Sunday April 9th, 2000
by Simon Evans
Michael Schumacher's victory at the San Marino Grand Prix prompted scenes of wild celebration from Ferrari fans and officials as they greeted a hat-trick of wins this season.
The red flags of the Ferrari supporters were flying high in celebration as the German maintained his 100 percent record, prompting Schumacher to go back to the track and salute the cheering 100,000 crowd.
"I said yesterday (Saturday) that I was disappointed I couldn't give the fans' pole position and promised to give them something today -- I am glad I could do that," said Schumacher who chose an ice cream over champagne as his post-race refreshment.
Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo sprinted through cheering crowds to embrace the technical team, punching the air in delight as he entered the team tent to be greeted with roars and a shower of champagne.
"That was a fantastic race, a fantastic win," an ecstatic Montezemolo told reporters, "I am proud of Michael, he had the perfect strategy and did a perfect job. It was very tough and (Mika) Hakkinen drove very well but I am very happy with this win."
Montezemolo, who is considered by fans to be the team's saviour after took over in the early nineties putting an end to the team's financial troubles, said it was especially sweet to win in front of an Italian crowd.
"I know where we have been and I know what we have done and this was an emotional day for the fans, we have two great drivers and the car gave a perfect performance. It is great to look at the standings tonight. We have shown we can come back against strong opponents," he said referring to the way Schumacher fought past Hakkinen.
But the lank haired president warned against any complacency despite an early 21-point lead for Schumacher. "Let's not forget that we still need to work a lot and we have a lot of respect for McLaren. We need to keep on competing."
Ferrari's second driver, Brazilian Rubens Barrichello, finished fourth, losing third place to McLaren's British driver David Coulthard in his second pit stop.
But the Brazilian, in his first season with Ferrari, earned encouragement from Montezemolo. "I feel a little sad for Rubens but he gained three very important points for us in the constructor's championship."
Barrichello was more downbeat. He said: "I know it has been a great day for Michael and for the team, but I am a bit upset myself because I should have done better. I should have done better.
"I never really got on the pace this weekend and that is not good enough for me."
"For me, it has not been a good weekend," the Brazilian added. "The settings of my car were never quite right and I felt everything was hard work. It all went much better in Melbourne.
"I was unlucky in my second pitstop when Coulthard passed me. He was quicker than me (on the track) but I could have kept him behind me as it is virtally impossible to pass here.
"Then I had a real problem with the lower parts of my seatbelts and I just could not maintain any pace. My legs were moving around too much.
"But all weekend I was off the pace and I don't really know why. For me it is not good enough to finish fourth."
But despite Barrichello's disappointment, Ferrari were clearly pleased that in contrast to previous seasons the start to their campaign has been free of any major technical problems.
Morale is clearly high and the relationship between the two drivers shows no signs of the tension that was evident when Schumacher was partnered by Eddie Irvine last season.
"Today's race has shown it will be a long hard road but that is an incentive to work even harder. The drivers did a great job, as did the whole team," said sporting director Jean Todt. "Now we can look ahead calmly to the next round."