MALAYSIA 2001 - THE DAY THE RAIN CAME
Torrential Lap 3 shower brings out Schumacher's true colours
The Malaysian Grand Prix in 2001 was the second round of the championship and reigning world champion Michael Schumacher, driving for Ferrari, had won in Australia.
Qualifying brought nothing out of the ordinary – Schumacher took his sixth straight pole position and team mate Rubens Barrichello was marginally slower in second. David Coulthard was a slowly 8th whilst Jarno Trulli was 5th, driving for McLaren and Jordan respectively. Future world champions Raikkonen, Button and Alonso were 14th, 17th and 21st on the grid.
However, the 2007 champion didn’t make it far as a driveshaft problem halted him before he started, but up front the action was hotting up. Schumacher streaked a way from pole but brother Ralf had made a similarly good start and was alongside Barrichello. Two into one didn’t go and Rubens tipped Ralf into a spin. Coulthard took advantage of this to move up to 4th as Olivier Panis pulled off the track at Turn 6 after an oil leak.
One lap later and the race leaders were speeding through Turn 5 as the rain was starting to fall. They hit Turn 6 and Schumacher slid off the track and bounced along the gravel. Luckily for him, he managed to reach the grass before he hit the barrier and he lived to fight another day. But it was not the only Ferrari in trouble. Barrichello also shot off the track but not as bad as Schumacher. Trulli took the lead but also spun off. The rain was falling hard and the safety car was deployed. However, not before Villeneuve, Heidfeld, Bernoldi and Montoya had spun off in the treacherous conditions. But a bad day turned disastrous for Ferrari as they couldn’t find the right tyres and as Michael was queued behind Rubens, the team eventually found the correct rubber. But many were confused. The track was flooded, the conditions were near impossible yet both cars were sent out on track on Intermediates. However, only half the track had been drenched as some of it was bone dry, but anyway, inters!?
It proved to be a Ross Brawn masterstroke.
The Ferrari’s languished at the bottom of the field under the safety car, but the conditions had dried rapidly and the wets were soon becoming very worn out.
At the restart, David Coulthard swept into the lead but the star of the race, Jos Verstappen, overtook Heinz Harald Frentzen to move his Arrows up to 2nd place, despite starting from 18th on the grid. Sadly for the Dutchman, he would later slip back to 7th as the track dried out.
But the Ferrari’s were scything through the field (Barrichello wasn’t happy with Schumacher’s aggressive move on him) and were soon into the lead and with some comfort as at one point the reigning champion was in the lead by over a minute and lapping significantly quicker than the other drivers.
In the end, Schumacher won by 23 seconds in a Ferrari 1-2.
It was a classic combination of the brilliance of both Michael Schumacher and Ross Brawn
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