Full report: Flash back to Schumacher’s 100th F1 podium

Pablo Elizalde

After all the expectations surrounding the new Ferrari F2002, Michael Schumacher and his team demonstrated that their decision to debut the new car at the Brazilian Grand Prix was right, with the German taking a moral victory, beating the tough opposition from the Williams drivers. As usual, the story was much more complex than that.

Both Ralf Schumacher and Ron Dennis claimed after the Brazilian Grand Prix that they were not that impressed by the pace of the new Ferrari F2002, yet undoubtedly, Michael Schumacher's second win of the season in three races must have been a moral blow for both the German's rival teams.

Perhaps because they dominated with the "old" F2001B in Australia and would have fought for the win in Malaysia had Schumacher not clashed with Juan Pablo Montoya at the start, the expectations of what the Italian squad claimed was to be the "best Ferrari ever," were very high.

Michael Schumacher

Michael Schumacher Ferrari Media Center

Ferrari Media Center

Michael Schumacher

Michael Schumacher Ferrari Media Center

Ferrari Media Center

The F2002 had been fast in testing at Barcelona the week before the Brazilian race, and earlier both at Fiorano and Mugello, and after the relative dominance of the revised F2001 in the first two races, perhaps many were expecting the new machine to sweep the field right from the start.

Yet as the Brazilian Grand Prix weekend progressed, it was clear that the combination of the BMW-powered Williams and their Michelin rubber was the one to beat. In a track that, as seen last year, suited the Williams chassis perfectly, and with the French tyres being aided by the hot weather conditions, it was hardly a surprise to see Schumacher unable to beat Montoya to pole position on Saturday. And perhaps the same was expected from the race.

But keeping in mind that it was only the F2002's first race, and that its tyres were not the class of the field, and that Ferrari faced the not-so-easy task of having to work with two different chassis during the weekend, Schumacher's 55th Formula One victory was, more than anything, a moral one, and certainly gave Ferrari a boost ahead of the start of the European season at their home in two weeks time.

Michael Schumacher, Ferrari, Juan Pablo Montoya, Ralf Schumacher

Michael Schumacher, Ferrari, Juan Pablo Montoya, Ralf Schumacher Sutton Images

Sutton Images

Of course, showing once again that he is the antithesis of his teammate in many respects, Juan Pablo Montoya did try to pass Schumacher in the only opportunity that he had in the race, and again the move ended up badly for the hot-blooded Colombian.

Contrary to Malaysia only two weeks earlier, the Williams driver did not consider his clash with Schumacher a racing incident, and labelled the World Champion as "unfair," after the German decided to defend his lead with the allowed "one move" rule.

As always when such incidents occur, some will back Montoya while others will side with Schumacher, but clearly the continuous accidents between the two top contenders this year are not benefitting the show, and as seen so far, are not doing Montoya's chances to claim his first World Championship any good either. Montoya and Schumacher are very likely to have to fight against each other in most of the races this year, and if things go on like this between them, Ralf will certainly be a very happy man.

David Coulthard

David Coulthard DaimlerChrysler


Only three races into the season and it's already starting to look as though only Ferrari and Williams will be real contenders for race wins this season. In terms of race pace at Interlagos, McLaren seemed to have made no improvements and despite David Coulthard's first finish of the year, the Woking-based squad did not look to be very far ahead of the ever-improving Renault team.

It's true that McLaren's chances of a better result were not aided by both Coulthard and Kimi Raikkonen being stuck behind Jarno Trulli and Jenson Button in the first half of the race. But at the end of the event, Coulthard was only seven seconds ahead of Button, and if Renault can continue to make progress at the same rate, McLaren could face a real challenge in fending off the French squad in the Constructors' Championship. It's still early day, but it would certainly be nice to see Renault joining the fray.

Pitstop for Mika Salo

Pitstop for Mika Salo Toyota Racing

Toyota Racing

In the "third-class" league, Toyota was once more impressive at a circuit they had never been before, the Japanese squad again embarrassing some of the teams that were not expecting to follow the rear wing of the white and red cars in their debut season.

The situation must be especially hard to digest for Jordan and BAR, both powered by Toyota's rival Honda, who seem unable to find the way to return to the top of the sport and are struggling to match both the power and reliability of the best engine suppliers in the current field. As things stand, Honda and their teams have apparently lost their way.


Juan Pablo Montoya

Juan Pablo Montoya Brousseau Photo

Brousseau Photo

The satisfaction of nearly all the Michelin runners with the performance of the tyres brought to Interlagos by the French manufacturer was a reflection of their dominance in Saturday's qualifying, when seven of the top ten - and nine of the top thirteen - positions were filled by Michelin-shod cars.
Rivals Bridgestone rushed to build a new tyre - with new compound and construction - to cope with the heat of the South American country, and although the new rubber seemed to perform better with temperatures of around 45 degrees Celsius, Michelin still held the upper hand.

