#678 2001 Italian Grand Prix

2021-03-30 00:00

Array() no author 82025

#2001, Fulvio Conti, Translated by Monica Bessi, Davide Scotto di Vetta, Translated by Ylenia Lucia Salerno,

#678 2001 Italian Grand Prix

The Italian Grand Prix, on 16th September 2001 at the Monza circuit, is going to be different from the previous editions. Ferrari and Michael Schumach


The Italian Grand Prix will be held on Sunday, September 16, 2001, at the Monza circuit. It is going to be different compared to the previous editions. Ferrari and Michael Schumacher will arrive in Lombardy as the 2001 World Champions. The race will probably be a gigantic feast. At least 150,000 spectators will watch the race, including the tifosi. Monza is the Temple of Speed for Italian Motorsport and it is the most suitable place to celebrate the triumph of the Maranello team. The pre-race ritual will include an airshow of the Frecce Tricolore and a fanfare performance from the Carabinieri. Amii Stewart will sing the Italian national anthem. The president of the Milano Automobile Club, Ludovico Grandi, is tasked to give a presentation about the upcoming event:


"Those who were expecting a low turnout of the tifosi only because Ferrari has already won the championship were proven wrong. We are ready to welcome the passionate fans: we improved the infrastructures while also safeguarding the surrounding environment of the park".


There was a tragic accident last year. The track marshal Paolo Gislimberti passed away after suffering from head and chest injuries. He was hit by a tyre that came off Frentzen’s car. Following the tragic event, the Monza venue made the fateful decision to sign an agreement with the Polytechnic University of Milan, in order to intensify the track security. Enrico Ferrari, who is the director of the Monza Autodrome, explains how the safety measures have been reviewed:


"We moved in time and studied some improvements: the protection nets will be heighted to six metres, in order to protect the fans. The Parabolica escape route has doubled in size and transparent cages will be installed for the protection of the track marshals".


On Friday, September 7, 2001, Kimi Räikkönen has a frightening accident. During the final day of the Magny-Cours test, the Sauber driver goes off track at the Estoril corner at a speed of around 170 km/h. Heidfield had an off moment in the same corner the day before. Furthermore, it is where Morbidelli suffered an arm injury in 1997. Räikkönen takes too much speed into the corner. The C20 car does not respond to Kimi’s steering wheel movements and destroys itself against the protection barriers. The unforeseen shunt occurs at 10:15 am. The young Finn exits from the cockpit without any help. The service ambulance takes him to the hospital for a medical check-up, which shows nothing serious. The Névers hospital thus declares that Räikkönen can race at Monza. This is Räikkönen’s first big crash since arriving in Formula 1. He had other off-track moments but not as bad as this one. Räikkönen goes back home to Espoo, a place near Helsinki, in Finland. The 21-year-old Sauber driver is going through an intense time of his life, after making the step to Formula Renault. In his first year in Formula 1, Kimi has received an offer to join the McLaren-Mercedes team. The Woking team wants to conclude the negotiations as soon as possible. Kimi is flattered by Ron Dennis’ offer, which began in the middle of the summer break. At the time, the McLaren manager hinted that there was no need to change the drivers’ line-up for the 2002 season. According to him, Hakkinen and Coulthard were to be confirmed. As the weeks went by, it became clear that the team wanted to hire Räikkönen for the following season. Ron Dennis wants to sign Kimi as quickly as possible, since he is the most promising youngster that Formula 1 has ever had. Kimi scored a point in his first Formula 1 race and finished 4th in Austria and Canada. The Finn also scored points at Silverstone, after crossing the line in 5th position. There were some people who criticised the FIA for granting the super licence to Räikkönen, given his very limited experience. Kimi proved them wrong with those outstanding results. McLaren has to deal with Mika Hakkinen’s future, which is still hanging by a thread. This is the reason why the team decides to court Räikkönen, who already signed a three-year contract with Peter Sauber. The Swiss manager can break Kimi’s contract; in exchange, McLaren has to pay 25.0000.000 dollars. It could be a heavy burden for the McLaren budget. McLaren can gain from the operation, in terms of television rights and other things. Räikkönen is ready for the challenge. Furthermore, he is being pressured to take a decision by his friend Hakkinen. 


The Mercedes manufacturer wants a talented driver for the future. The three parties are trying to find an agreement. On Tuesday, September 11, 2001, the entire world and the Formula 1 circus are shaken by the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. The technicians and mechanics are building the garages and the hospitality areas at Monza, while the engineers are hurriedly installing the televisions. The CCN channel is transmitting surreal satellite images of a devastated Manhattan city. However, the show must go on. The employees turn off the radio and continue to install the multi-coloured paddock. The FIA states that the Italian Grand Prix will go ahead as planned. However, the Italian Automobile Club annuls all representative ceremonies. Due to the gravity of the situation, the fans are recommended to maintain a sober attitude and to sympathise with the pain of the American citizens. Ferrari cancels the honorary dinner for the 2001 titles, which was originally scheduled for Sunday evening. The Lombardy region annuls the gala dinner at Villa Reale. The Maranello team decides to ditch the all-red colour scheme. The two F2001 cars will have black noses, as a mourning sign for the immense tragedy that devastated the United States. The sponsor logos are also stripped as a sign of respect. Marlboro, which is owned by the American giant Philip Morris, is the only brand that decides to undertake the initiative. Michael Schumacher is shocked by the terrorist attack. The Ferrari champion initially asks the FIA for permission to pull out from the Italian Grand Prix. He then decides to follow Todt’s advice to race at Monza. It is decided that the sponsor logos will be stripped from the Ferrari livery. The other teams join the initiative as well, per Ferrari’s request. The mechanics are taking out all logos from the cars. The two F2001 cars will only have the drivers’ numbers. Ferrari announces on Thursday evening:


"Ferrari has decided to express a heartfelt participation to the great sorrow of the American people. We are all focused on our business but it is a different weekend from all the others and we had to do something different. In agreement with our partners and sponsors, we will run a plain red car with a black nose for the Italian Grand Prix. It’s our little contribution to show to the world that Ferrari and its partners are concerned with this tragedy. Sunday's race will only be a sporting event, without commercial implications".


