Schumacher turns the tide against McLaren on tragic day at Monza

2000 Italian Grand Prix flashback

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With four races left in the 2000 season, following his spectacular victory at the last round in Belgium, it seemed as if all the momentum was with championship leader Mika Hakkinen as he chased his third title in succession.

Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher had started the season with three wins on the bounce, but hadn’t won since Canada was now six points adrift. The second McLaren, in the hands of David Coulthard, was third in the standings, but increasingly in the shadow of his rejuvenated team mate.

Ferrari’s second home race of the year at Monza was the perfect opportunity for Schumacher to bounce back, with an expectant tifosi clamouring for a red win.

The circuit had been significantly altered. The old double chicane at Rettifilio was replaced by a new, much slower corner. The following chicane, della Roggia, had also been profiled. But it was the first corner which prompted concerns about the increased risk of early race incidents as a full field hammered towards it nearing top speed.

Before the race weekend began, as was traditional, the teams had a four day test session. Giancarlo Fisichella and Gaston Mazzacane both suffered major crashes at Ascari, the former requiring a hospital trip to examine a banged-up ankle.

The practice sessions were a Ferrari benefit with Rubens Barrichello going fastest on Friday, before Schumacher took over on Saturday. The McLarens were consistently in the mix but so too were both Williams, retaining their Spa form, and the Jordans.

2000 Italian Grand Prix qualifying

Schumacher gave the Ferrari faithful plenty to cheer about with his sixth pole position of the season. Crucially, for the first time all year, Barrichello joined him on the front row, just 0.027s slower.

Championship leader Hakkinen qualified third having suffered with misfires on his Mercedes V10. An impressive performance from Jacques Villeneuve saw the BAR up in a season-best fourth ahead of Coulthard and Trulli on the third row.

It was a relatively disappointing qualifying session for Williams with Ralf Schumacher in seventh and Jenson Button in 12th behind both Arrows. The two Prosts took the penultimate row, followed by the Minardi pair, of Marc Gene and the considerably slower Mazzacane.

PositionDriverTeamTime
1Michael SchumacherFerrari1’23.770
2Rubens BarrichelloFerrari1’23.797
3Mika HakkinenMcLaren1’23.967
4Jacques VilleneuveBAR1’24.238
5David CoulthardMcLaren1’24.290
6Jarno TrulliJordan1’24.477
7Ralf SchumacherWilliams1’24.516
8Heinz-Harald FrentzenJordan1’24.786
9Giancarlo FisichellaBenetton1’24.789
10Pedro de la RosaArrows1’24.814
11Jos VerstappenArrows1’24.820
12Jenson ButtonWilliams1’24.907
13Alexander WurzBenetton1’25.150
14Eddie IrvineJaguar1’25.251
15Mika SaloSauber1’25.322
16Pedro DinizSauber1’25.324
17Ricardo ZontaBAR1’25.337
18Johnny HerbertJaguar1’25.388
19Jean AlesiProst1’25.558
20Nick HeidfeldProst1’25.625
21Marc GeneMinardi1’26.336
22Gaston MazzacaneMinardi1’27.360

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2000 Italian Grand Prix

Race day dawned warm and dry – perfect September conditions in front of a packed crowd. But events swiftly took a dire turn, and the scene was not the much-debated Rettifilio chicane, but the second braking zone.

Schumacher held his lead from pole position, heading a fast-starting Hakkinen who vaulted clear of Barrichello. But as they raced into the Roggia chicane chaos unfolded.

The Jordan pair Frentzen and Trulli collided, eventually collecting Barrichello and Coulthard. In the melee behind de la Rosa was flipped into the air after contact with Herbert.

Tragically, one front wheel was launched clear of the scene and struck a fire marshal Paolo Ghislimberti, who died from his injuries. Despite the magnitude of the incident, the race wasn’t stopped, instead continuing behind the Safety Car for 11 laps, a decision several drivers criticised.

When the restart was finally ordered more drama soon followed. Schumacher slowed the field to a near-stop on the approach to Parabolica. As the queue compressed behind him, Button swerved to avoid his team mate’s car and struck a barrier, retiring shortly after.

Schumacher immediately began to pull away from Hakkinen and Villeneuve and was soon a couple of seconds clear. On lap 14 the BAR gearbox put an end to Villeneuve’s race, promoted Ralf Schumacher to third.

Thereafter the top two remained stable with Schumacher retaining a small but safe buffer over Hakkinen, the order only briefly switching during the pit stop period.

There was a far better battle for third between the other Schumacher, Jos Verstappen in the Arrows and the remaining BAR of Ricardo Zonta. The order switched throughout the afternoon, initially prompted by an error from the Williams driver, with pit stop strategies also coming into play.

The Williams driver prevailed in the end, with Verstappen eventually coming home seven seconds back. Fifth place eventually went to Alexander Wurz (the early crash giving irregular points scorers the chance to get on the board), and sixth went to Zonta who enjoyed arguably one of the best drives of his F1 career.

Several drivers attended Ghislimberti’s funeral five days later
Schumacher’s victory was his sixth of the season and the 41st of his career, matching Ayrton Senna’s wins total. On an emotional day, Schumacher was moved to tears when asked in the post race press conference about the significance of the achievement.

