David Coulthard won the Austrian Grand Prix. During the meeting at Maranello, the main points of discussion are the difficulties with the launch control and the new electronic system. Test driver Luca Badoer will do some tests at Fiorano, starting from Tuesday 15 May 2001. Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello will test in the following days. Jean Todt explains 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".
The main talking point from the Austrian Grand Prix is without doubt the Ferrari team order aimed at Rubens Barrichello. Todt asked the Brazilian to give up 2nd place to his teammate Schumacher, angering his Brazilian fans. A couple of days later, a group of hackers enter the Ferrari website to display a message in English:
"Sorry Ferrari but your website has been hacked".
In the meantime, Schumacher and Badoer are continuing to test at Fiorano. Both drivers work on the set-up and the development of the electronic system. The current world champion tests the tyres in particular, without forgetting the start simulations. In the last day of testing, Schumacher makes up for lost time in the afternoon and sets a ton of laps. The team was forced to end the morning testing session early, since the F2001 car suffered an engine failure. Towards the evening, tank trucks flood the track. Schumacher is hence able to work on the car set-up, tyres and start procedure on the wet asphalt. The irony is that the Fiorano track is struck by a violent thunderstorm, along with lighting and bolts. Despite the engine issue and the bad weather, Schumacher is able to complete 111 laps in total. His best time is a 59’’385. Badoer sets 37 laps and his best time is a 1'00"236. Barrichello only does one of the four testing days. Ferrari wants him to rest in order to calmly get over the anger over the Zeltweg race and prepare for the Monte Carlo Grand Prix. Michael Schumacher has mixed statistics at Monaco with no half measures, given that he either won or retired. The then-Benetton driver finished 4th in his debut season in 1992. At the end of the 1998 Monaco Grand Prix, the Ferrari driver was classified 10th. In the meantime, Fiat, BMW, DaimlerChrysler, Ford and Renault previously announced that they were going to create an alternative world championship. The target is to rival Bernie Ecclestone and the Formula 1 championship. This is to prevent the danger represented by Leo Kirch, majority owner of the company that owns Formula 1 and Slec. He is threatening to close the circus inside its own pay-tv circuit. Therefore, the same car manufacturers decide to sign the first official document for the constitution of a new society which will organize a new single-seater world championship, starting from Tuesday 1 January 2008. 120 members of Acea - which is the association of the European constructors - sign the deal in Rome. 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 and Renault with Benetton. They will engage in the new enterprise and welcome the independent teams, such as Minardi or Jordan, in the new championship. The attack to Ecclestone is really starting to take shape. The new society will see the light by the end of June. It will be supervised by Paolo Cantarella, Fiat managing director, for the first year. The alternative championship will only start in 2008. Until Monday 31 December 2007, the agencies and the teams are bound to the Concordia Pact. However, the reason behind the tear is not only motivated by the philanthropic wishes of not depriving the world from the racing images. The five manufactures know 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".
In the meantime, Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello will remain at Ferrari for the foreseeable future. The Maranello team announces that both drivers have extended their contracts for the 2002 season:
"Ferrari announces that Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello will continue the technical and competitive collaboration with Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro until 2004 and the 2002 seasons respectively".
This confirmation shuts the rumours that Kimi Räikkönen was replacing Barrichello at the end of the season. The speculations are ultimately dissolved by the renewal announcement. 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".
How will you stay motivated, knowing that you will race for same team for the next 3 years:
"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".
Schumacher talks about the upcoming 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".
What is your take on the clash with Juan Pablo Montoya in Austria?
"Having watched the race on television and seen what happened on lap 16. I can say that it was less serious than I had thought at the time. I want to make it clear that, in my opinion, it was a normal race incident, as indeed I said later on Sunday night. It has to be said that when you sit in the car, you don't get the overview of the situation, which you can have when looking from the outside. Was he threatening? The media build up a fight between him and me. What happened on the circuit was racing. He is a very good driver and he has proven this. I look forward to a competition with him but I will not go into a verbal discussion. This is what the media wants. Maybe he wants it, maybe he is looking for it but I will clever enough not to go for it".
