The main topics discussed during the meeting at Maranello, following the Austrian Grand Prix won by David Coulthard are the difficulties at the start with the launch control and the new electronic system. Other tests will start at Fiorano, starting from Tuesday 15th May 2001, in view of the Monte Carlo race, with test driver Luca Badoer. In the following days, it is also the official drivers’ turn to test. Jean Todt explain the main objective of these tests:
"We are trying to avoid a recurrence of these issues at the start, but our competitors are doing even worse than us: Coulthard had an issue in Barcelona but also Hakkinen stalled at Zeltweg. I want to emphasize that 6, out of the 11 cars that took the chequered flag in, had Ferrari engines".
However, the main trail of the Austrian Grand Prix is without doubt the team order aimed at a Rubens Barrichello, in which Todt asked the Brazilian to give up 2nd place to his teammate Schumacher. Rubens’ Brazilian fans did not appreciate this choice made by the Ferrari pit wall. A few days later, a group of hackers manages to enter the Ferrari website by displaying, for only a couple of minutes, this message in English:
"Sorry Ferrari, but your website has been hacked".
This does not interrupt the hard work, done by Schumacher and Badoer, at Fiorano. Both drivers work on the set-up and the development of the electronic system. The German, in particular, dedicates quite a lot of time on the tires as well, without forgetting the unmissable start simulations. In the last day of testing, Schumacher makes up for lost time in the afternoon, by running a lot of laps. In the morning, in fact, the team had to finish early due to an engine failure. Towards the evening, instead, a long caravan of tanker trucks floods the track to allow the driver to work on set-up work, tires and start procedure even on the wet asphalt. Irony of fate, shortly afterwards, a violent thunderstorm struck with lighting and bolts.
Despite this, Schumacher is able to complete 111 laps in total and the best time was a 59"385. Badoer, instead, does 37 laps and his best time was a 1’00"236. Barrichello is left to rest and only does one of the four testing days. This is probably to calmly get over the anger after the Zeltweg race in order to better prepare for the Monte Carlo race. It is a circuit where Michael Schumacher almost never had half measures. In 1992, the year of his debut in F1, finished 4th. Then he either won or retired.
In the meantime, let’s look at what is going on with Fiat and the other four cars manufacturers, BMW, DaimlerChrysler, Ford and Renault. In previous months, they announced that they were ready to create an alternative F1 world championship to Bernie Ecclestone’s one. This is to prevent the danger represented by Leo Kirch, majority owner of the company which detains Formula 1, Slec, which is threatening to close the circus inside its own pay-tv circuit. Therefore, the same cars manufacturers decide to sign the first official document for the constitution of a new society which, starting from the 1st of January 2008, will organize a new single-seater world championship.,
The deal is signed at Rome, where Acea - which is the association of the European car’s constructors - gather is 120 members. Among them, there are the five members who are committed in Formula 1 (Fiat with Ferrari, DaimlerChrysler with McLaren-Mercedes, BMW with Williams, Ford with Jaguar, Renault with Benetton) who will engage in the new enterprise and to also welcome, in the new championship, the independent teams, such as Minardi or Jordan. Thus, the attack to Ecclestone is really starting to take form.
The new society will see the light by the end of June. For the first year, it will be supervised by Paolo Cantarella, Fiat managing director. The alternative championship will only start in 2008. Until the 31st December 2007, the agencies and the teams are bound to the Concordia Pact, which was signed by every participant at the Formula 1 championship. However, it is evident that the tear is not only motivated by philanthropic wishes to not depriving the word from the images of the races. It is also due to the five manufactures that seems to have understood that the time, to take their hands over the world championship, has arrived:
"The goal of the manufacturers is to promote the interest of the sport, to make sure that the races are made freely available to the broadest possible public worldwide, and (to make sure) that the income greatly benefits mainly those who invest in order to render the competition possible".
Talking about future, Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello’s futures are already sealed at Ferrari. The team announced that both drivers have extended their contracts for the 2002 season:
"Ferrari announces that Michael Schumacher e Rubens Barrichello will continue the technical and competitive collaboration with Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro until 2004 and the 2002 seasons respectively".
This confirmation which closes off the seam of rumours that Barrichello was ultimately leaving and that the Finnish driver Raikkonen was coming as his replacement. The few lines of the renewal announcement ultimately dissolved the speculation. In this regard, Schumacher declares:
"I have often said before how well I get on here at Ferrari and that for me the Scuderia (team) is like a second family. I am very happy to have prolonged my stay by another two years and I hope that this confirmation with the team will bring plenty of success. I had little doubt that I would do it, once Jean Todt, Ross Brawn, Paolo Martinelli and Rory Byrne had extended their contracts. The discussions took place in the same positive atmosphere which has typified our relationship and we soon reached an agreement".
Asked how he will be motivated by staying in the same team for so long, he answers:
"This is my life - I need racing. I will have the motivations to win more with Ferrari. There will be no problem with motivation for the entire two years. Alternatives? No, I never thought about any. For a while, I only saw red for my future. Future commitments with the Fiat group? Nothing changes regarding that. I will substantially be, until the end of 2004, a Ferrari driver related to the Fiat group which, at some point, will have certain option on me. That's why I am saying I am not sure I will be finished after 2004. Let's wait and see. I still see this as too far away to decide what I want to do".
