In 2002 Ferrari dominated the championship from the very first rounds. Williams is the only team that tries to oppose the overwhelming power of Ferrari, with Juan Pablo Montoya and Ralf Schumacher but from the Monaco Grand Prix the team from Maranello definitely takes off, also thanks to a newfound competitiveness of Rubens Barrichello.
Ferrari chooses to field, in the first races of the season, an evolved version of the previous year's single-seater, based largely on the chassis used by Michael Schumacher alone in the last race of the 2001 season. In Melbourne, the inaugural race of the season, during free practice on Friday on the cars of Schumacher and Barrichello the front wing used in the tests on the new F2002 is mounted, but in the race both drivers prefer to use the ailerons already used in the last Grand Prix of 2001.
In Australia, during qualifying, after about twenty-five minutes of regular testing, the rain began to fall on the track, effectively freezing the situation. Barrichello then found himself in pole position, one of the few to have made two full attempts in the search for the best time. The Brazilian was just five thousandths behind his teammate Michael Schumacher, clearly faster than his rivals in the last sector of the track, but forced to give up his first attempt due to the red flag.
At the start Barrichello keeps the lead of the group, while Ralf Schumacher overtakes his brother and, having reached the first detached, tries to undermine the Brazilian. However, Barrichello closes the Williams driver, so Ralf Schumacher's car takes off accordingly, landing on all four wheels on the escape route. At this stage, Michael Schumacher and Räikkönen have to go off-piste to avoid the accident. Given the importance of the accident, the race direction decides to let the safety car enter the track.
After yet another neutralization of the race, Schumacher suffers the overtaking of Montoya. The German driver is, however, much faster than his rival and keeps him under pressure until the 17th lap, when he overtakes him at the first corner, immediately accumulating a great advantage. At the head of the race Schumacher continues to increase his advantage over his pursuers, crossing the line in first position ahead of Montoya.
In Malaysia, awaiting the now imminent debut of the F2002, Ferrari again deploys two modified F2001s for Michael Schumacher and Barrichello, on the sides of which additional vents are opened, larger in size on the right side. In qualifying, Michael Schumacher gets his first pole position of the season, just over two tenths ahead of Montoya.
The race, however, will not bring great satisfaction to the German driver. At the first corner, Montoya, who started better, joins Michael Schumacher on the outside. The two come into contact and the German driver loses the front wing, while the Colombian ends up in the escape route, returning to the track in eleventh position.
Ralf Schumacher wins the Grand Prix, while behind him Button defends the second position until the end from the assaults of the comeback Montoya and Michael Schumacher, only to be overtaken on lap 44 in favor of the Colombian, while the German, despite being much faster of his rival, manages to catch up and overtake him only one lap from the end, when the rear suspension gives way to the Englishman's Renault.
At the third Grand Prix, raced in Brazil, Ferrari brings the new F2002 entrusted in this circumstance to Michael Schumacher alone. The new single-seater of the Italian team has several peculiar technical characteristics, which allow for a significant increase in aerodynamic efficiency compared to the previous car. Particularly accurate are the sides, very low and with very small dimensions in the area adjacent to the rear wheels thanks to an innovative arrangement of the radiators, inclined towards the front of the car. The gearbox, made of cast titanium (a solution brought to the race up to that moment by Minardi alone) is very compact, as is the entire rear part of the car body.
During the days of testing, the high temperatures recorded in Sao Paulo push the technicians of Maranello, as well as those of many rival teams, to make additional openings on the sides of the cars, in order to improve heat dissipation.
In addition to this, precisely as a result of the high temperatures, the Michelin tires prove to be more competitive than their rivals Bridgestone, so much so that of the top ten classified at the end of the qualifying session, seven are driving cars equipped by the French manufacturer. Pole position is therefore conquered by Montoya, about a tenth of a second faster than Michael Schumacher.
But at the start Michael Schumacher sprints better than Montoya and joins him inside the first corner. The Colombian driver tries to resist, but ends up widening the trajectory too much, giving way to his rival. Montoya tries to recover the lead immediately, attacking Schumacher on the next straight. However, the Williams driver misses the maneuver, colliding with the German and breaking the front wing of his car.
Michael Schumacher's car was undamaged, but on lap 14 he had to be overtaken by his teammate. The German driver returned to lead the race two laps later, due to the explosion of the engine on Barrichello's car. In the final laps, Ralf Schumacher tries to tail his brother, but without being able to seriously worry him. Michael Schumacher therefore wins the Brazilian Grand Prix.
In Imola, for the fourth round of the season, Ferrari brings four examples of the new F2002 to the race, also allocating one to Barrichello, who in the previous race had competed with the B version of the old F2001.
On Saturday the fight for pole position is restricted to the two Ferrari drivers, with Michael Schumacher only managing to set a better time than Barrichello on his last attempt, beating him by 64 thousandths of a second.
At the head of the race Michael Schumacher maintains the first position until the end, proving to be unapproachable for his rivals, gaining on average almost a second per lap over his brother. The German driver precedes his teammate at the finish.
In Barcelona, Ferrari introduces several modifications to the F2002, which had already won in the previous Brazilian and San Marino Grand Prix: in this race weekend, new torsion bars are fitted, the screens behind the wheels are modified front and introduced new ailerons both front and rear.
Qualifying is again dominated by the Ferrari drivers, the only ones able to compete for pole position. Michael Schumacher sets the best time, beating the previous lap record, on the third attempt, after having changed the set-up of his car on the model of the one adopted by Barrichello, up to that moment faster than his teammate.
In Spain, therefore, it seems that Ferraris can dominate the scene. However, at the start of the reconnaissance lap on Barrichello's Ferrari the transmission broke, forcing the Brazilian to retire even before the start of the race. It is certainly better for the outgoing world champion, given that after the start Schumacher immediately begins to gain a considerable advantage over rivals, unable to keep his pace. At the end of the race, the German crossed the line with a thirtyfive second advantage over his direct rival, Juan Pablo Montoya.
The 2002 season dwarfs the competition, but above all it unleashes controversy over the management of the drivers, especially at the Austrian Grand Prix, as Barrichello is given the order to be overtaken by Michael but the Brazilian, disappointed for having dominated the race, makes him pass by slowing down dramatically in the last meters of the race.
At Zeltweg, Barrichello dominates qualifying, setting the best times in all sectors of the track. Schumacher, less fast than the Brazilian for the whole session, is also slowed by traffic and the red flag exposed for the engine failure on Trulli's car and only qualifies in third place.
At the start Barrichello keeps the lead, while Michael Schumacher and Heidfeld overtake the two Williams, moving into second and third position ahead of Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya.
At the head of the race, the Ferrari drivers maintain a pace that is unapproachable for their rivals, so much so that on the tenth lap the gap between Barrichello and Ralf Schumacher is already seventeen seconds. However, in the final laps, due to a team order already discussed in the days before the race, Barrichello slows down, letting Schumacher approach and making him pass almost under the finish line. But the maneuver of the Ferrari drivers creates several controversies at the end of the race.
Several prominent exponents of different teams, including Norbert Haug and Gerhard Berger, express their disappointment at the team order imposed by the Maranello team, and even the public welcomes the maneuver badly, whistling Schumacher on arrival and on the podium. The gesture of the German driver is worthless, as he puts his teammate on the top step of the podium, personally handing him the winner's trophy, thus breaking the procedure of the award ceremony. The then Technical Director of Ferrari, Ross Brawn, will say a few years later:
"The fact of Austria, on reflection, was a mistake. The underlying circumstances were a little more complex than people might think, as we had discussed before the race how we would handle the situation - if it had happened - according to which Rubens would have been in front of Michael, but at some point, he would have let him pass and we would have continued the race. It was all pre-agreed. Then in the race, when Rubens was ahead of Michael, we said to him: OK, now can you let him pass? But Rubens replied: No. Don't let me do this. It's my big chance. to win this race. You can't do this to me. Michael was also on the radio at this point, eager to know when Rubens would let him through as previously agreed. How to reconcile this if we didn't do what we said we would do in the pre-meeting? So, this was ultimately, the reason why we told Rubens he had to do it, and obviously that got a big deal".
"The situation then got worse, because Michael saw the reaction of the crowd and put Rubens on the top step of the podium, which we were fined a million dollars by the FIA for. What followed was much more damaging and distracting for the team, compared to if we had left Rubens alone and given him a spanking in private. If I could have repeated it, I would not have done what we have done, because the consequences have been deeper than we could have considered. Something that should have been an internal team issue has become political".
On June 26, 2002, Ferrari will be convened before the World Council by the FIA, where initially it will be proposed to recognize the order of arrival of the drivers of the Maranello team, but to reduce 4 of the 10 points obtained by Schumacher and accredit them to Barrichello, with the payment of a related fine to be paid by Ferrari; in the end, however, the Maranello team will be sanctioned only with the payment of a fine of one million dollars for failing to comply with the procedures laid down during the ceremony on the podium, while the team order itself, although deemed deplorable in the way which it was implemented, will not be considered punishable by the FIA.
In Monaco, Michelin tires proved more effective than their rivals Bridgestone during qualifying, so much so that at the end of the session the only cars among the top ten qualified equipped with Japanese tires were the two Ferraris of Michael Schumacher and Barrichello, third and respectively fifth.
