Ferrari's Monza fightback

Ferrari have won plenty of times at Monza, so much so in recent years that the tifosi seemed to have had their fill of it. Crowds were down at both the San Marino and Italian races this year, but Monza's spiritual significance still wasn't lost on the struggling Scuderia when they needed a lift last September

Ferrari's Monza fightback

The Maranello team had endured a mini-slump of proportions that hadn't been witnessed since the summer of 1996. After Rubens Barrichello won for the team at Silverstone, Michael Schumacher had then been lapped at both Hockenheim and Budapest.

Barrichello hadn't done quite so badly, but then he wasn't Ferrari's title challenger. Schumacher was clinging on to his lead in the championship, but only by one point from Juan Pablo Montoya. Kimi Raikkonen was one further back, and there were three rounds to go.

The championship was on a triple-bladed knife edge, and the three-week break before Monza accommodated more media noise than usual, a tyre controversy and one of the best-covered test sessions in Formula 1 history.

A Ferrari-inspired FIA "rules clarification" had forced Michelin to slightly redesign the tyre that had helped its teams dominate the summer. It rushed the new constructions to the tense Monza test, which brought to an end the summer test ban.

Michelin's Pierre Dupasquier says that performance was actually enhanced by the reconstruction, but the fact is that Ferrari and Bridgestone were suddenly back on the pace at their traditional fortress. Schumacher bounced through to take both pole and a win from Montoya.

The margins were narrow, but the psychological blows were enormous. Montoya tried too hard in his qualifying lap and ruined it with a small mistake. He got alongside Schumacher on the first lap of the race but was muscled back into his place. And although he shadowed the Ferrari most of the way, he appeared to give up the fight in the final stint.

Raikkonen's championship bid really ended here with an anonymous fourth place, and Montoya's would come to grief at Indianapolis two weeks later. Against the odds, Ferrari had shown what champions are made of.

"It's been a very difficult year," said Ferrari technical chief Brawn. "But a team shows its strength in adversity. It was a great race today. The scenes afterwards were something I'll never forget. This was vintage Ferrari, and vintage Schumacher."

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