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  Thursday, 28 November, 2002, 13:43 GMT
Motorsport: Schumi stroll
Michael Schumacher celebrates his 11th win of the year
It was a champagne year for Schumacher

There was a time when Ferrari's success in Formula One was assumed to be crucial for the health of the sport.

So it was a rude shock this year when that very thing led to the first serious decline in interest in Grand Prix racing in living memory.

Just how much of a shock could be judged by the intervention of F1 bosses Max Mosley and Bernie Ecclestone demanding a series of dramatic rule changes aimed at spicing up the show.

That could have been taken as a compliment to Ferrari's ability had it not been for the fact that no-one was feeling very well disposed towards the world champions by the end of the year.

There was no shortage of admiration for what the Italian team had achieved thanks to their German driver and Anglo-South African design leadership.

What annoyed everyone - and turned off the fans - was the way they went about it.

Ferrari's application of team orders on their way to winning 15 of the year's 17 races, and breaking most of the sport's records, left a very bitter taste in the mouth.

It was a huge own goal for Ferrari, and prevented them from fully enjoying what by any standards was a remarkable achievement.

Five world drivers' titles for Michael Schumacher - and three in a row - put him level with the great Juan Manuel Fangio.

Ferrari became the first team ever to win three drivers' titles and four constructors' titles in succession.

And there were a host of other records as well. But none of that was of much interest to the fans, who want to see competition not processions.

For an illustration of the damage Ferrari's domination was doing, you only had to look at an attendance figure of 60,000 at the Italian GP, down by about 50% on the usual figure.

If it was genuine competition you wanted, in fact, this was a bad year for motorsport.

Valentino Rossi and Honda made a cakewalk of the premier motorbike racing series, MotoGP.

And Marcus Gronholm and Peugeot did a similar thing in the World Rally Championship.

Only World Superbikes went down to the wire, and even that was predictable in a way.

Ducati's Troy Bayliss won nearly all the races in the first half of the year, and appeared to be cruising to the title, only for Colin Edwards and Honda to dominate the second part of the season.

The title was only decided at the final race, but given that Edwards went into it on a run of seven wins, there was not as much suspense as there might have been.

And, despite such a close battle, Superbikes has its own problems - both Bayliss and Edwards have deserted it for MotoGP.

All in all, for those outside the winning teams, it was a year to forget - and one to spend focusing on how to improve matters for 2003.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
FIA president Max Mosley
"We've achieved more than expected"
Former world champion Damon Hill
"This year has been a PR disaster for Ferrari"
In-depth look back at a wonderful year of sport

Major events

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Sport in mourning

Funny Old Year

Sports Personality

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See also:

04 Nov 02 | Formula One
03 Oct 02 | Formula One
13 Oct 02 | Formula One
13 Oct 02 | Formula One
11 Oct 02 | Formula One
30 Sep 02 | Formula One
21 Jul 02 | Formula One
21 Jul 02 | Formula One
05 Jul 02 | Formula One
26 Jun 02 | Formula One
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