Talking about the present and the Monte Carlo week-end:
"I am happy to have developed the car at Fiorano. We were not able to optimize it in Austria and I think that now we have done our homework. This track has always been good for Ferrari and for myself and think that it will be the same this time".
Then he talks about Juan Pablo Montoya and their clash in Austria:
"Was he threatening? The media build up a fight between him and me. What happened on the circuit was racing. I look forward to a competition with him but I will not go into verbal discussion. This is what the media wants. Maybe he wants it, maybe he is looking for it. He is a very good driver and he has proven this".
The economic terms are yet unknown. According to some rumours, Schumacher will get a salary of 30.000.000 dollars per year. Barrichello will instead get 8.000.000 dollars a year. A renewal which, in any case, allows Barrichello to look forward to the future with confidence. Looking at the Monaco track, Barrichello mainly hopes to not be involved in incidents:
"It is easy, on this track, to destroy a car just for the sake of overdoing it. It is better to fully understand the track and to do a good lap at the end of quali, without running anything before. The first year that I was here, I thought to myself: it is crazy to race on this street track. Then you get used to it. Another crazy part of the track is the tunnel: it is basically a corner. It has a manhole in the middle which you need to absolutely avoid. If the helmet visor is too dark, you cannot see anything in the tunnel. If it is clear, you will be blinded at the exit".
The now 29-year old Rubens explains that the renewal is none other than the extension of an already existing contract option:
"I am very pleased. I think both sides are happy - both myself and Ferrari. I see no problem in the fact he has extended his contract to the end of 2004 while I only extended until the end of 2002. I knew that the President, Mr Montezemolo and Jean Todt were very relaxed about the situation I do not have to think in terms of my career starting when Michael's ends. I will fight with Schumacher on Saturday for the pole. In Austria, I think that I demonstrated that I can also fight for wins. It is true that maybe I should talk less".
The Monegasque race, seventh round of the 2001 world championship, does not get off to a great start for Juan Pablo Montoya. as soon as he set foot in the press room, to participate at the FIA press conference, Juan Pablo is blocked by one of the girls from the local Automobil Club. The women in question, with little Formula 1 knowledge, does not recognize the Colombian. With gentle and firm tones, she asks to check the validity of Montoya’s pass on the system located at the entrance of the paddock. At that point, the Williams driver, who is known for having quite a touchy temperament, explodes. With a rather Italic expression, he replicated to the women:
"You do not know who I am".
This matter is resolved by the intervention of an FIA and by the subsequent apologizes of the woman to Montoya. In the meantime, Coulthard, in typical English humour, pretends to introduce himself to Montoya by holding out his hand:
"Nice to meet you, I am David".
Montoya and Coulthard are Michael Schumacher’s main and insidious rivals. The first one does not scare the championship leader for his race bravado, which resulted in the in the Zeltweg collision. The Colombian still thinks that it was a normal racing incident:
"He braked much later than usual and I imitated him. I did not talk with Michael; There's nothing really to clarify".
David, instead, is finally recognized by the German driver as the main obstacle between him and the fourth title:
"It does not change anything. I am just taking the races as they come and trying to do the best I can and develop the car because I still think that we have a lot of work to do. I don't think we have the best package out there on the track at the moment and we've just got to concentrate on that".
Montoya will race for the first time at Monaco at the wheel of a Formula 1 car, after a mediocre performance in 1998 in the F.3000 series:
"I cannot remember whether I had a puncture or an issue with the front wing, starting from 7th The things is that I finished 6th. I learned the lesson and I will be more careful. In Formula Cart, I raced on street circuit and I do not think that there is more to learn: you need to push and be fast. I enjoyed that race. Let’s hope that it will be the same here".
Being here is already a realization of a dream that Montoya had since he was a child:
"Driving in two of the most know circuit of the world, such as Indianapolis and Monte-Carlo".
Coulthard won in 2000, and is philosophizing between drivers who can mentally be challenged by this track ("Villeneuve always has some troubles here") and the security of this layout:
"I think Monaco is safe on the Grand Prix calendar until there's a serious accident".
But the big question is related to the vagaries of automatic starting systems, which created some headaches during the first two round of the season and which could provoke some dangerous situations at the start. Both of them have no doubts: we will surely use those. According to Montoya, those systems are quick, efficient and reliable. Coulthard, who was one of the first victims of the electronics aids, adds:
"Our system improved and then I would expect we will not have any problems again. Hakkinen? My understanding is that he did the wrong thing, so it was a driver error".
Thursday 24th May 2001. The cars are ready to get back on the track for the first two practice sessions of the Monaco Grand Prix. Let’s look at some analysis. There were two sides of the coin when looking at Schumacher. The current championship had a strong morning FP1. On the other hand, he was a bit tarnished in the afternoon. Hakkinen was the exact opposite. In fact, by the end of FP2, he was the fastest driver.