"Michelin have done an amazing job," said Eddie Irvine after qualifying. "They're just incredible." Jordan's Giancarlo Fisichella added that, "the Michelin runners clearly have an advantage over us here."

With Michelin's edge over their rivals, it was no surprise to see Juan Pablo Montoya becoming the third driver to set pole position in as many races this season, the Colombian also benefitting from the power of the BMW engine and the good traction provided by his Williams FW24.

Montoya's 1:13.114 lap was not only more than half a second quicker than last year's pole position time, but also good enough to keep both Michael and Ralf Schumacher behind him after the hour-long session came to and end. It was his fourth career pole position, and certainly the best start to try to redeem himself after last year's frustrating exit to his impressive race.

Michael Schumacher

Michael Schumacher Shell Motorsport

Shell Motorsport

Ferrari's Schumacher, in the first real test for the new and much awaited F2002, had to settle for second place, less than two tenths of a second behind Montoya. The German, who was pleased with his team's decision to debut to new car in Brazil, could only complete three of his four attempts, running out of time before being able to make a final run.

Despite completing one less attempt, Schumacher outqualified his brother Ralf, who was not completely comfortable with his Williams's set-up. The top six was completed by McLaren drivers David Coulthard and Kimi Raikkonen, and by the Renault of Jarno Trulli.

In a very hot start to the session, Raikkonen was the first of the top runners to hit the track, and to hit trouble too, suffering a hydraulic failure when he was just about to begin his first flying lap with 20 minutes of the session gone. The Finn was forced to cruise back to the pits and jump into the spare McLaren later on.

Coulthard followed his teammate, but the Scot was capable of finishing his first run with no problems, moving to the top of the timesheets with a 1:14.062 lap. The Scot's time was quickly bettered by local hero Rubens Barrichello with the F2001.

Rubens Barrichello

Rubens Barrichello Sergio Sanderson

Sergio Sanderson

The Brazilian, continuing with the usual bad luck that seems to affect him year in year out at his home Grand Prix, started qualifying knowing that his best time would be disallowed - a penalty for leaving the pitlane when the red lights were still on in the second practice. The same penalty was applied to Jordan's Takuma Sato, after a similar error on Friday.

Ralf and Montoya came out for their first run with 25 minutes gone, the Colombian setting the fastest time and then demoted by the German, who was the first driver to go under last year's pole time, with a time of 1:13.328. Michael Schumacher jumped onto the track moments later, and after a weak first split, the World Champion recovered in the last two to place himself right behind his brother.

Kimi Raikkonen

Kimi Raikkonen DaimlerChrysler


Coulthard returned to the track after half the session had gone, the McLaren driver improving his time to jump up to fourth. Meanwhile, Raikkonen completed only one lap with the spare MP4-17 before switching back to his race car, after its problem had been fixed by his mechanics. The young Finn's first flying attempt was good enough to put him in eighth place behind the two impressive Renaults, who were split by Barrichello.

With some 20 minutes remaining in the session, Michael Schumacher left the pits to complete his second run, and once again the Ferrari driver gained in the two final splits, but just not enough to move to the top of the timesheets, setting a time only 0.041 seconds slower than his brother and less than two hundredths behind Montoya, who had improved his time but not his position in his second attempt.

Montoya, however, would return to the track a few minutes later, blasting to the top of the times with a lap of 1:13.114. Schumacher Senior tried to respond to the Colombian's charge with seven minutes in the session left, but his attempt was not good enough for pole. Nevertheless, the German avoided an all-Williams front row, relegating Ralf to third spot, and warned that there was still a lot more in the F2002.

Juan Pablo Montoya

Juan Pablo Montoya Sergio Sanderson

Sergio Sanderson

"We have not got the maximum potential out of it yet," Michael said after a qualifying session in which he never topped the times, something certainly unusual in the last couple of years. "I don't think the gap between my times and the Williams is a fair reflection of the performance difference between the cars. Maybe in three or four races' time, we will be able to judge the car's true level, excluding the tyre factor."

Montoya did not need to complete his final run, and only Raikkonen made a significant improvement in the final seconds of the session, moving up to fifth place ahead of Trulli, Button and a disappointed Barrichello. Sauber's Nick Heidfeld and Mika Salo in the Toyota rounded up the top ten.

