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The 2000 F1 Season
Michael Schumacher finally won the drivers’ championship with the Ferrari team. It was his third title, and he had equalled Ayrton Senna’s tally of three world championships. For the Ferrari team, the celebrations were already on, but it wouldn’t be complete without the constructors’ championship coming home too. So, Michael had his work cut out.
By the end of the Japanese GP, Ferrari was at 156 points to McLaren's 143 points. Even if McLaren finished one-two, they would end up getting a total of 159 points. So, Ferrari would need just three points to become the constructors’ champion. Because Ferrari had more wins, an equal points result would still give Ferrari the championship.
But Michael and Barrichello had bigger aspirations for the team. A mere three points weren’t motivating enough, so the world champion planned to go for a win. After all, the pressure from the season had already melted away and the only team feeling the pressure would be the McLaren team. Barrichello, for his part, despite having flu, joined the race to bring the championship home.
Would Ferrari win the championship? Also, would Michael win? Because if Michael won, then the constructors’ title would follow.
Let’s find out how things panned out.
The 2000 Malaysian GP Qualifying
For once in the 2000 season, the qualifying appeared to be a subdued affair. Michael took the pole, and while he was challenged multiple times, he found it easy to topple the P1 driver. Maybe, the title win allowed Michael to find that extra gear which no car had. It was not just a qualitative statement that Michael made it look easy; the statistics showed it too.
Michael was more than four-tenth of a second faster than Mika at P2. But only three-hundredth of a second separated Mika, David and Barrichello. See what I mean?
Take a look at one of Michael’s pole laps:
At the end of the session, the first four drivers were from the McLaren and Ferrari stable. Here are the qualifying times:
Michael Schumacher [Ferrari]: 1:37.397
Mika Hakkinen [McLaren]: 1:37.860
David Coulthard [McLaren]: 1:37.889
Rubens Barrichello [Ferrari]: 1:37.896
Such was the pace of the first four cars that the fifth-placed car was more than a second off Michael’s pace. From the looks of the qualifying, Michael appeared set for an easy win.
Would that be the case? Let’s jump on to the race day.
The 2000 Malaysian GP – Race Day
The start of the Malaysian GP had some déjà vu moments from the Japanese GP. This time too a McLaren jumped the start, and Michael Schumacher was set to benefit from the jump. Only the driver missing the lights was Mika Hakkinen this time.
It could only be surmised that the pressure to win the race and the constructors’ title got to Mika. Either way, a penalty was on the way, and it made no sense for Mika to hold back, so he motored ahead of Michael. What was surprising was that David Coulthard too got an excellent run to the first corner overtaking Michael. In a matter of seconds from the start, Michael was in third place. Michael did admit later that he had a bad start due to excessive wheel spin.
Notwithstanding the start, Michael started to gain pace while Mika went in for his stop-go penalty. Around lap 12, David went off track, and therefore, pitted a while later to get the car checked. Michael momentarily took the lead while David was stuck in traffic on rejoining. That gave Michael a chance to build a gap which he used well to pit and come out ahead of David.
Thereafter it was the customary drive to the end. David caught up with Michael and was piling pressure, but it wasn’t enough to unsettle Michael or to stop him from taking the chequered flag. With the win, came home Ferrari’s constructors’ championship.
Ferrari, finally, got a drivers’ and constructors’ double!
How Did the Season End?
The 2000 season was a live wire right up to the Malaysian GP. Though Michael won his drivers' title in the penultimate race, the constructors' was decided only at the season-ender. Michael ended with nine victories in the 2000 season, his best since 1995. Ferrari's strong performance meant that they could carry the momentum into the 2001 season.
Take a look at the Malaysian GP post-race press-conference where Ferrari's celebration is quite visible:
All through the 2000 season, Ferrari was compared to the McLaren team unabated. The comparison was obvious, but it was hard to tell if the McLaren team had slipped in performance or was it the Ferrari getting better. A fair verdict would be possible only in the 2001 season, but for now, Ferrari had started their celebrations, and it was likely to continue right up to the dawn of the new year!
Back to the Pits
The Malaysian GP worked as per the script for the Ferrari team. Michael’s hope of winning the race and giving the team a deserved top spot was achieved. Much like the fans, the paddock, and the larger Ferrari team, most of Italy and Germany had erupted in celebrations!
The Next Win..
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© 2020 S K