In the first free practice session, the Finnish driver has some issues and is only 5th fastest. In the afternoon, he redeems himself by lapping in 1'19"853, which is 463 thousand less than the time done by the Ferrari of Schumacher. The world championship finishes FP2 2nd fastest with a 1'20"316. Williams also had problems through Fridays after being both involved in incidents. Ralf Schumacher goes off track with a couple of seconds left to go until the end, but is 3rd fastest, a second off the pace. Behind him, we find Barrichello in 4th place.
Juan Pablo Montoya has a difficult afternoon session. Losing control of his Williams immediately after the Swimming Pool section, the Colombian crashes into the guardrail. The Williams remains stationary in the middle of the track. The cars which follow have to stop in order to not hit the stricken car. The session is interrupted for three minutes. Jarno Trulli, with his Jordan, gets the 5th fastest time, immediately ahead of David Coulthard’s McLaren. Jean Alesi does a really great job and is 8th with his aerodynamic revised Ferrari powered Prost-Ferrari. An exceptional job by Jean which demonstrates that he still has the heavy foot and is ready to do his best, wherever allowed. Villeneuve, 9th, is happy about his performance but he is not happy about the BAR team.
Giancarlo Fisichella is 11th, whose gentle driving style gifts Benetton a half smile in 2001. The team is waiting that something substantial to change soon. Jaguar, Sauber, Arrows and Minardi are having a bad day in the office. Both Minardi driver crashed out. The free practice sessions are also characterized by particular inventions, like the new front wings that are on the Arrows and the Jordan cars. Afterwards the FIA - vetoes their use on the grounds that they are dangerous.
McLaren, Ferrari and Williams are the three absolute protagonists of the Monte Carlo scene, by using more conventions aerodynamics solutions. Monaco is a street track which requires a great aerodynamic load, together with different suspension geometries and engines with low engine torque. A year ago, Hakkinen was the king of Thursday practices. Then on Saturday, he was almost two seconds behind the first Ferrari. However, the first two Monegasque free practice always have a special taste. The joy of leading free-practice last for two days. Thus, Hakkinen and McLaren-Mercedes enjoy a joyful catwalk and offering smiles and promises to the sponsors.
Neither Hakkinen, Coulthard or McLaren are under the illusion that, on Saturday, it can be easy to remain on top. The Ferrari seen during free practice is really scaring every other team. Hakkinen jumped to the top of the standing after using a set of fresh rubber. Instead Michael run for the entire two hours, including FP1 and FP2, with the same set of tires. This choice is also facilitated by an F2001 which does not seem to have any weak points in the tight, twisty, narrow and slippery track of the Principality.
A car which is already perfect, in terms of set-up, easy to drive according to the drivers’ response. Jean Alesi would have surely loved to drive this Ferrari. Unfortunately for him, during his experience at Maranello, he has never benefited from means even remotely comparable to the F2001. Jean, despite the 190 Grand Prix made so far, is probably among the drivers who have more enthusiasm. Monte Carlo is a bit like his home race, given that the race track is only a couple of hours away from Avignon, where the Frenchman lives at:
"Racing at Monte Carlo is exciting for me, given that I can finally unleash my driving skills. This matters a lot here and it is not only about the car potential. The driver, if committed, can also make a difference within certain limits".
Alesi has the will to fight for top position. This is a year that so far has taken a turn for the worse, as 2000 did. This time, he finishes FP2 in 8th and immediately behind the top teams, driving for Prost. This means double. The French mark, for which Jean signed up for, is going through a tough period. For Monaco, the team has made a number of aerodynamic and suspension modifications have been made which, looking at the first approach in free-practice, allowed for a big leap forward:
"It is not difficult to have a better car, because last year was so bad for us. Now the, the car has been reliable until now. I finished most of the races far from the top teams. The car was born under one designer and will be followed by another. I hope that this jolting is over Our new designer Henri Durand is bringing in some new stuff which will enable us to finally score good results and points…".
A disconsolate yet confident Alesi, who talks about himself next to the port whilst looking at the boats and at the blue sky for a moment:
"Alain Prost knows exactly what is going on and is working to turn around this situation. He is suffering with me, Burti and the other members of the team. This is a Formula 1 in which it is becoming even more difficult to catch up, since the others are also taking steps forward at every race. We have a good structure, Henri Durand is an excellent aerodynamic guy, we will emerge from the crisis sooner or later. We finally had a good day in practice. We needed that. The car improved but I also contributed".
Needless to say, Alesi thinks that Schumacher is the favorite to win the Monte Carlo Grand Prix. Before thinking about the finish, you need to think about the start. Alesi has clear ideas:
"The start of the race will be a big risk. If cars will stall in the grid like it was the case in Zeltweg, there will be a danger of someone flying into the grandstands and this is why I will not use the launch control. I do not like to entrust the start to an electronic mechanism. My dream, right now, is to be able to maintain 8th place in qualifying".
On Friday break, waiting for Saturday’s qualifying, the discussion theme down at Ferrari is the catch for a new sponsor which, according to some rumours, will be announced by Montezemolo. The name, in everyone’s mouths, will be of Vodafone, British mobile phones giant. This is born from a desire cultivated at Maranello: cleaning up this single-seater. The car has so many sponsors that it has become a patchwork, in terms of colours. Therefore, the aim is to have a simple, linear, red monocoloured image of the F2001.
