Michael Schumacher showed he was in a class of his own in a thrilling opening race to the 2002 season. The German's modified 2001 Ferrari was the sole car on Bridgestone tyres to finish the grand prix that started with a spectacular accident and...
Michael Schumacher showed he was in a class of his own in a thrilling opening race to the 2002 season. The German's modified 2001 Ferrari was the sole car on Bridgestone tyres to finish the grand prix that started with a spectacular accident and ended with just eight cars taking the chequered flag.
“ Bridgestone produced an excellent tyre for this race which was spot-on for the job,” Michael said.“ I felt sorry for my teammate but I believe we will have a lot of fun during the season.”
The afternoon began dramatically when both OrangeArrows failed to move off the grid for the formation lap, then into the first corner Ralf Schumacher's BMW Williams was launched into the air after colliding with the back of Rubens Barrichello's pole position Ferrari.
Several mid-field cars were caught in the pile-up that followed, leaving just four Bridgestone runners on the track, plus the two OrangeArrows who rejoined later. Japanese driver Takuma Sato was one of those who benefited from the accident, moving from 22nd place on the grid to a highest position of 6th before retiring.
Schumacher, pushed back to 4th place at the start, briefly took the lead for the first time on lap 12 but then lost it to Juan Pablo Montoya. After an exciting five-lap chase behind the Colombian, Schumacher was back in front and pulled away to take a convincing victory. Mika Salo picked up a point for Panasonic Toyota in their debut race.
“It was a little bit surprising that our car was the fastest, but we did know it was fast– we did not make it slower over the winter!” added Ross Brawn.“ With the tyre development and improvements we made we knew it was going to be quicker than Suzuka. It was very encouraging to see how well the new tyres performed. We have a great combination with the car and the tyres– Bridgestone have done a fantastic job. Michael drove superbly well and clearly he had the better car. It was an extremely entertaining race.”
“From the results this weekend, I really believe we brought the perfect tyre for this race and I think that showed in Michael's convincing win. The new specification has worked well all weekend with a consistent performance,” concluded Hisao Suganuma, technical manager for Bridgestone Motorsport.“ We'd like to thank Ferrari, without whose contribution we would not have been able to develop such a competitive tyre during the winter. It is very encouraging for us to start the season like this. It is unfortunate that Michael was the only Bridgestone driver to finish and I am very disappointed for our other teams because I believe our tyres had the potential to help them to a good result in today's race.”