In the race, from the first laps Montoya and Michael Schumacher remain just a few tenths of a second behind Coulthard, who commands the race, but without being able to attack the Scottish driver.
On lap 44 Michael Schumacher was the first driver of the leading trio to refuel, but three laps later in Montoya's car the engine broke, forcing the Colombian driver to retire. In second position is therefore Ralf Schumacher, who stops in the pits for his stop at 51st, at the same time as Coulthard. The Scottish driver returns to the track just ahead of Michael Schumacher, while Ralf Schumacher will occupy the third position at the exit from the pits; the three maintain their positions until the finish line.
Also, in Canada, Montoya wins the second consecutive pole position after the one obtained at the Monaco Grand Prix, while Schumacher and Barrichello have to settle for second and third places.
At the start Montoya keeps the first position, while Barrichello, who started with a tactic on the two stops, overtakes Michael Schumacher and moves to second place. The first two begin to detach Michael Schumacher, who started to make only one pit stop, but during the ninth lap on the Villeneuve BAR the engine breaks down on the straight in front of the pits: the marshals are unable to remove the Canadian's car, with the transmission blocked, and at the 14th lap the race direction decides to let the safety car enter the track, cancelling the gaps.
Montoya took the opportunity to refuel early, returning to the track in fifth position. Ferrari, on the other hand, left Barrichello on the track: however, the Brazilian driver was unable to accumulate a sufficient advantage over his pursuers, returning to the track in sixth position after the first stop, made on lap 26. Now, at the head of the race, Michael Schumacher progressively distances Montoya, but when he makes his only refuelling, on lap 38, he re-enters the race behind his rival.
In an attempt to maintain the first position, Montoya pushes to the maximum, also getting the fastest lap, but after his second stop, on lap 51, he finds himself third. The Colombian driver recovers a position when Barrichello also enters the pits for the second time, but is forced to retire on lap 57 due to an engine failure. Thus, Michael Schumacher wins the Canadian Grand Prix ahead of Coulthard and Barrichello.
At the Nürburgring, the ninth round of the championship, Ferrari introduces an aerodynamic evolution of the F2002, characterized by a lower and narrower engine hood in the rear, and begins to use the bidirectional telemetry system, which had played a fundamental role in the victory of David Coulthard in the previous Monaco Grand Prix allowing McLaren to modify the car's operation directly from the pits.
On Saturday, the qualifying session is quite close, so much so that in the end the first three drivers were separated by just thirteen hundredths of a second: Montoya is the fastest of all, beating his teammate Ralf Schumacher by just nine thousandths, while in third place went to Michael Schumacher, clearly faster than his rivals in the central sector of the track, but the author of an error in the last corner that cost him a few tenths and the possibility of undermining the Colombian's time.
At the start, Barrichello overtakes Schumacher and at the end of the first lap the Brazilian also overtakes Montoya, at the first corner after the finish. A few corners later Michael Schumacher overtook his brother, also overtaking Montoya during the third lap, taking him to second position.
The two Ferrari drivers immediately gained a large margin over their rivals: after ten laps Barrichello had an advantage of around sixteen seconds over Ralf Schumacher, third, and eighteen over Montoya, fourth.
In the central part of the race Michael Schumacher reduces the gap to his teammate, bringing him to less than a second after Barrichello's second stop. The Ferrari garage decides, however, not to take risks with a duel on the track, requiring the drivers to maintain their positions until the finish line. Thus, Barrichello wins his second career victory ahead of Michael Schumacher.
Qualifying at Silverstone is characterized by an intense fight for pole position between Montoya and the two Ferrari drivers: the Colombian won on his last attempt, beating Barrichello by a few cents and Michael Schumacher, third despite having scored in the first sector of the track, an intermediate time more than three tenths faster than those obtained by all the others.
At the start Montoya keeps the lead of the group, ahead of the Schumacher brothers, while Barrichello, who remained stationary on the grid at the start of the reconnaissance lap, is relegated to last position on the starting grid. In the first laps Montoya tries to defend himself, with difficulty, from the attacks of Michael Schumacher, who follows him within a few tenths of a gap. The pursuit continues until during the sixth lap it starts to rain: in a few laps the track gets completely wet and at the end of the thirteenth lap the great majority of the drivers except Coulthard and de la Rosa stop in the pits to change tires. Ferrari drivers choose intermediate tires, while Williams prefer to use rain tires. The move of the Italian team proved better and Michael Schumacher quickly recovered the disadvantage accumulated by Montoya, overtaking him during the sixteenth lap.
The rain stops falling and on lap 36, but only twenty laps from the end, with the track now dry, the Ferrari drivers and Montoya return to the pits to mount dry tires.
Immediately after the last refuelling, Montoya passes Barrichello, but is overtaken by the Brazilian on lap forty-sixth; from this moment there are no further changes of position until the finish line. Michael Schumacher thus conquers the seventh win of the season, and having accumulated a distance in the standings of 54 points over his teammate (86 points the German, 32 points the Brazilian), the Ferrari driver can win the world title already from the Grand Prix following.
For the occasion, starting with the French Grand Prix, Ferrari introduces important changes to the rear of the F2002, integrating the rear wing fixing point with the deformable structure above the gearbox and with the upper part of the extractor profile.
At the end of a rather hard-fought session, Montoya obtains the fifth consecutive pole position, beating Michael Schumacher by a few thousandths of a second, to whom the times in two laps launched for cuts in the chicanes are canceled.
Even on the Magny Cours circuit, at the start of the formation lap, Barrichello's Ferrari remains stationary on the grid. The Brazilian's car is pushed to the pits, but the Ferrari driver is forced to retire. At the start Montoya keeps the lead, followed by Michael Schumacher. In the following laps, the Colombian, penalized by a wrong choice of the type of tires to use in the race, struggles to contain the group behind him, but maintaining the first position until the first series of pit stops.
During the first series of stops, Michael Schumacher refueled on lap 26 and returned to the track ahead of Montoya. However, on re-entering the German driver crosses the boundary line of the acceleration lane, incurring a penalty. After the stops of Räikkönen and Coulthard, Schumacher took the lead, but on lap 35 the German returned to the pits to serve a drive-through, later returning to the track behind Montoya and Räikkönen.
At the end of the second series of pit stops, the situation stabilized with Räikkönen first ahead of Michael Schumacher, an order of arrival following which the drivers' championship would have remained mathematically open. But with four laps to go, however, McNish's Toyota broke the engine, spreading a large amount of oil on the track making it slippery. Räikkönen, one of the first to pass in that area of the track, does not notice and comes along under braking, being overtaken by Michael Schumacher.
The German driver controls his rival in the final laps of the race, crossing the finish line in first position and winning his fifth career drivers' world title after only eleven races.
On July 21, 2002, Schumacher equalled the record - which until then remained unapproachable - of five world titles won belonging to Juan Manuel Fangio:
"I thought I would get the title at home in a week, then I got lucky when Raikkonen skidded. After the first pit stop, I found myself in the lead, so virtually world champion. Then I crossed the white line out of the pits and after the penalty I was third. I took a sigh of relief, because I was still in the top positions. Up to five laps from the end Raikkonen was in front of me and I thought the decisive race would be next, in a week at Hockenheim, in front of the German fans. And instead, Kimi ended up on a slick. He is good, He already drives like an experienced driver, but under such circumstances experience is useless. So, with a little luck, I found myself in a position to win the title again. I looked in the mirrors, listened to the radio communications and suddenly I saw the checkered flag".
At the end of the race, the German driver will say, moved by the incredible conquest of the third consecutive title with Ferrari, adding a note of love towards Ferrari and his men:
"Fangio didn't have the support of a team like mine behind him".
In the remaining races, Schumacher wins pole and victory at the Hockenheimring, repeating this result also at Spa and Suzuka, while at the Hungaroring, Monza and Indianapolis he obtains the second place behind his teammate on all occasions.
On the other hand, the arrival in the parade on the Indianapolis circuit is curious, given that in the last laps Schumacher and Barrichello slow down considerably, preparing for a parade finish. But on the finish line Barrichello overtook his teammate, winning by just eleven thousandths of a second. Initially, the public seems that Schumacher had confused the finish line with the starting line, placed further back, slowing down more than necessary.
However, at the end of the race, the German driver declared that he independently decided to let his teammate pass, to repay him for the gesture he made in the Austrian Grand Prix, when Barrichello had given him the victory at the finish line after receiving a controversial team order.
"The truth is that we wanted to break another record. We wanted to reach the finish line together. We didn't succeed for a very short time, but we hit another seasonal record: the shortest gap between first and second. These things are possible because we are a fantastic team, Rubens and I have always supported each other, there is absolute solidarity. That's why I thought it would be fantastic, today, to get together".
In an attempt to make the competition more exciting after the previous world championships had been dominated by Ferrari and to improve the economic situation of the small teams, the FIA introduced new rules for the 2003 vintage for qualifying and the conduct of the race weekend.