Every member of the team is happy with the decision, in particular Schumacher and Barrichello. The two Ferrari drivers externalise their feeling of profound sadness for the terrorist attacks. Michael takes part in the official FIA press conference. The world champion is still shaken up by the terroristic event: 


"It's pretty difficult to find the right expression for what has happened there and what we feel. I think in all of us it's pretty much the same that what we do feel is naturally the sympathy for all of them and we will support them as much as we can. It is a tough time we are looking forward to and we have to keep improving things as much as we can to prevent this from happening again".


Schumacher is asked whether the Indianapolis Grand Prix will be cancelled. He annoyingly replies that it is not up to him to take this decision:


"This is a question that Ecclestone should answer. It is pretty difficult to find the right expression for what has happened there. We need to look forward. We need to improve things as much as we can in order to prevent this from happening again".


The Ferrari driver further states:


"It should have been a great party. In a moment like this, I do not know if it can still be exactly as we imagined it would be. Certainly, things are a lot more relaxed in most respects. The big weight we had on our shoulders is already off after winning this year’s titles in advance. Still, you keep on fighting as usual with hard work and determination. We want to have a good race in front of our tifosi".


Are you still committed and determined nonetheless?


"Without doubt".


Does the team work differently now that you won the championship?


"Since the team won the championship, I haven't noticed any difference. Certainly, things are more relaxed in most respects. The big weight that we had on our shoulders was anyway taken away last year, but you still keep on fighting for the championship as we did this year. The weight increases over the year and as it happens, a lot of that has fallen down. I had a discussion with Ross in Spa and he said it's all much the same to him, because we keep on trying to win so we always feel nervous to do that. The pressure and the nervousness are pretty much the same, regardless. If we win the championship or not, we have to keep on performing. This weekend we must do it again. We will try what we can in order to help Rubens get 2nd place in the championship. It is important to have a Ferrari one-two at the end of the year".


Barrichello, who is sitting next to him, nods and smiles:


"Coulthard has a 9-point advantage over me but 2nd place is still up for grabs. I'm just prepared to race as hard as I can for the last three races, my life couldn't be much better so I'm just prepared to put my foot down and race as hard as I can. I will race with this objective in mind. In my opinion, Ralf is the favourite for the Monza win. We already did what we set out to do, which was to win both titles".


The Brazilian adds that it will be difficult to focus on the upcoming race:


"It will not be easy to remain focused in our jobs with this horrendous tragedy being played on every TV channel in the world. Despite this, a good race could bring a smile to the people. It will be our job to offer a good show to them. Indianapolis? If we will go there, the track needs to be entirely safe".


Schumacher avoids other interviews, in order to hide in the Ferrari motorhome. In the meantime, the Italian weekend will go as planned. The Monza party will be dutifully modified, with the aim to celebrate Ferrari’s success. The great Formula 1 circus cannot afford to cancel the race. Giancarlo Minardi confesses:


"If it were up for me, I would have not raced but life has to go on. Let’s go out on track with the awareness that the world will not be the same after the New York tragedy".


The Formula 1 weekend will start with a symbolic homage to the victims of the terrorist attacks. The engines will remain silent for 10 minutes as a mourning sign, from 12:00 pm to 12:10 pm. The stewards of the Italian Grand Prix, the teams and the Formula 1 personnel decide to pay respect to the victims of the tragedy with a 1-minute silence throughout the Monza racetrack, from 12:00 pm to 12:01 pm. The timetables of the two free practice sessions will also change. FP1 will run from 10:50 am to 11:50 am. The FP2 session will start at 1:00 pm and will finish at 2:00 pm. The other scheduled side events are cancelled, including the fanfare performance of the Carabinieri. The Frecce Tricolore exhibition will also not take place. The planes will not fly over the circuit and do the festive air evolutions. On Friday morning, McLaren announces that Mika Hakkinen will take a break from Formula 1:


"After 11 years in Formula One and two Formula One World Championships, Mika Hakkinen will take a break following the end of the current season to allow him to dedicate more time to family life".


The Finn confesses that he has lost the racing passion in recent times, due to the stress of the flights, the races, the tests, the media and sponsor days. Mika thought about retiring beforehand. The Finn started to have these thoughts after securing the title in 1998. He in fact was allowed to limit the testing sessions and the public appearances. Soon after though, this concession was not enough for him. Mika made the decision to retire in December, when his son Hugo was born. The Finn talked to Dennis and Haug about his decision to stop racing:


"Formula One has been virtually my whole life since I started karting in 1974. It was not an easy decision to take. The intensity of my career has become increasingly difficult for those around me. I am always on the move. I wanted to take a break and to enjoy more time with my wife Erja and my son Hugo. A couple of days ago, I picked him up and I realised that he was already 9-months old, a period of time that I spent at the wheel of a Formula 1 car. I want to see my son Hugo grow up. I am pleased to welcome a fellow Finn to the team. I wish Kimi all the best".


