf was fun, but I was cool. Even though he got very close after the pit stop, I knew he could only overtake me at the first corner, at the start of the S of Senna. But he couldn’t take my slipstream and he was stuck. I had two critical moments: when lapping the Toyota of Salo and when Heidfeld made a mistake in front of my Ferrari. Now we think about the next race at Imola. It will be hard, last year we made a lot of mistakes down there. But we will work a lot to be on top".


The San Marino Grand Prix will be held in Imola and will be the starting point for Rubens Barrichello.


"My gear got stuck. I watched the fans rejoicing to see me in charge. The worst thing was to greet them by running on foot back to the pits. Now the situation will change. I have proven to be better than in previous years. My season will start from Imola, with the F2002. Enough with the F2001. It was a great car, but now it must retire".


Ferrari, as expressed by president Luca Montezemolo, is excited about the result:


"He gave his Easter present to the Italian fans".


Scuderia Ferrari has deceived everyone, implying that it would be required to make two stops during the race to change tyres and refuel.


"Of course, he’ll have to stop in a few laps and we will go to victory, with one pit stop in the middle of the race".


Instead, Schumacher continued to run fast. He never stopped, always in the lead, with a small but consistent advantage. The Ferrari’s trick was discovered too late with a Ferrari launched to a beautiful victory. Although the grand final was consolidated at the beginning when the German champion had a beautiful start, he braked at the first corner not to bump into the Williams-BMW of Juan Pablo Montoya. The Ferrari driver sped up to the second and slipped past the Colombian driver on the third corner. From Italy, Luca Montezemolo, president of Ferrari, says:


"I called Todt and Schumacher. Congratulations to everyone. I particularly spend a little more time with Barrichello. He retired because of a malfunction. But we are all close to him. Up to that, he had raced as a great champion. It’s been one of his best races since he’s been driving for Ferrari. Returning to the victory, I think it is one of the most significant in recent years because it gives us great joy to assert ourselves with a brand new car, at the absolute debut, on a difficult track for us in recent editions".


With this last victory, the figures for the thirty-three-year-old driver Kerpen are a sequence of primates: fifty-fifth first place, hundredth podium out of 163 races, sixty-ninth time leading the championship, a position from which he is not detached from twenty-three races. And with the records of the German driver are pumped up even those of Scuderia Ferrari: 146 victories (McLaren second, it is stationary at 134) and above everything else, a supremacy of continuity which is untouchable, since on Sunday the driver stood on the podium for the 39th consecutive time. Schumacher, with two victories and a third-place, is at the top of the standings, at 24 points. His rivals - who after the race in Malaysia chased him as threatening shadows - are already detached. His brother, Ralf Schumacher, has 16 points, Juan Pablo Montoya 14 points. Williams-Bmw, however, remains in command among the constructors with 30 points, but Ferrari is approaching, being 6 points down. The others already seem far away, McLaren-Mercedes is third with 8 points, followed by the surprising Renault that has accumulated 6 points. The challenge remains difficult, as always. Williams-BMW - who has now taken on the role of number one contender - is anything but beaten. For sure Ferrari will try everything to turn the tide. On Sunday, April 14, 2002, in Imola, the San Marino Grand Prix will take place. However, Ferrari in those days will have one more weapon: three F2002s.


©​ 2024 Osservatore Sportivo


Contact us


Create Website with | Free and Easy Website Builder