After a 21-year hiatus, Ferrari bounces back, taking both the Drivers' and Constructors' titles
Ferrari turned up at the Formula 1 2000 season bolder than ever, safe in the knowledge it had a very strong team. Eddie Irvine was replaced at Schumacher's side by the Brazilian Rubens Barrichello, the man they call the Jaguar. They got off to a dazzling start, with the German snatching victory in the first three races of the season.
McLaren fought back with wins in Britain and Spain, but Ferrari triumphed once more in both the European and Canadian Grand Prix. Ferrari was comfortably ahead in the rankings: Schumacher in the lead with 56 points, Coulthard and Häkkinen languishing with 34 and 32 respectively.
The calendar for July was intense, with GPs in France, Austria and Germany. It was to be a very unlucky month for Schumacher: At Magny-Cours, he commanded the race for the first two thirds of the distance, before the V10 engine on his F1-2000 fell apart. There was worse in store for him in Austria and Germany. At the then A1 Ring, he was rear-ended at the outset by Ricardo Zonta of BAR, who sent him spinning uncontrollably into the path of Jarno Trulli's Jordan. In Germany, Benetton's Giancarlo Fisichella smashed right into Schumacher. The Ferrari driver's zero points in three races let Coulthard and Häkkinen narrow the gap, getting within just two points of him. The Scuderia team were kept afloat by Barrichello, who took his first Formula 1 victory at Hockenheim, having started in 18th place. He kept his tyres dry throughout the race, despite it raining for half of the almost 7 km of track.
Häkkinen won at the Hungaroring, beating Schumacher and overtaking him by two points in the rankings. The next race was at Spa-Francorchamps. The Finn, who had dominated in the qualifiers, commandeered it from the outset, on a still-drying track. At the 13th lap, Häkkinen went into a tailspin after his wheels hit a still-damp white stripe. Schumacher took advantage and dashed into first place. It was then that the McLaren driver mounted a furious comeback, bringing him neck and neck with his Ferrari rival with just eight laps until the finish.
Hakkinen attacked once, twice, yet Schumacher resisted, helped by his Ferrari's top speed. At the 40th lap the pair found themselves up against BAR's Zonta. Schumacher chose the quickest trajectory, right down the Kemmel straight, and attacked from the outside. But Häkkinen gave it his all, throwing himself onto the other side. All Zonta saw was a flash of red dart by on his left and a silver arrow shoot past on his right. Häkkinen executed the most beautiful overtaking of his career and swept over the finish line in first place, boosting himself in the rankings by six points.
At Monza the McLaren driver was poised to end it all. Ferrari's man needed a result and this was his chance. Schumacher won and took pole position and fastest lap in what turned out to be a tragic race, overshadowed by the death of Paolo Gislimberti, a CEA fireman hit in the head by a wheel off Heinz-Harald Frentzen's Jordan. This was the 41st victory in Schumacher's career. The German was moved to find out he had matched Ayrton Senna's record. But the World Championship was not over yet. Two points now separated the Ferrari driver and the twice world champion from McLaren.
The first US GP, on the new circuit at Indianapolis, lifted Ferrari's spirits once more. Häkkinen retired from the one-two, giving Schumacher an eight-point lead. In Japan on 8 October, Schumacher was in pole position but found himself left behind at the outset by Häkkinen. This called for a strategy, because straight overtaking on the track is almost impossible. Ross Brawn made Schumacher top up on petrol at the first stop, so as to give him three clear laps at the second. The McLaren reappeared and Schumacher sped up like a maniac. When his Ferrari came out of the box after stopping, Häkkinen had only just come out onto the straight. Schumacher had done it.
Fans around the world had been watching the last 13 laps with bated breath. It was 6.59 in the morning in Italy when the hiatus of 21 years, since Jody Scheckter triumphed in 1979, was broken. At Maranello they rejoiced in the streets as the bells rang out. Dawn was just breaking, but to judge by the traffic at the Scuderia headquarters, you would have thought it was rush hour. Two weeks later, in Malaysia, Schumacher and Barrichello cemented Ferrari's Constructors' title, coming first and third.