2002 Australian Grand Prix

Australia  2002 Australian Grand Prix
Race details
Race 1 of 17 in the 2002 FIA Formula One World Championship
Albert Lake Park Street Circuit in Melbourne, Australia.svg
Date 3 March 2002
Official name LXVII Foster's Australian Grand Prix
Location Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit, Melbourne, Australia
Course Temporary street circuit
Course length 5.303 km (3.295 mi)
Distance 58 laps, 307.574 km (191.118 mi)
Weather Cloudy at start, clearing to sunny skies.
Attendance 145,000 [1]
Pole position
Driver Ferrari
Time 1:25.843
Fastest lap
Driver Finland Kimi Räikkönen McLaren- Mercedes
Time 1:28.541 on lap 37
Podium
First Ferrari
Second Williams- BMW
Third McLaren- Mercedes

The 2002 Australian Grand Prix (formally the LXVII Foster's Australian Grand Prix) was a Formula One motor race held on 3 March 2002 at the Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit. It was the first race of the 2002 Formula One season. The 58-lap race was won by Ferrari driver Michael Schumacher after starting from second position. Juan Pablo Montoya finished second in a Williams with Kimi Räikkönen third for the McLaren team.

Report

Background

Eleven of the twelve teams on the FIA's 2002 entry list made it to Melbourne, the Prost team having gone out of business at the end of January 2002. [2] [3] The Toyota team made its debut at this race, while Renault was appearing as a team in its own right for the first time since 1985 after rebranding the Benetton team accordingly.

Heading into the new season, several teams opted to retain their 2001 driver line-ups, while others changed drivers. One of the main driver changes involved Kimi Räikkönen, who moved from Sauber to replace fellow Finnish driver and two-time World Champion Mika Häkkinen at McLaren. Häkkinen had opted to take a sabbatical from F1, [4] which would eventually become permanent retirement. Ferrari retained four-time World Champion Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello, while Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya continued at Williams. Mark Webber, Felipe Massa, Takuma Sato and Allan McNish were all debutants.

Practice and qualifying

Four practice sessions were held before the race; two one-hour sessions held on Friday and two 45 minute sessions on Saturday. [5] The Friday sessions were held in damp and wet conditions with scattered sunshine. Michael Schumacher, the reigning champion, set the session's fastest lap with a time of 1:28.804, three-tenths of a second faster than Barrichello. Giancarlo Fisichella was two and a half seconds off Barrichello's pace, followed by Ralf Schumacher, Massa and Pedro de la Rosa. [6] In the second practice session, Michael Schumacher set the quickest lap of the day, a 1:27.276; Barrichello finished with the second-fastest time. The Williams drivers were running quicker—Ralf Schumacher in third and Juan Pablo Montoya in fourth—with the team's Senior Operations Engineer, Sam Michael, admitting that the wet conditions affected their running plan. [7]

Saturday's weather was again damp and wet, where grip was poor and many drivers were forced to use the run-off areas after sliding off the track. The session was disrupted by an accident involving Sato in the Jordan, which resulted in a suspension as marshals cleared the track of debris. [8]

Saturday's afternoon qualifying session lasted for an hour. During this session, the 107% rule was in effect, which necessitated each driver set a time within 107% of the quickest lap to qualify for the race. Each driver was limited to twelve laps. [5] Barrichello achieved his first pole position of the season, his first in Melbourne, with a time of 1:25.843. He was joined on the front row by Michael Schumacher who was five thousands of a second slower.

