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The season-opening race at Australia proved to be what Ferrari had hoped for and what McLaren least expected. A race which appeared in the kitty for the McLarens was handed on a platter to the Ferraris. With both Mika and David retiring, Michael made the most of the race leading the drivers' championship, and in the process, catapulting Ferrari to the top of the table too.
The McLarens were expected to make a strong comeback in Brazil, having missed out big at the Australian GP. Despite the reliability issue, the McLaren cars were still the fastest. The Ferraris, on their part, had improved a lot and reduced the performance gap considerably between themselves and the McLarens. Schumacher had, in fact, referred to the car as being bloody fast in Australian GP's post-race conference.
So, a faster and stronger Ferrari had to face-off with the traditionally faster McLarens at the Brazilian GP to be on the winning side. If the reliability issue was just a one-off case, then Mika was worth watching in Brazil. The odds were quite evenly stacked at the moment, and it was anyone's race. Could Michael come victorious back-to-back or would Mika start his campaign with a victory at Brazil?
Let's find out.
The 2000 Brazilian GP Qualifying
For the first time in the 2000 season, the qualifying session witnessed a blistering Ferrari take provisional pole as Schumacher rocketed the car around the track. The car was indeed fast but only until Mika came to the track. Mika tore up Schumacher’s time to smithereens.
Take a look at this run where Mika goes half a second faster than Schumacher.
This trading of pole position continued for some more time as David Coulthard, in the other McLaren, and Rubens Barrichello in the second Ferrari also joined the contest. Just when both the teams appeared well matched, McLaren brought in those small adjustments that allowed Mika and David to pip both the Ferraris.
The final grid position times were so close that the top four cars were within half a second of the pole time. The McLarens blocked the front row while the Ferraris took the second row. The grid position was a mirror image of the 2000 Australian GP grid position – Mika led David, who was ahead of Schumacher and Barrichello.
The deja-vu grid spots begged the question if the race results would also be the same. For that, we had to wait for the race day and see if Michael could win the race.
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Let’s jump to the race day.
The 2000 Brazilian GP – Race Day
The McLarens had a blistering start at the Australian GP, and the Ferrari fans were hoping it to be a bit different in Brazil. Given the past reputation of the McLaren cars at the start of the race, it appeared that there would be quite a lot of disappointed Ferrari fans.
The Brazilian GP promised an exciting contest, and everybody waited with a bated breath for the turn of the lights. As the lights turned off, Mika made a good start, but Michael got off well too. As such, Michael gained a position and almost took Mika before turn one.
Mika held his position and was defending an aggressive Michael on his tail. Mika didn’t have to bother about Michael for too long as at the start of the second lap Michael ripped past Mika. That overtake was the least expected from a Ferrari car over the McLaren. But sooner than later it became apparent that the Ferraris were on a two-stop strategy against McLarens’ one-stop.
Take a look at the race summary here:
Not only Michael but also Barrichello overtook David and then Mika within a few laps. The strategy seemed to work well as Michael stayed ahead. Interestingly, Mika retired yet again, and it was just Michael in the front with David in the second place. The homeboy, Barrichello, was left disappointed as he too had to retire. So, Michael ended up victorious once again. That was a back-to-back victory for Schumacher and his third one at Brazil.
After the race, though, David Coulthard had to forfeit his position due to some irregularities in his car. As such, this was the second race in succession where both McLaren cars failed to finish. McLaren did appeal against the penalty but lost the appeal. Michael was way ahead in the drivers’ championship with twenty points while Ferrari was ahead in the constructors’ championship with twenty-six points. McLaren was yet to start in either table.
Back to the Pits
Ferrari had a superb start to the season with two wins on a trot. What was not evident, though, was how well a car was the McLarens. The qualifying told a different story about the cars while the race-day witnessed something else. As such, Ferrari and Michael would be letting their guard down against the McLarens at their own peril.
The season was long, and there was much to do for the Ferrari team, but for now, they could celebrate the Brazilian GP victory.
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