In 2002, Schumacher's superior skill is such that he has no competition from late July
Formula 1 has often been dominated by Scuderia drivers. In the early 2000s, Ferrari made the rules, stamping its supremacy in terms of technology, drivers and team on season after season. The mechanical team supporting Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello have the strength of oxen. Countless times have they got the Prancing Horse's cars back on the track in front of their opponents' after a top-up or a tyre change.
If there is a perfect season from that era, it is without a shadow of a doubt 2002, when Schumacher won by July, a feat never seen before in the history of Formula 1. Ferrari's superiority was such that the Scuderia team turned up for the first race in Australia with the F2001 from the previous year. The F2002 was still doing the rounds at Fiorano, to prove its reliability. And reliable it was, giving an amazing performance.
Schumacher drove the F2001 to victory in Australia and came second in Malaysia, before introducing the new single-seater to the track and winning in it at the selective track at Interlagos. At Imola, Barrichello's previously terrible luck changed when he got into the F2002, and he delivered fans the first one-two of the season.
The German won in Spain, Austria, Canada and Britain, as his rivals took turns accompanying him on the podium and taking points off each other. Barrichello, for his part, won the European GP at Nürburgring.
At the French GP, Schumacher had a 54-point lead over Juan Pablo Montoya from Williams. The race began as a three-man duel between Montoya, Schumacher and young Kimi Räikkönen from McLaren. Schumacher attacked Montoya but the Finn overtook them on the Adelaide bend. Räikkönen seemed set for victory when, just five laps from the end, some oil spilt on the bend by Olivier Panis' Toyota meant it was all over. Schumacher was canny, nipping past the McLaren and over the finish line in first place. His triumph, combined with his rivals' results, handed him his fifth title, a feat that matched his hero from the 1950s, Juan Manuel Fangio.
It was only 21 July, but the winner had already been decided. To decide the Constructors' title, however, the teams would have to wait until the Hungarian GP on 18 August. By the end of the season Ferrari had 15 victories, 10 pole positions and 27 podiums, for a total of 221 points, the exact sum of the points for all the other constructors in the running.