31 March 2002
Brazilian GP 2002 - Michael gives F2002 debut win.
Michael Schumacher won the Brazilian Grand Prix for the fourth time in his career today, but it wasn't an easy victory for the Ferrari driver as his brother, Ralf, hounded him all the way to the flag.
Ralf Schumacher, like his team-mate Juan Pablo Montoya went into the weekend as favourites, for not only were they on Michelin tyres, compared to the Bridgestone's Ferrari were using, but the BMW-WilliamsF1 team were also coming off the back of a one-two finish two weeks ago at the Malaysian Grand Prix.
Such was Ferrari's and Michael Schumacher's disappointment in Sepang with 'only' finishing third that the Maranello based team opted to bring the new and somewhat revolutionary - at least in F1 terms - F2002 car to Brazil. The decision though, taken following testing last week, meant that only one car could 'shipped out' to Brazil and that was allocated to Michael, with his team-mate Rubens Barrichello stuck with the older and supposedly more reliable F2001. More on this later...
After qualifying yesterday, Juan Pablo Montoya took pole and the perception in the paddock was that the Colombian would take the win and make up for last year, when then Arrow's driver, Jos Verstappen collided with the Williams driver and took him out while he looked set to take victory.
It all went wrong though for JPM in the first few corners off the grid, the Colombian lead but coming out of the Senna 'S', Michael Schumacher got the advantage and took the lead, a lead the German would never lose except in his one and only pit stop. If this wasn't bad enough for Montoya, he then proceeded to gently tap the Ferrari of Michael Schumacher. The impact had no effect on the German, who claimed he didn't even feel it, but for the Colombian it was the decisive part of the race and the incident knocked off his front wing forcing him into the pits and way, way down the field.
From this point on until his pit stop on lap 39, Michael Schumacher pulled out a considerable lead over his brother and eventual second place finisher Ralf. Indeed by the time he stopped the gap was around eight seconds.
Early on, Rubens Barrichello delighted his local fans. Starting from eighth, the Ferrari driver in last year's F2001, sliced through the field and after being let through by his team-mate, Michael Schumacher pulled out a three second lead. It was all very delightful for Rubinho's fans, even if it was deceiving as the Brazilian was obviously on a different strategy with a lighter fuel load.
Disaster struck though on lap 16 when he slowed and pulled off the course. It was yet another, retirement for Barrichello at his home GP when the F2001 suffered hydraulic failure. So much for it being more reliable. Rubens joined Jordan's Giancarlo Fisichella in retirement and shortly afterwards, with 19 laps completed, fellow Brazilian, Enrique Bernoldi also joined the list of DNFs.
Back to the leaders though, and with Michael Schumacher now in the lead the grand prix was fast turning into a two-horse battle, subject to reliability with the two Schumacher brothers once again at each other's throats (not literally of course!).
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