Japanese Grand Prix 2002 - a look back 07 Oct 2003
This time last year both championships were safely settled. That did not, however, mean that Suzuka was without significance or drama. Winner Michael Schumacher became the first man to finish every race in a season on the podium, while yet another Ferrari one-two made the Schumacher-Barrichello driver partnership the most successful in the sport's history.
Ferrari dominated the entire weekend, locking out the front row of the grid in qualifying, with pole sitter Schumacher taking a comfortable flag-to-finish victory. Lower down the order, though, there was plenty of action.
Toyota's first home race did not go quite according to plan. Allan McNish crashed heavily in qualifying at the notorious 130R corner, halting the session for over an hour. Though the Scot sustained no serious injuries, he would eventually be ruled out of the race, leaving team mate Mika Salo to uphold the team's honour with an eighth place finish.
But the Japanese fans still had plenty to cheer about thanks to local hero Takuma Sato, who finished a difficult debut season in style as he took fifth spot for Jordan, and with it his first world championship points. Given the crowd's reaction you would have thought he and not Schumacher had won the race.
Behind the Ferraris, third place went to McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen, giving him his fourth podium of the season. The Finn lost out to Ralf Schumacher at the start and then survived a scary moment on lap 33 when he ran wide at Degner, almost losing control. However, when Schumacher's Williams expired with less than five laps to go, Raikkonen was the beneficiary.
Montoya brought Williams some consolation in fourth, but it was Sato's two points for fifth that proved the most crucial of the day. They meant that Jordan leapfrogged Jaguar and BAR in the final constructors' standings, rising from eighth place to sixth. The final point went to Jenson Button, in his last race with Renault.
Just one or two points could prove equally vital in this weekend's Japanese race. At the top of the standings, Ferrari lead Williams by just three points, while in the mid-order, just six points separate Sauber in fifth place and Jordan in ninth, with BAR, Jaguar and Toyota in between.