Then there is also the issue of rising costs. Apart from the sophisticated technology and Schumacher and Barrichello’s salaries, there is also, to make one example, the funfair-type train that the mechanics have built specifically to transport all the trappings from the pits to the paddock with less effort, before and after each session. Thus, as predicted, on Friday 25th May 2001, Montezemolo announces that Vodafone will become the new Ferrari sponsor for a total of three years, starting from 2002:
"I am proud to announce this new collaboration with Vodafone. It is not just about technical collaboration and sponsorship. Vodafone will become our partner in the Umts telephones and the new telecommunication technologies. It is very important event for us for at least three reasons. Firstly, Vodafone is present all over the world, including in those countries where Ferrari is very strong. Secondly, we will develop many things together on the Internet where Ferrari is already the most followed website in Italy. Thirdly, the colour of Vodafone is read and everyone knows that I like red a lot. I want to then thank Tim, Telecom and Stet who have preceded Vodafone, because we will start a partnership with it. In 1992 Ferrari was not what it is today and it was not easy to find someone who would trust us. Today’s needs have changed, the world is big and we need to look ahead".
But the thing that seems to press Montezemolo the most is the enormous possibility of development in other fields:
"With the help of Vodafone, we aim to develop all our Internet activities which are susceptible of enlargements that seem unthinkable".
An agreement which infuriates Eddie Jordan. On the 22nd March 2000, at exactly 18:20, the English manager would get from David Haines, director of the global brand of the telecommunication tycoon, the certainty of the sponsor, for a total of 100.000.000 dollars, payable in a three-year contract starting from 2002 (39.000.000 in 2002, 50.000.000 in 2003 e 52.000.000 in 2004, plus a bonus of 9.000.000).
"We have a deal".
David Haines would have said. However, Vodafone decide to join forces with Scuderia Ferrari. He did not have - from Vodafone - any decision power even if he was part of the brand steering committee. Then, another two meeting will follow: one on the 6th February 2001 with Haines, Phillips and Perring at the Silverstone headquarters. The other on the 14th February 2001, at the Hilton Hotel in Heathrow, between Jordan, Phillips, Kieser and Perring, in which an agreement was found. This is the reason why Eddie Jordan sues Vodafone, requiring a free of 150.000.000 dollars. To demonstrate that the words were truly said, Jordan will give a notebook of the commercial director, ex-journalist Ian Phillips, who registered the conversation.
Clearly, in his defence, Vodafone will say that no agreement has been reached with Jordan, given that the terms have not been defined and that there is no binding contract. Furthermore, on the 5th April 2001, Vodafone during the directive council meeting, Geither and Harris, including Phillips and Perring, the conclusion is reached to continue talks with Ferrari. If these do not work, then an agreement with Jordan will then be considered.
Other meetings will follow at the San Marino Grand Prix, in which the emissaries of Vodafone will indicate to Jordan the will to not associate their brand with Bensons Edges, tobacco industry, emphasizing that that a possible agreement would have precluded the possibility for the latter to obtain even one space as a secondary sponsor. On the 23rd April 2001, at the Pelham Hotel in London, there was a meeting between Eddie Jordan, David Haines, Peter Harris, Joe Kieser and Peter Dart. The English manager asked for explanations following the first rumours which talked about a probable possible agreement between Vodafone and Ferrari.
On the 11th May 2001, after a meeting of the executive commission of Vodafone held the previous day, Geitner and Montezemolo signs a letter of intent, with which - de facto - seal the subsequent agreement even if the definitive signature will only arrive after the 22nd May 2001. Minutes later, following the announcement, the Vodafone emissaries will then meet Jordan once again at Monte-Carlo. On the same day, the FIA president, Max Mosley, is expressing himself on the electronic liberalization and the chaos regarding the will of the cars manufactures to create a new championship:
"No, I do not regret of having allowed the electronic liberalization. In fact, the difficulties that the teams had, at the start of the two races held with the new lawful systems, had the use of demonstrating that the cheating suspects were not true. I invite the teams to not use them if they are not 100% sure that their own automatic starting systems could work. Otherwise it would be extremely dangerous".
Concerning the commercial rights of Formula 1, Mosley announces the transfer of all rights to the duo Slec-Kirch, starting from the 1st January 2011, for an amount equal to 313.6 millions of dollars for the next 100 years. This resolves the controversy with the European Commission, which accuses the FIA of monopoly. On the topic of alternative championship, he says that it will be recognized by the Federation, as long as it follows the rule book:
"I am convinced that we will find an agreement in the end".
Saturday 26th May 2001. David Coulthard takes pole position for the start of the Monte Carlo race. This is his second pole of the season after Imola. Behind the McLaren, we find Schumacher and then Hakkinen. Barrichello is 4th and closes the first two rows monopolized by Ferrari and McLaren. Ralf Schumacher is 5th alongside a surprising Eddie Irvine on the third row. Montoya is only 7th fastest, behind Jarno Trulli.
A grid which says a lot, given that it is very difficult to overtake on the Monaco street circuit. Schumacher tries everything to stop the clock on the best time. It does not take long to understand that the battle for pole is between him and the Scotsman. The first to take action is the McLaren driver, who is immediately driving very fast, sets fast lap after another. After 30 minutes, he is under the illusion to have obtained the pole. Hakkinen is also going very fast while Rubens Barrichello is struggling so fat with a disappointing 7th.
