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Ferrari F1, #8, 2000-2004: The Michael Schumacher Championship Years

Where We Left Off

In the seventh installment of this series we reviewed the early years of Ferrari’s Schumacher-era, from 1996 to 1999. Ferrari’s dream team included team manager Jean Todt, technical director Ross Brawn and chief designer Rory Byrne, backed up by engine designers Claudio Lombardi and former Honda engine designer and exhaust specialist Osama Goto, under engine development team leader Paulo Martinelli. The F310 of 1996 and F310B of 1997 were competitive; the 1988 F300 and 1999 F399 both came close to winning the Championship and the F2000 would give Michael Schumacher and Ferrari their first World Drivers’ Champion in 21 long years and Ferrari their first Constructors’ Championship in 19 long years. The F2000 and its successors, the F2001, F2002, F2003GA and F2004 would absolutely dominate the 2000 to 2004 F1 Championships, giving both Michael Schumacher and Ferrari five consecutive Championships.

2000, The Right Designer, The Right Car And Schumacher

The Rory Byrne designed F2000 was an evolution of the previous seasons F300 and F399, using the same basic gearbox but with a new, wider V-angle (90 degrees vs. 75 degrees) engine which lowered the center of gravity, while the high nose featured a flatter under-nose area which improved aerodynamics, making the F2000 the aerodynamic equal to the 2000 seasons McLaren MP4/15. Too keep costs down, the FIA mandated that all teams use a V10 engine too keep engine builders from experimenting with other configurations. In other team changes, the 1999 season’s Stewart team was purchased by Ford and re-named Jaguar racing while Rubens Barrichello, who had scored three podiums for Stewart in 1999, signed for Ferrari, replacing Eddie Irvine who went to Jaguar in what was essentially a straight driver swap.

Michael Schumacher takes the 2000 Championship title at the 16th race, the Japanese GP at Suzuka.
Michael Schumacher takes the 2000 Championship title at the 16th race, the Japanese GP at Suzuka.

For the third consecutive year both the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championship were a close battle between Schumacher at Ferrari and Häkkinen at McLaren. Schumacher won the first three races in Australia, Brazil and San Marino, dominating the early season, as McLaren had reliability problems. The tide turned when Schumacher DNFed in the 9th race in France, the 10th race in Austria and the 11th race in Germany. Häkkinen
then won in the 12th race in Hungary and the 13th race in Belgium, giving him the lead in the championship, with 64 points to Schumacher’s 62. The Scuderia bounced back with Schumacher taking pole and the win in the final four races of the season, securing the Drivers’ Championship in Japan after passing Häkkinen at the final pit stop, holding on for the win, becoming Ferrari’s first World Drivers’ Champion since the glory days of Jody Scheckter in the 312 T4 in 1979! Schumacher next sealed the Constructors’ Championship for Ferrari with a win at the season’s last race in Malaysia, giving Ferrari their first win since the days of Patrick Tambay and Rene Arnoux in the 126 C2b and 126 C3 in 1983.

For those into number spotting, Ferrari built F2000s s/n 198, 199, 200, 201, 2002, 203, 204 and 205, all survive.

2001, A Schumacher-Ferrari Repeat

The Ross Brawn and Rory Byrne F2001 was designed around new FIA restrictions which mandated a much smaller and 50 mm higher-mounted front wing assembly to reduce downforce, resulting in a distinctive ‘droopsnoot’ nose section and spoon-shaped front wing. Rear wings were also limited to three elements to further reduce downforce. Both traction and launch control systems were re-introduced as the FIA admitted they couldn’t monitor software to control which teams were using the system. Stringent crash tests, larger cockpit openings, an improved survival cell, new side penetration tests, longer sidepods and higher roll hoops all added unavoidable weight. Ferrari’s trademark periscope exhausts, pioneered by the team in 1998, and small bargeboards continued. The F2001 was aerodynamically superior to both the McLaren MP4-16 and Williams FW23, but the FW23 used the massively powerful BMW engine, more than a match for the Ferrari V10. In other team news, future world champions Fernando Alonso and Kimi Räikkönen made their Grand Prix debuts in Melbourne, for Minardi and Sauber respectively and former CART champion Juan Pablo Montoya made his F1 debut at Williams. Renault returned to F1, supplying engines to Benetton. Renault bought Benneton at the season’s end, re-branding the team as Renault. Michelin returned as competition to Bridgestone.