Qualifying is now divided into two sessions, to be held on Friday and Saturday afternoon. In both, the drivers would take to the track one at a time: the Friday session, with tanks empty, would have determined the order in which the drivers would make their only attempt in the Saturday session, in which the cars should have been already supplied with the petrol needed to face the first part of the race. At the end of the qualifying session on Saturday it would no longer be possible to make changes to the cars, which would remain in the parc fermé until the start of the starting procedure.
In addition, the distribution of points is changed, which now rewards the first eight classified who will receive 10, 8, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1 point respectively, and finally the FIA has some new rules from a technical point of view, among which the most important is undoubtedly the new abolition, just one year after its reintroduction, of bidirectional telemetry.
As announced at the end of the previous season, both Ferrari and McLaren choose to delay the debut of their new cars. However, while the Italian team limited itself to fielding the car of the previous year, without modifying it significantly, McLaren brings to the track a widely revised version of the MP4-17, characterized by a completely new rear end and by several aerodynamic refinements both at the 'anterior than posterior.
In Australia, at the first round of the season, the new qualifying procedure effectively leads to a reshuffling of the values on the field, even if the front row is once again occupied by the two Ferraris of Michael Schumacher and Barrichello.
However, the victory was obtained by David Coulthard who, starting eleventh, managed to make an important comeback also thanks to the problems of his opponents. The other McLaren Mercedes driven by Finnish Räikkönen completes the podium while, surprisingly, the reigning champion Michael Schumacher closes at the foot of the podium, stopped by the loss of the right flow diverter of his Ferrari which forces him to a further pit stop.
The race is full of twists and turns, due not only to the debut of the new rules, but also to adverse weather conditions and consequent errors. Schumacher and Barrichello, with wet tires, sprint to perfection and make a void in the first four laps, while behind them a fierce fight full of overtaking breaks out.
But during the race, Schumacher, due to the deterioration of the intermediate tires mounted, suffered a comeback from Montoya and the German's quick pit stop did not prevent the Colombian from taking the lead in the Grand Prix.
Montoya remains in the lead while Räikkönen and Schumacher engage in a good duel behind him. The German's most important attack on his Finnish rival takes place outside the first corner at the end of the main straight, but the Finn defends himself well.
However, the exciting duel was interrupted due to a penalty imposed on the Finn, guilty of speeding in the pit lane. Schumacher thus inherits the second position without further risk and then, when Montoya makes the second stop, the head of the race, but due to an exit from the track he begins to lose pieces of the right flow diverter of his car and must return to the pits by order of the commissioners. Montoya returns to the lead but shortly after spins that allows Coulthard to take the lead and his thirteenth and final victory in Formula 1.
The second Grand Prix, raced at the Sepang circuit, still sees Ferrari in pain. In qualifying Michael Schumacher, author of the fastest time in Friday's session, is in third position, behind Fernando Alonso and Jarno Trulli. In the race, first at the finish line is the young Kimi Räikkönen in his first career victory in Formula 1. The Finn signs the second McLaren success and takes the lead of the standings, seriously candidates for the title, while behind him Brazilian Barrichello, who saved Ferrari's balance sheet in a race conditioned by the error at Schumacher's departure. The German rider, after a few hundred meters, crashes into Trulli and is forced to a chase race, finally reaching sixth place thanks to the spin of the BAR-Honda of the British rider Jenson Button.
In his home Grand Prix, in Brazil, Barrichello gets his first pole position of the season, just eleven thousandths ahead of Coulthard, while Michael Schumacher is only seventh, slowed down by some inaccuracies in the first sector of his fastest lap.
Shortly before the start on the Interlagos circuit it begins to rain. The departure is therefore postponed for a quarter of an hour, in order to wait for the decrease in rainfall intensity. The race will see several riders go off the track, including Michael Schumacher on lap 27.
For Schumacher there could not be a worse start: after the first three races the German driver is only eighth in the general classification with 8 points, against the 24 already conquered by Kimi Räikkönen. In order to win again, Schumacher requests and obtains from Ferrari the return of Luca Baldisserri in the role of technical manager of the track, in place of the Australian engineer Chris Dyer.
After the first intercontinental trips, Formula 1 arrives in Imola for the first European appointment. The race is held on the day in which Easter is celebrated in Italy, while in Germany the mother of Michael and Ralf Schumacher disappears.
While racing also on this occasion with the F2002, Michael and Ralf dominate the tests of the Grand Prix at Imola, respectively obtaining first and second place on the starting grid. With Saturday's qualifiers concluded, Michael and Ralf fly to Cologne on a private plane for a last hug to their mother and in the evening they return back to Imola.
But at the start Ralf Schumacher sprints better than his brother, taking the lead at the first corner. At the head of the race Michael Schumacher is much faster than his brother, but he is unable to overtake him until the latter is refuelled. On leaving, Ralf runs into a hesitation that costs him a lot of time, allowing Michael Schumacher to take the lead and cross the finish line in first position, not celebrating the victory for the death of his mother, which took place the night before the race. Behind the German driver comes Räikkönen, strengthening his first position in the championship.
No one would have forced the two brothers to get behind the wheel of a single-seater, not Ferrari and Williams (we would never force a driver to race if he doesn't feel like it, says Jean Todt), not the organizers, who had exempted them from the various ceremonials. and they would not have taken it upon themselves to insist that they take to the track in such difficult psychological conditions. But both drivers, before the race, decide to race also in honor of their mother:
"My mother would have liked to see us race. She loved being on the tracks. She liked it when we drove the old karts on the home track. She was happy to see us race. Mom and Dad have always supported us, they made it possible for us to become what we are. we are now. It made it possible for us to become what we are now".
Before returning to Germany for the funeral, the German champion thanks the guys of the team:
"Everyone, I mean everyone, from the president to the engineers to the technicians to the mechanics to the cooks, everyone has offered me great support, they have given me a sense of how close they are to me".
In Spain, Ferrari finally brings the new F2003GA to the track, after facing the first four races of the season with the F2002. The most innovative element of the car is undoubtedly the rear suspension, in which the front arm of the lower triangle is no longer linked to the gearbox, but to the engine block, further reducing the weight of the box. The car is also characterized by an asymmetrical arrangement of the engine cooling system, also highlighted by the presence of asymmetrical openings on the sides to improve heat dissipation.
The new Ferrari F2003GA immediately proved very competitive, so much so that Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello occupied the entire front row. The German driver, also at the top of the standings in Friday's empty tank session, leads his teammate by two and a half tenths, scoring the best performance in the second and third sectors of the track.
At the start Michael Schumacher keeps the lead of the group, while Barrichello, turned wide at the first corner in an attempt to undermine his teammate, in turn resists the attack of Alonso, keeping the second position ahead of the Spaniard. In the middle of the group Pizzonia remains stationary on the grid due to a problem with the automatic starting system and is involved in an accident caused by Kimi Räikkönen, who having had his view covered by other cars does not notice the presence of the Brazilian driver.
At the end of the first refuelling sequence Michael Schumacher remains in the lead, while Alonso overtakes Barrichello, moving into second position. At the head of the race Michael gradually accumulated the advantage over Alonso and at the end of the third series of refuelling the German won ahead of the Spaniard, taking second place in the drivers' standings four points behind Kimi Räikkönen.
In the next round in Austria, Michael Schumacher conquers pole position with just four hundredths ahead of Räikkönen, despite the German driver making a mistake in the first sector.
At the start of the Grand Prix, the start went smoothly on the third attempt, with Michael Schumacher keeping the lead, while Montoya overtook Räikkönen. After about fifteen laps, a few drops of rain begin to fall on the circuit without causing any particular unforeseen events, with the exception of a long by Schumacher, which cost the German driver a good part of the advantage accumulated over his pursuers.
Having recovered from the incident, the German driver continues to lead ahead of Räikkönen and Button. But when the three return to the pits at the same time, during the 23rd lap, during the pit stop of the German driver there are again problems with the refuelling equipment: petrol comes out of the filler due to a defective valve, ending up on the hot exhausts and catching fire. The fire, of a rather minor entity, is quickly extinguished and the Ferrari driver starts again, losing several seconds. Thanks to this inconvenience Montoya takes the lead ahead of Räikkönen and Michael Schumacher.
The Colombian driver, however, was forced to retire during the thirty-second lap due to the failure of the BMW engine. At the same time Schumacher, clearly faster than his rival, overtook Räikkönen, taking the lead again. In the final laps, Michael Schumacher quietly managed his lead, while Räikkönen had to watch out for Barrichello. However, the Brazilian's attacks were unsuccessful and the McLaren driver retains the second position, closing the race behind Michael Schumacher.
In Monte Carlo, Ferrari brings a new rear wing to the track, characterized by the dihedral shape of the profiles, useful for trying to bring home the fourth consecutive victory. However, the pole is won by Ralf Schumacher, who precedes Räikkönen by just thirty-six thousandths, while Michael Schumacher is only fifth. The German driver is fastest of all in the first part of the track but almost half a second slower than his brother in the central sector.
At the start Ralf Schumacher keeps the lead, but Juan Pablo Montoya will triumph in one of the most tactical editions of the Principality Grand Prix, were it not for the final, when Michael Schumacher pushes hard to reach the leading pair, given that the Finnish Kimi Räikkönen is behind the Colombian. Even by virtue of the new rules, the Grand Prix is proving to be more tactical than it usually is, leaving the feeling that, if they had had better qualifying, both Schumacher and Barrichello could have achieved more.