Mika says that he has nothing else on his mind, hinting there are no other reasons behind his temporary Formula 1 retirement:


"Whilst this year has been difficult for me and the team, these experiences have not guided towards the decision to take this break. I asked the team for a break which would be a good way to recharge my batteries. It might have been easier to retire but that is not a decision I feel ready to take. Sometimes it is good to be able to recharge your batteries to come back stronger than ever. If you look at the other drivers in Formula One history who have had a break, they have come back stronger. Alain Prost is a good example. Also, Niki Lauda, who had a break for other reasons just like myself - everybody came back stronger. I know that I will have to work hard to return after my break, but I know that I want to return with McLaren".


Hakkinen praises the team for giving him this opportunity:


"I admit that it is nice to know that the team understood my unusual request. If I decide to race again, a McLaren car will always be ready for me. In my heart, the passion for racing will always be there. All I can say now is a big heartfelt thank you to everybody".


Mika will take a break after the season finale in Japan. Kimi Räikkönen will replace the Flying Finn, representing the Finnish flag. Kimi is a true protégé of the two-time world champion:


"They chose well. He is very good, given his young age, and has the right mentality to fight at the top of Formula 1. I will help him understand how a big team works. Furthermore, I believe that McLaren is the ideal team for a young driver like him".


Hakkinen knows what he is saying. He was the McLaren test driver back in 1993, when he was 25. Coulthard will have a new Finnish teammate in 2002. The Scottish driver will miss Mika as a teammate:


"I understand Mika’s reasons for having a break. Thanks to Mika, I have gained valuable insights into fast Finns, which I’m sure will be useful next year. Lucky him. He can stay on the beach whilst I have to drive".


Suzuka will mark the end of a long-standing partnership between you and Mika:


"I am a bit sorry that he will retire. There was a strong chemistry between us and we were teammates for so long. I do not know Kimi very much. I will start to get to know him from January onwards [When the young Finn will test the new car, ndr]".


Räikkönen signs a five-year contract, which includes an additional 1-year option. The salary will go up as the years go by: from a starting salary of 1.000.000 dollars, in 2002, to the 8.000.000 of the 2007 season. Ron Dennis is delighted with the 2002 drivers’ line-up:


"While we have had a range of interesting options for 2002, we are very pleased to announce our driver line-up with David, Kimi and Alex. Kimi's outstanding performances in what is only his first year in Formula 1 have obviously resulted in a lot of attention, although from the initial discussions we made it clear that we would only be interested if a solution could be reached with Red Bull Sauber Petronas".


David Coulthard will drive alongside Kimi, while Alex Wurz will remain as test driver. The Scottish driver renews his contract for another two years, convinced by an additional increase in his salary. 


"My contract with the team was agreed a few months ago and I'm looking forward to next year's championship challenge". 


Coulthard is still disappointed to be overlooked as Mika’s successor. Ron Dennis took the decision to hire Kimi during the Monaco Grand Prix, when he realised that Hakkinen wanted to retire from Formula 1:


"Mika initially approached me back in Monaco to ask me if there was a possibility to take a break at the end of the year. I initially thought that it was a little unusual. I thought about it and realised that it is a less dramatic decision than retirement. Mika still loves racing and it has been part of his life, but he needs a break because modern Formula 1 is an intense affair. Drivers work hard not just in the car as they do all the promotion work as well. It is a demanding environment".


Peter Sauber talks about McLaren’s decision to hire Räikkönen. The Woking team was impressed by Kimi’s start of the season. Sauber launched Kimi’s Formula 1 career, defying the wrath of the FIA president Max Mosley:


"I was sorry at the beginning because the driver combination we had was very good and the car was also very good. Kimi then got the offer from Ron and Kimi and his management came to me about 10 days before Hockenheim. Kimi told me he had the possibility to drive a good car in 2002 and it was possible with this car that he could be the youngest World Champion in history. For Kimi it was an absolute must to go in this direction. My first reaction was absolutely no way. But then after some discussions with him I realised it was not possible to keep him because his focus was so strong".


Jurgen Hubbert came forward to talk with Peter Sauber. The Swiss team principal felt obliged to warn Jean Todt about the meeting with the Mercedes Benz president:


"I did this because there is a true friendship and an important commercial relationship between us".


According to Sauber, Ferrari did not get in the way of a possible agreement and did not make any counter-offer. Sauber concludes by saying:


"The good relations that we had in the past with Mercedes have ensured that the negotiations would end well".


This does not mean that the Anglo-German team had the right for a discount. The Woking team has to pay 50 billion lire for Räikkönen. This cash will probably go to Maranello, since Sauber still has to pay for the Ferrari engines. What about Hakkinen? Keke Rosberg assures that his client will drive for McLaren in 2003. In the meantime, the Finn could do some testing sessions for the Woking team: 


"Did I think it would end like this? Well, we have reached our goal. This was our goal. He wanted to take a break, and thanks to great cooperation from McLaren and other partners he will. There were long negotiations and they were not accidental. It was a lot of hard work". 