Schumacher tries to react. He exits the pits where there is less traffic. With 15 minutes left to go until the end of the session, the German snatches first place away from the McLaren. Coulthard is not the type to easily give up. A fraction before the track gets too busy and chaotic, improves his time. With a 1'17"430, pole position is provisionally his. Schumacher is behind by two tenths. Hakkinen is 3rd, three-tenths behind Coulthard whilst Barrichello is 4th, a further tenth behind.
For the current world championship, a mistake on his final run probably deprives him of pole. The mistakes is at Portier: a touch on the guardrail ends Schumacher’s run after just one third lap of a lap. It was looking like a very fast lap, given that, 10 meters before the touch, Michael had set the fastest time in sector 1. This is a hoax like it was the case two years ago. under the watchful eye of Montezemolo, who comments:
"Forget it, I will not come here anymore. For the rest, it seems that nothing changed in Formula 1: the battle is between us and McLaren and that is it. It takes nothing to make one or the other win. I am sorry that today went like this but these things happen in racing. I hope that we will still be able to defeat our rivals, just as they stole victory from us in Austria fifteen days ago".
Schumacher, on his part, congratulates Coulthard for the work done, but then emphasizes:
"It is better to start on the front row rather than behind".
Are you afraid of the McLarens?
"They are really fast and have made huge progress and have made the most of everything they have whist we did not".
Are you afraid of those electronic and remote-controlled starts?
"Luckily we are able to use them nowadays. Others will either use them or start manually, depending on whether or not they were able to fix those systems. Everything should be fine".
La pole seemed possible but then you made the mistake at Portier. He jokes about it:
"I thought someone had moved the barriers as I arrived there. No, I was just too tight. I should have then taken the chequered flag by driving slowly but preferred to stop and to not in the way of others. It was not exciting to stay inside the car. Who knows what would have happened at the end of it. I only knew that Coulthard took pole when I come back to the pits with the tow truck".
Do you think you could have passed him had you not touched the wall?
"Considering that I was two tenths down on the second sector, I think that I still would not have been able to take pole. David did a better job than I did. I never got a perfect lap today. I had to abort my first run as both Arrows were driving around without using their mirrors. I would rather be on pole than second position. Being on the front row was the best we could do".
Did you expect Coulthard to be faster than Hakkinen?
"The fact Mika did his best time on a new set of tires is to be considered favorable since I had to resort to use older tires in order to improve. It looked like he might have prevailed over his teammate, but in end did a great job. Analyzing the last few races, it is expected to see McLaren to be very fast and they used their overall package better than us".
What about the race?
"There will be one change to overtake at the start but then you cannot risk that much and you need to get the best out of the strategy. I am still hopeful for the race".
Halfway through the afternoon, after qualifying, there is a nice ceremony at the Ferrari camp: the talented Isolde Kostner, winner of the Downhill Alpine Ski World Cup, gifts two pairs of his skis to Schumacher and Barrichello. Michael reciprocated by giving her gloves, Ferrari T-shirts and even a cap, but makes a small gaffe when talking in German with Isolde.
"Where do you come from?"
He asks her. She answers that she is from South Tirol and he responds:
"Are you Austrian or Italian?"
Talking about qualifying, Rubens Barrichello is overall happy about his 4th place in the grid (last year he started 7th and finished 2nd) but has something to complain about for not being able to start higher up:
"I tried for my first run to use a used set of tires, but it was not enough. Then I used a fresh set. On my third run I was able to improve by using an even older set of rubber. I was able to take advantage of the set-up improvement after I worked with the engineers to find the issues in the morning. I flat spotted my front right tyre on my last run at the first corner, which cost me some time. Still I am in the fight and have a much-improved car. The race is still wide open and it is about the long distance. Much will depend on where you are after the first corner and on the tire degradation maybe. In this Formula 1, they require a particular strategy in order to function well on one car and not on another. I was relaxed before, but signing the contract has put me, without doubt, in an even better position. Who would I bet for the win? I bet on the red 2, I always play when I am at the Casino".
A year prior, in 2000, Jarno Trulli was enjoying the front row. La Jordan had given him a party, his friends were congratulating him, because to start behind Schumacher in 2nd at Monte Carlo was a feat to be framed. Trulli he sits in the corner of his caravan and complains angrily because 8th place is not exactly what he wanted. He is also furious with Schumacher. The Italian fiercely explains the reason:
"We were on the run when he crashed somewhere. Instead of stopping immediately, as decided during the drivers’ briefing, he continued on. I found him on the racing line on the tunnel going very slowly while I was arriving at full speed. To avoid him, I had a crazy lid and I do not know how I kept the car. I was going at 290 km/h. A tragedy might have happened. Everyone had to avoid the tunnel in the event of force majeure. I ask myself why Michael did not do this".
Jarno, at Monte Carlo, is feeling at home for two reasons. Fistly, he has residence and spends most of the year here. Secondly, but also because he likes the track and has very good moments but also some bitterness in it:
"Last year, I was running in 2nd until the halfway point. Had I not had a gearbox issue, I would have won, considered that Schumacher had retired. What can I do now? Who knows. The Bridgestone tires, designed for this race, are not adapting to my Jordan. The car was nervous and I had to touch the guard-rail lots of times to set a good time. Some points would be good. Ferrari and McLaren are flying here".
