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The 2000 F1 Season
After two back-to-back wins, Michael was not only at the top of the table but in a position to close the championship battle at the Japanese GP. Michael experienced such a moment last in the 1995 season, and it had been five years since. This was Michael’s real chance of winning his third drivers’ title since the time he joined the Ferrari team.
Interestingly, the Japanese GP was also a race which Mika would want to win to keep the championship alive and take his third title in the Malaysian GP; if at all. In a way, the Japanese GP was turning out to be a clash of the titans. On the personal front too, Michael had gone past Ayrton Senna’s 41-wins and was en route to Alain Prost’s 51-wins. So, any amount of victory was good.
The Ferrari team had developed well since 1996 to progress from a team ending in the top four to be the best team in 1999. They were only missing the drivers’ title, and the whole team was behind Michael to make it happen in Japan. It was a nothing-to-lose game for Michael and so was it for Mika.
Could Michael win? Let’s find out.
The 2000 Japanese GP Qualifying
All through the 2000 season, the qualifying session was mostly a session of trading poles between two teams – Ferrari and McLaren. The Japanese GP qualifying was no different, but it was the most intense and direct battle between Michael and Mika. The number two drivers hardly took provisional pole.
To sum it up, the Japanese GP qualifying was one of the best contest between two title contenders that the F1 world had hitherto seen. Each driver just upped their ante like never before, and P1 was decided by a mere nine-thousandth of a second.
Take a look at the pole position contest:
Note: The Formula 1 site uploaded this video. If you are unable to view on this page, do follow the link to watch on YouTube.
How was the contest? As hot as ever, right? So, the pole position was settled with Michael’s last dash. It appeared that the Ferrari fortunes were turning, after all. It was now a do-or-die battle on race day.
The 2000 Japanese GP – Race Day
Michael and the Ferrari team had reasons to believe that the pole gave them a better chance to storm ahead and stay ahead. There was nothing to contest that claim as both the cars from the Ferrari and the McLaren stable were well matched, and the one in front should easily get ahead. But nobody checked with Mika what he thought.
Mika brought some of his magic to the race. At the turn of the lights, he was ballistic and went ahead of the swerving Michael. Mika was unstoppable. Any hopes of Michael catching up with Mika was also put to rest, as Mika was quite fast.
Take a look at the Japanese GP race summary:
Noticed Michael swerving at the start? And yet he could not box Mika. The fortunes for McLarens and their hopes remained afloat even after the first pitstop. Mika was ahead, and a possibility of Michael catching up on the track or during pitstop appeared remote.
While Mika pitted for the second stop, Michael stayed out and put some good laps. Michael coming out in front was still unlikely but for Mika’s momentary challenge with the backmarkers. Mika’s precious seconds lost were adding to Ferrari’s ability to get Michael ahead, and that’s precisely what happened. Michael not only came ahead of Mika after the second stop, but there was a reasonable distance between the two cars.
From thereon, Mika kept pushing Michael right up to the last lap’s last turn for the chequered flag. Michael passed the chequered flag first, taking home his win, his eighth win of the season, his forty-third career victory, and most importantly, the 2000 F1 drivers’ title. Phenomenal would have been an understatement!
Back to the Pits
The Japanese GP was one of the best moments for the Ferrari team and Michael. Michael won his first championship with the team and his third overall. All the efforts since 1996 bore fruit as Michael passed the chequered flag in Japan. He earned his third championship after five years, and the celebrations had begun.
There remained one final thing to be done, and that was to bring home the constructors’ championship at the last race in Malaysia!
All eyes turned to Malaysia!
The Next Win..
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