The 2000 Australian GP: Michael Schumacher’s 36th Career Win
The 2000 F1 Season
The 2000 F1 season saw the double world champion, Mika Hakkinen, pitted against the other double world champion, Michael Schumacher. Again. If there were any doubts about Mika’s calibre, then the past two seasons showcased the mettle that made the man. He was now on equal footing with Michael and the new season continued to be tilted towards the McLarens in terms of car performance.
The Ferraris, on the other hand, were arriving from their constructors’ championship win from the 1999 season, and therefore, carried the confidence into the 2000 season. They also had Michael, who was expected to be ballistic to make up for missing the 1999 season, and those two factors would work as double ammunition in Ferrari’s arsenal. Would that be enough? Only time would tell.
History, however, had a propensity to tilt towards the champion. The question was: who was the champion? Was it Mika, the reigning world champion, or Michael, who would leave no stone unturned to make it to the top? It was an exciting contest, offering an interesting perspective on the season, and had all the ingredients to make the 2000 season a great one.
It was time to focus on one race at a time and see how things progressed from there. The contest between the McLarens and the Ferraris, Mika and Michael, was all set to resume in the new season. Considering all the odds, could Michael start the 2000 season on a winning note?
Let’s find out.
Did You Know?
Until 2000, the best result for Schumacher in Australia was a second place in the 1992 Australian GP and a second place in the 1997 edition.
In fact, until 2000 Michael had more retirements at the Australian GP than finishes at any position.
The 2000 Australian GP Qualifying
All the anticipation of Ferrari’s fighting performance was put to rest with a dominating qualifying session by the McLarens. It was an all-too-familiar sight which the fans had grown to accept over the last two seasons. McLaren were the ones to set the pace, and it was Ferrari’s job, more so Michael’s, to beat them at it; most of the time, though, the McLarens had the upper hand.
The grid looked eerily similar to the 1999 Australian GP. The top three spots were the same, with Mika at pole position, David in P2 and Michael at P3. The qualifying did witness Michael’s last run getting abandoned as David spun on the track, leading to yellow flags being waved.
Take a look at that last qualifying run.
Michael was faster in the first sector and appeared all set for a pole position run, except for the accident. Could the result have been any different had Michael gotten a free run? We can only speculate, but the outcome was that his Ferrari was starting at P3.
The top four cars were within a half-second of the pole time, and Barrichello was the new face in the Ferrari team on P4. The front two rows were the McLarens and the Ferraris all set to fight it out on race day.
So, let’s get on to the race day.
The 2000 Australian GP – Race Day
The start of the race was a tense moment for the Ferrari and McLaren fans for obvious reasons. Many wanted Schumacher to have a blistering start while others wanted Mika to hold his position. Either way, the race already promised a great afternoon.
The cars lined up for the lights, and as they went out, Mika and David had a great start. Both the Ferrari’s were visibly slow off the grid, and the Jordans caught up with the Ferraris. By the time, the Ferrari’s made ground, the McLarens were already on to the first turn. Mika led from David closely followed by Schumacher. The position stayed so, as the top three cars started pulling away from the rest of the grid.
Take a look at the race summary:
The top three appeared well-matched, and therefore, it appeared, there was hardly any chance of an overtake. So, Michael was sure to make it to the podium, but maybe not in first position. McLarens couldn’t be blamed if they had started an early celebration, but the day was not destined to go their way. David was the first of the McLarens to retire, due to a hydraulic issue, promoting Michael to the second spot. And just when McLaren hoped that Mika would be able to keep his place, he too retired with a similar problem.
Now, Michael was in the front, and a marauding Barrichello was soon at the back of Michael. Barrichello overtook Michael and set blistering laps only to pit as per his race strategy. Barrichello’s pitstop let Michael take the lead, and when he did join, he was in the second position, comfortably ahead of the Williams of Ralf Schumacher.
The rest of the race progressed in the same order and concluded with Michael winning his maiden Australian Grand Prix! It was an outcome which did not appear obvious at the beginning of the race.
Did You Know?
Michael Schumacher’s victory at the 2000 Australian GP was his first victory in Australia.
It took Michael nearly 9 years since his debut to win at Australia!
Back to the Pits
Though it was a disaster for the McLarens, the race offered a glimpse of what to expect for the rest of the season. Michael felt that the race could have provided better entertainment had the two McLarens stayed till the end. He had reasons to believe that the Ferrari was way faster and the McLaren team could have witnessed that.
Whether or not McLarens would have enjoyed the result, they as much as the fans knew that there was more to come. Besides, it was just the first race out of a total of seventeen. The season had not fully started yet, and it could go in anyone’s favour!
© 2020 S K