SEPANG, Malaysia, Thursday, Oct. 19, 2000 -- The 17-race 2000 Formula One season, which included the inaugural SAP United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis, comes to a close with the Malaysian Grand Prix on Oct. 22. While Michael Schumacher...
SEPANG, Malaysia, Thursday, Oct. 19, 2000 -- The 17-race 2000 Formula One season, which included the inaugural SAP United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis, comes to a close with the Malaysian Grand Prix on Oct. 22. While Michael Schumacher clinched his third World Championship in the Japanese Grand Prix two weeks ago and became the first Ferrari driver to win the title since 1979, other positions in both the Drivers and Constructors Championship have yet to be settled. Ferrari is on the verge of winning its 10th Constructors Championship. The team has 156 points and a 13-point lead over McLaren-Mercedes. McLaren can only win the title if its drivers place first and second or first and third while the Ferrari drivers earn less than three points between them. If the teams tie in points, Ferrari wins the title because it has more victories this season.
Still, the Ferrari team is not taking anything for granted.
"Sometimes the easiest things are the most difficult to achieve," said Ferrari's sporting director Jean Todt, "so we must be very concentrated. We know that if we don't score points, they (McLaren) can take them instead. If they finish one-two, it's 16 points for them. You may remember what happened at Indianapolis, because that's where we scored 16 points while they scored two. We must be very careful."
Schumacher does not plan to cruise through the race just to collect points. "The three points for fourth place will be enough to win the championship," Schumacher said, "but I don't think we are looking just for fourth place. I would really like to win the race."
Now that he has won the Drivers Championship, Schumacher is approaching the last Grand Prix of the season in a relaxed mood.
"It was great relief crossing the line at Suzuka," said Schumacher, referring to his win in Japan. "I felt like a couple of tons of stone that had been on me had fallen off. It was one of the most wonderful days of my whole sporting career. There is no pressure now, so it will be easier this weekend. I'm looking forward to an enjoyable weekend where we can race for fun."
The teams are anxious to end the season as high as possible in the Constructors Championship not only for the prestige of beating the other teams but also because Formula One's confidential prize and travel money payout is based on points earned. Heading into the final race, there are four battles in the Constructors Championship. At the top of the rankings is the Ferrari/McLaren-Mercedes duel. Further back in the Constructors points table, there is a close battle for fourth between Mild Seven Benetton-Playlife (20 points), Lucky Strike BAR-Honda (18), and Benson & Hedges Jordan-Mugen-Honda (17). The next battle is for seventh place between Orange Arrows-Supertec (seven points), Red Bull Sauber-Petronas (six) and Jaguar-Cosworth (three points). Finally, Telefonica Minardi-Fondmetal and Gauloises Prost-Peugeot have no points and are desperate not to end up last in the standings. The Drivers Championship also contains some close fights for positions. Only three points separate Giancarlo Fisichella and Jacques Villeneuve, who are sixth and seventh, respectively, in the standings. Jenson Button and Heinz-Harald Frentzen, eighth and ninth, respectively, are only a point apart. And Jarno Trulli, Mika Salo, Jos Verstappen, Eddie Irvine, Ricardo Zonta, Alexander Wurz and Pedro de la Rosa are covered by a four-point span.
Where to watch: Television viewers in the U.S. can watch the Malaysian Grand Prix live on Speedvision at 2 a.m. (EDT) Oct. 22. Fox Sports Net will air the race live at 2:30 a.m. (EDT) Oct. 22. Speedvision will show qualifying live at 1 a.m. (EDT) Oct. 21.
Domination: If Ferrari or McLaren-Mercedes wins the season finale in Malaysia, it will mark the first time since 1988 that two teams have won every race of the season.
McLaren won 15 of 16 races in 1988 and would have won all of them if Ayrton Senna, who led the Italian Grand Prix, had not tangled with a slower driver. Senna spun, and Gerhard Berger went on to win in a Ferrari.
Schumacher aims for fourth title: Having just secured his third World Championship Michael Schumacher has no plans to retire. "I feel very young still," Schumacher said. "I'm only 31. It's taken five years with Ferrari to be competitive from the first race to the last. Now we have it. I'm just glad to be there and take more advantage. I enjoy racing. I enjoy Ferrari, and I want to have some more of these times." "I have seen big waves of emotions-good and bad ones-and these waves make life interesting and joyful. I feel I am too young not to experience many more of these. Yes, I definitely look forward to a few more seasons of racing."
Herbert's finale: The Malaysian Grand Prix will the 161st and final Grand Prix for Johnny Herbert, who is retiring from Formula One to pursue other racing challenges. The Jaguar Racing team plans to throw a farewell party for Herbert on Oct. 20. Herbert began his F1 career in 1989 driving for Benetton. In subsequent years, he drove for Tyrrell, Lotus, Ligier, Sauber, Stewart and Jaguar. "The way I look at it," he said, "it's not that it is coming to a halt. Rather I'm looking on to the next stage of my racing career. I would have loved to have more success, but I think considering everything, I've done very well.
"I've always eventually shown my determination and my competitiveness compared to my teammates. I've always come back."
Schumacher switches off: Michael Schumacher spent the time between the races in Japan, where he won the championship, and Malaysia with his wife, Corinna, on an island where he "switched off" and relaxed. "We switched off (on) an island, just my wife and me," Schumacher said, "because we didn't feel like going through the time change, after Indy and Japan, of going home and then coming back here. Naturally, we were missing the kids quite deeply, but then we have to concentrate on another weekend. "I would like to do as good a job as I did at Suzuka, and to do that we have to be concentrated. The time we had there (on holiday) was really perfect for what I was looking for. My wife was quite happy with me because she has never seen me so quiet, not training three or four hours per day and not doing whatever (I usually do) during the whole day. It was just easy. "I read two books, which is outstanding for me. I am not a big reader. But it was good. Certainly the first three days (of holiday) were necessary because after the party we had on Sunday night (at Suzuka), I needed about three days to recover. Then I just got into the mood of lying around, moving from one sun bed to the other, having a little lunch, then back on to the sun bed to read my books.
"That was it. I didn't hear much about the (F1) business; I just imagined how it might be. And my imagination is quite good."