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The 2002 F1 Season
The Williams team was emerging as one of the primary competitors to the Ferrari team. Kimi Raikkonen’s podium finish in the Australian GP had raised hopes of the season being a three-way battle for the top spot. However, the Malaysian GP had a different story to tell. Both - Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya - finished on the podium relegating Michael to the third spot. Also, neither of the McLarens could finish the race.
The Williams team appeared as imposing as it was from 1992 to the 1997 season, and the BMW association was indeed working well for the team. With the conclusion of just two races of the 2002 season, there were talks of the BMW’s incredible straight-line speed. Not only talks but also action, which allowed the Williams’ drivers to regularly slipstream cars in front and overtake them with ease.
The Ferrari team was still fast, but the battle couldn’t have been closer than the one in the 2002 season. The Williams peaked at the right time, and the battle consistently saw the two siblings – Michael and Ralf Schumacher – coming out against each other. If that were not enough, even Juan would join the fight every single time. It was a fantastic time for F1 fans, though, the feelings couldn’t be the same for Ferrari fans in particular.
Given the competitors’ scenario, will Ferrari find it easy to win? Will Michael be able to reign in the Brazilian trophy for the fourth time?
Let’s find out.
The 2002 Brazilian GP | Qualifying
The third race of the season did not throw up anything unexpected. It was clearly an all-Williams qualifying session, which other teams had to match up to. In fact, there was a phase at the beginning where Montoya and Ralf were regularly trading pole positions. None of the other cars, including the Ferraris, were able to challenge the Williams’ pace.
Of course, through the course of the day, Michael did manage to enter the top three and eventually, lodge himself between the two Williams in the front. The scene somehow reminded of the 1996 and 1997 season where Michael would regularly be sandwiched between either Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve, or later, between Jacques and Frentzen.
Anyway, as a breather, take a look at Fisichella’s flying lap around the Brazilian circuit.
That lap looked quite fast but was 1.6 seconds off Montoya's pace at pole position. So, you can imagine how quick the Williams would have been. Michael Schumacher was on P2 and was followed by Ralf Schumacher in P3. David Coulthard, in the fourth position, brought up the top four.
In the last two seasons, despite the Ferraris winning the championship, they never had the car which could catapult Schumacher, or for that matter, Barrichello to the front. No doubt, during the race the car was fast, but at the start, Ferrari lacked the edge. So, we could expect a Ferrari – Williams battle through the race.
Will Schumacher rocket ahead at the start? Unlikely.
Anyway, let's find jump over to race day.
The 2002 Brazilian GP | Race Day
If we ever had jumped to the conclusion that the speed of the Ferraris at the start wasn't good enough, then the Brazilian GP put all of that to rest. Michael surprised everyone by motoring down to the first turn wheel-to-wheel with Juan Pablo Montoya. Montoya did seem to have a less-than-great start, and that is what Michael capitalized on. By turn-one, Montoya still had the upper hand, but he went too deep to brake, and therefore, went wide and allowed Michael a tiny space which was enough for him to go through.
Take a look at the start and enjoy Michael's onboard view of the fight:
Note: Video not in English. Viewers can mute and watch the great fight.
Now, experts did observe that Williams-BMW’s straight-line speed was spectacular and so, if Montoya stayed close enough he could still attack Michael for the first position. And that is what Montoya did, but sadly, he was too close and hit Michael. The BMW pole sitter, therefore, lost place and had to pit to change the nose cone.
Michael had some breathing space but was soon battling another Williams belonging to his brother. The battle went on long, and the pit strategies ensured that Michael got out ahead and stayed ahead. The contest between the two Schumachers never died. They kept battling till the chequered flag with Michael just 0.5 seconds ahead of his younger brother, Ralf. David Coulthard in the McLaren finished third nearly a minute down from the lead pair. Juan Pablo Montoya did well to finish the race at fifth position. Everyone from the sixth position was lapped by the lead cars, and so they all ended a lap down.
And the season witnessed yet another podium with three drivers representing three different constructors. Michael won his second race of the season and was the leader in the drivers’ championship.
Back to the Pits
With the win in Brazil, Michael was scripting an all known story of his victorious domination. However, it was too early to let the guard down, especially, with the increasingly menacing pace attack of the Williams team. Ferrari did not have to look any further than the Malaysian GP and know what the Williams duo were capable of. So, Michael and the team could enjoy the victory but had to start preparing hard for the next race!
The Next Win..
Want to know the story of Michael Schumacher's fifty-sixth win? Click here to find out:
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