Schumacher seizes his second Drivers' title with Ferrari after a glorious season
Scuderia Ferrari came to the track in the 2001 season as the clear favourites. The team from Maranello had won both the previous season's titles and shown its drivers and technicians to be a cohesive unit. The new regulations had not introduced massive changes, and this was further reason to believe Ferrari would go on being the leader in Formula 1. For the F2001, Ferrari took on board the changes requested by the FIA, most notably that rear spoilers had to be at least 10 cm off the ground to limit downforce. It built on the winning concepts used in 2000's cars and came up with solutions for making the F2001 even lighter, with more freedom when fixing the ballast.
Michael Schumacher dominated the first two races, in Australia and Malaysia, then David Coulthard of McLaren made his presence felt in Brazil. He would be Ferrari's only real opponent throughout the season. The Briton drew on consistency as his strength, while Schumacher was forced to retire from the race at Imola. However, the German won in Spain and at the European Grand Prix at Nürburgring. Often that year, he found himself fighting against his very own younger brother on the track, Ralf, who had become of the best drivers in Formula 1 and was competing for Williams, alongside a character who would soon find himself in many a duel with the elder Schumacher: the Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya.
Ferrari's man made the decisive straight in France, winning once again and leaving Coulthard in third. Schumacher now had a margin of 31 points over his rival, the equivalent of more than three races. The results of the Constructors' title were also extremely promising. Thanks to Barrichello, who may not win on the track but often ends up on the podium, Ferrari stood at 108 points against McLaren's 56.
On 19 August many holidaymakers tuned in to the GP on their TVs. Yet the Hungarian Grand Prix could have signalled the end of both championships. Schumacher dominated the qualifiers and beat the track record, set by Alain Prost in 1993. He pulled out 801 thousandths of a second before Coulthard and 894 before Barrichello. All the others took more than a second. Schumacher led in 71 of the race's 77 laps, giving way to his teammate and his McLaren rival only during the pit stops. The most exciting fight was over second place. Barrichello's push put him in second place by a hair's breadth, giving Ferrari the mathematical victory in the Drivers' and Constructors' titles.
Schumacher took his second World Championship with Ferrari and would go on to beat Prost's four. The German also beat the French ace in the rankings for total victories, winning 51. In Schumacher's sights now were the five world titles of Juan Manuel Fangio, undisputed king of the '50s.
Before the end of the season, the somewhat surreal race of Monza was still to run. The world of motorsports had been rocked by two events. Washington and the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York had been attacked on 11 September, and Alessandro Zanardi, a well-liked figure at the paddock, had suffered a terrible accident the day before the GP and was now in a coma, fighting for his life. Many drivers asked not to race tomorrow, given that the titles had already been awarded, but FOM ordered everyone to the track.
Ferrari removed all of its sponsors' logos from its cars and uniforms, and blackened the noses of its two F2001s in respect for the dead. The teams from Benetton, BAR and Arrows disagreed with Schumacher's suggestion that they accelerate on the first lap only after the second chicane, the Roggia, in memory of the accident on that spot the year before, in which CEA fireman Paolo Gislimberti lost his life. The race unfurled without anything remarkable happening. Montoya had his first victory, for Williams, with Barrichello second. But no one felt like celebrating.