Italian Grand Prix 2002 - a look back 09 Sep 2003
Ferrari head to Monza desperately in need of a win - anything less could seriously hamper their chances of retaining the constructors' title. Recent form, however, is not on their side. This time last year things could not have been more different. Such was the team's dominance that a Ferrari one-two on home soil was almost a formality, and the tifosi did not leave Monza disappointed.
Ferrari didn't have it all their own way, though. In qualifying Juan Pablo Montoya snatched pole from Michael Schumacher, with Williams team mate Ralf Schumacher beating Rubens Barrichello to third place on the grid. Eddie Irvine gave a hint of the good things to come for Jaguar as he took fifth spot ahead of the McLarens of Kimi Raikkonen and David Coulthard.
The start of the race was all about Williams. An excellent start by Ralf Schumacher and an equally poor one by Montoya saw the duo side be side as the first corner loomed. Of course two into one wouldn't go, especially through the narrow Rettifilo chicane, which Ralf chose to run straight across, netting him the lead.
His advantage would not last long. On lap four, just as he was about to be instructed to move aside for Montoya due to his first-lap misdemeanour, Ralf's hopes of victory went up in smoke - quite literally - when the BMW engine on his FW24 failed on the start-finish straight. And things got instantly worse for Williams. With Montoya unsighted by the smoke, the Colombian momentarily backed off, giving Barrichello the run on him into the chicane. One out-braking manoeuvre later and a Ferrari led at Monza.
Just a couple of laps later the scarlet cars were in complete control. Michael Schumacher, who had lost out to Barrichello at the start, wasted no time in putting Montoya under pressure, forcing the Williams driver into a mistake at the Ascari chicane, allowing the world champion to seize second place and effectively end the Williams challenge. Montoya went on to retire on lap 33 with chassis problems.
McLaren also had a difficult afternoon. Coulthard ran into the back of team mate Raikkonen at the start, forcing the Scot to pit for a new nose cone and rejoin at the back of the field. Raikkonen was then running fourth when his engine failed on lap 29, while Coulthard eventually took seventh after winning an intense battle with Jordan's Giancarlo Fisichella.
Williams' and McLaren's loss was Jaguar's and Renault's gain. As Ferrari put in their demonstration run at the front of the field, an ecstatic Eddie Irvine clinched the final podium spot. Jarno Trulli and Jenson Button made it a double points celebration for Renault, while Olivier Panis took the final top-six slot for BAR.
However, it was Ferrari's day. Barrichello played the race to perfection, staying ahead of his team mate throughout, despite his two stops to Schumacher's one. The gap between the pair fluctuated dramatically, but by the end they looked to be holding station as they closed up for a formation finish - much to the tifosi's delight. This year, things are unlikely to be so easy.