One of the issues that Jordan-Honda has is also the electronics. The various systems are far from being optimally tuned. Trulli will not use neither the automatic start or traction control. Fisichella will start two places behind Jarno. He is also the protagonist on this track enhances his driving style. Benetton-Renault has never qualified this well so far, in 2001:
"Before coming here, we did expect to be quicker than before but we certainly didn't expect to be 10th in qualifying. I had a feeling it would be good on Thursday, as I had a good balance with the car and everything felt right pretty. Finally, we are happy! It is just great. If we are lucky, we can score some points".
Flavio Briatore is also gloating:
"Giancarlo did a great job. However, the real breakthrough for us will come from the French Grand Prix, in July, when we will have quite a renewed car. We now have to suffer but smiling once in a while is not bad".
David Coulthard, on his 12th pole position of his career, is particularly proud of Saturday’s result, since his fastest lap was also the new lap record. David talks about a perfect lap. Furthermore, Hakkinen nominated Coulthard to the role of anti-Schumacher, by saying:
"David has improved a lot; it is not me who has become worse".
The Finnish seems resigned. McLaren has officially declared that they will not use team orders, due to the internal hierarchies. Mika promises that if he is in the condition to help Coulthard to win the championship, he will step aside. This is not what he said at Zeltweg. There, he said that if he had to run without being able to win, he would have preferred to stay at home. This is a big step backwards. To the insistence of journalists who keep asking him on what changed in him, he annoyingly says:
"I have a son".
Perhaps, this answer is to polemically satisfy the many who see him gentrified by fatherhood. The Scotsman instead identifies the plane incident, which avoided last year, as his turning point:
"From then, I feel like a survivor and this changed the scale of my life priorities I am much more matured as a driver. I concentrated more on my work, I do not disperse my energies in a thousand rivulets and I do not worry anymore on what the others are doing on track".
Sunday 27th May 2001. Coulthard set the best time also on the morning warm-up, stopping the clock at 1'20"944. Hakkinen is 2nd. Schumacher is third but very much behind, exactly seven tenths behind the McLaren. Barrichello is even worse, one and half second behind the leader. After the warm-up, the team are focusing on the electronic systems, given that those provoked, two weeks ago at Zeltweg, serious problems at the start with numerous cars stalled at the grid. Among them was Hakkinen’s McLaren.
A couple of hours later, when it is time to start the formation lap of the Monaco Grand Prix, Coulthard’s Silver Arrows stalls on the grid. The Scotsman is waving his arms in frustration. By the time Tarso Marques, who is last on the grid, gets by, the polesitter is still stuck. According to the rules, since he could not start before Marques went by, Coulthard is now relegated to last position. Soon after, in fact, official news comes and the poleman, from twenty-four hours earlier, sees his efforts thwarted. So much so that the resolution of the problem, related to the launch control on his McLaren, is just a small consolation. Recovering from the last row of the grid at Monaco is a virtually impossible task. In those instants, David is comprehensibly angry and pronounces unrepeatable words. In the meantime, Ron Dennis is convinced that the stall is a driver’s error and jokingly comments to the VIPs surrendering him:
"Oh, yeah, this sometimes happens to my wife when shopping".
By the end of the race, McLaren’s team principal will apologize to Coulthard for having pronounced this unfortunate sentence. At lights out, despite being in the 2nd spot, it is like Michael Schumacher starts from pole position. This is a situation that the current world championship takes full advantage of. Go, go, go! By the end of turn 1, he is the race leader, ahead of Hakkinen, Barrichello, Ralf Schumacher, Montoya and Irvine. The latter was the one who lost out the most after starting 4th.
Immediately, there is the first retirement. At the exit of Loews hairpin, the race is already over for Nick Heidfield, who slams into the wall and destroys the left sidepods of his Sauber. The same fate applies to Montoya halfway through the second lap. After a trip over the kerb, the rear of the Williams car steps out and the Colombian slams against the Swimming pool barriers twice. The second hit is the definitive one which puts the F3000 champion out of the race. That part of the track is under yellow flags as the marshals are quickly able to clear the Williams out of the way.
McLaren is not having a good race so far. Coulthard is, as one would expect, stuck behind the two Arrows; Hakkinen is not doing any better at the end of lap 10. On lap 12, out of the scheduled 78, the Finn is noticeably slowing down and is easily passed by Barrichello at the exit of the tunnel section. It is now a 1-2 for Ferrari as Hakkinen is having handling problems. The handling problems seem solved on Hakkinen’s McLaren as he is gaining back the speed and is having a good race pace. It is only an illusion. By the end of lap 15, the Finn’s race is over. It is his fifth retirement out of seven races. This one was caused, according to rumours, by a differential fault. This weekend turned out to be dreadful for McLaren despite the pole position. So far, it is an indescribably frustrating and cursed season for the former world champion. As the race goes on, McLaren’s problems continue. Coulthard is up to 13th, still stuck behind Bernoldi’s Arrows, at the start of lap 21.