The two-time World Champion intends to follow Lauda and Prost’s footsteps. The two Motorsport legends are true living examples of what it means to make a racing comeback after taking a sabbatical year. Niki and Alain had different reasons to retire. Lauda decided to quit the Brabham team during the 1979 Canadian free-practice sessions. Niki remembers that he felt was nauseous by the environment:


"I thought about retiring for good after making that decision. I never thought that I would come back racing after a 2-year break".


Niki omits to add that he was forced to do a Formula 1 comeback, given the financial difficulties of his flight company. Prost, who is nicknamed the professor, had other reasons to take a sabbatical year:


"I stopped racing for contractual reasons. I was offered a one-year contract that I did not like".


Lauda and Prost do not quite understand Hakkinen’s move to retire, given that he is a driver of such calibre. The two world champions cannot hide the fact that Mika could struggle at the beginning of the 2003 season, when he is set to make a racing comeback in Formula 1. Lauda won the third race of the 1982 season for McLaren, while Prost won the 1993 South African race for the dominant Williams force. The French driver cruised to victory, ahead of his arch rival Ayrton Senna. The French champion reveals how he struggled to adapt to the FW15C car:


"It was not easy to start driving again, especially from a physical point of view, during winter testing".


The 4-time world champion remembers that someone inside the Williams team was not sure about his comeback:


"He was partly right. I was certainly no better than when I decided to quit".


The Professor does not want to say anything about McLaren’s decision to hire Räikkönen:


"Let’s wait and see before saying whether it was the right choice or not".


Alain Prost visits the Palazzo Recalcati’s neoclassical saloons in Adecco, Italy. One of his financial supporters presents a television advertisement of the team mechanics. The champion later talks about the choice to sub the injured Luciano Burti with Tomas Enge, who is the first Czech driver to arrive in Formula 1:


"In testing he showed how quick, reliable and professional he is. I am sure he can do a very good job for the team. We did not have any other alternatives even if we had Stefan Sarrazin as our test driver. We tried to approach Ferrari for Badoer. Enge is our choice for Monza, then we will see".


The Prost team had a difficult year so far: financial issues, mediocre results, numerous drivers (Burti to sub for Mazzacane), disastrous divorces (Alesi), as well as the horrendous Burti incident at SPA-Francorchamps. Alain Prost is optimistic about the future of the team:


"There are discussions with possible Arabian buyers. I hope to retain Frentzen for the 2002 season. We are 100% sure that we will have Ferrari engines".


The Daimler Benz group donates 10.000.000 dollars to the orphans of the American victims. What should have been done, has been done. It seems rather impossible to postpone the race start by 15 minutes. This is a decision that Formula 1 cannot take alone, since there are too many televisions that need to be satisfied with it. Thus, it is prevailing this concept: let’s move on, life goes on and the show must go on. Everyone continues to organise the mega expedition to Indianapolis, where the penultimate Grand Prix will take place. They are waiting to see when the skies will re-open to intercontinental traffic and whether it will be possible to send the racing material, without having complications with the American customs. For example, the first flight should be on Monday from the Malpensa airport. The plane should carry 50 tons of television installations, which are owned by Ecclestone. Those installations should guarantee the digital transmission of every single race. However, it is yet unknown whether this detachable wagon could be transported on Monday. The FP1 session was characterised by Kimi Räikkönen’s crash. The young Finn continues to be as cold as ice, even after a 300 km/h scary yet incredible shunt. 


Kimi’s C20 Sauber car went through the gravel trap and into the barriers at the end of the start/finish straight. The cause of the accident was a brake failure. The Finn only did four laps prior to the crash. The incident was at the point where Yoong’s Minardi was dangerously parked up. The Swiss car grazed the Italian car before violently hitting against the barriers. Kimi exited from the cockpit with a slight smile of condescension. The mechanics were unable to fix the car for the start of the FP2 session, ultimately ending Räikkönen’s day. The Finn shrugs the shoulders while commenting the incident:


"The car felt very good in my brief run this morning. Going down to the first chicane, it got out of shape and I hit the barriers at high speed. I'm okay, but I don't really know what happened. Everything seemed normal until the rear brakes locked. I guess I was lucky to avoid Alex Yoong's parked Minardi, but I am very disappointed not to be able to run again today".


This is his second crash in two weeks. The first crash was during the Magny-Cours test. Kimi telegraphically recalls his sensations about the McLaren move:


"It is very nice for me and I am very happy to be with McLaren. It is a dream coming true. I was not even expecting this time last year to be in Formula One. Everything has happened in a very small time. The only thing that can be easier is that I know what is going on in Formula One but it will take time to get used to a new team. Nevertheless, my goal for next season is to win a couple of races. We will see if I can measure against the best drivers at the top; I will do my best to succeed".


The young Finnish driver does not care that Mika could make a comeback in 2003. Hakkinen will support his friend Kimi in the future:


"I think it is great that they are signing Kimi. It is, in one sense, my dream come true. It is great having Kimi joining such a fantastic team. I will give him 110 percent support to help him understand the way the team works, and I wish him all the best. He is my friend and I will support him".


