Having clinched the 2002 drivers' championship a week ago in France, and in doing so equaling Juan Manuel Fangio's record of five drivers' titles, Michael Schumacher ticked off yet another item on his to-do list by winning the German Grand Prix on...
Having clinched the 2002 drivers' championship a week ago in France, and in doing so equaling Juan Manuel Fangio's record of five drivers' titles, Michael Schumacher ticked off yet another item on his to-do list by winning the German Grand Prix on Sunday.
Going into the race Schumacher said what he wanted, more than helping Ferrari to its fourth consecutive constructors' title, was to win at Hockenheim in a Ferrari. In nine attempts at the circuit, the German had only managed one win, in 1995, driving for Benetton-Renault. A win Sunday would allow Schumacher the perfect send off as Formula One begins a three-week summer vacation.Ferrari, as the champion predicted, shifted its focus from the drivers' championship to the constructors' title by giving Rubens Barrichello more equal footing in the team.
The Brazilian was given use of the spare car and when his car developed a glitch as it rolled onto the grid, Barrichello quickly switched to that waiting Ferrari, allowing him to finally start a race after having failed to make it off the grid in the last two.
Barrichello's own hopes for a win were dashed when he was stuck behind Ralf Schumacher's Williams-BMW and a slow pit stop cost him the chance of even visiting the podium. He eventually finished fourth.
"When I made my second pit stop the fuel flap on the car did not open and that cost me precious time and a place on the podium," said Barrichello. "Once back on track, I concentrated on bringing the car home to pick up points for the championship."
Hopes of a Schumacher one-two were also dashed by pit stops, with Ralf being forced into making a visit four laps from the end when his engine developed trouble.
"It has been a disappointing day for all of us, I think," said Ralf. "The team, myself, everything went wrong which could have done." He complained of being held up by Jarno Trulli in the Renault and British American Racing's Jacques Villeneuve.
Montoya welcomed the chance to take second and consolidate his place in the close fight for second in the drivers' championship. During the race he had a thrilling battle with Kimi Raikkonen of McLaren-Mercedes.
"It was really good. I think that had cost me most of my race," said Montoya. "At the start, we went off the line really well but then the car just bogged down and Rubens pulled away and Kimi went by me and I think that really cost me. It took me quite a few laps to go by him and then I went by him and I was still on the same pace as the guys in front of me.But it was just way too far back and sometimes it's better to be lucky than good."
Ralf was also one of several drivers choosing not to change tires in the race. Afterward, he said the choice was good: "There wasn't a necessity for us there to change tires, since the car would understeer in the first stint and second stint, after the first pit stop," he said."We didn't want to hurt the balance by putting on another new set. The tire wear was so good that there wasn't a need, basically."
The same cannot be said of Raikkonen, who also chose not to change tires and had a right-rear come off the rim. He later crashed out of the race. His teammate, David Coulthard, finished fifth. The final driver in the points was Nick Heidfeld of Sauber-Petronas, both he and Coulthard finishing a lap behind the leaders.
Only nine of the 21 cars starting the race finished yesterday at the newly revised track, which was shortened to 2.8 miles this year, with the number of laps for the race being increased from 45 to 67. In its old configuration Hockenheim was known for being a car-killer, and this continued to be true in 2002.
The remaining finishers included Felipe Massa of Sauber-Petronas, Takuma Sato of Jordan Honda and Mika Salo of Toyota.How many drivers actually finished the race seemed to matter little to the German fans, who cheered and blasted klaxons as Michael Schumacher's red F2002 crossed the line.Ferrari in the past three years, but it seemed that Hockenheim was not supposed to be mine. It means a lot to me and seeing all the crowd on the slowing down lap was a dream come true, after winning the championship last week. Finally winning in Germany after being with Ferrari for seven years is just amazing after everything we have achieved this year."
With the exception of two tire stops, when he briefly dropped to third, Michael controlled the race from the first lap until the last. His only concern on Sunday was his Bridgestone tires. "I think all of us struggled a little bit with temperatures today," the German said. "The tires started to blister. I had quite a lot, especially in the first stint, so I really had to fight very hard to keep this advantage that we had."
Debates will certainly continue as to where Michael falls in the history of Grand Prix racing or how he compares to other greats of past generations, but it is certain that at the moment he and Ferrari are the dominant force in Formula One.
So far Schumacher Snr. has had a record tying (and breaking) year: five championships and nine wins, so far, matching the record set in 1992 by Nigel Mansell and equaled by Michael in 1995 and 2001. In records broken, the current champion now has the most points-scoring races in succession (17), has the most points earned in a career with 1,007, is the first driver to win three consecutive titles with the same team and has had 14 consecutive podium visits.
The last race he has failed to finish was last year's German Grand Prix. Michael also holds the record for the most wins with 62. Now, with Ferrari close to clinching the constructors' title, the focus shifts to second place in the championship, which is wide-open with Montoya second with 40 points, Ralf Schumacher third with 36 points, Barrichello fourth with 35 points and Coulthard in fifth with 32 points.