The dream team of Ferrari - Michael Schumacher (and Irvine in 1999 when Schumi was injured), Ross Brawn as the technical director, Bryne as the lead car designer and Jean Todt as the team GM had spent the last 3 years challenging Mclaren Mercedes for the championship only to be thwarted at the end of the season. Ferrari did manage to win the Constructers title in 1999 but the drivers’ championship eluded them. For the 2000 season, there was one major change in the team, Rubens Barrichello replaced Irvine as the “Number 2” driver at Ferrari.
The season opener from Australia started off on a familiar note with the McLarens of Mika Häkkinen and David Coulthard starting first and second on the grid ahead of the two Ferrari’s. It seemed once again the car of Ferrari was extremely good, but perhaps just not enough to beat the Mclaren over the course of a complete season. However, what happened on Sunday would form the theme of the first half of the season as both McLarens retired due to mechanical issues heading a Schumi led Ferrari a comfortable 1-2.
The second race of the season from Brazil again witnessed a Michael win with Mika retiring due to an oil leak. Round 3 from San Marino saw Hakkinen's first finish of the season, but it was not enough to stop Michael from recording a third consecutive win. Schumi could only finish 3rd in Britain as Coulthard led a Mclaren 1-2. It got worse in Spain as Michael finished 5th owing to his car stalling in the pits on his second pitstop and later tire issues, and this time around, Mika led a Mclaren 1-2.
Schumi won the race from his home in Germany. A suspension failure while in the lead resulted in 0 points for Michael in Monaco. He won the next race in Canada with Barrichello confirming another 1-2 for the Ferrari. With almost half of the season completed Michael held a 22 point lead in the standings over Hakkinen.
That was as good as it goes for the next few races. Michael suffered an engine blowout in France, retired due to being hit by car in Austria, followed by another accident in the season’s second race from Germany. Both these accidents were not Michael’s fault but that did not matter, he had secured 0/30 points and now only had a 2 point lead over both the Mclaren drivers. Hakkinen won the next two races in Hungary and Belgium ahead of Michael and now was 6 points ahead of Michael in the title race with 74 points. It seemed history was going to repeat itself.
This time around, though, Michael had different plans, he won the last 4 races of the season (Italy, US, Japan and Malaysia) from Pole securing the drivers’ championship in Japan in the penultimate race of the season. Given the near misses of the previous seasons, the calmness and precision displayed by Michael in the last four races were phenomenal. Beyond his unquestioned racing skills, this also highlighted his mental strength.
Michael won 9 races in the season matching his own record of 1995. For Ferrari, the wait for a first driver’s title since 1979 had ended, and in the process, they also defended their Constructors’ Championship. Michael, with his third driver’s title, had joined an elite group of drivers who had 3 or more Championships. He had also overtaken the late great Ayrton Senna as the driver with the second highest race wins in F1. A season to celebrate indeed for the Tifosi.