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The 2002 F1 Season
Despite sparks of brilliance from the Williams team, the outcome remained tilted towards the Ferraris in the season so far. At the beginning of the season, one would have expected to see a three-way battle between the Williams, McLarens and the Ferraris. That promise was real only in the first race, as from the second race onwards, the Williams team and the Ferraris appeared a league ahead.
Ralf Schumacher and Montoya put on an excellent fight, close to winning on more than one occasion, but Michael Schumacher always ended up on the winning side, which was a true testimony to the great master’s driving skills, as his partner, Rubens Barrichello, managed to finish only once in four races. That said, Rubens’ consistent performance would be required if Ferrari hoped to clinch the constructors’ championship.
Michael appeared unstoppable, and if that continued, then the outcome of the Spanish GP was a foregone conclusion. However, discounting Ralf and Montoya would be a chance that Ferrari wouldn’t want to take. So, would it be easy for Michael to win the Spanish GP? Or would the Williams duo of Ralf Schumacher and Montoya have something to say?
Let’s find out.
The 2002 Spanish GP: Qualifying
The qualifying session saw the two Ferraris dominating the proceedings. While Ralf Schumacher took the provisional pole, Barrichello soon intervened to take the honours. From there on, it was Rubens and Michael competing for the pole.
Take a look at Schumacher’s pole lap in the dying minutes of the qualifying session.
The duel for the pole was decisively won by Michael, who put up a stunner by going three-tenths of a second faster. That time remained unchallenged, and he took pole yet again in the 2002 season.
Ruben Barrichello was on P2 while the second row was once again reserved for the Williams team. Ralf Schumacher was on P3 while Juan Pablo Montoya on P4. The McLarens of Kimi was on P5 followed by Jenson Button on P6. That was the top six.
The two Ferraris, though, were nearly a second ahead of the rest of the pack. Would that be a precursor to the proceedings on race day?
Let’s find out.
The 2002 Spanish GP: Race Day
Even before the race started, the Minardi team withdrew from the race due to repeated rear wing failure during the qualifying session. To avoid risking either driver, Minardi withdrew. There were no such problems for other drivers, barring Ruben Barrichello who had a gearbox failure but could not take the spare car as it was set up for Michael Schumacher.
The start itself was an uneventful one as Michael got away cleanly while the other cars had about a minute of battle and then fell in line. Michael led from Ralf Schumacher, Juan Pablo Montoya and Kimi Raikkonen. While Kimi looked strong in the fourth position, his rear wing fell-off starting speculations of whether the McLaren too was facing issues like the Minardi’s rear wing failure. However, McLaren allowed David to continue with the race while Kimi retired.
There were no such problems for Schumacher, though, who opened up quite a gap to the second-placed Ralf. Such was his dominance and gap, that he pitted and came out first. Not once during the race did Michael lose his lead. Such was his dominance.
Closer to the end of the race, Ralf faced an engine failure and retired a few laps from the finish. That promoted Juan Pablo Montoya to second while David Coulthard took the third spot. And that’s how the race ended, with the podium taken by three different teams. Michael won his fourth race out of five in the season.
Back to the Pits
Michael had one more victory in the 2002 season, while for the first time Montoya overtook Ralf to end second on the points table. Michael was twenty-one points clear of Montoya and looked strong in the championship pursuit. Ferrari still led the championship from Williams, but there was a gap of just seven points. So, while the drivers’ standing appeared strong for Ferrari, they still had some work to do on the constructors’ side.
© 2020 S K