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  Monday, 30 September, 2002, 00:28 GMT 01:28 UK
Ferrari's own goal
Brazils Rubens Barrrichello, left, gets a drink of champagne from Michael Schumacher
Was the victory was cheaper than the champagne?

Ferrari have got so much right in 2002 but repeating Austria's staged finish, albeit in reverse, made no sense in a country where Formula One is trying to win over an audience, not turn it off.

Whereas the Belfry witnessed an epic contest, which hung thrillingly in the balance almost to the final match and will live in the memory, Indianapolis was treated to a Ferrari roadshow which backfired like a junk-yard truck.

At a time when even Bernie Ecclestone, Formula One's driving force, is questioning the sport's appeal, Michael Schumacher scored a wonder own goal after he and Rubens Barrichello had won US race goers onto their side.

They had raced from the start. Their strategy had been pin-sharp and perfect.

One or other of the red cars had led every lap in the September sunshine.

Then the "fun" started in sight of the chequered flag and the day turned sour.

"Why shouldn't fans, paying good money," asked one American reporter of Michael Schumacher, "feel resentful and offended by such a manipulated result?"

Shifting uneasily in his seat, the champion replied that he'd wanted to pay back Barrichello for moving aside in Austria to let him win.

"Today he deserved to win," Schumacher said.


I don't think so.

And nor did Michael Schumacher. Because barely ten minutes before he'd told the world that he had wanted the pair to cross the finishing line together in a dead heat.

Watch the television pictures closely, and another theory emerges.

The race leader miscalculated where the line was, slowed too soon and that allowed Barrichello to squeak ahead by a hairsbreadth, when he himself had intended to take the flag first.

The Indy finish will go down as the closest in Formula One - a travesty compared to the previous record which lasted 30 years.

That was set in the 1971 Italian Grand Prix, when Peter Gethin led a gaggle of five cars over the line in what is regarded as the greatest race of all time,

That was a contest between rivals. This was a carve-up between team-mates.

Schumacher had been quick to dismiss Niki Lauda's midweek assertion that he would have become bored by winning so many races.

But by this latest manoeuvre, Schumacher has cheapened the art of winning.

Success is about achievement, a pinnacle moment.

Barrichello has now been gifted at least three victories this year.

Such brazen stage-management has no place in the arena of sporting excellence.

In any case, in the age of the millisecond, did he honestly believe he could judge a perfect dead heat?

It is not Ferrari's fault that they make F1 look so easy.

The early tangle between Juan Pablo Montoya and Ralf Schumacher was the latest in a chapter of accidents to undermine the challenge of Williams.

At least David Coulthard showed signs that McLaren could run more competitively in the future.

But Michael Schumacher's idea of fun, however playful it seemed to him, wasn't shared by Indianapolis. Nor, it appears, was it inspired by team orders. On the contrary.

The joke fell flat because Formula One's American dream demands a spectacle that reaches for the skies.

BBC Five Live's Jonathan Legard
"The latest victory hand-out enraged the crowd"
In-depth guide to the 2002 Formula One season

Race statistics

On-track action


Jonathan Legard

F1 2002
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