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On 17 March 2001, qualifying for the second race of the season, the Malaysian Grand Prix, took place at Sepang. The Ferrari F2001 was the class of the field, monopolising the front row, with Michael Schumacher just 99 thousandths faster than Rubens Barrichello. Only Ralf Schumacher in the Williams was anywhere near them, with Michael’s brother 230 thousandths slower than him. In fourth place, Mika Hakkinen was 820 thousandths behind.
It began to rain in the race and the Ferrari drivers, while leading the field, both went off the track. The Maranello men pitted for intermediate tyres and came pretty close to being lapped. But the gamble paid off because the track was drying and the other drivers, on the heavier full wets, were soon struggling, which meant the Ferraris made up the time they had lost. Michael Schumacher was first past the chequered flag, 23 seconds ahead of Rubens Barrichello and 28 ahead of David Coulthard.