In Canada, Ferrari brings an enhanced version of the engine to the track, as well as new screens behind the front wheels and a new rear wing, with the hope of being able to return to victory. However, it is not the Ferraris that dominate the scene in qualifying, but the Williams, capable of monopolizing the entire front row.
Friday's empty tank session is held in the rain, reshuffling the exit order in Saturday's session which, as mentioned, are dominated by the Williams-BMWs of Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya, first and second respectively. Behind them is Michael Schumacher, just a thousandth of a second faster than Alonso.
If during qualifying the Williams seem destined to dominate on Sunday as well, in reality neither of Sir Frank's drivers is able to make the most of their car in the race. The Colombian spun during the first lap, while Ralf Schumacher was unable to gain a sufficient margin to defend himself from his brother. During the first series of pit stops Michael Schumacher, who was on the track longer than his brother, managed to overtake him.
In the following laps Ralf Schumacher tries to tail his rival, without however becoming dangerous even in the last stages of the race, when the Ferrari driver reduces the pace to the point that Montoya and Alonso can catch up with them. Despite the narrow gaps between the leading drivers, there are no noteworthy overtaking attempts and the top four cross the finish line in the same order, with Michael winning and Kimi Räikkönen, the German's main title rival, forced to settle for sixth. place.
At the halfway point, Michael Schumacher has finally recovered the disadvantage he had accumulated in the first races against Kimi Räikkönen and now leads the standings with 54 points, three more than his rival.
On the Nürburgring circuit, in the empty tank session on Friday, partly disturbed by a sudden downpour, Räikkönen set the best time, almost four tenths ahead of Michael Schumacher. The Finnish driver also repeats himself the next day. Behind him is Michael Schumacher again, this time behind by just three hundredths of a second.
In the race, Räikkönen immediately sets a great pace until his engine breaks down. The head is inherited by Ralf Schumacher, followed by teammate Montoya, while Michael Schumacher, who started second, spun due to an overtaking from Montoya. Taking advantage of the pit stops, Montoya overtook Barrichello, then quickly recovered on Michael Schumacher.
On the forty-second lap the Colombian driver sets a time almost two seconds faster than that of his rival, bringing his attack during the following passage. Montoya joins his rival on the outside of the Dunlop hairpin: Schumacher tries to resist inside but ends up in contact with the Colombian's car, spinning and stopping astride the curb. The German driver manages to keep the car's engine running and the marshals, given the dangerous position his car was in, help him get away by pushing his car.
In the rest, the race reserves very few emotions and ends with the Williams brace with Barrichello closing the podium, while Alonso defends fourth place from the comeback Michael Schumacher.
The next stage takes place in Magny-Cours, France. Friday's session with tanks unloaded takes place with the track drying quickly, altering heavily to the advantage of the last riders to take to the track, the only ones able to fit dry tires, while in the Saturday session the situation returns to normal, with Ralf Schumacher and Montoya who occupy the entire front row for Williams. The Michelin tires prove to be clearly more competitive than their Bridgestone rivals, so much so that in the top ten only the Ferraris of Michael Schumacher and Barrichello are equipped with the tires of the Japanese supplier. Also, in France there is the second consecutive double for Williams, with Ralf Schumacher winning followed by Montoya and Michael Schumacher.
At the start the two Williams keep the lead, while Räikkönen shoves Michael Schumacher, moving into third position. During the race, the German driver, in trouble with his tires, loses ground against Räikkönen and even undergoes a comeback and overtaking by Coulthard in the refuelling sequence.
As the laps go by, Michael Schumacher approaches Coulthard thanks to a slightly postponed stop, but fails to concretely undermine the Scottish driver until, on lap 48, Coulthard returns to the pits but during his stop there are problems with the fuel filler, which does not enter the tank.
The mechanics then use the spare equipment, but the Scottish pilot leaves when the refuelling has not yet been completed, wasting even more time. In this phase, Michael Schumacher pushes hard to try to pass both the Scot and Kimi Räikkönen. The German driver returned to the pits during the fifty-second lap, manages to get back on track in front of the Finn, as the latter is slowed down by some laps.
In the final laps Ralf Schumacher managed his advantage over his rivals by going to win, while Michael Schumacher, who finished third ahead of Räikkönen, increased his advantage over the Finn, despite the driving difficulties created by the Bridgestone tires.
After Michelin tires showed clear superiority over the Bridgestone’s in the French Grand Prix, the situation is back in balance at Silverstone. Barrichello conquers his second pole position of the season, despite having completed his own timed lap second, after going off the track in Friday's session, while Räikkönen is on the second row. Michael Schumacher, slowed down by a mistake at the Abbey corner, had to settle for fifth position.
At the start Barrichello starts badly and is overtaken by Trulli and Räikkönen, who move to first and second position. On lap 12, a man dressed in a kilt (who was later discovered to be a former Irish priest named Cornelius Horan) makes an invasion of the track, running in the opposite direction to that of the cars on the very fast Hangar Straight. The man, waving a sign reading Read the Bible and The Bible is always right, is tackled by a commissioner after being shunned by several cars. The invasion of the track leads to a new entry of the safety car, during which practically all the drivers enter the pits to refuel.
At the end of the neutralization of the race, the two Toyotas of da Matta and Panis lead the standings, but after a few laps Montoya took the lead, while Barrichello and Schumacher remained in back positions. The Brazilian began to recover, overtaking both Kimi Räikkönen and Montoya, while the German was blocked for a long time by Jacques Villeneuve, from whom he struggled to free himself and then reached the finish line fourth.
The race ends with the victory of Rubens Barrichello, followed by Montoya and Räikkönen, while Michael Schumacher reaches the finish line only in fourth position. Despite this, the German driver manages to keep the lead in the drivers' standings, with 69 points against the 62 of the young McLaren driver.
At Hockenheim, Germany, with high temperatures, Michelin tires prove to be superior to their Bridgestone competitors, so much so that the only cars among the top ten equipped with Japanese tires are the two Ferraris. Williams dominates the scene, occupying the entire front row, while Räikkönen and Michael Schumacher, penalized by the choice of harder compound tires, qualify for fifth and sixth place.
At the start Montoya sprints well from pole position, keeping the lead. Behind him, however, Ralf Schumacher and Barrichello are overtaken by Trulli, who enters second position, while Räikkönen joins the Brazilian Ferrari driver on the outside. Ralf Schumacher, in an attempt to defend his position, crosses the entire track, squeezing Barrichello between his car and that of Räikkönen. The Brazilian driver, left without space, collides with the German's Williams, crossing and hitting the car of Räikkönen, who loses control of his McLaren and crashes violently into the barriers.
The situation remains unchanged even after the first series of pit stops, until the thirtieth lap, when thanks to a mistake by Alonso, Michael Schumacher gains the third position.
After the second phase of the pit stops, Montoya continues to increase his margin over his rivals, while Michael Schumacher has to beware of Coulthard, who comes back from behind and begins to follow him. Meanwhile, the Renault engine of the car driven by Jaro Trulli accuses a drop in power and Michael Schumacher, who follows him, takes the opportunity to get closer. After several attempts rejected by his rival, during the 58th lap the German got the better of Trulli, overcoming him with a decisive maneuver and also taking advantage of the external part of the track.
When it seems that Schumacher can finish the race by conquering an excellent position, on the sixty-third lap in Schumacher's Ferrari the left rear tire punctured, perhaps due to the off-track excursion made to overtake Trulli. The German driver manages to reach the pits and slips to seventh place. Montoya thus conquers the second victory of the season, crossing the finish line with more than a minute ahead of Coulthard, and thanks to the setbacks of the Schumacher brothers and Räikkönen, the Colombian driver relaunches himself in the Championship, where he climbs to second position, overtaking the Finnish.
As in the previous German Grand Prix, the high temperatures and characteristics of the track in Hungary also favor Michelin, whose tires are more competitive than rivals Bridgestone. Also on this occasion the only two cars among the top ten qualified to mount Japanese tires are the two Ferraris of Barrichello (fifth) and Michael Schumacher (eighth).
The Hungarian appointment is characterized by the first career victory of Fernando Alonso, who thus becomes the youngest driver to win a Formula 1 Grand Prix. The young Spanish driver succeeds in dubbing the world champion and holder of several record, namely Michael Schumacher, driving a Ferrari in great crisis with the tires and only eighth at the finish. The German still maintains one point ahead of rival Juan Pablo Montoya (third at the finish) and two over Räikkönen (second at the finish).
The weeks leading up to the Italian Grand Prix were characterized by a long controversy over the alleged irregularity of the Michelin tires. The French company is accused by Ferrari of supplying front tires which, subjected to the aerodynamic load of the cars, deform when cornering, increasing the footprint and exceeding the 270 mm tread width limit imposed by the FIA, even though it falls within the checks. post-race static. In the weeks leading up to the Grand Prix, race director Charlie Whiting sent the teams an official notice on the matter. Therefore, in the tests held on the Brianza circuit at the beginning of September, Michelin supplies new specification tires with a tighter tread, in order to avoid any disputes in the subsequent Grand Prix.
