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The 2002 F1 Season
Going through a breathtaking season, Michael Schumacher was in a world of his own - to be on the podium race after race was just superhuman. Yes, no exaggeration there. Michael was on the podium for every single race of the season, so far. His worst performance was the third place in the Malaysian Grand Prix. And when we call it worst, we can imagine what could have been the other outcomes. And it was not over yet.
Including Belgium, there were four more races to go, and Ferrari was already the constructors’ champions (they won it in Hungary in the previous race). Also, Michael was already the drivers’ champion. And yet there were more records to be tested. Two of them were Michael beating his record of nine wins in a season. He had already equalled that record going into Belgium GP weekend. Besides, the number of 1-2 finishes that Ferrari was effecting could test Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna’s 1-2 finish record of 10. Could all this happen in the 2002 season? It just might.
It was sad that with four races to go, there was hardly any talk of the competition. Why? Because there would be no further competing with Ferrari as they had already taken the laurels. Now, the opposition would be fighting among each other to fill the other spots on the table. That said, a Williams or a McLaren masterpiece could still deny Michael his tenth win or prevent the Ferrari team from reaching the record of 1-2 finishes. But to be honest, nobody would be thinking of that but would be keen to win the race and improve their ranking.
Could the other teams stop the Ferrari juggernaut?
Let’s find out.
The 2002 Belgian GP: Qualifying
The Spa circuit had to be one of the favourites of Michael Schumacher as he debuted there and also won his first race there. And from the looks of it, that liking for Spa would only get better as Michael appeared rock solid over the weekend to win again in 2002. While the Williams would usually be the front runners for the pole, this weekend was just about Michael.
Michael was in a different league, and that was evident from his pole runs. Take a look at Michael putting up the fastest lap of the session:
That run from Michael beat Raikkonen’s time by almost a second. Michael was the only driver in the one-minute-forty-three-seconds bracket. No other driver could breach the 1 minute 43-second mark. To Raikkonen’s credit, he stayed close to Michael and earned a P2 splitting the other Ferrari of Barrichello and relegating him to the third spot. Ralf Schumacher in the Williams was in P4, bringing up the top four cars of the session.
The 2002 Belgian GP: Race Day
Start of the Belgian race was as expected for the Ferraris. Michael got away cleanly, and Barrichello raced behind Michael avoiding Raikkonen. Raikkonen was trying to weave across to block Barrichello but wasn’t able to effect that move. As such, both the Ferraris were in the front and pulled away quite briskly from the other cars. At the end of the first lap, Michael had opened up a lead of 2.2 seconds to Barrichello, who, in turn, had opened up another second’s gap to Raikkonen.
There was hardly any news to report on the front two cars as they continued pulling away from the crowd. The reporting and incidents were reserved for the rest of the cars. The Williams and McLaren cars seemed to be equal on speed and rightly so competing with each other. Raikkonen made a mistake on lap two allowing Montoya to spring past him. While one hoped that the Williams with an open track would catch up with the Ferraris, it was not to be. Ferraris were fast, and if at all any competing had to happen, it had to be between other cars. Ferrari’s domination remained unchallenged.
The first pitstop was where Michael lost his lead to Rubens over one lap and regained when Barrichello pitted. That was the only reason why this race did not count as a Grand Chelem for Michael Schumacher. Everything else ticked – pole position, fastest laps, led in all laps of the race but one. That last point denied the Chelem. Either way, Michael went on to win the race.
Kimi was a bit unlucky as his engine blew up allowing his teammate David Coulthard to come to the fourth spot while Montoya went unchallenged to the podium. Ferraris finished 1-2, making it the sixth time that they did so in the season.
Back to the Pits
With one more victory, Michael Schumacher remained unchallenged through the season except for Barrichello. Such was the Ferrari domination that barring two races, they won all other races of the season until the 2002 Belgian GP. That must be some record also!
© 2020 S K