Michael Schumacher wins the 2001 Championship title at the 13th race, the Hungarian GP
Michael Schumacher wins the 2001 Championship title at the 13th race, the Hungarian GP

The 2001 season was a run-away for Schumacher, who scored 9 wins and his 4th championship. By season’s end Schumacher had scored a then-record 123 points, 58 points clear of David Coulthard in 2nd place and missing out on the podium only at three races, two of which were DNFs. Rubens Barrichello recorded ten podiums as well during 2001, making for a clear constructors’ victory for Scuderia Ferrari with 179 points over McLaren with 102 points. Unlike the 2000 title-winning season, Schumacher was very consistent throughout the 2001 season and scored his nine wins spread more evenly through the season. His title was sealed with four races remaining after a commanding win in Hungary. Coulthard’s title challenge looked strong early on, winning two of the first six races and being neck and neck with Schumacher for the title lead. Coulthard also qualified on pole position in Monaco only to stall on the grid and would not win again for the rest of the year, dropping off massively by mid-season, as Schumacher, with few exceptions, kept either winning or finishing second all season. Mika Häkkinen in the MP4-16 McLaren and Ralf Schumacher in the Williams-BMW FW23 would be the only other serious title contenders. Häkkinen’s once reliable McLaren had reliability issues, allowing him to win only 2 races, while his teammate David Coulthard had minimal problems, finishing 2nd in the Championship, beating Rubens Barrichello who would finish 3rd.
William’s drivers Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya both scored their maiden wins in the sport, at San Marino and Italy respectively. The younger Schumacher added victories in Canada and Germany, giving Williams four wins in total, marking a return to success for Williams, after three years without a victory. The Schumacher brothers also scored historic family 1–2 finishes in Canada and France. Schumacher broke the all-time F1 GP wins record at the Belgian Grand Prix, marking his 52nd career win.
The F2001 was still competitive in 2002, with Schumacher taking the car’s final win at the 2002 Australian GP, before it was replaced by the all-conquering F2002, from the third race for Schumacher and fourth race for Barrichello. Overall, the F2001 took ten wins, thirteen pole positions, three fastest laps and 197 points during its lifespan.

For those into number spotting, Ferrari built F2001s s/n 206, 207, 208, 209, 210, 211, 212, 213, 214, 215 and 216, all survive.

2002, Another Schumacher-Ferrari Repeat

In late 2001 Ferrari supplied Bridgestone with all of its chassis, engine and suspension data. In turn Bridgestone agreed to share all information on their compound and construction methods in an exclusive agreement. For the 2002 season a team of Ferrari engineers were based full-time in Japan and in turn Japanese engineers were based full-time at Ferrari in Maranello. The F2002’s suspension geometry was specifically designed to work with the latest Bridgestones, with Bridgestone providing the funding for two Ferrari F2002 test cars, giving Ferrari a substantial advantage going into the 2002 season.

While the F2001 was dominating enough for Schumacher to win the 2002 Australia GP and finish 3rd at the 2002 Malaysia GP, the Ross Brawn and Rory Byrne designed F2002 was a major technological leap forward, much lighter than the F2001, with the tipo 051/B/ C V10 engines having a very low center of gravity. While the new 051 engine by Ferrari’s engine designer Paolo Martinelli was not the most powerful engine of 2002, it was light, compact, very fuel efficient and driver-friendly. An all-new, ultra-lightweight and higher strength titanium gearbox-housing saved even more weight and helped lower the center of gravity, while its compact design allowed a tighter rear bodywork. Aerodynamically, the F2002 was well ahead of the Williams-BMW FW24 but slightly down on power, and equal to or more efficient than the 2002 season’s McLaren MP4-17. Other advances included clutch-less direct shift technology within the gearbox, a new fluid traction control system and upright aerodynamically shaped periscopic exhaust outlets at the rear, which aimed the exhaust gases higher out of the way of the rear suspension while using the hot exhaust gases for aerodynamic effect. Bridgestone continued to work with Ferrari to develop tires specifically for the handling aspects of the Ferrari F2002, a massive advantage.