After the Michelin tires had shown a clear superiority in performance over their rivals Bridgestone in the two previous races, the situation becomes more balanced at Monza. The fight for pole position is characterized by an intense duel between Michael Schumacher and Montoya: the two drivers score practically identical partials in the first two sectors, with the Colombian fastest by a few thousandths of a second, but the third section is decisive of track, in which the German driver earns just over a tenth of his rival. Enough margin to take pole position with an advantage of just 51 thousandths over the Williams driver.
In the race, Michael Schumacher takes victory after starting from pole position and setting the fastest lap, relegating his closest rival Montoya to second place. The race is spectacular, and sees the two rivals face off all the time. During the first round Montoya tries to overtake Schumacher at the variant of the Canal: the two face the curve paired, also coming into contact, but the German has the better, rejecting the attack of the rival.
The duel between the first two is very intense, with Montoya progressively recovering from his rival until he is less than a second behind just before the second series of stops. But the German driver returns to the track ahead of the Colombian, recovering the lead of the race. Schumacher and Montoya then resume the duel for the lead: the gap between the two is about a second and a half, but during the dubbing of Frentzen the Colombian loses even a second. From this moment Montoya is no longer able to keep up with his rival, beginning to accumulate an increasingly consistent gap. Thanks to this event, in the final stages of the race Michael Schumacher controls his rival from a distance and wins in front of the home crowd:
"It's the best day of my career".
After 69 Formula 1 successes and five world titles, Michael Schumacher is still thrilled by a victory. So much emotion comes from the fact that in the environment there were already those who were ready to say that the decline had come, which made him suffer enormously.
But Schumacher proves once again that he is the best. The determination and courage in the first corners, when it is necessary to keep Montoya behind at all costs, the technique when it is necessary to stretch, the intelligence when it is necessary to contain the opponent's return and a small personal revenge, the dubbing on Alonso on the ninth lap:
"Have you seen the duel with Juan Pablo? Hard but fair, what people love. I won. After the start, at the end of the straight I blocked the brakes and almost cut the chicane. I had to choose between going straight or setting a wrong line and I opted for the second solution, even though I could have lost first place. And it almost happened, because Montoya joined me. It was vital to maintain my position".
After the initial lap unscathed, the most exciting moment for the German driver was the return to the track at the end of the second pit stop:
"I saw a Williams dart in front of me. I thought about Montoya and wondered how it was possible. I didn't count. I was sure I pulled him off and made a quick pit stop. It took me a while to realize that it was Gene. Even in the pits it took a while to realize what had happened. I hit the accelerator like mad, until I had confirmation. The tension didn't fade away. I kept worrying. until I realized that Juan Pablo had been slowed down by the traffic of the dubbed. Juan Pablo was getting closer. I don't know why, but the second set of tires didn't work as well as the first and third. However, in the last part I managed to recover something. I came from two races that ended badly. Then there is the fact of fifty victories at the wheel of Ferrari, the importance of ten points that could be worth my sixth world title, the pleasure of seeing our fantastic supporters rejoice".
"I never stopped believing in ourselves. Bad times come and go. The goal was to get behind Montoya; you understand how important it is to have a three-point lead with two races to go. The future is still very uncertain. Here at Monza, we had an excellent aerodynamic package and an exceptional engine, which helped us a lot. Our starting system has also been perfected. We must continue to work; the title will be won by those who improve. I am not interested in the future now. First, I have to analyze the race with the engineers, because we must not neglect anything. Afterwards I will think about relaxing. The great celebration of the Ferrari people under the Monza podium As I remember, Indianapolis is a circuit with characteristics similar to this. In short, the sensations are good".
On stage, the German makes his typical jump, legs apart and one arm raised. Over the years he has succumbed to a habit that had been contested three years earlier by Francesco Cossiga; gesticulate like an orchestra conductor on the notes of the Mameli. He did it for just a moment. After the usual celebrations, from the top of the Monza stage, a round platform suspended over the track, Michael greets the raving red crowd:
"I am grateful to all the guys at Ferrari, from the mechanics to those who do the cleaning. They were motivated, they gave over one hundred percent. I love them all. This result is the best way to motivate them. From up there the show is great. Thanks again. To everyone".
The victory allows the German to increase his advantage over his rivals, bringing him to three points against Montoya and seven points against Räikkönen. A narrow margin with two more races to go, considering that Bridgestone tires do not guarantee a sufficient competitive edge to repel the opponents' attacks.
Two races from the end of the championship, most of the teams do not bring substantial updates of their cars, being now focused on the following season, but the three teams still engaged in the fight for the world titles are obviously an exception. Ferrari and BMW bring enhanced versions of their respective engines, as well as various refinements of the cars' aerodynamic appendages, while McLaren brings minor aerodynamic changes.
Due to the variable weather both on Friday and Saturday morning, the majority of the teams are unable to have enough data to define an ideal set-up, favoring a reshuffling of values on the field. Kimi Räikkönen takes pole, while Michael Schumacher, author of several errors and dissatisfied with the set-up of his car, marks only the seventh fastest time.
At the start Räikkönen keeps the first position and at the end of the first lap leads in front of Panis, Ralf Schumacher and Michael Schumacher, passed by his teammate during the first lap. In an attempt to recover the positions lost at the start, during the third lap the Colombian driver decisively joins Barrichello and the two touch each other, forcing the Brazilian to retire. Around the sixth lap a light rain begins to fall: in these conditions the Michelin tires prove to be much more effective than their rivals Bridgestone and Michael Schumacher is forced to give up several positions, while Montoya is recovering up to third place.
The rain stops after just two laps, but Räikkönen continues to lead the race ahead of Ralf Schumacher, Coulthard, Montoya, Alonso and Michael Schumacher. As the track dries up, the German Ferrari driver resumes running at competitive times, also setting the fastest lap. Towards the fifteenth lap it starts to rain again, but none of the leading riders who make the first stop chooses wet tires. However, the rain considerably increases in intensity and the other riders are also forced to return to the pits to mount suitable tires. Meanwhile, Montoya is given a drive-through penalty for contact with Barrichello. Upon returning to the track, the Colombian driver sinks to the rear, returning to the track in eleventh position.
The race classification is thus revolutionized but now, in completely wet track conditions, the Bridgestone tires are much more competitive than the Michelins. Schumacher immediately passes the two riders ahead of him and in the 28th lap overtakes even Räikkönen. Four laps later the German driver also overtook Frentzen, then quickly recovering the disadvantage from Button and overtaking him on lap thirty-six. As the laps go by, the rain stops falling and the track dries up again. During the second series of stops, opened by Räikkönen during the forty-second lap, all the drivers are on dry tires, but there are no significant changes in position: Schumacher continues to lead ahead of Frentzen and Räikkönen until, in the following laps, he driver McLaren progressively catches up on its rival, overtaking it during the fifty-fourth lap.
In the final laps Schumacher manages the advantage and wins ahead of Räikkönen. With this victory the German mortgages the sixth world title of his career, given that the only opponent still mathematically in the game remains the Finn, trailing by nine points.
Montoya, ten points behind the top, must instead say goodbye to the possibility of winning the world championship, because if the Colombian were to win the next Japanese Grand Prix with Schumacher out of the points, the German would still win the title for the most number. of victories won.
Even the Finnish driver, to win the title, would have had to win the race with his rival out of the points, because in the event of a tie in the final score, the title would still go to Schumacher thanks to the higher number of victories won by the reigning German champion, you are against any two of Räikkönen.
At the last race of the championship, the only teams to bring news on the cars are those still fighting for the two world titles. Ferrari, McLaren and above all Williams carry out the latest refinements to the aerodynamic look of their cars, trying to adapt them to the demanding Japanese circuit, with the use, by Williams, of new front wings and modified aerodynamic appendages on the body car.
In Japan, qualifying was heavily conditioned by a shower of rain falling on the track in the last minutes of the session, which compromised the performance of the last riders to take to the track. Barrichello conquers pole position, almost seven tenths ahead of Montoya, but already when the Brazilian is making his timed lap the rain had begun to fall insistently. Räikkönen, fifth on Friday, must even remain in the pits due to the commercial interruption scheduled every five timed laps, taking to the track when the track is clearly wet.
The Finnish driver is unable to do better than the seventh time, being beaten immediately after by his teammate Coulthard and then slipping to eighth position. Worse goes to Michael Schumacher, who finished only fourteenth, while neither Ralf Schumacher nor Trulli, the fastest in Friday's session, managed to finish their timed performances.
At the start Montoya attacks Barrichello already during the first lap, overtaking him at the Spoon Curve and immediately gaining a good advantage, which stabilizes around 4 seconds. On the sixth lap Michael Schumacher, recovered in tenth position, tries to overtake Sato, but ends up touching the Japanese and damaging his car. The German driver must return to the pits to replace the nose, slipping to last position.
On lap nine Montoya was forced to retire due to a mechanical problem, giving the lead to Barrichello. Räikkönen, to whom team-mate Coulthard had given way during the third lap, then briefly leads the race and, with Michael Schumacher in sixteenth position, virtually becomes world champion. The Finnish driver refueled on lap thirteenth, followed by all the other drivers.
