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The 2002 F1 Season
Four-time world champion Michael Schumacher began the 2002 season defending his title quite well. In three races, he had won twice and gotten on the podium in all three. Michael was once again in an all-too-familiar championship-leading spot on the points table. But the contest had just begun.
Rubens Barrichello failing to finish in any of the first three races meant that the next most competitive teams were making to the podium more often. While it appeared to be a combination of McLarens and Williams in the first race, it began to dawn on the world that Williams was far superior and had the engine to take on the Ferraris.
None other than Michael's brother, Ralf, came out as the chief competitor, and that was corroborated by the points table which scored the Schumacher brothers as one and two. Juan Pablo Montoya was third, and if that trend continued Williams was in a position to run away with the constructors' championship, if not the drivers' title.
So, the Ferrari team had to work out their strategy well and get the cars competitive so that both drivers finished the race, and preferably, on the podium. That said, the San Marino GP, one of the fastest circuits, was next up and would suit the Williams team more. Ferrari had to watch out.
Could Michael win the San Marino GP?
Let's find out.
The 2002 San Marino GP Qualifying
The battle for the pole started with the Williams team firing first. Initially, it was Juan and Ralf who were on flying laps, but soon Barrichello took provisional pole. Ralf Schumacher responded with a brilliant lap. You can see Ralf’s provisional pole run here:
Michael soon joined the party and took provisional pole. Barrichello returned with some adjustments to his car and clocked faster than any other car on the circuit. The contest soon became one between the Ferraris while the other teams tried to get the best possible finish among them.
Barrichello at one point appeared well set to take the pole but for Schumacher pipping him by just six-hundredth of a second. The McLarens took the third row with Kimi pipping his teammate David Coulthard. Ralf was on P3 while Juan Pablo Montoya was on P4, which rounded up the top six on the grid.
Now, it was all down to how well the Ferraris capitalized their well-earned position on race day.
The 2002 San Marino GP – Race Day
The Williams team on the second row of the grid were as unpredictable as the McLarens in the 2000 and 2001 season. No one could rule out one of the cars outgunning the Ferraris in the first row. Most would remember Mika Hakkinen’s spirited start from P3 to first in the 2001 season. It would be interesting if Ralf or Juan could pull out a Mika on Michael and Rubens.
As the fans waited with bated breath, the turn of the lights saw Michael and Ralf getting a good run from the clear side of the track. As such, Rubens was soon relegated to the third position and was strongly challenged by Juan Pablo Montoya. But after the first corner, the places soon stabilized. It was Michael leading from Ralf, Barrichello and Juan.
Take a look at the start of the race:
Rubens was much faster than Ralf Schumacher but could not find a way past him. Michael pulled away from the battle for the second place and was comfortably ahead to get through his pitstops.
The pitstop was what changed Ferrari’s fortune as Barrichello managed to get in and out of the pits faster than Ralf Schumacher. As such, he rejoined the race ahead of Ralf, and from there it was easy for Rubens to pull away. Michael, though, was hardly challenged and finished the race seventeen seconds ahead of Barrichello, who, in turn, finished nineteen seconds ahead of Ralf Schumacher’s Williams.
So, that sealed the third win of the 2002 season for Michael Schumacher. Michael further solidified his spot at the top.
Back to the Pits
Michael got his fifty-sixth career victory with the 2002 San Marino win, and Ferrari got their first 1-2 finish of the season. Ferrari finished three points ahead of the Williams team in the constructors' table. Michael would still have to push since the Williams duo of Ralf and Juan weren't too far behind.
© 2020 S K