8 Oct 2000
On 8th October 2000, Michael Schumacher won the Japanese Grand Prix. That victory was a milestone in the history of the Scuderia, because it represented the end of a drought that had lasted twenty one years, the longest ever and signaled the start of the longest ever winning streak, which has yet to be equaled.
In qualifying, Michael took pole ahead of his great rival, Hakkinen, beating him by just nine thousandths of a second. But at the start, the Finn got the better of the Ferrari man and the duel raged between them all race long. The McLaren driver managed to keep the lead after the first series of pit stops, but at the refueling, Michael took on more fuel than his rival, so that when it was time for the second and final stop, the German stayed out on track for three laps longer.
When he came out of pit lane, Hakkinen in the McLaren was beginning to threaten, along the downhill main straight, but the F1-2000 was in the lead and there it would stay, all the way to the chequered flag.
“It’s a great happiness. This result was our target for this year, as indeed it was for the previous ones. I am happy and honoured to have a fantastic team and an exceptional driver like Michael. I am very pleased, also for the 550 people who work in the Gestione Sportiva, who have put in so much effort over the past years to reach this goal,” said Jean Todt after he had been drenched in champagne on the podium.
Michael had this to say: “It’s difficult to find the words to explain how I feel. It’s similar to what happened at Monza, but I did not expect tears again. I felt an explosion of emotion when I crossed the line. Conditions were difficult today, with the whole season made up of a sequence of highs and lows. It was nice to finish with a win in a race that was close with Mika down to the final corner. This is an amazing title and it’s special because it has come with Ferrari: it means a lot more than those I won before.
Imagine what must be happening in Italy right now: it must be fantastic. As for the start, Mika was quicker than me and there was nothing I could do. We made some adjustments at the first stop and that helped. Then we saw Mika coming in for his second stop, while I still had two laps available. That was the critical moment. I had a bit of traffic and then a Benetton spun and was sideways on just as I was coming into the pits. I didn’t think I’d gained enough time but when I was in the pit lane, Ross Brawn was saying to me, ‘Seems we’ve done it, maybe we’ve done it,’ then he said, ‘yes we’ve really done it.’ It was the best moment of my whole career. Towards the end, when I was ahead, I was concentrating on not going off the track and was hoping nothing would break. We will have to come up with some way of celebrating because I’d said to everyone not to plan anything, as I thought it could bring bad luck.”