Barrichello continues to increase his advantage over the McLaren drivers, with Räikkönen who, slowed down by a set of tires with less-than-optimal performance, also loses ground against his teammate. Michael Schumacher struggles to recover from the back of the group, finding himself stuck for a few laps with his brother behind Sato. The two therefore anticipate the second stop, returning to the pits on lap twenty-four.
During the second phase of the race, Da Matta and the Schumacher brothers engage in an intense confrontation for the seventh position, which ends when Ralf Schumacher collides with his brother, damaging the front wing.
Luckily Michael can continue keeping eighth place firmly, while the Williams driver is forced to the pits for repairs. The eighth position is enough for Schumacher to get the sixth world title and the German driver is therefore content to follow Da Matta, while at the head of the race Barrichello controls the situation ahead of Räikkönen and wins ahead of the two McLaren drivers.
Michael Schumacher thus conquers the sixth world title of his career, perhaps the most difficult due to the Bridgestone tires not always up to the level of the opponents, while thanks to the victory of Barrichello and the setback of Williams Ferrari conquers the constructors' title for the fifth consecutive time.
Champagne is raining from the podium and Schumacher remains on the ground.
The organizers, however, admit it to the television conference reserved for the first three. The champion talks about a difficult season, a tough finish and the most exciting, confused and whirling Grand Prix he has ever had to experience:
"It's all fantastic, wonderful. But it seems so strange to me. I was tense too in the last few days, but I couldn't let you know. Today we had an extraordinary race. I'm in love with all the fans and this team. In the race I committed a stupid thing. I was behind Sato, we were recovering and everything was fine. At a certain point he opened the door for me, that is, he gave me the space to pass, I said to myself: thank you, and I slipped in. I didn't think it would suddenly close the line. Other riders noticed that I was faster and very correctly let me pass. I was afraid of losing the world championship. After the repairs I returned to last position. I had to push to the maximum, luckily the car was exceptional. To be calm I had to climb up to eighth place, because I was informed via radio that Montoya he retired and the two McLarens were following Rubens. You never know what can happen in a Formula One race".
"Even with Ralf he had some problems ... another great fear. I did not understand the reason for the impact, because I have not yet seen the television images. I do not know if he was attacking me or if he was too close. I tried to overtake Da Matta, but I had to brake sharply, so I flattened a tire. The vibrations were so strong that I had problems with visibility on the straight. I was also afraid of a puncture and was just trying to get to the finish line. Until the last lap I was in tension. What a crazy race. I told you it wouldn't be easy. When you start in fourteenth position, as it happened to me because of the rain during qualifying, you never know what's going on in the front rows. This title is particular, completely different from the others. Today we have achieved an incredible feat. I can't even find the words to describe it".
In the stands, thousands of Japanese fans keep watch until late at night so as not to miss the group photo of Ferrari. Of the team that - thanks to Schumacher - has laboriously entered history:
"It is not my record that counts, the important thing is to have reached the two goals of the beginning of the year with Ferrari, that is my sixth World Championship and the fifth consecutive constructors'. We can say that the team and I have written history together. Rubens' victory made the day even more incredible. At the risk of repeating myself, I go back to mentioning the guys in the team. On the eve they were tense like me, but did you see them when I came back with a broken nose? They were ready even though the stop was not prepared, they changed the tires and put in petrol. They won. On the other hand, the numbers speak for themselves. In a season there are always more difficult times, it is part of this sport. I have maintained the utmost confidence in my team. I have been working with them for many years, I know that I am large".
Given the difficulties with which the fourth consecutive title had been reached, Ferrari is beginning to assume that for the 2004 vintage it would have been impossible to repeat the results obtained in previous years. But Schumacher has no doubts, 2004 will also be his year, and he expresses his thoughts openly within the team:
"Every time someone tells me I'm old and reminds me I'm thirtyfive, they ask me: how do you still get all these stimuli? I answer them, I'm great, I've never felt so fit, and I say it also to myself. I think my feelings are known, I like the competition, the speed, the overtaking, everything excites me tremendously. I quickly forget the world championships won, the 2003 one is already a memory. season, we start from scratch. And for me it's a great moment. An extraordinary emotion. I am still the same, hungry as usual. And our new car, the F2004, looks much stronger than the old one. Indeed, it certainly is. Melbourne will tell us how much and if the step forward is enough to destroy the opponents. This could be my most difficult season, it is likely, we will see. I expect a lot of competition, all rivals faster. But I have faith in Ferrari, we will still be ahead of everyone".
Of course, the doubt remains about the strength of the Bridgestone tires, but Schumacher extinguishes any allegation in the bud:
"I think the tires are more important, but I have great faith in Bridgestone, in this respect I am calm. They say it is a disadvantage to work only for a top team, that Michelin is favoured, supplying the tires to Williams, McLaren and Renault. For me the opposite is true, it is no coincidence that we were the ones who won the last World Championships".
As had already happened with the F2003 GA and other Ferraris, the newborn F2004 also sets new records on its debut. In the presence of the entire Ferrari staff, starting with president Luca Di Montezemolo, Jean Todt, Ross Brawn, Rory Byrne, Paolo Martinelli and Luca Baldisserri, the only one in overalls, in the hands of Michael Schumacher on the Fiorano track new Ferrari breaks the wall of 57 seconds. The best lap time on the 21 laps is 56"850, two tenths below the best time of the F2003GA at its debut on February 11, 2003.
"This new machine looks promising".
Comment at the end of the day Schumacher. The next day, the German completed 100 laps, setting the Fiorano track record in 56"279 with the new F2004, over half a tenth below last year's record.
In 2004 Ferrari repeats the script already written in 2002, with Schumacher winning the first five races of the season in Australia, Malaysia, San Marino and Spain. The 2004 season begins with two important changes to the technical regulations: each driver would have had to run the entire race weekend with only one engine, with a penalty of ten positions on the starting grid in case of replacement of the same (converted into a start from the back of the grid if the change had taken place after qualifying), while the number of rear wing profiles is increased from three to two.
As for the new cars, unlike in the previous season, Ferrari fielded the new F2004 from the first race, largely a direct evolution of the 2003 car.
The first race of the season sees an absolute domination of Ferraris: after setting the new record on the lap of the circuit in free practice and after taking pole position in qualifying, Michael Schumacher dominates the Australian Grand Prix with authority, gaining, lap after lap, on all opponents starting with the combative Montoya, who pays dearly for his enthusiasm being slowed down by numerous duels in the belly of the group.
The final classification therefore sees Schumacher in first place, closely followed by his teammate Rubens Barrichello, while the Spanish talent of Renault Fernando Alonso is in third place.
Ferrari repeats the Australian success also in Sepang, Malaysia, successfully passing the test of heat and having conquered the second consecutive pole position. Michael Schumacher clearly dominates the qualifications, inflicting heavy gaps to all rivals (more than six tenths per second, Mark Webber, and almost a second to Juan Pablo Montoya, fourth).
Before the start, the track was wet with a light rain, but none of the riders chose to start with wet tires. At the start Michael Schumacher sprints well, keeping the lead until the ninth lap. The German returned to the pits, leaving the lead for three laps to his direct rival, Montoya.
Schumacher and Montoya start a long-distance duel, scoring the fastest lap of the race several times: in this phase, the Colombian approaches his rival but the advantage oscillates all the time between three and four seconds.
Montoya and Michael Schumacher return to the pits together on lap twenty-six: the Colombian's stop is faster, but the gap between the two remains virtually unchanged. The race continues without further twists, and even in the last laps both Schumacher and Montoya raise the pace a bit, given that the positions are now frozen. Michael Schumacher thus wins on the anniversary of Ayrton Senna, who would have turned 44 years old.
The third Grand Prix of the season confirms the great competitiveness of Ferrari, which brings both cars to the podium after a race that was always led in the lead. As in the opening Grand Prix in Australia, Ferrari placed its drivers on the front row on the new Bahrain circuit, with Michael Schumacher in pole position ahead of Barrichello.
On Sunday morning the circuit is wet with light rain, an extremely rare event in Bahrain; the lowering of temperatures favours the teams equipped with Bridgestone tires, less effective than their Michelin rivals in high temperatures. In the afternoon the weather improved and the race took place with the track completely dry.
At the start Michael Schumacher starts well from pole position, keeping the lead of the group ahead of Barrichello and Montoya. The two Ferraris quickly gained a good margin over their rivals and during the race maintained an unsustainable pace for their pursuers, who were increasingly distanced.
With about ten laps to go, while the two Ferrari drivers manage the advantage over their rivals without problems, Montoya begins to slow down due to gearbox problems. In the absence of further events, Michael Schumacher crosses the finish line in front of Barrichello, thus obtaining the third victory out of three seasonal races.
Ten years after the accident in which Ayrton Senna disappeared, the reigning world champion Schumacher scores his fourth consecutive success by insinuating in the minds of many operators in the sector that the Formula 1 World Championship can already be said to be concluded due to the great strength of the house of Maranello, although it is only the fourth round of the season.
At the first race in Europe after the long trips to Australia, Malaysia and Bahrain, the majority of the teams introduce new features on their cars. In particular, Ferrari fitted Schumacher and Barrichello's F2004s with a new bonnet, narrower and lower especially at the rear.