Race

The race was heavy on attrition in the first lap, with eight cars eliminated in a multi-car pile-up at the first corner. Ralf Schumacher had made the best start from third on the grid. He passed his brother Michael and was looking for a way to take the lead from Barrichello when things went wrong. Rubens weaved one way and then went the other way. Ralf went back for another try and as they arrived at the braking area he seemed to brake too late. the result was that Ralf went into Barrichello's car and took off. But behind Ralf's Flying Circus there was a considerable mayhem as Michael Schumacher and Kimi Raikkonen both went off onto the grass. Fisichella tangled with the two Saubers and all three men went out on the spot and into the carnage piled Button, Panis and McNish. Villeneuve and Salo made it through the wreckage unscathed. It is not really clear who hit who but Raikkonen went off onto the grass and damaged the underside of his McLaren. That left Webber, Irvine, de la Rosa, Yoong and Sato to thread their way through the mess. It was obviously a case for the Safety Car and as the cars lined up behind it the order was Coulthard, Trulli, Montoya, Schumacher, Irvine, de la Rosa, Sato, Webber, Yoong and Villeneuve. The Safety Car would stay out until the start of lap 6. Both Arrows were later disqualified for disparate reasons. Heinz-Harald Frentzen was disqualified for leaving pit lane under a red light and Enrique Bernoldi was disqualified for changing to the team's spare car after the race had started, by which time Frentzen had appeared from the pits in his Arrows. Coulthard took off at the restart and was soon away on his own. On the run down to the first corner Montoya tried to challenge Trulli for second place. He slid wide at the first corner and that gave Schumacher the chance to pass the Colombian. And that meant that Schumacher was up to third and on Trulli's tail but Jarno was obviously not on the pace of Michael. It lasted only three laps and then Trulli spun off into a wall. The Italian thought there might have been oil on the circuit. It was hard to tell but the accident was a bit strange.

The crash left the Renault in a dangerous position and so out went the Safety Car again. Coulthard lost his lead of seven and a half seconds. The field (or what was left of it) trailed around until the end of lap 11 when everyone got ready to go again. At the second to last corner Coulthard went off the road. "My car developed a gearbox selection problem and put itself into neutral and that caught me out," he said. Michael Schumacher was in the lead but Montoya had no desire for that to remain the situation and he wound up the BMW engine and went past the Ferrari on the main straight, driving around the outside of Michael to take the lead. It was a nice move. Schumacher held on and the two men diced for the next five laps. In the end Juan Pablo hit some oil on lap 17 and went wide in Turn One. In a flash Schumacher was ahead and from then on he went off. The gap went out at an embarrassing rate of knots . At the end of lap 17 it was 2.2s, a lap later it was 4.7s then 6.2s, 7.9s, 9.2s, 11.3s and so on... Montoya could do nothing. Montoya was left to dice with Raikkonen who had come up through the field after stopping for repairs during the first Safety Car. Coulthard's gearbox problem gradually deteriorated and he was off the road now and then as the gears came and went. In the end he was stuck in sixth and he had to park it. Raikkonen knew that his chance to beat Montoya would come with the pit stops and when Juan Pablo pitted on lap 37 Kimi set the fastest lap of the race. He then pitted on lap 38 and came out ahead of Montoya but as he tried to stay ahead of the Colombian at the first corner he went wide and Montoya was back in front again. With six other cars retiring during the course of the race there were barely enough cars to fill the points positions.

Defending World Champion Michael Schumacher won the race for Ferrari, becoming just the eighth driver to win the event three times since it was first held in 1928. Schumacher was also the first to achieve all three wins during the Formula One World Championship era. Williams driver Juan Pablo Montoya finished 18 seconds behind in second position while McLaren driver Kimi Räikkönen came home in third place and was the only other driver apart from Montoya, not to be lapped by Schumacher. Eddie Irvine's Jaguar took fourth position while the late race battle for fifth captured the spectating crowd's attention. Mark Webber, the first Australian to start his home race since David Brabham eight years previously, drove his Minardi to fifth position, Minardi's first points in some years. The car was wounded, missing top gear and Mika Salo closing fast. With only a lap to go Salo spun trying to pass Webber. Alex Yoong in the Minardi and Pedro de la Rosa in the Jaguar were the only other finishers. After the race, Webber celebrated with an enthusiasm more than equal to winner Schumacher. Webber and Australian team boss Paul Stoddart were given their own podium celebration and Michael Schumacher's champagne bottle after the top three had left.

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