The culmination of such visceral excitement and indeed years of practice and career development is an award ceremony, overseen by Monaco’s royal family, patrons of the race, with magnums of champagne and wreaths bestowed on the winner – an iconic image enjoyed by only one talented driver per year, of which surely none is more famous than Michael Schumacher himself – a man of such physical and mental discipline, that his professional achievements may never be bested, including 7 world championships and 91 victories in 306 F1 starts. He is not only the winningest racing driver of all time but also the most successful, well compensated and wealthiest athlete of any sport.
The F2001 racing car presented is the embodiment not only of Schumacher’s racing career but also the Monaco grand prix in particular, for which this was the very same car driven to victory in 2001 – a victory that Ferrari did not repeat until just this year when Sebastian Vettel won in late May. The 2001 season was lauded by journalists and enthusiasts alike as the “golden era” of grand prix racing, most importantly because of the delicious V-10 engines mandated for use – glorious three-liter powerplants, capable of up to 900 horsepower and nearly 19,000 rpm, emitting symphonies of internal combustion the likes of which organized motorsport had never heard before, and likely may never again. Stunning, aesthetically curious car bodies, molded in carbon fibre and space-age compounds, shaped in windtunnels and almost impossibly svelte – at once exhibiting the engineer’s precision and the artist’s imagination.
By contrast, Formula 1 racing as it is today limits the displacement of engines down to 1.6-liters, which went from V-8 powerplants down to turbocharged six-cylinder units. Retrospectively, however, the turn of the new century in Formula 1 was very much reminiscent of Can-Am racing of the 1970s… blisteringly fast speeds and fewer regulations that permitted engineers to push the physical boundaries of what engines, cars and drivers were capable of delivering, all with the end result of producing the most extraordinary racing spectacles the world has ever seen. Consider for a moment the raucous cacophony of nearly 20,000 horsepower racing their way uphill, after the smoky, tire-burning start, wheels merely inches apart, dangerously close to the limit, averaging over 100 mph… Schumacher is in the lead, driving chassis 211, the very car presented here, and his teammate Rubens Barrichello is directly behind him. Lap by lap, the perfection that is Schumacher’s driving is repeated over and over, as he shaves mere milli-seconds off his times, expertly hitting the apex of every turn precisely as he should.
Thousands of hours of design and development and hundreds of employees, supported by hundreds of millions in sponsorship dollars – such is the effort required to compete at this level of grand prix racing. And it all comes down to less than two hours in the world’s most glamorous sporting event – an all-out street race through the roads of Monte Carlo, in 78 laps, with merely inches to spare between success and failure. After all, with less than half a second separating the first four qualifying positions, ultimate victory is a matter of perfection, from the bespoke Bridgestone tire compounds to the driver’s fitness regimen. Following his victory at Monaco, Schumacher drove chassis 211 to the checkered flag once more at Hungary – a seminal victory as he clinched the Driver’s Championship for Ferrari with 4 races still to go, cementing Ferrari its 11th Constructor’s Championship. This F2001, then, is a car of tremendous historic importance to the driver, the enthusiast, the grand prix circuit and indeed the brand that is the black Prancing Horse of Maranello. After warm-up and qualifying stints at Barcelona, Montreal, the Nürburgring, Magny-Cours, Spa-Francorchamps and Monza, this was very the same chassis driven to victory at both Monaco and the Hungaroring. In this regard, then, it is unequivocally the perfect car, driven by the perfect driver in a perfect performance to achieve the greatest glory imaginable in a driver’s career – victory at the Monaco Grand Prix and therefore the title of Formula 1 World Champion. If ever there was a motor car from the contemporary golden era of performance to own, this is it.
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