Michael Schumacher takes the 2002 Championship title at the 11th race, the French GP.
Michael Schumacher takes the 2002 Championship title at the 11th race, the French GP.

2002 became a season of overwhelming dominance, not seen since McLaren’s 1988 season. Schumacher scored eleven wins in the season, while Rubens Barrichello had four wins and Michael had an amazing no DNFs! The only races that the F2002 failed to win were in Malaysia and Monaco. Furthermore, Schumacher finished every race on the podium, winning the Championship in record time, clinching the title at the 11th race of the season in France. The two Ferrari drivers were comfortably 1st and 2nd in the Drivers’ Championship, and Ferrari scored as many Constructors’ points (221) as the rest of the teams put together. Ralf Schumacher in the Williams FW 24 and David Coulthard in the McLaren MP4-17 would win in Malaysia and Monaco respectively.

In other team news, Toyota entered the 2002 championship with Mika Salo (formerly with Sauber in 2000) and debutant Allan McNish, who had previously driven a Toyota GT One at Le Mans. The Benetton team had been sold to Renault in 2001, and was renamed Renault F1 for 2002, with Jarno Trulli and Jenson Button. Renault would be Champions in only three more years!

For those into number spotting, Ferrari built F2002s s/n 217, 218, 219, 220, 221, 222, 223, 224 and F2002Bs s/n 225, 226 and 227. All survive.

2003, And So It Continues

Just as the F2001 had been competitive enough to run in the early 2002 season, the F2002B was used for the first four races of 2003, winning the 4th race at San Marino, before being replaced by the F2003-GA; with the “GA” as a mark of respect to Gianni Agnelli, the recently deceased head of Fiat. Again designed by Rory Byrne and Ross Brawn, the F2003GA featured bulbous sidepods and a lengthened wheelbase to aid aerodynamics, making it a competitive car, winning 3 out its first 4 races. Tire problems mid-season gave both Williams and McLaren a chance to push Ferrari and Schumacher for the championship. A late-season tire update by Bridgestone engineers allowed Ferrari to regain the initiative, winning the final three races of the season, holding off both Williams and McLaren for the Constructors’ Championship. Schumacher took his sixth Drivers’ title, breaking Juan Manuel Fangio’s record, which had stood for 46 years.

Michael Schumacher takes the 2003 title at the 16th and last race, the Japanese GP
Michael Schumacher takes the 2003 title at the 16th and last race, the Japanese GP

While Schumacher had won the 2002 season by 67 points from his teammate Rubens Barrichello, the 2003 season was much closer with several drivers and teams with a mathematical chance of winning the Championship. Eight different drivers won a GP, amongst them three first time winners. Kimi Räikkönen, driving for McLaren-Mercedes, and Juan Pablo Montoya, driving for BMW Williams both had a chance of claiming the 2003 championship until late in the season, with Räikkönen still mathematically in contention at the final race, the Japanese Grand Prix. Räikkönen lost the championship to Schumacher by two points, although he won only one race to Schumacher’s six. Schumacher ended the season with 93 points over Räikkönen with 91, and Ferrari won the Constructors’ Championship with 158 points, over Williams with 144 points.

For those into number spotting, Ferrari built F2003s s/n 228, 229, 230, 231, 232 and 233. All survive.

2003 also saw a major leap forward in Formula One safety, with the HANS (Head And Neck Support) device mandatory from the Australian Grand Prix onwards. One-lap qualifying was introduced to get more television exposure for smaller teams, and Friday testing was added to give smaller teams a cheaper alternative to test days, which were to be banned in 2004. The points system for both titles changed from 10–6–4–3–2–1 for the first six finishers to 10–8–6–5–4–3–2–1 for the first eight finishers in an attempt to make the title contests closer. What was then staggeringly sophisticated bi-directional car-to-pit and pit-to-car telemetry was banned to lower costs.

2004, Schumacher’s Last Hurrah

The F2004 was an evolutionary extension of the F2003, again designed by Ross Brawn, Rory Byrne and Aldo Costa, who would replace the soon-to-retire Rory Byrne, continuing the team’s winning streak. Aerodynamics, weight distribution, the center of gravity and the complete suspension were designed to get the best performance from the latest Bridgestone tires, while the tipo 053 engine and all-new titanium gearbox were designed to last a full weekend, to meet the FIA’s latest technical regulations. Indeed, the F2004 was good enough to be used for the first two races of 2005.

