Success for the Shell supported Ferrari team at Interlagos as Michael Schumacher survived another skirmish with Juan Pablo Montoya and held off a fierce challenge from brother Ralf to drive the brand new F2002 to victory in the Brazilian Grand ...
Success for the Shell supported Ferrari team at Interlagos as Michael Schumacher survived another skirmish with Juan Pablo Montoya and held off a fierce challenge from brother Ralf to drive the brand new F2002 to victory in the Brazilian Grand Prix.
Starting from second place on the grid, Schumacher battled for the lead with pole sitter Juan Pablo Montoya as they went into turn one. Reliving last year's battle for the lead, Michael edged ahead of the Columbian, but as Montoya tried to re-pass, he clipped Schumacher's rear tyre, losing his front wing. Forced to pit for 19 secs, Montoya rejoined the race in 20th place, and never looked likely to continue his tussle with the World Champion.
As Schumacher made the most of the situation and accelerated away to lead the race, team mate Rubens Barichello worked his way up the field in last year's Ferrari from his fourth row grid position. To the delight of the Brazilian crowd, Rubens overtook Ralf Schumacher on lap six, moving up to second place, before taking the lead on lap 14, sending the home crowd into a frenzy.
Unfortunately their joy was short-lived, as hydraulic failure on lap 17 forced Barichello to retire for the eighth consecutive time at Interlagos, one lap after completing the fastest lap of the race so far in 1.16.511.
With Barichello out of the race, the battle for first place was between the Schumacher brothers as they eased 35 seconds away from the rest of the pack. On lap 31, with Michael 5.1 seconds ahead of his brother, it was clear that he was pushing for a one stop race, relying on the efficiency of his Shell fuel to keep him out on the track for as long as possible.
Continuing to set fastest lap times as his fuel load lightened, Michael pitted on lap 39 after a blistering 1.16.235, with an eight second lead over the Williams BMW - enough to ensure he remained out in front following his brother's pit stop.
With the Schumacher brothers out in front, the race was on for third place with Trulli, Coulthard, Raikkonen and Button in with a shout. Juan Pablo Montoya was also beginning to make his presence felt again as he pushed up to seventh with a new fastest lap of 1.16.221.
As the race drew to a dramatic climax, Michael and Ralf continued to battle it out for the lead, with Schumacher junior moving to within 0.2 seconds of the Ferrari. However, the BMW Williams never quite had enough to get passed the F2002 as the new Ferrari took the chequered flag in 18.104.22.1683. The BMW was 0.558 seconds behind with David Coulthard taking third place. Jenson Button finished fourth with Montoya fifth and Salo taking the final point for Toyota in sixth.
Speaking after the race, a delighted Schumacher said: "Winning this race was not down to luck, we worked hard for it, developing the car and the Bridgestone tyres. I like this track as it is technically difficult, which makes it a challenge."
Speaking of the battle with Montoya, he said: "It was an exciting time for the first two corners. Juan Pablo drove well and I thought I could out-brake him for the first corner, but he left his braking really late, so I prepared to do it at the second corner. He left me enough space and I got by. I don't know what happened at turn four. I went for the inside line to leave him outside. Towards the end of the race it was not that difficult to leave Ralf behind me."
Speaking of his disappointment in the last year's Ferrari, Barachello said: "It is a bad beginning to the year. Really it is a pity, but I am determined to win. It was disappointing, but I'm in a good mood. There's nothing more I could do."
Michael Schumacher's victory was a tremendous result for the Ferrari / Shell team as the new car has never raced before and has certainly never been run under such hot conditions.
Shell's fuels expert, Tobias Tasche said: "With the high ambient temperatures in Interlagos we have been in constant contact with the Ferrari engineers about how the heat would effect engine and gear box reliability. We are very pleased that both cars proved so reliable in the heat, although it was disappointing that Rubens dropped out, but that was due to a mechanical failure."
"We have worked very hard with the Ferrari engineers throughout the winter and are very pleased with the result of the new car today, especially with so many teams dropping out. The collaborative research between Shell and Ferrari means Shell can contribute so significantly to Ferrari's success. It is great to see the new car is race winning from the word go."