With Montoya and Schumacher lining up alongside each other once again this year, the scene was set for an exciting first corner shootout: "Whoever maybe wins tomorrow can lead the Championship," said Montoya after the session. "It's going to be quite interesting."

The Race

Enrique Bernoldi

Enrique Bernoldi Arrows Grand Prix International

Arrows Grand Prix International

A fierce crash by Arrows driver Enrique Bernoldi during the final part of Sunday's warm-up lead to what could have been a dramatic incident which fortunately just ended up being one of the most bizarre accidents seen lately. While Bernoldi's Arrows was stopped on track and the medical car had already gone out to assist him, Nick Heidfeld in the Sauber arrived at full speed into the Senna Esses.

Heidfeld turned to avoid the burning Arrows but went across the grass and smashed into the opened door of the parked medical car, fortunately only damaging the Mercedes car and his own Sauber. "I didn't see any yellow flags," Heidfeld said. "I suddenly had a car in front of me and nowhere to go. There is quite a lot of damage on my car but I think it will be okay for the race."

No one was injured, and at 2pm, the start of the race took place with a full field. Benefitting from a new launch control system, Michael Schumacher finally made a better start than his Williams rivals and nearly got alongside Montoya, who nevertheless was capable of keeping the Ferrari behind at the first corner... until he ran wide and allowed Schumacher to dive down the inside and into the lead at the exit of the Esses.

The start: Juan Pablo Montoya and Michael Schumacher charging to the first corner

The start: Juan Pablo Montoya and Michael Schumacher charging to the first corner Orlei Silva

Orlei Silva

Juan Pablo Montoya: no front wing, two rear wings

Juan Pablo Montoya: no front wing, two rear wings Sergio Sanderson

Sergio Sanderson

A decided Montoya got right behind the rear wing of the Ferrari along the straight, and when approaching turn four, the Colombian swerved left to try to go down the inside. But Schumacher moved to defend his position and Montoya's Williams touched the rear left wing of the Ferrari, the FW24 losing its front wing and Montoya all his chances of winning.

Several drivers ran over the debris of Montoya's front wing, and both Jordan's Giancarlo Fisichella and Toyota's Allan McNish were forced to pit for repairs, the Scot having punctured both his front tyres. A wing-less Montoya cruised back to the pits to replace his front wing, the Colombian infuriated by Schumacher's behaviour.

Michael Schumacher

Michael Schumacher Ferrari Media Center

Ferrari Media Center

Montoya, with no front wing: "I thought he was a fair guy to race with but he's definitely not," he said after the race. "Last week I took his front wing, even though I gave him room, and I got penalised. This week he shuts the door in front of me in the same way maybe as Rubens' move on Ralf in the race before. I was even closer and here we go. Who pays? I pay again and it just keeps going."

Schumacher, for his part, pleaded innocent: "I don't know what happened and I don't know what makes him unhappy. To me, I moved over to the left to avoid him taking the inside, I left the outside open for him and that's it."

Jenson Button, Kimi Raikkonen and Rubens Barrichello

Jenson Button, Kimi Raikkonen and Rubens Barrichello Renault F1

Renault F1

After the incident, Schumacher was left alone in the lead, with Ralf following in second, Trulli in third, Button in fourth, and a charging Barrichello already up to fifth after passing both McLaren drivers. The Brazilian continued his charged to the front in the following laps, his Ferrari very light on fuel.

To the delight of the local crowd, and in less than two laps, the Brazilian had already moved ahead of Trulli and Button and had already set his sight on Ralf, who was unable to match his brother's pace, lapping up to one second slower than the Ferrari. By lap five, the elder Schumacher led by nearly five seconds.

Only one lap later, Barrichello dived down the inside of Ralf at the end of the straight, taking second place away from the German. It took Barrichello eight laps to catch the race leader, who was on a one-stop strategy. Schumacher allowed his teammate to take the lead, again to the delight of the roaring crowd that filled the grandstands.

Jenson Button and David Coulthard

Jenson Button and David Coulthard Renault F1

Renault F1

Further back, Coulthard managed to move ahead of Button at the end of the straight, and set his sights on Trulli, who was still holding on to fourth place in the R202. But the quickest man on track continued to be Barrichello, who was setting two consecutive fastest laps and building up a lead of nearly three seconds by lap 16, before his Interlagos jinx hit him again.

Coming out of the Bico da Pato corner, the Ferrari driver suddenly slowed down, eventually retiring from his home Grand Prix for the eighth consecutive time. "It was hydraulic pressure, no gears, no drive, no nothing," said a downbeat Barrichello. "I was just driving flat out, that's all I could do."

