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The 2002 F1 Season
The Ferrari team concluded the 2001 season on a high when Michael Schumacher won the Japanese GP. That victory brought in his fifty-third career win. Ferrari retained both the drivers’ and constructors’ championship that they first won in the 2000 season. Ferrari had become more robust and reliable, and they might expect to carry that momentum into the 2002 season.
The Ferrari cars were faster than before. While the 2000 season seemed to be an even affair between the Ferraris and the McLarens, the 2001 season was clearly Ferrari’s. The question was whether they could retain that phenomenal speed advantage in the 2002 season. And, of course, how fast the competition would be.
The fans would miss Mika Hakkinen and would have liked him to continue. Though Mika called the away time a break, many felt that it might turn into a retirement. Michael, for the first time, would be starting a championship campaign without a direct title challenger. The challengers might emerge, or could even include David Coulthard, but for the first time, no world champion was a direct competition to Michael. It was a scenario that the Ferrari paddock wouldn’t mind.
As for the 2002 Australian GP, with all the developments working in the Ferrari team's favour, could Michael win the GP?
Let’s find out.
The 2002 Australian GP Qualifying
The Ferraris were express-fast as expected, but this year the McLarens were not the second fastest. The Williams cars were faster than all the other cars on the circuit barring the prancing horse. That set up some challenge to the Ferraris en route to the pole position.
Interestingly, Michael took more than three laps to take the pole position from younger brother Ralf, and when he did, it was four-tenths of a second faster. And if that was not already an impressive lap, then Barrichello put up a stunner and took pole by five-thousandth of a second. That’s as close as it gets.
Take a look at Michael’s and Barrichello’s pole laps:
The good news was that the Ferraris owned the front row of the grid. Ralf Schumacher took the third spot while David Coulthard and Kimi Raikkonen of the McLarens took the fourth and fifth spot, respectively. Juan Pablo Montoya in the other Williams came in at the sixth position to complete the top six.
It was going to be an exciting race, with new challengers emerging for Michael, including Barrichello. Let’s hop on to the race day to check out what happened.
The 2002 Australian GP – Race Day
The 2002 Australian GP witnessed one of the biggest carnage as all the cars proceeded to turn one after the start. Not only backmarkers but also two of the front runners were taken out due to a collision. In fact, the front runners were the reason for eight more cars to be caught in the accident. So, what happened?
As the lights went off, Ralf had a fantastic start and shot ahead of Michael Schumacher while he attempted an overtake on the leader, Rubens Barrichello. Rubens tried defending his line not once but twice. In his bid to overtake Rubens, Ralf motored on only to crash into the Ferraris back and was launched in the air.
Take a look at the start and the turn one carnage:
The drivers were hoping for a restart, but that was not to happen. The race continued under the safety car, and once the safety car left, there was an interesting battle between Schumacher and Trulli and later Schumacher and Montoya.
Montoya, in fact, overtook Schumacher fair and square and stayed ahead for quite some time. The master then piled up enough pressure on Montoya to cause a mistake, and immediately stormed ahead. Michael then stayed put, as Montoya could not manage to close in on Michael after that. The most prominent points scorer was Kimi Raikkonen, the one replacing Mika in the McLarens team. Kimi came from the back to claim the third position, and that was a superb result for the Finn who was filling the “Flying Finn’s” shoes.
So, that’s how the top three ended, and Michael reigned supreme once again. The podium had racers from different teams—Michael from Ferrari, Montoya from Williams and Kimi from McLarens. These would be the teams to watch out for in the 2002 season.
Back to the Pits
The start of the 2002 season once again witnessed what the fans had grown to expect since 2000—a Ferrari win. Michael Schumacher had one more great start to the season and got his third Australian GP in a row. The season would be exciting with not one but two other constructors being competitive. So, it could go in any direction as three teams would be vying for the championship. Could Michael defend his championship against these teams? We will soon see.
But for now, Michael and the Ferrari team would be celebrating a spectacular start to the season.
The Next Win..
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