Schumacher won twelve of the first thirteen races and eventually scored thirteen race victories, breaking his own record of eleven race wins in a season, set in 2002. He also won a record 7th Drivers’ Championship with his teammate Rubens Barrichello winning two of the last four races and finishing 2nd in the title. Schumacher would end the season with 148 points over Barrichello, with 114 points, and Jensen Button, in the Honda powered BAR, with 85 points. Jenson Button would share ten podium finishes with Schumacher and Barrichello and take the pole at San Marino on his path to 3rd in the Championship. With the help of his Japanese teammate Takuma Sato, BAR scored an impressive 2nd place in the Constructors’ Championship, with 119 points against Ferrari’s overwhelming 262 points.

For those into number spotting, Ferrari built F2004s s/n 234, 235, 236, 237, 238, 239, 240, 241 and 242. All survive.

Michael Schumacher wins the 2004 Championship title at the 13th race, the Hungarian GP
Michael Schumacher wins the 2004 Championship title at the 13th race, the Hungarian GP

As part of a global restructuring and cost-cutting, Ford announced that they wouldn’t enter the 2005 F1 championship via their Jaguar team, and their Cosworth motor and engineering divisions were sold. The Jaguar team was also eventually sold and continued as Red Bull Racing in 2005. The 2004 F1 calendar featured two new events, the Bahrain GP and the Chinese GP, held at two newly built circuits in Sakhir and Shanghai respectively. The season saw all ten teams score at least one World Championship point.

The Market For 2000-2004 Cars

As Championship winners, the F2000, F2001, F2002, F2003 and F2004 are “the” weapons of choice to run in Ferrari’s F1 Clienti program. Any of the 2000-2004 V10s will sell in the mid seven-figures and the few multiple race winning cars even more. This author argues that with 44 cars surviving, being relatively easy to operate (for an F1 car) and more than welcome at F1 Clienti, they are awesome interactive art. In the only example (to date) of an F1 car being sold as an art object, F2001 s/n 211, a double-race-winner with Schumacher, was sold at Sotheby’s New York Contemporary Art Auction on 16 Nov., 2017 for what is, to date, the highest price ever paid for a modern F1 car, at $7,504,000. Expensive, for a Formula one car, but a bargain when compared to a painting of a Campbell Soup can, a ceramic of Michael Jackson and his Chimp or a very dead (rebodied) shark in formaldehyde.


F2001 s/n 211 sold at Sotheby’s New York Contemporary Art Auction for $7,504,000.
F2001 s/n 211 sold at Sotheby’s New York Contemporary Art Auction for $7,504,000.

The Next Chapter

The 2004 season had seen a tire war between Michelin and Bridgestone, remembered for two high-speed tire failures on the banking during the 2004 US GP at Indianapolis. Fernando Alonso was unhurt but Ralf Schumacher suffered serious injuries, which kept him out of the next six races, when their Michelin tires failed. After watching Ferrari and Michael Schumacher dominate for five straight seasons, the FIA felt drastic regulatory changes were needed and, in their infinite wisdom, the FIA opined that harder and hence more durable tires would increase safety while reducing cornering speeds, and so the wise men banned tire changes for 2005, but allowed refueling. For the 2005 season tires would have to last through both qualifying and the entire race, a distance of about 350 kms, and could only be changed without penalty for punctures or dangerous flat spots. Renault’s head of engineering, Pat Symonds, opined that (in the upcoming 2005 season) “The driver who can look after his tires best, and has the feel for how to maximize tire performance over a full race distance, will undoubtedly gain a performance advantage,”. Fernando Alonso in the Renault R25 would prove him right.

Thanks to the following, in alphabetical order: John Amette, (Ferrari Newport Beach Classiche); Arnaud Blanfuney; Ross Bowdler; Andy Dayes; Trevor Griffiths; Alastair Henderson; Mike Matune; Paul Osborn (Cars International); Nigel Petas; Glen Smale (Porsche Road & Race); Thor Thorson (Vintage Racing Motors) and Matthias Urban (