In the meantime, Sauber is looking for the next best drivers in order to replace Räikkönen. The Swiss team will do a testing session on Wednesday, September 19, at Mugello, in order to evaluate Felipe Massa and Augusto Farfus jr. The two Brazilian drivers will drive the C20 car. Massa is leading the Formula 3000 Euro series, whilst Farfus is driving in the Formula Renault series. On Saturday, September 15, 2001, Juan Pablo Montoya takes an impressive pole position. Rubens Barrichello will line up alongside him. Michael and Ralf Schumacher qualify 3rd and 4th. Jarno Trulli manages to get 5th place and will start ahead of Coulthard and Hakkinen. The Finn has yet another scary incident at the Second Lesmo. The MP4-16 car goes into the gravel and becomes uncontrollable. The McLaren car ultimately crashes against the left-hand side guardrail at full speed. The impact completely destroys the car. Hakkinen exits the cockpit unscathed. The session is suspended for 13 minutes, in order to allow the safety and medical cars to check on Hakkinen. The Finn is taken to the medical centre for a further check-up, while the tifosi give him a very composed applause. Montoya sets an impressive lap time of 1'22"216, which is a second and a half faster than Michael Schumacher’s 2000 pole of a 1'23"770. This is the third pole position of the season for the Colombian driver, after Hockenheim (a track with similar characteristics to Monza) and Spa (where he took pole with a perfect tyre strategy). Montoya is the man to beat but he has to deal with Barrichello. Ferrari counts on him to take 2nd position in the drivers’ championship. Rubens will start ahead of his teammate for the first time this season. 


The Brazilian talks about his qualifying session during the press conference:


"Michael is always capable of driving the car to the limit. It was a good day in the office. I can be happy with finishing ahead of Michael with a fantastic lap. Although, I don’t think it means a lot because there’s a long race ahead".

How was the handling of the car today, compared to yesterday?

"I had a really good car today and all the support I needed. The team did a good job helping me find the best set-up. From the engine side, it was good as well. We just improved the whole way throughout this morning. It’s special here at Monza with all the tifosi and we look strong. Hopefully we can give them a good race tomorrow".

You did not have the best start to the qualifying session:


"My first lap was terrible. Together with my engineer, we made some changes to the car and it became balanced. My first run was not on new tyres and I flat-spotted them and had to take new ones. I didn't know if it was the right solution but it was, so bad things are not always bad. They could be good things".


Michael, take us through your qualifying session: 


"I was trying to go for the pole position so the only way to get that time was to push very hard and maybe overdo it. The sector times show that we could have been on pole, but we didn’t manage to put everything together on one lap. I made a mistake in the first sector on my third run which killed the overall time - but that’s the way it is sometimes in qualifying". 

What kind of mistake did you make?


"I was going too fast - which makes you go too slow sometimes".

Are you disappointed?


"Naturally you want to be up at the front, but we didn’t get it together today. Third is not disastrous for the race tomorrow. We’ll have to wait and see what we can do from 3rd position".


Rubens, you made some progress which could prove vital for the race:


"The chance to win is always there. There is still a long race ahead of us and will be quite strenuous for the engines, the brakes and for our concentration. Monza is very special with all the tifosi and I am happy to be having a good time in qualifying and hopefully in the race". 


How does it feel to drive at Monza?


"It is very special to be here. The weekend is darker than we would have liked because of what happened in America. The thought of what is happening is always fresh in our minds. We are doing our jobs and we want the tifosi to have as much fun as we have driving in these circumstances. I can only do my best and see what it means for the championship. I consider myself quite lucky because I learned a lot of things after losing Ayrton. When I put my helmet on, the only important thing is the car. This will give me an advantage but it will be impossible to be fully concentrated. It is a dark weekend. When I finish racing, my thoughts are on the victims of the attack".


Jean Todt and Ross Brawn are not in full agreement with the evaluation of the qualifying result. Todt is satisfied with the performance of the two F2001 cars: 


"It was a good qualifying session. We managed to get second and third place, thus starting from the first and second rows is a favourable situation. We had expected a close fight with these rivals. Rubens performed really well, getting just ahead of his teammate Michael. Tomorrow's race will be very close. We are in a position where we can hope for a good result in front of our fans".


Ross Brawn is instead disappointed. According to him, it was possible to score pole position:


"We are a bit disappointed not to have taken the pole. The overall result, with two drivers in the top three, is good all the same, especially as far as Rubens is concerned. It is very hard to find the right balance on this track as you run with very little downforce. I am quite optimistic about the race. The tyres might have worked better on a second flying lap, which made things more complicated. We might have got a bit more time out of the car with that strategy, but we decided to do four runs. The tyres seem to be very good and consistent as far as the race is concerned. We have chosen the new compound that Bridgestone brought here".


The two Schumacher brothers do not speak much during the post-qualifying interviews. The reason is simple: they reluctantly agreed to go out on track. Michael is not using the racing suit anymore. He is in fact wearing jeans, t-shirt and normal shoes. It is a gesture to demonstrate that the sport ends on track. He respects the obligation to do the post-qualifying conference, together with Montoya and Barrichello. After fulfilling this professional obligation, he refuses to talk in front of microphones, notebooks and cameras. He does not give his opinion on whether the race should go ahead or not:


"I have avoided talking about it too much all weekend and I would like to continue like this if you understand".


Is it difficult to concentrate in this situation?


"Yes, it is certainly difficult to concentrate on racing at the moment".


It is better to talk about qualifying:


"The car was good. However, I made a mistake in the first sector during what might have become my best lap".


What about pole?


"If you look at the section times, we simply did not get it together in qualifying. We decided to not do long runs but to do more fast laps instead".


How do you feel about the race?


"I remain optimistic. We will just have to see what we can do. It depends a little bit on the conditions that we're going to face. We have improved a lot in terms of the engine and tyres, so this is something which makes us competitive with the Williams team, which did not seem to be the case if you look at Hockenheim. The times are not as important, the race is more important. The sport has to move on from the tragedy, many of our tifosi come here to watch the race. We will do our best to give them a good race result".