One could say that Bernoldi, lapping on average 2-3 slower than Schumacher, should just relinquish his place to a much faster McLaren. The Brazilian is doing his own race: fighting for track position and testing Coulthard’s strength character to the limit. Lap 26. The image that best sums up McLaren's day is Coulthard being lapped by none other than the undisputed race leader and his championship rival, Michael Schumacher. On the bright side, this could unexpectedly help Coulthard to overtake Bernoldi. The McLaren though, by giving room to the leader, loses ground to the Arrows. After Saturday’s great pole, David excepted a completely different afternoon.
Lap 27 is completed. Let’s look at the standings: Schumacher leads ahead of Barrichello, Ralf Schumacher, Irvine, Trulli and Villeneuve. Fisichella is 7th and soon joins the battle for 5th, between the two Honda powered cars. The 1997 world championship is not too worried about the driver from Rome. The latter temporarily enters the points paying positions, on lap 30. Jarno Trulli retires due an explosion of the Honda engine at the back of his Jordan. On lap 40, Irvine looks set to equal Jaguar’s best ever result if he can hold on to 4th. Nobody predicted a Ford-powered Jaguar lapping a Mercedes-McLaren car in this race. By the 42nd lap, Coulthard is continuing to see the back of Bernoldi’s car.
On the same lap, the McLaren driver gains 12th place after Verstappen’s problematic 19.9 pitstop and the subsequent engine switch-off. On the 43rd lap, the hopes of scoring points vanish at the 33th lap for Benetton. Giancarlo lost the backend of the car and, by hitting the outside wall at Saint Devote, is subsequently out of the race. Bernoldi pits. Coulthard is now in clear air. The Brazilian was about to sprint out the pits when the refuelling was not complete. This slowed down the entire pit procedure. Coulthard, having not yet stopped, is closing in on the points-paying position. This could happen, given that he has a clear track and can fully exploit the potential of his McLaren.
Frentzen’s misjudgment on lap 51, by cluttering the wall at the tunnel, means that Alesi has a very good chance of scoring points for the Prost team. At the front, Ferrari is continuing to dominate the race. Nobody is able to challenge the two scarlet cars even after the round of pit stops. The team from Maranello is set to take the first 1-2 of the season. On lap 53, Schumacher come to the pits for his one and only stop which last 7 seconds. On the other hand of the spectrum, things are going badly for Ralf Schumacher. The Williams driver is overtaken by Irvine and by the lapped Coulthard, following an electronic problem. By now, he is slowing down massively and, in the end, he is forced to retire on lap 57.
Barrichello relinquishes the lead to Schumacher when making a 6.9 stop at the end of lap 59. When it is time for Coulthard to pit, which comes as late as lap 67, he is 6th. A position that he manages to hold without too much trouble against Jenson Button. Ahead of the McLaren, Alesi is 5th. However, the race is not yet over and Alain Prost looks concerned at the monitors. Alesi picks up a rear puncture and is forced to make an additional pit stop in the final stages of the race. The Prost team’s best result is under threat. The issue is quickly resolved by the pit crew. Despite losing a position to Coulthard, he is still in 6th and on course for a valuable championship point. This result would move up his and Prost’s championship campaign up.
Going into the last few corners of lap 78, Michael Schumacher slows down to let Barrichello close up for the grandstand finish. At the chequered flag line, the two Ferraris finish the race one a parade finish, almost side by side, testifying to a race that was dominated from start to finish. Eddie Irvine finishes in 3rd and will join the two Ferrari driver on the podium. In 2000, here at Monaco, he achieved an important 4th place. This year Eddie was even able to improve and is giving Jaguar’s first-ever podium. Jacques Villeneuve is 4th, ahead of Coulthard. The latter did a really nice comeback drive, from last place. This result cannot satisfy the McLaren driver. There are now 12 points separating him and Schumacher (52 to 40). Jean Alesi finishes, as previously said, an excellent 6th.
The 1-2 result allows Ferrari to extend their lead in the constructors’ championship. You cannot really see who could pose a threat to the Cavallino Rampante team. The latter has 76 points whilst McLaren only 44. The Woking team had another disaster with the electronic systems, even if it is slightly mitigated by Coulthard’s brilliant race recovery from last. Thus, it is evident that there this issue needs to be resolved. The Monte Carlo race has been the third one since the liberation of the electronics and in all three, McLaren stopped on the grid for some reasons. This makes everything so easy that it seems difficult. This is Michael’s final thought. Rubens has a pain expression, due to cramps on the right foot. As he narrates, he did the whole 60 laps of the race without being able to feel it:
"My race was not as easy as it looked, because round about lap 10, I started to get cramp in my right foot. After the pit stop, I tried to push something in the foot rest and it seemed to work and things got easier. But there was a time when I could hardly feel my right foot. It meant I had to brake so early and concentrate on not going off. Fortunately, Ralf was dropping back and I had an easy race in that respect. Throughout the race, I prayed to God that he would get me to the end. Everything was going great. I have to say my car was brilliant, I have never had such a good car. the McLarens disappeared and thus, it would have been unbelievable to waste it all for my foot. It was almost a miracle".
