Motorsport.com - Michael Schumacher used the Formula One season finale at Suzuka to further demonstrate that his dominant victory in the Drivers' Championship was no fluke, easily outdistancing his competition on his way to his ninth victory of...
Motorsport.com - Michael Schumacher used the Formula One season finale at Suzuka to further demonstrate that his dominant victory in the Drivers' Championship was no fluke, easily outdistancing his competition on his way to his ninth victory of the year, tying the record originally set by Nigel Mansell.
The new World Champion's 123 point total for the 2001 season is a new record, as is his new career total of 801, which now surpasses Alain Prost's all-time career mark.
Schumacher had intended to hand the victory over to his Ferrari teammate, Rubens Barrichello, but the Brazilian was not in a position to take advantage of any such generosity.
"I was going to give the win away to Rubens," Schumacher explained. "But the plan was for him to get past the two Williams first, but he did not do that, so there was no point in me sacrificing after that."
As things turned out, Barrichello finished well back in fifth place, behind not only Schumacher's leading Ferrari, but also Juan Pablo Montoya in a Williams-BMW and the two McLaren-Mercedes of David Coulthard and Mika Hakkinen.
Both Ferraris had started the race with light fuel tanks, giving them a clear speed advantage in the early laps, and enabling Schumacher to build an 11-second advantage over Montoya before the first round of pit stops. Barrichello was able to use his weight advantage to get past the other Williams-BMW of Ralf Schumacher -- after a spirited fight - but he was unable to make an impression on the Colombian.
After the first round of stops, Montoya gave Schumacher a spirited challenge, setting several fastest laps in the process, but, in the end, was unable to claw back all of the on-track advantage the German had built up in the first stint.
Montoya's Williams teammate, the younger Schumacher, fought with Barrichello throughout the race, but had to settle for sixth place, less than a second behind the red Ferrari.
Behind the elder Schumacher and Montoya, Hakkinen drove a solid race, staying close to the leading pair in his final Grand Prix for McLaren prior to taking a sabbatical year in 2002. However, in the closing laps, the Finn slowed down and handed the final podium position to Coulthard, thus thanking the Scot for his support throughout the years that the two have worked together at McLaren.
"I'm happy that David finished on the podium, and I must admit that by letting him past I wanted to give him something back for the occasions in the past when he has helped me," Hakkinen explained. "It will take some time to understand my new life and establish whether I enjoy it or not. Right now I'm looking forward to my sabbatical, but I'm sure I will also miss Formula One.'
With the Big Three teams taking all the points-paying positions, the midfield teams had to settle for the remainder, with Jenson Button (Benetton) claiming seventh and Jarno Trulli (Jordan) taking eighth.
Benetton signaled the top teams that they may be a force to be reckoned with in 2002, as they become the Renault works team. Giancarlo Fisichella, equipped with the latest Renault engine and new launch control electronics, had an excellent start and ran as high as fifth prior to spinning out in the early going.
Jean Alesi's final race ended up in the gravel, spoiling his chances to finish every race in the season. He was battling for position with Kimi Raikkonen, when the young Finn's Sauber bottomed out, causing Raikkonen to lose control and spin in front of Alesi, taking both cars out of the race.
In the final reckoning, the season was a dominant one for both Ferrari and Schumacher, with McLaren well behind, while Williams demonstrated that they will be a contender in 2002. Behind them, it was Sauber clearly beating out both the Honda-equipped teams, BAR and Jordan.
With the season over, the teams now have a month of testing remaining before the end-of-year testing ban takes effect.