Michael and Ralf think that the Indianapolis Grand Prix should not go ahead, believing that it is only an unnecessary risk. Michael makes his opinion known through leaked paddock rumours. Ralf says it in clear terms, knowing that he is going in the opposite direction to Frank Williams. It seems like the no-front is quite ample. Five teams seemingly do not want the USA race. However, according to the Concorde Agreement, the teams must declare themselves in favour of the race. They need to respect the signed contract with the organisers, which also involves the television rights and the relationship with the sponsors. 17 races need to be done without any exemption. Otherwise, the teams will not receive the money from the television rights. In reality, the Formula 1 teams are waiting for the Bush administration to block the event, after declaring the warfare state. During an interview with the French television, Max Mosley declares that no one wants to cancel the Indianapolis race:


"No one in motorsport has suggested cancelling the event. It is our duty to carry on as normal and to make no concessions to terrorism. I think all the teams have realised that all the measures are now in place to make everything safe which were not three days ago. The American authorities will undoubtedly have taken appropriate measures to protect the public at all large gatherings".


Luca Cordero di Montezemolo arrives at Monza with contrasting feelings. He is sad that Ferrari will not be able to celebrate the two titles. On the other hand, he is worried about the future implications of the terrorist attack. The Ferrari president believes that the Indianapolis Grand Prix should be cancelled. Montezemolo is even thinking about retiring the two F2001 cars at Monza:


"The least we could do was to give a strong sign of proximity to the American people. The relationship between Ferrari and the United States has always been very strong. America is the place where the Prancing Horse became a myth. It is our most important market. I would like to thank our sponsors for their sensitivity and willingness to accept our proposal. Coming here as world champions is amazing. This occasion deserved a different atmosphere. We thought about celebrating the titles on a festive weekend. Unfortunately, we had to cancel it. Monza has been a traditional appointment for Ferrari in good and bad times. Our spirit will be to tackle this race like any other. I would like to thank our tifosi for behaving accordingly, understanding the delicacy of this moment and for maintaining a respectful and calm approach. We will try to make them happy after the race. Barrichello will start on the front row. Schumacher, who was very shocked and moved by the terrorist attacks, lines up on the second row. Monza is a circuit where we know that Williams has the most chances for the win. We are assured by the fact that our drivers will be fully committed to also win here. Even if we do not win here, it will still be fine. The satisfaction for the championships is intact".


Does it make sense to hold a competition in a country at war?


"I think that it will be a mistake to not go. This sport is an important element of our society. Life must go on. We are participants, not organisers. Therefore, we will go along with whatever decision is taken. It is a decision that has to be taken by the United States government, not by us. I would agree if the United States Grand Prix does not go forward. Ferrari will be there if the race is held. We will miss Hakkinen on a human and sporting level. He was a fair driver, the best after Schumacher. Kimi is a young, talented driver and is a potential world champion but you cannot judge him from one season in Formula 1. Heidfeld was often ahead of him this season. It is also not the right moment for us because we have Michael Schumacher".


The 2001 season experienced its fair share of terrible events, including the tragic passing of Michele Alboreto on Wednesday, April 25, 2001. During the Formula CART race, held on the infamous Lausitzring circuit, Alex Zanardi is involved in a horrifying accident. The former Formula 1 driver is leading the race for Reynard-Honda. He is then forced to make two pit stops in quick succession, losing a couple of positions in the process. The tragedy soon materialises. On lap 143 out of 154, Zanardi loses control of the car after emerging from the pitlane. Zanardi spins in the middle of the racetrack and is hit by Alex Tagliani at a speed of 320 km/h. It is a terrifying crash, which divides Zanardi’s car in two pieces. It is immediately understood that the consequences are very serious. The German television immediately suspends the live transmission of the race, without showing any replay of the crash. The driver loses consciousness and is urgently transported to the Marzahan clinic, in a Berlin district. In the meantime, there is a trickle of fake news regarding his conditions. Some newspapers say that he is dead, others that he is either in a coma or artificially kept alive. The reality is that Zanardi’s condition is extremely serious. The 1997 and 1998 CART champion has a fractured pelvis and smashed legs. He has lost a lot of blood and is at risk of possible infections. However, the Italian driver breathes on his own and reacts to the stimulus. Doctor Olvey does not emit a medical bill in the late evening. The surgery contains the vast haemorrhage of the infection, yet does not avert an inevitable amputation of both legs. Zanardi’s mistake was probably caused by the methanol fuel, which is an invisible substance. Its crystallisation may have veiled the helmet and disorientated the Italian driver. The atmosphere of the Italian Grand Prix is heavier than before, following the terrorist attack and Zanardi’s incident. The Formula 1 drivers argue among themselves, trying to decide on a particular starting procedure. It would consist of slowly arriving at the first two chicanes without battling. An annulment of the race was assessed beforehand but the teams decided against it. Jarno Trulli is unsure on what to do next:


"I do not like that it is up to me".


Michael Schumacher states that is difficult to concentrate on the race:


"Everyone is emotionally very down. It is a weekend when a lot of things are not right and you should question whether we should race here. We do not feel like taking any risks today. There will be no overtaking at the first two chicanes, which are dangerous. All the drivers have agreed to this, except one".


