This is part 5 of the European Grand Prix mini history series – years 2001 – 2003.
The 2001 European GP is best remembered for Schumi vs Schumi at the race start. The big brother Michael grabbed the pole from his little brother Ralf , Juan Pablo Montoya was on P3. At the race start Michael felt aseep a tiny bit and to defend his lead Michael Schumacher pushed his brother way too close to the wall. Ralf had only 2 options – either to hit the wall or lift his foot off the throttle. He chose the throttle action and as a result Michael Schumacher kept his lead, Ralf stayed in second. Ferrari’s Bridgestones worked better early on and Michael pulled away. Soon however the advantage turned to Michelins. Ralf was pushing his brother hard and Montoya was closing on both of them.
Both Schumacher brothers pitted on the same lap and Michael came out ahead of Ralf. On the way out Ralf crossed touched the white line and 10 second stop go penalty followed. He dropped back to 4th place behind Montoya and Coulthard. The race was pretty much over by then and Michael Schumacher went on to win his 4th European GP, third here at Nurburgring, second in a row.
The 2002 season was the season of Ferrari dominance, and the European GP was no different. Although the Ferraris only qualified 3rd and 4th behind both Williams cars, by the end of lap 1 Barrichello was in the lead, by the end of lap 3 Michael Schumacher was in P2. Schumacher remained right on Barrichello’s tail for the rest of the race (despite a spin). It was clear that Ferrari would win this race. The only question was, who will be the winning driver. With the title almost secured for Michael Schumacher Ferrari did not dare to repeat the Austrian GP fiasco. Barrichello was allowed to win this time, Schumacher came second. Raikkonen’s McLaren crossed the line over 46 seconds later, Ralf at 4th and Button at 5th were over a minute back.The only excitement produced by Williams and McLaren was the collision on lap 28 between Coulthard and Montoya that took both drivers out of the race. Two races later in France Michael Schumacher was crowned a champion with 6 races to go.
It was different story a year later, in 2003. Michelins had the advantage over Bridgestones at Nurburgring and Ferraris struggled. Kimi Raikkonen lead the race until his engine went in smoke on lap 26. Ralf Schumacher took over and went on to win this race, Montoya finished second. Barrichello completed the podium line up after coming home in 3rd. Nothing against Ralf or Williams, but here is what I remember this race for (some of it in the video):
- Montoya vs Schumacher – Quicker Montoya was trying to overtake Michael Schumacher in the battle for 2nd place. Schumacher however closed the door, the two collided, Schumacher went off the track.
- The push – Following the collision with Montoya, Michael Schumacher got stranded in the gravel. He kept the engine going, waived for help. Surprisingly the help came, he was pushed back to the track by marshals. As he was considered to be in a dangerous position the push was OK and Schumi continued the race. He finished 5th.
- Alonso break testing Coulthard – the classic, see in the video
- Sign of things to come – Alonso defending his position from Michael Schumacher in final few corners of the race.
Photos: Renault/LAT, Williams/LAT