It was also an important victory in the title fight. Second place for Hakkinen meant that he retained the lead but his advantage was just to two points, with 30 left to fight for.

But as F1 left Monza the championship fight second in importance to the day’s tragedy. In the wake of the incident the cars involved were impounded by Italian authorities, with the investigation eventually closed in June 2001.

The stewards deemed the crash a racing incident, but there were clear lessons to be learned from it and other incidents earlier in the year. In particular, the need to further strengthen F1’s wheel tethers had become clear, particularly as wheels had also broken free in other crashes earlier in the year.

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2000 Italian Grand Prix result

PositionDriverTeamLapsTime / laps / reason
1Michael SchumacherFerrari531:27’31.638
2Mika HakkinenMcLaren53+3.810
3Ralf SchumacherWilliams53+52.432
4Jos VerstappenArrows53+59.938
5Alexander WurzBenetton53+7.426
6Ricardo ZontaBAR53+9.293
7Mika SaloSauber52+1 lap
8Pedro DinizSauber52+1 lap
9Marc GeneMinardi52+1 lap
10Gaston MazzacaneMinardi52+1 lap
11Giancarlo FisichellaBenetton52+1 lap
12Jean AlesiProst51+2 laps
13Nick HeidfeldProst15Accident
14Jacques VilleneuveBAR14Electrical
15Jenson ButtonWilliams10Accident
16Johnny HerbertJaguar1Accident
17Rubens BarrichelloFerrari0Accident
18David CoulthardMcLaren0Accident
19Jarno TrulliJordan0Accident
20Heinz-Harald FrentzenJordan0Accident
21Pedro de la RosaArrows0Accident
22Eddie IrvineJaguar0Accident

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2000 Italian Grand Prix championship standings

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Author information

Ben Evans
Motorsport commentator Ben is RaceFans' resident bookworm. Look out for his verdict on the latest motor racing publications on Sundays....

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5 comments on “Schumacher turns the tide against McLaren on tragic day at Monza”

  1. It was a tremendous day for Schumacher. Such a pivotal race for that season and the championships that followed. After not having the equipment in 1997-98 but still taking the fight to the last race of each season, after being denied because of a broken leg in 1999, the championship was slipping away when he went to Monza. Don’t forget in those days there were only three races left in the season after Monza.

    The tears were a combination of things. The immense pressure he was under finally having a Ferrari that could compete (McLaren was the quicker car but Schumacher could make up the difference with ability). It was starting to feel like he was destined to not win a championship at Ferrari despite being the best driver on the grid. He put himself under the pressure to deliver that championship more than anyone. He walked away from almost certain championships at Benetton to take Ferrari back to greatness.

    It was that pressure — the pressure of delivering a Ferrari championship, the pressure Hakkinen was applying within that season, the pressure of a season slipping away — that made him brake down in tears. Equally Senna was just the trigger I think.

    Ferrari went into that race as underdog, but they refrigerated their fuel and I think it was subsequently banned for the following race.

    One of Schumacher’s great wins of all time.

  2. The crash on the first lap was simply horrible to look at on live television. (I just checked and) the director showed a stopped Irvine, then cut to the mayhem in full process as four cars were going all over the place into the gravel trap, pieces flying everywhere, and just when you thought it was over one more car flipped in the air. And afterwards the confusion and uncertainty what had happened (I think at least the Finnish commentators initially thought that a driver was badly injured).

  3. My uncle had taken me to Oulton Park that day. On the way back we turned on the news to hear the result and it wasn’t broadcast which was quite odd.

    Then when I arrived back to my uncle’s house, I put Teletext on and it notified me of Paolo’s death.

    I’m also of the opinion the race should have been stopped, just as it should have been in Melbourne for Graham Beveridge the following year. But it didn’t it carried on. This year at Monza we red flagged because of LeClerc’s crash but we didn’t need to. Just as we didn’t need to stop the Australian GP when Alonso and Ericsson crashed at Turn 3. We could have cleared those events under Safety Car but we didn’t.

    We had two marshals dying at the side of a Grand Prix track and the event carried on. The sight of an ambulance at Melbourne having to move out of the way of a string of F1 cars was not the nicest thing to see, and I hope to never see again

  4. Jose Lopes da Silva
    11th September 2020, 10:46

    @David Bondo
    “a pivotal race for that season and the championships that followed.”

    Yes, this is the perfect description of it. More than that, it was a huge turning point in Schumacher’s career. In my view, there are three turning points in Schumacher’s career:
    – Imola 1994, of course, when the grid runs out of champions and he becomes the benchmark for everyone;
    – Monza 2000, when he is able to turn the tide. All the factors described by David Bondo are there. I can add the psychological effect of the Hakkinen overtake in the race before. Clay Regazonni said at the time that Schumacher was not the same anymore and he might have been affected by the 1999 crash. He was risking to have less championships than Hakkinen (the same situation where Alonso was in late 2012). All the effort since 1996 was about to get lost. But less than two years after this race, he was equalling Fangio’s record.
    – And the comeback of 2010, which I think history is view in a different way in the future.

    A shame that this article does not have more comments, but it is what it is and I’m myself to blame. I keep getting annoyed with people saying that Stroll is not bad and earned his place.

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