Jacques Villeneuve wants to race. During an interview with the Sunday Time newspaper, Bernie Ecclestone warns Michael Schumacher:


"Let's get one thing straight. Michael Schumacher is not the 2001 World Champion yet, anything could happen. Maybe he could lose his points over one of the next three races. I am sure that won't be the case, but it could be".


Ecclestone’s words sound like a threat to the world champion. At around 1:00 pm, the cars are lined up on the grid. It is rumoured that the drivers will start the race slowly. Ecclestone goes easy this time:


"The race is going to take place, but I can't control what drivers are going to do. However, there may be retaliation".


It seems like the drivers agree on the starting procedure. However, the team principals break the deal. Flavio Briatore forbids Fisichella and Button to sign the document, since he wants a regular start to the race. The Benetton team principal explains that the deal does not make any sense:


"It was necessary to talk about this on Thursday. It seems strange to me that the drivers want to change the rules after the warm-up session".


The BAR-Honda team manager Pollock agrees with Briatore:


"I ordered my drivers to race. I know that we are not alone in this".


Minardi, Arrows and Williams decide to take the start with their drivers. At this point, Ecclestone meets the Jaguar, McLaren, Williams, Ferrari and Benetton team principals. The proposal falls through, which means that the Italian Grand Prix will have a normal start. Some drivers are not happy with the decision, especially Jean Alesi:


"This is deplorable. It is completely wrong because this is a dangerous circuit. We wanted to do something between us drivers in an already difficult situation. Today it was important to do something like that. Briatore had the audacity to obligate his driver to start the race by threatening to boot them out of the team. Briatore should not be doing this, he is not honest. I don’t know why Renault put him in charge. It is completely wrong".


Two teams join the initiative to remember the victims of the terroristic attacks at New York and Washington. Jaguar runs with a black nose as a mourning sign, while Jordan opts for the American flag. Nick Heidfeld and Giancarlo Fisichella have car issues before the start. They will start from the pitlane, after switching to the T-cars. There is suspense on what the drivers are going to do in the first chicane. As predicted, there is mayhem at the start of the race. Button has a feline getaway and uses Jarno Trulli as a brake. The Jordan driver is forced to retire for the fifth consecutive time. Montoya maintains 1st position at the first Lesmo curve, followed by Barrichello. Michael Schumacher regains 3rd position at the Secondo Lesmo Curve, at the expense of his brother Ralf. David Coulthard is 5th, ahead of an impressive Pedro De La Rosa. Hakkinen avoids the chaos by missing the chicane. He drops to 13th as a result. Button’s slingshot start is thwarted by the collision with Trulli. The Benetton driver is forced to change the front wing. On lap 4, he is prematurely out of the race with a Renault engine failure. There are more engines woes coming up. The Mercedes V10 engine, at the back of Coulthard’s McLaren, signals its demise on lap 7. The Scottish driver was running in 5th position before the engine issue. Barrichello overtakes Montoya at Variante Alta during the 8th lap, following a brief study phase. The pole-sitter does not put up any fight against the Ferrari driver. The Colombian is conscious that he is in a completely different strategy to Barrichello. 


Barrichello takes advantage of the lighter fuel load to immediately waltz off into the distance. The Ferrari driver is now leading the race and is in a prime position to overtake Coulthard in the drivers’ standings. This is a disaster for Coulthard. Montoya is now in a Ferrari sandwich. Schumacher is looking to also overtake the Colombian. On lap 17, Barrichello has an impressive 9.5 seconds gap over the Montoya-Schumacher duo. At the start of the 19th lap, the reigning world champion is in the pitlane. Barrichello and Michael are on a two-stop strategy. On the following lap, Barrichello pits and Montoya regains the lead. Rubens is slowed down by the re-setting of the refuelling rig. The pit stop lasts 16.3 seconds. It is an inconvenience that will ruin his chances of victory. Further down the order, Hakkinen’s day goes from bad to worse. On lap 20, the Flying Finn is forced to retire with a transmission failure. It is a day to forget for the McLaren team. The team does not need this double-zero result at all. 2nd place in the constructors’ standings is no longer secure. Montoya makes the only scheduled stop at the start of the 28th lap, which lasts 11.9 seconds. Ralf Schumacher briefly becomes the race leader. The Colombian rejoins behind Barrichello, who has to make another pit stop. Ralf Schumacher makes a pit stop at the start of the 35th lap and is momentarily demoted to 4th position. On lap 40 and 41 respectively, Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello carry out the so-called splash and dash. In other words, the mechanics fill out the tank of the F2001 cars with a little bit of fuel. Montoya leads the race for Williams-BMW, followed by his teammate Ralf Schumacher, Barrichello and Michael Schumacher. On lap 39, Ralf sets the fastest lap of the race in 1'25"073. Rubens tries to pursue Ralf for 2nd position. On lap 57, the Brazilian tries to overtake Ralf Schumacher in the first chicane. The BMW driver defends the position by cutting across the apex of the chicane. The race engineer orders Ralf to concede the position to the Brazilian. There is no more time left for Barrichello to complete the comeback drive. At the end of the 65th and final lap, Juan Pablo Montoya crosses the line to take his first win in Formula 1. This is the first ever win for a Colombian driver. Barrichello is 2nd, with Ralf Schumacher completing the podium. Michael Schumacher will not stand on the podium for the first time in 2001, considering that he retired at Imola and Hockenheim. Pedro De La Rosa finishes in 5th position, which is his career-best result in Formula 1. Jacques Villeneuve scores one point for BAR-Honda after starting from 15th position. 


