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The 2001 F1 Season
The Ferrari team had a roaring start to the 2001 season, and Michael Schumacher was clearly in a league of his own. The Australian GP hinted at a Ferrari domination for the 2001 season with Barrichello also finishing on the podium. There seemed to be a lack of direct competition to the Ferraris. Yes, David did well, but Mika couldn’t complete, so the McLarens seemed to have reliability issues.
It was too early in the season to conclude either way, as some teams got more reliable through the season, while other teams lost their early sheen. Anything could happen, and it would be fun to watch how the season progressed.
Fans wouldn’t mind a Ferrari domination as many had waited for 21 years to see the team come back to winning ways. The same couldn’t be said about the McLaren team though. What was disheartening to see was Mika’s lack of podium finishes. The 2000 season was a close fight between Mika and Michael, but by the end of the season, Michael seemed to have been released from some invisible shackles. His performance was beyond anybody’s grasp.
Would the 2001 season witness a Michael Schumacher domination? Or would Mika fight back? How about the Malaysian GP? Could Michael win?
Let’s find out.
The 2001 Malaysian GP Qualifying
For the first time since 1998, the qualifying did not see a Ferrari – McLaren battle. Instead, it was the Williams-BMW team, especially Ralf Schumacher, who was competing for the pole. Ralf kept trading pole positions with Michael right up to the end, but then fell behind Michael and Rubens. The Ferrari locked out the front row.
The McLarens had some handling issues, which meant Mika could manage only a fourth position, though still in the second row. David, on the other hand, was in eighth place. For the first time since the entire 2000 season, the front two rows included a car other than the Ferraris and the McLarens.
Take a look at Michael’s pole lap:
After Michael’s stellar lap, Rubens also out-qualified Ralf Schumacher. Rubens Barrichello was nine-hundredth of a second off Michael’s pace indicating that both the Ferraris were well-matched.
Now, it all boiled down to the race day. Would Michael have a superb start like he had in Australia or will any of the McLarens or BMW cars spring a surprise?
Let’s find out.
The 2001 Malaysian GP – Race Day
There was a lot of activity before the race, as Michael Schumacher, with an oil leak, and Juan Pablo Montoya, with an engine problem, had to start from their respective spare cars. The Ferrari spare car was set up for Barrichello, and Michael had no option but to be content with it.
After the initial heart-racing activities and an aborted start, the race finally began with Michael pulling away from pole position. It was similar to his Australian GP start, while Barrichello had an ordinary start. Ralf momentarily took the second position, but soon touched Barrichello and spun off. At the end of the third corner, it was a Ferrari one-two while the other cars were fighting for the third position.
Just when Michael and Rubens were pulling away from the rest of the pack, an unexpected and strong shower rendered the track slippery, and both cars went off the road. It was a miracle that they did not crash and were able make it back to the track. Both cars then proceeded immediately for a tyre change and were in the pits at the same time.
Take a look at the race summary:
Such was the downpour that the Safety Car had to be deployed. That worked in favour of the Ferraris, as they could complete an extra-long pitstop lasting more than a minute and still rejoin close to the cars ahead. Once the race restarted, Michael and Rubens overtook all the cars right up to the first place. Ferraris were one-two again, but there was a difference. Michael was way faster.
It later came to be known that Michael was on intermediates, while the other cars were on wet weathers. This allowed Michael to grow stronger as the track dried, and he opened up a lead of over a minute to Barrichello. This advantage helped near the end of the race as Michael, though slow, could cruise to the finish without needing a tyre change.
So, that’s how the Malaysian GP created a super exciting contest and concluded in the most beneficial way for the Ferraris. Michael had back-to-back victories and the season was already starting to appear like the start of the 2000 season.
Back to the Pits
Michael finished with a perfect twenty points from the first two races, and Barrichello was second with ten points. The closest non-Ferrari driver, David Coulthard, was a joint second with Barrichello. The favourable finishes in the first two races also took Ferrari to the top of the constructors' table. As such, the defending drivers' and constructors' champions were already on a roll.
The Next Win..
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