It happened today – 29 September

Accadde oggi - 29 settembre

September 2002, Rubens Barrichello won the United States Grand Prix. During a season in which Ferrari had already taken the Constructors’ title in Hungary and Michael Schumacher had won the Drivers’ crown in France, the Scuderia tried to create a piece of history at the Indianapolis race, which was dominated from start to finish by the extraordinary F2002. Only eleven hundredths of a second separated the two Ferrari men as they crossed for the seventy third and final time the yard wide strip of bricks that gives the American oval its name.

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

On 29th September 2002, Rubens Barrichello won the United States Grand Prix. During a season in which Ferrari had already taken the Constructors’ title in Hungary and Michael Schumacher had won the Drivers’ crown in France, the Scuderia tried to create a piece of history at the Indianapolis race, which was dominated from start to finish by the extraordinary F2002. Only eleven hundredths of a second separated the two Ferrari men as they crossed for the seventy third and final time the yard wide strip of bricks that gives the American oval its name.
The two Ferraris always led the race, with Michael Schumacher maintaining his pole position off the line, followed by his team-mate. Both of them ran a two stop strategy and they immediately began to pull out a bit of a lead over their closest pursuer, David Coulthard, who trailed by 9”652 after ten laps, with the two of them running at a very similar pace. They were already lapping backmarkers by lap 21, by which time the two Ferrari men led Coulthard by over 22 seconds. The first to stop to refuel and change tyres was Michael, who pitted on lap 27. One more lap and it was Rubens’ turn, neither man losing position, so that Michael led by just under one second. Having planned to only stop once, Coulthard found himself right behind the two Ferraris up until lap 42, when he made his pit stop. The run of pit stops for the two F2002s resumed on lap 49, again with Michael coming in first, followed next time round by Rubens.
On lap 51, the positions at the front hadn’t changed, with Michael first, Rubens second and Coulthard third, 16”219 down. In the final third of the race the two Ferrari men controlled the situation, as they dealt with backmarkers. In the final two laps, Michael clearly dropped his pace so that Rubens managed to get into his slipstream and they crossed the line virtually glued together in a photo finish that went to Rubens by just seven centimetres.
It took a few seconds to work out who had really won, both among the two drivers and the Ferrari crew on the pit wall. Either way, the delight at yet another one-two finish in an amazing season was in no way lessened by the surprise ending.
“We had not planned anything for the end of the race,” said Schumacher. “We tried to cross the line together but we missed it by a whisker, to the extent that we didn’t know which of us had won until we got out of the car. I thought Rubens deserved to win this race: he sacrificed his chances for me at least a couple of times this year and I think I’ve paid him back.”

“The end of the race hadn’t been planned beforehand,” added the Brazilian. “All race long we had fun, each trying to be quicker than the other: I want to thank Michael for what he did and the team for all its support during the season. The United States is a very important country for me, which makes this day even more special. At the final corner, I didn’t know what to do and it was nice of Michael to try and cross the line at the same time as me. Michael and I both know that what matters most are the interests of the team and it’s in this spirit that we accept the various situations that arise during a season. This year we had fun, winning everything with a perfect car: now I am a happy man.”

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