Coulthard is still in 2nd position in the drivers’ standings with 57 points, despite the retirement. There are now three points separating the McLaren driver and Barrichello. Ralf Schumacher is 4th with 48 points, while Montoya overtakes Hakkinen for 5th. The post-race ceremony is composed. At the end of the Colombian national anthem, the trophies are handed out. There is not the usual champagne spraying. The winner of the Italian Grand Prix declares:


"I am so happy and I want to thank everyone at Williams, BMW and Michelin. They've done a fantastic job for me and I am just so pleased with the result. This is my first year and I wasn’t expecting to win. My father is here and it’s his birthday, so that’s pretty good".


Barrichello is disappointed that the refuelling rig issue ruined his chance of victory:


"I am not really sure what happened. I wanted to fight for the win. I gave my best even in this race. I think it was one of my best races. During the pit stop, I realised that the refuelling was the issue that cost us time. We lost a lot of time. We put on a great show. The car was very good, Bridgestone did a fantastic job with the tyres and we were very competitive with the engine as well so it was great. But unfortunately, we lost that little bit and it wasn't enough to win the race".


Rubens, how did you feel when the no-passing at the start proposal fell through?


"I would like to say something about what happened outside of racing. It's bad when you have an agreement and just one guy doesn't want to do it but that's pretty much life. At the end of the day there were drivers told by their team managers they couldn't do it as well. I don't think they were thinking - they were very material just 'work, work, work' and couldn't just stop to think that there was something going on behind us. This weekend has been very dark, not only for what happened in the US but also for what happened to Zanardi. Yesterday I could not stop thinking about him to be honest. I am here because I love my job but it is difficult to find unanimity. It is a Formula 1 problem. For a moment, we had an agreement, because it was only fair. You have an agreement to brake 200 metres before the first two corners, where we saw one hell of a problem last year and I think everyone had the patience to do it. Only the two chicanes had to be taken with caution. You arrive at almost 300 km/h at the first chicane. It would be enough for the start to be moved forward by 100 metres. I am also here to race because it is my life and not because I am being paid for it".


Someone believes that it should have been clear that there was no desire to race. The most widespread objection is that it was a decision that should have been taken beforehand:


"No, it was the right moment. If we talked about it beforehand, there could have been a prolonged and useless commotion. It was an easy thought for a driver to say ‘I do not want to race’. If I would not have raced here, I might as well not go to the next race. You do not race anymore if you have this mindset. In the end, driving is my passion".


How do you feel about going to Indianapolis?


"I love to go to America; the race is great and the atmosphere is great. We just have to see if it is safe or not. I will now go home and I will pray for Alex".


Ferrari seriously considered the scenario of pulling Michael Schumacher from the Italian Grand Prix. Rumours say that Michael has the choice to not race at Indy and Suzuka. Jean Todt confirms that this is an option:


"Michael was very disheartened when he arrived here, I asked him if he felt like competing in this race or if he would prefer to stop. He wanted to be at Monza. Following this, we will decide, respecting his opinion. It is he who drives and guides the team and he who needs to say whether he feels like racing".


Those are clear words with comprehensible and legitimate intentions. The German driver will not do the two-day test at the Mugello track. Luca Badoer will replace him. The USA government, the FIA and the Indianapolis organisers will decide whether the race will go ahead or not. Michael hints that he would rather avoid a race in the United States, as a sign of respect for the pain of the American people. He wants Formula 1 to annul the penultimate race of the 2001 championship. Bernie Ecclestone threatened the German driver with serious penalties. On parc fermé, Michael does not even look towards the grandstands to say hello. He instead escapes to the motorhome to eat something with his manager. He will later talk with Luca Baldisserri and Jean Todt. 


After the end of the technical meeting, Michael leaves the paddock to go to Switzerland. His statement for the Ferrari press release is laconic and brief:

"Luckily, everything went well and nothing happened. I am glad this weekend is over. It was a pity that Rubens was not able to win this race. Overall, the most important thing is that nothing bad happened this afternoon".


At the end of the race, Jean Todt talks about Schumacher’s commendable efforts to propose the idea of driving the first chicane at low speed:


"Most of the drivers rightly decided to do a symbolic gesture for the start of this Grand Prix. The team 100% agreed with this initiative. I respect the opinion of a driver, since he is the one who is driving. I do not have any respect for the managers who speak on behalf of the drivers and have not driven a car. This difficult weekend is now over, considering the tension and sadness atmosphere that surrounded Monza. We would have liked to have celebrated our two world titles in front of all our fans, but world events meant this would have been inappropriate. Instead for us, this race was just another round out of the seventeen. Life goes on but it was difficult for the entire team to race, also considering Alessandro Zanardi’s incident. On behalf of all the team, I send our best wishes to Alessandro Zanardi. The thoughts of all of us are with him today. Rubens drove a really great race and he could have won. Unfortunately, a problem with the re-setting of the refuelling rig, at the moment of his first pit stop, cost him around seven seconds which was probably enough to deprive him of the victory. Michael drove a good race in a professional manner, even if his heart was not in it at this track".


Formula 1 is facing an uncertain future, following the Italian Grand Prix. It is unknown whether the penultimate race of the 2001 World Championship will be held at the Indianapolis circuit.


©​ 2024 Osservatore Sportivo


Contact us


Create Website with | Free and Easy Website Builder