Monaco Grand Prix 2002 - a look back 27 May 2003
The 2002 Monaco Grand Prix saw David Coulthard emerge victorious to take his and McLaren's only victory of the season. Behind him things went less smoothly in what was a typically eventful Monte Carlo race. Felipe Massa collided with Enrique Bernoldi, Rubens Barrichello came together with Kimi Raikkonen, Jenson Button crashed into Olivier Panis and Mika Salo went headlong into the barriers.
At the start it was Juan Pablo Montoya on pole, but Coulthard who took the lead into Ste Devote. For the next 35 laps the Scot held sway from Montoya, Michael Schumacher and Ralf Schumacher. Although overtaking at Monaco is a rare thing, the sight of these four drivers pushing to the very limit of their abilities, nose to tail, around the tight streets of Monaco was a joy to behold. Adrenalin was on overload as each pressed the other, hoping for a mistake or a slight clipping of the barrier from the car in front.
The mistakes didn't come though, a factor which just added to the anticipation and excitement. As track conditions changed during the race Coulthard pulled out an eight second lead, and on lap 44 Michael Schumacher made his first stop. On lap 46 Montoya's engine let go and Ralf inherited second place. By now Coulthard had almost thirty seconds in hand, but Michael Schumacher began putting in the fastest laps of the race. Coulthard pitted in and emerged back on track just 0.9 seconds ahead of the charging Ferrari.
Such was Ferrari's dominance in 2002 that the script clearly stated Coulthard would be caught and passed by the German. However, it was not to be. Coulthard held Schumacher at bay for the remainder of the race and the Ferrari driver would later state that he had been gunning for the win, but Coulthard had driven an absolutely faultless race. It was sweet redemption for Coulthard, whose 2001 race had been ruined by start line problems and a persistent Bernoldi refusing to let him through.
As for 2003, with the new fuel regulations in place for qualifying it will be fascinating to see how the grid lines up. Who will opt to run light in a bid for track position and who will run heavy to take fewer stops? The new rules will only add to the spectacle of what is already considered to be one of the most exciting races of the year.