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Brazilian GP 2002 - Michael gives F2002 debut win

31 March 2002


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!).

The other front runners, particularly the McLaren's, had got off to a poor start and both Renault drivers moved up to third and fourth in the opening few laps. The net effect was that the McLaren duo of David Coulthard and Kimi Raikkonen were bottled up for the early part of the race, and although DC passed Brit Jenson Button he couldn't get by Jarno Trulli until the Italian pitted at mid-distance.

DC eventually finished third, while his team-mate Kimi Raikkonen went off with three laps to go - the Finn had been running in a safe fourth place. Jenson Button thus took fourth as his team-mate Jarno Trulli also retired with what appeared to be an engine failure on lap 60.

At the front, it was Schumacher Vs Schumacher, and try as Ralf did, and he closed the gap from around 2.6 seconds when he came out the pits to 0.588 seconds at the flag he could find no way by his brother and was forced to settle for second best. It was by no means an easy final third to the race though for Michael, and Ralf kept the pressure on lap after lap - the gap decreasing, and then increasing and so on for the final 20 or so laps.

Pole sitter Juan Pablo Montoya meanwhile, having lost around 19 seconds and dropping to 19th at the end of the first lap, persevered and took fifth spot, and two World Championship points. It was a good recovery from the Colombian to grab something from what looked like a disaster at the start of the race, but was he just being a tad over-exuberant going into turn four? Should he have been more patient? Perhaps yes, but that's the benefit of hindsight.

Sixth taking the final championship point was Mika Salo, the Toyota outfit again putting in a top performance in what is only their third ever F1 race. His team-mate Allan McNish unfortunately didn't make it to the end, spinning out with 40 odd laps completed.

Just outside the top six points scorers were the two Jaguar's, Eddie Irvine finishing seventh and Pedro de la eighth. Takuma Sato finished another GP, he was ninth for Jordan and fellow Honda powered runner, Jacques Villenuve, was classified tenth for British American Racing - the Canadian forced out with engine failure with one lap to go.

The final three finishers, were Minardi's Mark Webber and Alex Yoong, 11th and 13th, with Kimi Raikkonen classified 12th despite spinning off at the end.

Nine drivers were classified as not finishing - including both Sauber and Arrows drivers - Nick Heidfeld, Felipe Massa, Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Enrique Bernoldi, Renault's Jarno Trulli, Toyota's Allan McNish, BAR's Olivier Panis, Ferrari's Rubens Barrichello and Jordan's Giancarlo Fisichella.

So Michael Schumacher won his fourth Brazilian GP, maintained his lead in the Driver's Championship and christened the F2002 with a win. One of many still to come - that's for sure....




Race Result:

1. Michael Schumacher Germany Ferrari-Ferrari 71 laps 1hr 31mins 43.663secs
2. Ralf Schumacher Germany Williams-BMW +00.588secs
3. David Coulthard Britain McLaren-Mercedes +59.109secs
4. Jenson Button Britain Renault-Renault +1min 06.883secs
5. Juan Montoya Colombia Williams-BMW +1min 07.564secs
6. Mika Salo Finland Toyota-Toyota +1 lap

7. Eddie Irvine Britain Jaguar-Cosworth +1 lap
8. Pedro de la Rosa Spain Jaguar-Cosworth +1 laps
9. Takuma Sato Japan Jordan-Honda +2 laps
10. Jacques Villeneuve Canada BAR-Honda +3 laps

11. Mark Webber Australia Minardi-Asiatech +3 laps
12. Kimi Raikkonen Finland McLaren-Mercedes +4 laps
13. Alex Yoong Malaysia Minardi-Asiatech +4 laps

Rtd. Nick Heidfeld Germany Sauber-Petronas 61 laps completed
Rtd. Jarno Trulli Italy Renault-Renault 60 laps completed
Rtd. Felipe Massa Brazil Sauber-Petronas 41 laps completed
Rtd. Allan McNish Britain Toyota-Toyota 40 laps completed
Rtd. Olivier Panis France BAR-Honda 25 laps completed
Rtd. Heinz-Harald Frentzen Germany Arrows-Cosworth 25 laps completed
Rtd. Enrique Bernoldi Brazil Arrows-Cosworth 19 laps completed
Rtd Rubens Barrichello Brazil Ferrari-Ferrari 16 laps completed
Rtd. Giancarlo Fisichella Italy Jordan-Honda 6 laps completed


Fastest lap:

Juan Pablo Montoya Williams-BMW 1min 16.079secs




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