Feature: Ferrari Complete Cycle of Excellence

Michael Schumacher's sixth win in 11 races on his favourite circuit in Sunday's Belgian Grand Prix completed a 50-race cycle of excellence for Ferrari and made dreams come true for sporting director Jean Todt.

Feature: Ferrari Complete Cycle of Excellence

Michael Schumacher's sixth win in 11 races on his favourite circuit in Sunday's Belgian Grand Prix completed a 50-race cycle of excellence for Ferrari and made dreams come true for sporting director Jean Todt.

It also hoisted Schumacher clear as the winner of more races in a single season than any other driver.

Previously, Schumacher had shared with Briton Nigel Mansell the record of nine wins in a season, a mark set by the Briton in 1992. But that, like every other challenge in his and Ferrari's path on this particular Sunday, was there only to suffer a comprehensive beating.

"This was a dream race, yet another this year," said Todt afterwards. "Everything went perfectly - the car, the engine, the Bridgestone tyres, the drivers and the team. Words cannot describe the season we are having. We have proved ourselves capable of winning on all types of circuit."

The win, the 100th Ferrari has enjoyed in partnership with fuel suppliers Shell, extended their run of podium finishes to 50 dating back to a dark night of embarrassment following the European Grand Prix at the Nurburgring in September 1999.

There, on a rain swept afternoon, Briton Johnny Herbert claimed victory for the Stewart team and Ferrari were left to struggle among the also-rans. Briton Eddie Irvine, then with Ferrari, suffered a bizarre pit-stop when the team failed to fit the correct wheel in a mad moment of confusion.

In those seconds of chaos, his and the team's last real hopes of beating Mika Hakkinen to that year's Drivers' Championship were ended. They did, however, recover to secure their first of four consecutive Constructors' Championships in the closing races.

Broken Leg

Significantly, of course, that recovery began at the following event in Malaysia where Schumacher returned from a broken leg to deliver a gift-wrapped victory to Irvine in a memorable and controversial one-two.

The result was the subject of prolonged protests and a court hearing in Paris before it was upheld.

From there the modern Ferrari era of sustained success was launched under the guidance of Todt, technical director Ross Brawn, a design team led by Rory Byrne and the inspired driving of Schumacher and Irvine, who was replaced by Rubens Barrichello in 2000.

Since then, Ferrari have never failed in 50 races to have at least one driver standing on the podium at the end of every World Championship event.

It is a run that has produced four constructors' titles and three successive drivers' titles for Schumacher with the German overhauling nearly every significant landmark in the sport's record book.

Having beaten Mansell's record, after sharing it with him three times in the last decade, Schumacher left the scene of his maiden Formula One outing with Jordan in 1991, his first victory, with Benetton, in 1992, and his overhauling of Frenchman Alain Prost's career record total of 51 wins, in 2001, talking of modesty.

Dream Sequence

"We must not be arrogant at all about this," he said, when asked if he could contemplate extending his and Ferrari's dream sequence in their home Italian Grand Prix at Monza on September 15. "There are other teams who will be very strong and we can only hope that we can be competitive."

Such calculated answers are typical of Schumacher and exemplify the mentality of modern Ferrari, a team hailed on Sunday by Mansell as "probably the best team there has been."

From the start, in his 11 races in 12 years at Spa-Francorchamps (he missed 1999 with the broken leg), he has relished the rise and fall of the swooping and majestic circuit set in the forests of the Ardennes.

After Sunday's latest conquest, the series shows that he has taken part in 11 races, won six (and been disqualified after winning another, in 1994), finished second twice and failed to finish twice - once, on his debut in 1991.

On that occasion he destroyed his clutch at the start. In 1998 when he collided in a wall of spray with Briton David Coulthard's McLaren while leading the field. Schumacher, some said, had virtually annexed Spa-Francorchamps as his personal racing fiefdom.

After Sunday's master-class, on a weekend when he had claimed his first Belgian pole to complete a full set for every race on the current calendar, few could argue. Statistics may not mean everything, but in three years of sustained success Ferrari and Michael Schumacher have established a new order.

"Michael was so good this weekend that I never considered asking the team if he would let me pass to help me get more points for second place in the Championship," said Barrichello, second today. "It was clearly his weekend, I could not follow him."

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