Schumacher, on his 29th victory for Ferrari and the fifth win in the street of Monaco, comments the success like it:
"It was an easy drive, but still hard work as it always is here. It is not a success nonetheless. It was not anything exceptional, nothing exceptionally happened through the race. I am happy but not euphoric. It is always nice to win in Monte Carlo; it is always special. I was out in front on my own. You only thing you think about is reliability, that nothing breaks down or that you make a mistake. To win here in Monaco, first you have to finish. It never ended and I could not wait to see the chequered flag. For me, the race could have ended after 10 laps. It was physically tiring to some degree because it is a fast track and the slightest mistake can ruin everything".
It is no coincidence that, as revealed by Todt, the radio communications, during the race, were ongoing and intense as the incitements to be focus on the race. Schumacher assures to have lost the main highlight of the race, which was when Coulthard stalled on the grid even before the start of the formation lap:
"I did not notice it at the time. I only thought that he wanted to delay the formation lap. Then on the race, they told that he had some problems and that at first, it looked like Hakkinen remained behind. But then he had them. I do not deny that it simplified things. At that point, I only had to stay ahead at Saint Devote after the green lights. Even without the issues that McLaren had, we would have had some chances for victory. After Zeltweg, it is fantastic to be back on top".
You had the satisfaction of lapping Coulthard:
"He pulled over to let me by. He was fair. We did talk about it during Wednesday’s briefing. In this circuit the lapped cars need to collaborate to let the faster cars go by. I was also lapped in the past. Coulthard is now my rival and has become really strong. è. As for Hakkinen, he is still out of the fight for the championship but anything can happen. To see him back in the fight would let the championship become more fun".
Todt was relieved when seeing Coulthard stalled at the start:
"Before the race, I was terrified thinking about what might have happened. Then I saw that something worse happened to the McLaren".
Jo Ramirez explains that McLaren is giving the championship to Ferrari without those electronic issues. Todt does not replicate:
"I know that we have a big lead in the constructors and 12 points in the drivers’ championship. As seen last year, it can also be quickly deleted. It does not interest me what McLaren is saying".
During the press conference, whilst Barrichello was talking about his cramp on the right foot, Eddie Irvine looks at the journalists. Without saying anything, he was already making his thoughts known. The North-Irish man then express publicly:
"He is really pathetic with all this whining. If I had a Ferrari, I am not saying that I would have won today, since Schumacher is unbeatable on this track, but I would have stayed ahead of Barrichello for sure, since he never goes well here".
Rubens’s reply indirectly arrives. When asked about McLaren gifting the championship or that Ferrari does not want to win it:
"This could have been said when Irvine was about to win the championship two years ago, when McLaren was really throwing away points. Now it is not the case: they have issues whilst we are going strong".
Even at Schumacher, who welcomed him to the podium with a welcome back, Irvine had replied with a triple-bladed smile:
"The story changes but the drivers are always the same".
The ex-Ferrari driver is still the same cheeky bugger:
"Villeneuve overtaking me? Not at all, I was the one who enjoyed deceiving with him".
This is the 32-year old driver from Newtownards first podium ever since the 31st October 1999, in the day where he lost the championship in Japan whilst Schumacher party dressed as a night porter in the McLaren stand. A memory which Eddie has not yet forget. This podium also means the first points for him in 2001:
"Since it is not contract negotiation time, it is probably mostly the aero package, it made a huge step".
Eddie is laughing before going off to party on his boat (Now we're going to open everything there is to open" announces with an elegant double entendre). The technical checks, to the tires, are not yet over and the verdict remains suspended until late in the evening. Eddie pops the bottles. There is very little to celebrate at the McLaren camp. Coulthard, despite finishing 5th, is still the only driver who has scores point in all races, is not happy:
"The aim was to win, not to score only two points. I activated the procedure but then there was another glitch that switched off the engine. After all the simulations, it should not have happened. This time though, I did what I had to do".
The comeback driver, from Coulthard, was stopped for a long time by Enrique Bernoldi’s Arrows. The press, mocking the McLaren driver, will then write that the latter had a stop control other than the launch control. David had to wait until the pit stops sequence to overtake the Arrows driver:
"It was very frustrating behind Enrique. He was only doing his job, but he was so slow. He was also closing the door quite hard on me, but he is entitled to do that I suppose".
Dennis is more caustic about the Arrows team:
"If that team is so desperate for television that it has to resort to those strategies then I somewhat question the behaviour of the team as a whole. Despite a difficult Sunday, the championship is still wide open".
Coulthard’s championship is. Mika Hakkinen’s season is already over. If Coulthard’s car only stalled, the Finnish’s race only lasted until lap 16 before having to retire. No answers are available on the causes of the retirement. Hakkinen says:
"I do not know what happened. First, the steering was falling very heavily on the right. The car started to vibrate a lot and had issues with the gearbox. It was a half disaster. The team is checking the causes of it. It is hard to accept. We are going through a really tough period. The only thing left for me to do is to motivate the team and the mechanics to go on".
He will have to find someone to motivate him because, out of the seven races, he only scored four points and his championship campaign is already compromised: it will not be easy to close the gap to Schumacher. The current world championship, with this win, has now 48 points.
Davide Scotto di Vetta
Translated by Ylenia Lucia Salerno