However, in Saturday qualifying the pole position is the prerogative of an excellent Jenson Button, who makes the most of his Honda powered BAR. The English rider, fifth in the session with empty tanks, sets an excellent time by inflicting seven tenths of a gap to Barrichello, the fastest up to now. Schumacher scores a time in line with that of his rival in the first sector, then being faster in the second by just under two tenths, but the German driver makes a mistake in the third part of the track, losing almost half a second compared to Button.
At the start Button starts well and keeps the lead, also taking advantage of Schumacher's difficulties, forced to defend himself rather roughly from Montoya's attack, also pushing him on the grass and thus maintaining the second position. After the initial phase, the first two impose an unsustainable pace for the pursuers, with Schumacher scoring the fastest lap in the race several times. In the following laps Button, despite the pressure from the German driver, made no mistakes and kept his first position firmly until the ninth lap, when he stopped to refuel. In the meantime, with a clear track, Schumacher pushes hard, returning to the pits two laps later clearly ahead of his rival.
At the head of the race, in the following laps Michael Schumacher digs a wider gap between himself and Button, and after completing the second and third refuelling, Michael Schumacher manages the advantage over his rivals without worries and wins the fourth consecutive race ahead of Button and Montoya.
On the Catalan circuit Schumacher obtains his fifth consecutive victory, after having engaged in a good long-distance duel with the Italian Trulli in the early stages. The German Ferrari driver confirms himself more and more leader of the standings by extending his closest rivals.
the German imposed his superiority right from qualifying, obtaining pole position and inflicting more than six-tenths of a gap to the closest rival, Montoya.
But at the start of the race, Trulli took off very well and managed to overtake Montoya, Sato and Michael Schumacher, taking the lead. At the end of the first lap, Trulli leads in front of Michael Schumacher. Like in Imola, the first two outdistance the group, with the German driver threateningly pursuing his rival, scoring the fastest lap of the race several times. However, no overtaking occurs until the first set of pit stops. The race leader returns on lap ninth, while Michael Schumacher makes his first stop on lap 10, returning to the track in front of his rival and immediately distancing him.
On lap 23, Trulli stopped again in the pits, and was imitated two laps later by Michael Schumacher. The German driver, despite having made one more stop, returns to the track in the lead, ahead of team mate Barrichello.
Twenty laps from the end, Montoya was forced to retire due to a brake problem that had already slowed him down previously. The last laps do not reserve any twists and turns and Michael Schumacher easily wins the fifth consecutive race since the start of the season.
After just five races, Schumacher leads the standings with 50 points, against 32 for team mate Rubens Barrichello and 24 for Jenson Button. The fiercest rivals, on the other hand, are stuck at 18 points for Montoya and only one point for Räikkönen.
Michael Schumacher's streak of victories ends in the narrow streets of the Principality: the victory goes to Jarno Trulli's Renault, author of a great start on a par with his teammate Alonso.
Since qualifying Jarno Trulli proves to be very fast and conquers the first pole position of his career, beating Ralf Schumacher by about three tenths. The German driver, however, was relegated ten places on the grid for having replaced the engine on his car. Second place is then assigned to Button, followed by Alonso and Michael Schumacher.
Ferrari, which in Monte Carlo introduces new radiator vent chimneys on the F2004s of Schumacher and Barrichello, oriented towards the outside and having the function of improving the air flows in the rear area of the car, as well as venting heat, they seem not to be at ease on the street circuit.
At the start Trulli took off well, keeping the first position. At the end of the first series of pit stops Trulli continues to lead in front of Alonso and Michael Schumacher, also author of the fastest race lap in the successful attempt to overtake Button and Räikkönen.
However, there are no further changes of position until the fortieth lap, when Alonso, during a dubbing attempt against Ralf Schumacher, slowed down by gearbox problems, goes out of line under the tunnel, losing control of the car and crashing violently into the barriers. The accident scattered debris on the track, to the point of requiring the safety car to enter the track. All the drivers except the two of Ferrari take the opportunity to make the second refuelling.
Michael Schumacher is thus in the lead, followed by Montoya, fourth and dubbed, Trulli and Button. But during the forty-fifth lap, while the safety car is preparing to step aside, to warm the tires, the German driver brakes abruptly at the exit of the tunnel, catching Montoya by surprise, who collides with him.
The German driver's car flies in, crashing into the barriers and irreparably damaged. At the end of the Grand Prix, Montoya and Schumacher are both summoned to the race direction, but neither are penalized for the accident.
Michael Schumacher returns to victory on the Nurburgring circuit, followed by Rubens Barrichello, signing the Ferrari double that is dedicated to the recently deceased Umberto Agnelli. In fact, the Maranello team did not celebrate on the podium and only Jenson Button, third at the finish line, uncorked the bottle of champagne.
Michael Schumacher's dominance starts from qualifying, obtaining the fifth pole position of the season with an advantage of over six tenths on the second-best time, scored by Sato.
At the start Michael Schumacher keeps the lead and gives life to a series of unrepeatable laps for anyone, so much so that the German driver gains almost two seconds per lap. Kimi Räikkönen, second, in this phase slows down the group of pursuers, who, although significantly faster, are unable to overtake him, thus accumulating a consistent delay from Schumacher. Thanks to an unsustainable pace for anyone, Michael Schumacher wins the sixth race out of seven since the start of the season.
In Canada, Ralf Schumacher took pole position in qualifying ahead of Button, Trulli and Montoya. Ferrari, on the other hand, seem to be in sensational difficulty, with Schumacher and Barrichello respectively obtaining the sixth and seventh time, more than a second behind the Williams driver, despite the Maranello team making its debut on the B version of its engine on the fast Canadian circuit, with an increased power of about fifteen horsepower compared to the basic version.
However, the reigning world champion says he is confident for the race, given that the Ferrari technicians, knowing that Bridgestone tires are less effective than their Michelin rivals on the flying lap but guarantee a good consistency in race performance, have opted for the choice to load a substantial quantity of petrol on his car, sacrificing the starting position in favor of the possibility of making one less stop than his rivals.
Ralf Schumacher gets off to a good start, while Michael Schumacher immediately recovers two positions. In the following steps the German Williams driver gains a margin on his pursuers while Michael, taking advantage of the problem in the pits accused by Alonso, gains another position and reaches third place.
The race proves to be very tactical and places a great emphasis on refuelling stops: Ralf Schumacher and Jenson Button, in an attempt to exploit the lower fuel load, they have, try to distance the rest of the group but the more loaded Alonso and Michael Schumacher they manage to keep their pace. The German, among other things, tried several times to overtake Montoya but was unable to do so.
On lap 29 Montoya, who has been following Michael Schumacher for several laps, enters the pits for his second stop. Then follow Räikkönen, Button and Ralf Schumacher, respectively in the thirtieth, thirty-first and thirty-second pass, leaving the lead to Michael Schumacher, followed by his teammate and brother.
Michael Schumacher will refuel on the forty-sixth lap, returning to the track in front of Button, while two laps later Ralf Schumacher will also return to the pits, leaving the race command definitively to Michael, who wins for the seventh time this season ahead of Ralf Schumacher, Barrichello, Button and Montoya (Williams and Toyota will be disqualified at the end of the race due to the irregular dimensions of the front brake vents).
At the Indianapolis circuit, Ferrari returns to dominate qualifying, with Barrichello in pole position ahead of team mate Michael Schumacher. The two Ferraris get off to a good start, with Rubens Barrichello keeping the lead ahead of Michael Schumacher, but an accident in the rear forces the marshals to let the safety car in.
After cleaning the track from debris, Michael Schumacher attacks his teammate at the restart, alongside him on the finish straight and overtaking him at the first corner. It is incredible that the German driver manages to pass under the finish line just thirteen thousandths of a second from Barrichello, thus not violating the rule that requires drivers to keep their positions up to the finish line after the safety car leaves the scene.
The two Ferraris began to gain several seconds over their pursuers, but their advantage was again neutralized due to an accident involving Schumacher's Williams as well as a tire blowout on Alonso's Renault.
Refuelling sees Barrichello exploit the greater fuel load of his car to recover positions, coming to take the lead and then sell it following his pit stop: at the exit he finds himself behind Schumacher, with whom he engages in a duel that lasted a couple of turns. But Michael Schumacher resisted the attacks and took his eighth win of the season ahead of team mate and Sato.
Upon returning to Europe after the double trip to North America, Renault conquered pole position in France thanks to Fernando Alonso, just under three tenths faster than Michael Schumacher. But in the race, we witness the great test of Michael Schumacher and Ferrari who, similarly to what they did in 1998 in Budapest at the end of which they were the first to win a race by making three stops, taking advantage of the short time lost in the pit lane, they set up a strategy of four stops, one more than those expected of the opponents, obtaining the victory with a fairly substantial advantage.
At the head of the race, Alonso seems able to control Michael Schumacher, despite the German having set the fastest lap in the race several times. The two quickly gain a decent margin over their rivals. At the end of the eleventh lap Michael Schumacher returns to the pits to make the first pit stop, and three laps later it's up to Alonso. At the head of the race, Alonso took advantage of some laps to keep Schumacher at a distance, but he was faster than the Spaniard and during the second series of pit stops he passed in front of his rival, taking the lead.
