- October 8 down the years
Schumacher ends Ferrari's droughtWhat happened on this day in Formula One history?
Michael Schumacher took Ferrari's first drivers' championship for over 20 years when he beat Mika Hakkinen in a straight fight at the Japanese Grand Prix. Schumacher started from pole but was beaten into the first corner by Hakkinen and only reclaimed the lead thanks to a Ross Brawn strategy from the Ferrari pit wall. The battle continued to rage until the last lap and as they crossed the line, Hakkinen finished just 1.8 seconds behind Schumacher. "At the start Mika was very quick and there was nothing I could do," Schumacher said after the race. "We made some adjustments at the first stop and they helped. Then we saw Mika going in for his second stop and I still had two laps to go. That was the crucial time, but I had some traffic and a Benetton had spun and was moving backwards in front of me as I came into the pits. I did not think I had done enough. But as I went down the pit lane, Ross Brawn was saying 'it's looking good, it's looking good'. Then he said 'it's looking bloody good!' It was the most amazing moment of my racing career.
"We have been working for this for five years and three times we got close. This is simply outstanding and special because it is with Ferrari and means much more to me than my other titles. Imagine what is happening in Italy right now. It must be fantastic. We will have to improvise our celebration as I told everyone not to plan anything as I felt it would be unlucky."
Gilles Villeneuve became the first Canadian to win a Formula One grand prix, and did it in style on home soil. For the first time in its history, the race took place on the Ile de Notre Dame circuit (later named after Villeneuve) in Montreal, which had been the venue for Expo 67 and the 1976 Olympic Games. Jean-Pierre Jarier took pole in the Lotus, which had been dominant all season long and had taken Mario Andretti to the title three races earlier. It looked as though the Frenchman would win with ease but on lap 50 he retired to the pits with total brake failure. That handed the lead to Villeneuve, who had passed Alan Jones and Jody Scheckter earlier in the race, and he went on to finish the remaining 20 laps in the lead, much to the delight of the home crowd.
Fernando Alonso put one hand on his second world drivers' trophy with victory at the Japanese Grand Prix after Michael Schumacher retired with an engine failure. The pair arrived at the Suzuka circuit level on points, but after Ferrari outpaced Renault in qualifying it looked as though Schumacher would win and take a points advantage to the final round in Brazil, where he had planned to retire from F1 after the race. However, on lap 36 a plume of white smoke came from right bank of his Ferrari V8 and he pulled aside at the exit of Degner 2. As Alonso drove past he gave Schumacher a cheeky wave before continuing on to victory and a 10-point lead in the title chase. After the race Schumacher admitted his title aspirations were over despite a slim chance of victory if Alonso retired in Brazil. "As for the drivers' championship, it is lost," he said. "I don't want to head off for a race, hoping that my rival has to retire. That is not the way in which I want to win the title."
Jackie Stewart won the final race of the 1972 season ahead of Tyrrell team-mate Francoise Cevert, to land the team a record-breaking $97,500 in prize money. It was a show of supremacy from the 1971 champion, who had recently lost his crown to Emerson Fittipaldi but would fight back the following year. Stewart started from pole and after one lap was three seconds up on second-place Denny Hulme. By lap 20 he was 20 seconds up and the focus turned to second place, over which Cevert was worrying Hulme. He passed on lap 35, leaving Hulme in third and securing a one-two for Tyrrell. Fourth place was left to be fought out between Jacky Ickx and Ronnie Peterson and when white smoke started spitting from the back of Ickx's Ferrari, Peterson drew level and started waving frantically at his rival's engine. The distraction tactics worked and Peterson managed to pass Ickx in the final laps to cross the line 0.5 seconds ahead.
Colin Chapman's Lotus took its first Formula One win at the US Grand Prix, although the historic victory was slightly overshadowed by the death of Wolfgang Von Trips at the Italian Grand Prix a month earlier. As a result of Von Trips' fatal accident, the newly-crowned American champion Phil Hill and his Ferrari team did not take part in the race and the home fans had to make do with Hill driving past in the back of a Ford Thunderbird during a pre-race parade. One British participant even said, "[Ferrari] always spoil the fun with their damned intensity anyway." On race day Jack Brabham and Stirling Moss traded position at the front in the early stages, Moss in the Rob Walker Lotus that had already won at Monaco earlier that year. However, both had mechanical glitches and were forced to retire, handing Innes Ireland the lead and the eventual win. After the race Ireland admitted that he too had come close to disaster: "I was lucky. I could not take Moss or Brabham, their cars were too fast. I had no fuel pressure in the last ten laps, and ended up with a thimbleful of gas at the finish." The win turned out to be Ireland's one and only of his career but the first of many for Lotus.