SAO PAULO, Brazil -- When Michael Schumacher joined Ferrari
in 1996, he promised to win the Formula One championship within two
years and become the first driver to do so since 1979.
However, Schumacher was unable to deliver on his promise to
repeat the performance of Jody Scheckter, the last Ferrari driver
to win a world championship.
But judging from Schumacher's victories in this season's first
two races -- Australia and Brazil -- he might be on his way to giving
the Italian team its first driver's championship in 21 years.
For the past two years, Schumacher's and Ferrari's dreams were
thwarted by the superior McLaren cars driven by defending champion
Mika Hakkinen and teammate David Coulthard.
Coulthard finished second in Sunday's Brazilian Grand Prix but
was disqualified because of a technical irregularity in his car's
front wing. On Monday, McLaren appealed the
disqualification, and on Tuesday the FIA said its International Court of Appeal will meet Monday in Paris to hear the protest. FIA spokesman Francesco Longanesi said a decision by the appeals panel could come as early as next Tuesday.
"We are looking very competitive and the season could not have
started better," Schumacher said after winning Sunday's race at
Jose Carlos Pace track. "Our development program means we will
have an improved car."
Schumacher completed the 71-lap race at an average speed of
While Ferrari seems to have solved the problems that have dogged
it for years, McLaren now appears to be losing the superiority it
enjoyed the past two years.
The McLaren cars broke down in Melbourne after leading the race
for several laps. In Brazil, Coulthard was DQ'd and Hakkinen
dropped out with oil pressure problems.
"We were quick throughout the weekend, so I'm not happy to
leave Brazil without any points," Hakkinen said. "We have some
work to do before the start of the European season."
Coulthard lost his third gear and communications system but
wound up only 4.302 seconds behind Schumacher. Then came the
Jo Bauer, the Formula One technical delegate of FIA, the
governing body of auto racing, said the front wing was "only 43
millimeters instead of 50 millimeters above the reference plane ...
exceeding the permitted tolerance of 5 millimeters."
With Coulthard's disqualification, Italy's Giancarlo Fisichella
of the Benetton team moved from third to second, followed by
Germany's Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Jordan teammate Jano Trulli of
Pole-sitter Hakkinen took the early lead, closely followed by
Schumacher. But the defending champion's lead only lasted until the
start of the second lap, when Schumacher overtook him.
At about the same time, Schumacher's teammate, Rubens
Barrichello, sped into contention.
Encouraged by close to 70,000 cheering, flag-waving fans, the
hometown hero finally overtook him on the 15th lap.
When Schumacher went in for his first pit stop, after completing
his 20th lap, the crowd went wild as Barrichello shot into the lead
followed by Hakkinen.
Barrichello pitted in the 22nd lap, and Hakkinen assumed the
lead. The Brazilian returned to the track about 11 seconds later in
fourth place behind Coulthard, who by then had lost his third gear.
Any hopes of seeing Barrichello become the first Brazilian to
win the race since Ayrton Senna in 1993 ended on the 27th lap when
the Ferrari driver dropped out with problems in his car's hydraulic
|Michael Schumacher gave everyone another champagne shower on Sunday.|| |
Aggressive start, pit strategy, key to Schumacher's victory
Jordan's cars prove to be reliable in Brazil