At this point Schumacher stretches on Alonso, given that in an attempt to get the better of the Spanish driver, failing to overtake on the track, Ferrari has changed the strategy of the German driver, providing even four stops. The Ferrari driver already refuelled on lap 42, making a short stop and returning to the track in second position, while Alonso returned to the pits four laps later, once again giving the lead of the race to his rival. At this point Schumacher pushes hard to have enough margin over the Renault driver to make another stop and get back on track in front. He succeeds in the maneuver and on lap 58 Schumacher, after making the fourth stop, returns to the track in command, with a consistent advantage over Alonso, and wins the ninth Grand Prix out of ten so far.
At Silverstone, Finnish Kimi Räikkönen on the starting grid, one year after the last time, starts from pole position ahead of Barrichello, Button and Michael Schumacher. Qualifications are determined by an abnormal situation.
In fact, as usual, the qualifications are divided into two sessions of one hour each, in both of which the drivers have a single attempt at a flying lap, and the starting grid is determined by the times of the second session, in which the drivers take to the track in reverse order to the classification of the first session, held with empty tanks. Under normal conditions, making your attempt last is considered advantageous, as it allows you to run on a clean, rubber-coated track. But at Silverstone several drivers deliberately set high times in the first session, slowing down at the finish line or, in the case of the Ferrari drivers, simulating driving errors, in order to be able to take to the track in the early stages of the decisive session and avoid the rain expected in the second half of the session itself. Following this episode Bernie Ecclestone returns to propose changes to the qualification system, already questioned in the first part of the season.
But the actual qualifying session was held entirely on dry ground. Kimi Räikkönen thus conquers the third pole position of his career, leading Rubens Barrichello by just seven hundredths of a second.
During the first laps of the race, Räikkönen, taking advantage of the great competitiveness of Michelin tires, managed to build a good margin on the closest rival, the Brazilian Rubens Barrichello: the Ferrari driver began to reduce the disadvantage before having to stop to refuel similar to Jenson Button. Michael Schumacher, whose stop is expected later due to a greater fuel load, inherits the lead and thanks to a series of fast laps as well as the traffic encountered by his pursuers, he manages to keep it even after the pit stop without giving it up and despite the entry of the safety car, due to a frightening accident that occurred to Jarno Trulli.
In this phase, the gap between the Finn and Schumacher is zeroed and Räikkönen could count on the greater effectiveness of the cold Michelin tires, were it not for the fact that between the McLaren and Ferrari drivers there are two lapped; when the safety car moves aside, on lap 45, Räikkönen overtakes them immediately, approaching Schumacher in a threatening way, but without being able to overtake him; when the moment of superiority of the Michelin tires is over, at Räikkönen all that remains is to follow the German driver, defending himself from the recovery of Barrichello. Easily controlling the rest of the race, Michael Schumacher takes the tenth victory of the season out of eleven races disputed and the eightieth in his career.
Michael Schumacher's dominance also continues on the Hockenheimring, where he wins the pole position ahead of Montoya, slowed down by an error in the last sector.
The race is spectacular, despite Michael Schumacher able to manage the advantage over the rest of the group skilfully after Kimi Räikkönen, the only driver who seems to be able to keep up with the world champion, is left on the thirteenth lap due to a broken wing. rear right on the finish straight.
For Michael there are eleven victories out of twelve participations, and in the championship the gap on his rivals increases: now the German has 110 points, against the 74 accumulated by Barrichello and the 61 by Jenson Button.
Continuing like this, the seventh world affirmation really seems a step away. In the meantime, Ferrari dominated and won the constructors' championship in Hungary, thanks to yet another double win. At the end of the Hungarian race, the advantage of the Maranello team over its rivals is abysmal: 202 points against only 91 of its direct competitor, Renault, for another only team capable of winning a Grand Prix over Ferrari.
Schumacher's dominance also continued in qualifying, taking pole position ahead of teammate Barrichello. The race begins with a moment of suspense due to a brief indecision by Barrichello on the starting line but he starts immediately regularly.
At the start both Michael Schumacher and the Brazilian driver took off well, but he had to defend himself from Alonso, who started very well from fifth position. The race does not give any reason of great interest, other than the records that the Ferraris set lap after lap on the Hungarian track. Refuelling does not bring big changes and Michael Schumacher gets his twelfth win of the season ahead of team mate Barrichello and, as anticipated, thanks to this double, Ferrari is mathematically World Constructors Champion for the sixth consecutive time and with five races to spare.
Furthermore, Jenson Button definitively comes out of the fight for the Drivers' Title, therefore restricted to only Schumacher and Barrichello.
At Spa, on the much-loved circuit, Schumacher already has the opportunity to close the championship of the drivers' world in his favor, but the qualifications are held with intermittent rain: Trulli takes advantage of this and, taking advantage of a moment in which the rain calms down, conquers pole position ahead of Michael Schumacher, trailing by only seventy-two thousandths.
At the start, Schumacher's cue is not good and therefore the two Renault and Coulthard are able to overtake the Ferrari driver. Behind them Webber crashes Barrichello damaging the front wing of his Jaguar and giving rise to a major accident at Eau Rouge that requires the use of the safety car. Due to the contact with Webber, the Brazilian has to pit twice during the four laps spent under the safety car regime.
At the restart, the Michelin tires manage to reach the optimum temperature faster than the Bridgestones, affecting the performance of Schumacher's Ferrari, which is therefore overtaken by Räikkönen and Montoya.
The race continues, however, fragmented by the numerous entrances to the safety car: the second entry of the day occurs following the accident involving Button, on whose car the right tire suddenly explodes, and Baumgartner, who is hit in full by the Englishman, without control of his car; the third entry is instead a consequence of the contact between Coulthard and Klien, which sees the Scotsman collide with the Austrian at the top of the Eau Rouge climb; the Scot will then have to return to the pits to replace the nose of his McLaren.
Räikkönen gets his first success of the season to crown a race conducted impeccably, but while in third place Barrichello closes, author of a great comeback after the difficulties he had in the first laps, behind the Finnish driver is Michael Schumacher, thanks to the points earned thanks to the second place, he mathematically ensures his seventh drivers' world title, the fifth consecutive with Ferrari.
This time on the podium Schumacher celebrates not with the classic jump, but with a champagne shower, around a choreography present on the Belgian circuit: a fan exhibits a Schumacher mannequin with the number seven:
"Yes, everything happened. I slipped back, it could have been compromised. It went well. If you imagine what happened to Barrichello, swept away in traffic, stopped in the pits for three minutes and then third at the finish. an exceptional result, on the day of the team's 700th race. Raikkonen won and deserved it. He was the best. This time he couldn't stop, he had an unbeatable pace. Even if I had approached him I probably wouldn't have been able to overcome it. Of course, I would have preferred to win the title with a first place. But I can't help but be happy. A truly special, moving, touching moment. I don't have the qualities of a poet to describe what I felt. A different title from the other six, for many reasons. I remember that when the F2004 was presented in Maranello, they told me it would be It was impossible to win again. Look at what we have done. After the first tests and on the eve of the opening race in Australia I was confident. But knowing that I could have struggled I had even more desire to prove the opposite".
"I'm happy for Luca Montezemolo, our president. On Tuesday he will be able to celebrate his birthday in the best possible way. I think with great joy. In the next races, even if I have the title in my pocket, we will always try to win. In fact, we will do it without having to pay attention to the classification. In Monza we will be free to compete as much as possible. And also to have fun. We will try to celebrate with the fans. which means trying to win. I can't assure you, but I promise we'll try".
Maranello is once again celebrating. In the streets of the Ferrari homeland, the celebrations immediately began: trumpet blasts, carousels and the traditional bells of the church of San Biagio that the parish priest Don Alberto Bemardoni always plays for the victories of the Rossa (just a few minutes late: was engaged in a baptism).
"Ferrari owes him enormous thanks"
Comments Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, after yet another world championship triumph for his driver, who follows the extraordinary one of the team.
"A champion like there will be few in the history of automobiles, even in the future. A champion who has won like no other in the world and who has always known how to be one with the team in good times, as in less beautiful ones. Michael won the title with intelligence, precision, courage and great determination, demonstrating authentic human skills even in difficult moments. For this Ferrari must say a huge thank you".
With twelve wins out of fourteen starts, Schumacher takes the title and closes a circle of victories that have a completely different added value than any domination that was or has already been performed, or that will take shape in the future. Schumacher was able to bet on a team that hardly won a Grand Prix a year, due to a difficult moment of confusion and restoration, contributing with his immense charisma and his professionalism to reach levels of perfection otherwise achievable, in an era in which the opponents were many and fierce, starting with Mika Häkkinen, then moving on to Juan Pablo Montoya, his brother Ralf, Kimi Räikkönen and the emerging Fernando Alonso.
Michael was able to suffer, wait, cry, sacrifice himself and even transform an environment torn apart by endemic political and social difficulties such as those living in Maranello, within the sports section, but in the end he was right, winning a bet that only he could win, getting what so many other past champions like Ascari, Surtees, Lauda, Villeneuve or Prost had not been able to achieve.
Winning the Formula One world championship five times in a row with Ferrari.
Entering history forever.