The Australian Grand Prix, the traditional season opener of the World Championship, is a special date on the calendar for everyone in the sport. The long winter break officially comes to an end in the paddock at Albert Park, a place where so many drivers have experienced the excitement of making their debut or the start of a Championship-winning season.
The 2000 Australian Grand Prix began with a qualifying which saw the two McLarens of Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard lock out the front row of the grid ahead of Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello in the Ferraris. There was a sense of regret in the Prancing Horse garage because Schumacher had to give up on his last attempt at taking pole position due to a red flag shown after Coulthard had a serious crash.
However, looking ahead to the 58-lap race, there was cause for optimism. The race got underway with the two McLarens followed by Schumacher, Heinz-Harald Frentzen in the Jordan and Barrichello. After six laps, the Safety Car was brought out due to a crash between Eddie Irvine and Pedro De La Rosa. When they were able to go racing again, Coulthard was forced to retire due to a hydraulic problem, handing second place to the determined Schumacher who started to put the race leader Hakkinen under pressure. After a few laps, the Finn in the other McLaren was forced to retire with the same problem as his teammate, and once in the lead, Schumacher started to control the race, extending the lead over Frentzen who in the early stages managed to hold off Barrichello’s attacks.
The Ferrari garage therefore decided to change the Brazilian’s tactics, switching from a one-stop to a two-stop, and pitting for the first stop earlier than planned. It was a decision which paid off. Thanks to his fast race pace, Barrichello was able to catch up to and overtake Schumacher due to his lower fuel load. The positions were reversed again when the Brazilian made his second stop, coming back out on track behind his teammate. The last laps became a long countdown to the chequered flag, which signalled a fantastic one-two finish for Ferrari. It was the perfect start to the season and paved the way for an extraordinary year ahead.