Fierce fight for second to continue at USGP

Four drivers to continue fierce chase for second at USGP. INDIANAPOLIS, Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2002 -- "Show me a good loser, and I'll show you an idiot." So said Brooklyn Dodgers manager Leo Durocher in 1950, the same year the Formula One World ...

Four drivers to continue fierce chase for second at USGP.

INDIANAPOLIS, Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2002 -- "Show me a good loser, and I'll show you an idiot."

So said Brooklyn Dodgers manager Leo Durocher in 1950, the same year the Formula One World Championship began. Half a century later, Michael Schumacher is forcing an awful lot of F1 drivers to revise their attitude to losing.

Victory at Spa-Francorchamps, round 14 of the 2002 World Championship, was Ferrari ace Schumacher's 10th of the season, an all-time record in Formula One. It was also the 63rd of his career, but astonishingly it came three races after the one that sealed the German's record-tying fifth World Championship.

That happened in July in France, making Schumacher the fastest-ever winner of the title -- in round 11 of a scheduled 17. Since then about the fiercest fight in Formula One has shifted to which driver will finish second.

As the Formula One World Championship looks ahead to the SAP United States Grand Prix on Sept. 27-29 at the fabled Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the mission for Ferrari's Rubens Barrichello, Williams-BMW teammates Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya and McLaren-Mercedes ace David Coulthard is clear: beat Michael Schumacher for the win and gain as many championship points as possible.

Only one F1 driver ever became famous for finishing second, and that was England's Stirling Moss, runner-up four times in F1's World Championship stakes. But Moss had it tough too -- his career coincided with the great years of Juan Manuel Fangio, a five-time title winner from 1951-57.

Looking at this era another way, 2002 has seen a terrific scrap between Barrichello, Ralf Schumacher, Montoya and Coulthard.

The man who's come closest to the brilliant Schumacher this season is Brazilian Barrichello. Spa brought up the sixth Ferrari 1-2 finish of the season, and on four occasions, Barrichello has finished second.

Barrichello also has two victories, at the European Grand Prix on June 23 at Germany's Nurburgring and then Aug. 18 in Hungary. But by then, Schumacher's fifth title already was sealed.

"I have been fourth and third in the championship," said a philosophical Barrichello. "Fighting for second right now and having all the support of the team, I would welcome second."

So would 2000 Indianapolis 500-Mile Race winner Montoya, but the Colombian may have to settle for third after dropping seven points adrift of Barrichello at Spa.

Sixth in his rookie season last year, Montoya also is continuing the fight, like Barrichello.

"You want to do the best you can every season," he said, "and you want to do better than the previous season. Second would be a really good step forward, and even third is good."

But Montoya's teammate, Ralf Schumacher, has different motivation in this scrap.

"The motivation is not so much about winning second place in the Drivers' Championship behind my brother Michael," Ralf Schumacher said, "but about our intention to catch up with Ferrari before the end of the season. If we don't manage to achieve this, it will make next season very difficult."

That's a tall order. Ferrari leads second-place Williams-BMW, 173-86, in the Constructors' standings and has enjoyed mechanical dominance all season.

But fear not, as Scotland's Coulthard thinks better times are at hand for the pursuing pack.

"We have beaten Michael before, and we can beat him again," Coulthard said. "It's difficult to do so at the moment because he has a car advantage. Hopefully, next year we will have a more competitive package."

Going to Ferrari heartland Sept. 15 at Monza, Barrichello leads Montoya by seven points, with Ralf Schumacher a further two points behind and Coulthard 14 shy of Barrichello.

"We still have hopes for the second place," Montoya said after Spa. "The moment Rubens fails, we have to be right there."

But failure is not really in the Ferrari dictionary right now. Spa was the 50th consecutive F1 race with a Ferrari driver on the podium, and the team can be expected to work hard at keeping that way as their number-two man drives toward his best-ever finish. But that's no reason for the rest of them to hang up their driving boots and head for home.

Cyclical dominance is a sports-wide phenomenon, after all. Lance Armstrong is the main man on a bicycle right now, but over 100 others chased him home in the Tour de France. Jeff Gordon won 13 races en route to the 1998 NASCAR Winston Cup championship and clinched the title early but faced tough competition all season. And nobody gave up golf because Tiger Woods took out a monopoly on the major championships in recent years.

As always, it all comes down to who's hungriest. Race drivers are not naturally equipped to finish second, so there's a real race on among the-men-who-are-not-Michael. And as golf legend Arnold Palmer said, "Winning isn't everything -- but wanting to is."

-ims-

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Ferrari , Mercedes , McLaren , Williams