On 15th September 2002, Rubens Barrichello won the Italian Grand Prix. The Scuderia had never been in a more light hearted mood for the Monza event: Schumacher had won the Drivers’title in Magny-Cours, with the Constructors’ following on in Budapest. However, the string of wins was not over yet and indeed, Belgium a fortnight earlier had produced a one-two. But in Monza, Williams-BMW seemed to be very hard to beat, after Montoya snatched pole ahead of Michael and Ralf was in front of Rubens.
Sunday was a very different story, as can be seen from the race report. At the start, Michael Schumacher was squeezed by Montoya and therefore didn’t make the most of his front row start, ending up also being past by Ralf Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello, who had started with a lighter fuel load, planning on a two stop race. Coming out of the first chicane, the order was as follows: Ralf leading, ahead of Montoya, Barrichello and Michael. On lap 4, Ralf slowed, partly to let Montoya by and partly with problems on the BMW engine, which then failed at the end of the main straight. Rubens made the most of it and also managed to pass the Colombian to lead at the end of lap 5. One more lap and Michael overtook the Williams driver, moving up to second place. Rubens then strung together a series of fast laps, making the most of having a light car, while Michael was steadily pulling away from Montoya. Rubens’ first pit stop came on lap 19, rejoining behind Michael but ahead of Montoya. On lap 28, Michael made his one and only stop, coming out in third place. When the Williams man came in on lap 30, the Ferrari driver was second again, with a 21” lead over his nearest pursuer. With Montoya out of the way on lap 33, Rubens and Michael calmly managed the race. The Brazilian pitted for a second time on lap 37, but still kept the lead and the positions remained unchanged to the chequered flag.
“It’s fantastic getting a result like this at our home race,” said Rubens. “Everyone was here in Monza, our workforce and the test drivers and it’s amazing to be able to repay them for all their efforts. I don’t think I could feel these emotions anywhere else except on this podium with so many people celebrating, as far as the eye can see.”