Rubens Barrichello's finest hour 22 Dec 2004
Hockenheim 2000 - the Brazilian defies the odds
Few victories have been so richly deserved and so warmly received by the Formula One paddock as Rubens Barrichello's first ever Formula One race win at the 2000 German Grand Prix.
In a weekend of changeable weather conditions, Barrichello started from a lowly 18th on the grid, but drove the race of his life, risking all with dry tyres on a wet track, to take the spoils.
At the start, pole-position man David Coulthard got the jump on Michael Schumacher, chopping in front of the Ferrari, replicating a move the German had been employing all season to the frustration of his fellow drivers. Having swallowed his own medicine, Schumacher then saw Mika Hakkinen fly past both himself and Coulthard, the Finn having made one of his best ever starts. As the field ducked and weaved into the first corner, Schumacher cut in front of Giancarlo Fisichella, leaving the Italian nowhere to go but straight into the Ferrari's rear end. For the second race in a row, Schumacher was out at the first corner. Neither he nor Fisichella were amused, and both blamed the other.
That left the McLarens holding P1 and 2, and with Barrichello back in 18th, Ferrari's prospects were not looking good. By the end of the first lap however, Rubens was up to tenth position. The Brazilian was on a charge, and on lap 12 he was up to fourth place. Lap 15 saw him snatch third from Jarno Trulli, before he set about catching the McLarens, who by this point were around 15 seconds up the road.
But the Ferrari had to jump into the pits for fuel, rejoining in sixth position. When Heinz-Harald Frentzen made his stop, Barrichello was up to fifth, with just Pedro de la Rosa, Trulli, and the McLarens ahead. Having passed de la Rosa, he then had just a few seconds to make up to catch Trulli. Realistically, his best hope looked like third place.
Then came the moment that changed the race. A disgruntled former Mercedes employee cut a hole in a fence and walked up the side of the track holding a banner. When he decided to run across the track to avoid capture, the safety car was hastily deployed. Most drivers dived into the pits, but Coulthard, who had not seen the protestor and thought team mate Hakkinen had mistakenly pitted, stayed out. It would prove a costly error.
The safety car period set up a grand finale as Hakkinen's lead was now completely wiped out. With ten laps left, rain started to fall, but only on half the track. Would the rain spread? Nobody knew so gambles were taken. While Hakkinen pitted in for wets, Barrichello took the risk and stayed out on dry tyres. Only four men took the same chance, but Frentzen went out with electrical problems, Ricardo Zonta spun on the wet part of the track, and Coulthard eventually decided that enough was enough and he too would come in for wets. But Barrichello persisted, walking the tightrope on the wet part of the track.
The gamble paid off. After nearly a decade in Formula One, Rubens Barrichello had finally won a race. As he stood on the podium and we heard the Brazilian national anthem played at a Grand Prix for the first time since Ayrton Sennas final victory in Australia in 1993, his emotions ran away with him. Years of expectancy, self belief and the weight of a nation's dreams erupted inside the much-loved Brazilian and as he wept it was difficult not to well up too. The 2000 German Grand Prix was one of those rare events a race where absolutely everybody appeared happy with the result.