A bad day for Rubens Barrichello

A bad day for Rubens Barrichello Sergio Sanderson

Sergio Sanderson

So Schumacher and his F2002 were again in the lead, but his gap to Ralf had increased to nearly nine seconds by lap 25 of the race. In a very distant third - nearly half a minute behind the leaders - Trulli was still running strong and not giving Coulthard any chance of passing him, not even when the Scot tried to go down the inside at the end of the straight, with both cars nearly making contact.

Button and Raikkonen were also fighting for fifth place a few meters back. Montoya, charging from the back of the field, got into the top ten by passing Irvine on lap 28.

Ralf Schumacher

Ralf Schumacher BMW AG


The Michelin tyres on Ralf's Williams began to show their edge over the Bridgestone rubber of his brother around lap 30, and the younger Schumacher was able to close the gap to his brother to some five seconds as the first and only round of pitstops loomed for the two Germans. But Schumacher Senior responded to his brother's challenge with a string of consecutive fastest laps that allowed him to stretch his lead again to nearly nine seconds.

On lap 38, Raikkonen finally managed to move ahead of Button after diving down the inside at the end of the straight, moving up to fifth and closing in on teammate Coulthard, who could not pass Trulli. Mika Salo, running in a strong eighth place with the impressive Toyota, was the first of the one-stoppers to make his pitstop on lap 38, quickly followed by Michael Schumacher.

Pitstop for Michael Schumacher

Pitstop for Michael Schumacher Ferrari Media Center

Ferrari Media Center

The Ferrari stood still for 12.6 seconds before rejoining the race in second place behind Ralf. Meanwhile, Montoya, who was already up to seventh, pitted three laps later, and was followed by Trulli, finally allowing Coulthard to run by himself. After only two laps in clear air, the Scot pitted and rejoined in front of the Italian.

Leader Ralf made his scheduled stop on lap 44, returning to the track some three seconds behind his brother, and setting the scene for a showdown in the final 20 laps. Coulthard followed the two Germans in third - more than 40 seconds behind - while Raikkonen had moved up to fourth after making his stop and rejoining ahead of both the Renaults. Montoya was seventh.

The gap between Ralf and Michael decreased as the Williams driver began to push harder after having fixed a balance problem in the pitstop, and with ten laps to go only a second separated the two cars.

Jarno Trulli

Jarno Trulli Renault F1

Renault F1

The ever unfortunate Trulli, who looked set to score his first points with Renault, suffered an engine problem on lap 61, retiring for the third straight race since he joined the French squad. "I'm gutted," said the Italian. "What can I say? A positive race; a negative result."

Trulli's retirement elevated Montoya up to sixth place, but the Colombian would soon gain another position after Raikkonen spun off the race with a wheel hub failure with only three laps remaining, continuing with McLaren's streak of less than perfect reliability this season. Raikkonen's retirement allowed Salo to move into sixth place, repeating for Toyota the result achieved in Australia.

The final laps went by, and the move that most of the fans were expecting from Ralf, just didn't arrive, the Williams driver not even close to disturbing his brother despite running within one second of the Ferrari for several laps. When Michael crossed the finish line - but not under the chequered flag, after football hero Pele apparently decided that the race winner was Takuma Sato - the gap to Ralf was a mere half a second, showing that the decision to delay the debut of the new F2002 was the right one.

Pelé giving the checkered flag

Pelé giving the checkered flag Sergio Sanderson

Sergio Sanderson

"The car was perfect," claimed a delighted Schumacher "We didn't suffer any problems, but it was a very tight race with Ralf, though I was confident I could win and winning in the new car makes us optimistic for other races."

The glass was also half full for Ralf, who despite being beaten by the Ferrari, was happy to see that his brother could not walk on water with the new car: "We were expecting a really big step forward and it has been a step forward but not as big as we were expecting. We were able to qualify beside them, with a better start maybe we were able to win the race or a bit better first stint, so I'm full of hope that we can go to Imola and again have a very tight and close race with them."

The podium: race winner Michael Schumacher with Ralf Schumacher, David Coulthard and Ross Brawn

The podium: race winner Michael Schumacher with Ralf Schumacher, David Coulthard and Ross Brawn Sutton Images

Sutton Images

Coulthard was finally capable of scoring his first points of the season with a rather disappointing third place which should have made McLaren start to watch their backs for the challenge from Renault rather than thinking of fighting Ferrari and Williams.

Most teams, and especially those who have struggled in the first races, usually look forward to the start of the European season in order to find their way and see their fortunes changing. However, at the San Marino Grand Prix in two weeks time, the prospect of a win from a car other than a Ferrari or a Williams, looks highly unlikely.