The 2002 Formula 1 world championship got off to a flying start – quite literally – at the Albert Park Circuit in Australia following a dramatic first corner crash.
Rubens Barrichello had secured pole position for Ferrari on Saturday afternoon, with team-mate Michael Schumacher and the German’s brother Ralf – racing for Williams – rounding out the top three.
The cars assembled on the grid, the lights went out and the season got underway. Barrichello and Ralf Schumacher made strong starts and pulled ever so slightly clear of the field on the run to turn one. With the inside line covered, the Williams driver took to the outside.
However, Barrichello swiftly moved across the track in the braking zone, catching Ralf by surprise. The Williams FW24 made contact with the rear of Barrichello’s Ferrari, sending him into the air and over the Brazilian’s car. Chaos ensued behind as Schumacher took to the gravel trap and Barrichello spun across the track.
Giancarlo Fisichella, Felipe Massa, Nick Heidfeld, Jenson Button, Olivier Panis and Allan McNish all retired from the race after being caught up in the mayhem. With his two nearest competitors failing to finish, the path was cleared for Michael Schumacher to win the opening round of the 2002 championship from Juan Pablo Montoya and Kimi Raikkonen.
Due to the first lap accident, only eight drivers were classified by the chequered flag. Eddie Irvine finished in fourth and Mark Webber – on his debut for Minardi – crossed the line in fifth. Mika Salo, Alex Yoong and Pedro de la Rosa rounded out the finishers.