Michael Schumacher led a Ferrari one-two at the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday, to
clinch a hat-trick of wins at Suzuka, and round off his record-breaking Formula
One season in style. The Ferrari ace, who clinched his fifth world championship
at the French Grand Prix in July, came home half a second ahead of teammate
Rubens Barrichello to secure a record 11th win of season.
Schumacher has finished among the top three at every grand prix this year and is the first driver to complete a Formula One season on the podium. He has now won 64 grand prix, 45 of them for Ferrari. His nearest challenger in Formula One's hall of fame is France's legendary Alain Prost, who recorded 51 career victories.
The 33-year-old German's win also took his personal points tally for the season to a record 144 and gave Ferrari their 53rd successive podium finish.
“It's hard to find the words to describe this season, but the results speak for themselves. Finishing all the races on the podium shows the quality of the work done by all the team. What they have achieved is unbelievable. I think today's race was great for the Japanese fans as they saw two winners; me and Sato getting his first F1 points in his home event,” Michael said. “As for the race, I got a good start, built a gap and that meant the pit stops could be planned at just the right time. All weekend we were quick so I was not surprised at the gap. I want to thank Bridgestone for a superb tyre, which worked very well even though we had never done a long run with it in these hot conditions. I am very happy for them that they have taken their 70th win in their 100th GP and in their home event. I also want to mention Ross (Brawn) who missed a race for the first time. Get well soon! Now, I plan to have a nice winter and come back stronger next year. But I expect next season to be tougher as the other teams get closer. That will be a challenge. I still think we will be in the fight for the titles and winning races but maybe we will not win races so consistently. But we don't need to be as dominant as long as we still win. The Ferrari event in Misano next week will be a big celebration, but first we have tonight!" The Ferrari duo also recorded their 15th one-two, breaking the record for Formula One's most successful partnership, which they previously shared with McLaren's legendary 1988-89 pairing of Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost. It was also their ninth one-two finish of the season.
“I am very happy for me and for Ferrari. To be part of this family with such a great car is incredible. I must thank Bridgestone, with whom we worked even closer than usual over this weekend. We have had a wonderful season with them and all the hard work paid off and we will be even stronger next year,” Rubens said. “At the start, I lost a bit to Michael and then for the first few laps the car was bottoming out a bit too much, so I was being careful not to spin and damage the tyres. After the first stop, I was not completely happy with the balance of the car, but that was my only problem all afternoon and I could cope with it. Maybe we went a little bit the wrong way in our set-up for the race. But with the gap to those behind me, I just had to concentrate and maintain my pace. Anyway, with two wins in the last three races, I am very happy.”
“A dream finale to a dream season. We could not ask for more. We have achieved a lot: fifteen wins, nine one-twos, Michael taking his third consecutive world title with Ferrari, after eleven races and Ferrari taking its fourth consecutive constructors' championship after thirteen races,” added Jean Todt. “Rubens took second place in the Drivers' classification with one race to go and we have scored 221 points, which is the same as all the other teams put together. It's hard to imagine anything better. These figures are the result of the work done by a fantastic team, which, even in difficult times, has always enjoyed the support of President Montezemolo and the shareholders. This is the best way of thanking them. I also want to thank our partners: Bridgestone who were very keen to win here at Suzuka to celebrate their one hundredth grand prix in the best possible way: Shell, who provided essential technical support, Philip Morris who have always stuck by us and Vodafone, whose first year with us coincides with an historic season.”
“A special word of thanks goes to all our other partners. None of this would be possible without such a unique and professional team. We have been through tough times which brought us closer together and we have always been united. My thanks go to the entire Scuderia, from the drivers to the security guards at our Maranello base. Now we will enjoy this result, but tomorrow morning we will continue to think about 2003. Rest assured that our motivation will be the same as this year's. We know that, despite everything that is being said, it will be very difficult, because the opposition is very strong, especially those teams who have themselves experienced periods like the one we are going through now. Finally, I am looking forward to celebrating this dream season at the “Ferrari Days” event at Misano next weekend.”