The economic terms are yet unknown. According to some rumours, Schumacher will get a salary of 30.000.000 dollars per year, while Barrichello will probably receive 8.000.000 dollars a year. The Brazilian can look forward to the future with confidence. He analyses the Monaco track, hoping to not get involved in any 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 Barrichello explains that the renewal is none other than the extension of an already existing contract:
"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. There were a lot of rumours about my contract but 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 Monaco weekend does not get off to a great start for Juan Pablo Montoya. As soon as he sets foot in the FIA press room, Juan Pablo is blocked by one of the girls from the local Automobil Club. The woman in question has very little Formula 1 knowledge and does not recognize Montoya. She gently asks to check the validity of Montoya’s pass on the system located at the entrance of the paddock. The Williams driver, who is known for having quite a touchy temperament, replies to the women with a rather Italic expression:
"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 typical English humour, Coulthard 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 most insidious rivals. The championship leader is not scared of Montoya’s race bravado, which resulted 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, Michael admitted that you are the main obstacle between himself and the 4th 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. What other people say and what points there are, these sorts of things are the fill-in paragraphs for all the journalists".
Montoya will race at Monaco as a Formula 1 driver for the first time, after a mediocre performance in the F.3000 series in 1998:
"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".
Montoya says that driving here is the realization of a childhood dream:
"Driving in two of the most know circuit of the world, such as Indianapolis and Monte-Carlo".
Coulthard won the 2000 Monaco Gran Prix. The McLaren driver is philosophizing that some drivers will be mentally be challenged by this track ("Villeneuve always has some troubles here") and the security of it:
"I think Monaco is safe on the Grand Prix calendar until there's a serious accident. You tend to bounce off the barriers and maintain the accident on the track. It's probably more of a problem for all of you, the mechanics, the logistics side of it. The drivers typically turn up and everything's prepared and we go driving. It's just another track, another challenge".
The big question is related to the automatic starting systems, which created some headaches during the Spanish and Austrian races. Montoya and Coulthard have no doubt that the launch control systems could provoke dangerous situations at the start of the Monaco Grand Prix. According to Montoya, those systems are quick, efficient and reliable. Coulthard was one of the first victims of the electronics aids. The McLaren driver remarks:
"Our system is very straightforward, it's an electronic control as were the clutches before we had launch control. I was very surprised when we had the problem in Barcelona because in theory it's just another way of controlling the clutch. I think that if we, with our own electronics company, are able to make a mistake, then it's inevitable that some of the teams will have problems. It will just be a little while getting sorted out and then I would expect we won't have any problems again. My understanding is that Hakkinen did the wrong thing, so it was a driver error. That can happen at any time".
The drivers head out for Thursday practice on the 24th May 2001. Schumacher is the fastest driver in FP1 with a 1'21"577. He is eight tenths quicker than David Coulthard, while Jarno Trulli is 3rd fastest for Jordan. His team mate Frentzen is 4th ahead of Rubens Barrichello and Mika Hakkinen, who has some issues during the session. The McLaren driver redeems himself by setting the benchmark in FP2, with a 1'19"853. The Flying Finn is 0.463 thousand quicker than Schumacher, who sets a 1'20"316. Williams struggles on Thursday. Both cars are involved in incidents in FP2. Ralf shunt against the barrier in the swimming pool section. Despite the off, Ralf Schumacher is 3rd fastest, a second off the pace. Barrichello is in 4th place. Juan Pablo Montoya has a difficult afternoon session. The Colombian loses control of the Williams car immediately after the Swimming Pool section and crashes against the guardrail. The FW23 car remains stationary in the middle of the track. The drivers behind slam on the brakes in order to avoid the stricken car. The FP2 session is interrupted for three minutes. Jarno Trulli is 5th fastest while David Coulthard is 6th. Jean Alesi is 8th. His Prost car has been aerodynamically revised for this weekend. The French driver demonstrates that he still has the heavy foot and is ready to do his best, wherever allowed. Villeneuve is 9th and is happy about his performance. On the other hand, he is annoyed with the BAR team. Giancarlo Fisichella is 11th. His gentle driving style is allowing the Benetton team to half smile for the first time since the start of the 2001 season. The team is waiting for something substantial to change soon. Jaguar, Sauber, Arrows and Minardi are having a bad day in the office. Both Minardi drivers crash out in free-practice. The Jordan and Arrows drivers test new front wings that are quite unusual.
The FIA vetoes the use of those front wings on the grounds of safety, stating that they are potentially dangerous. McLaren, Ferrari and Williams are instead using more conventional aerodynamic solutions. Monaco is a street track that requires a great aerodynamic load, together with different suspension geometries and low-torque engines. A year ago, Hakkinen was the king of Thursday. However, he was almost two seconds slower in qualifying. However, the Monegasque free-practice sessions have a special taste and the joy of leading free-practice lasts for two days. Hakkinen and McLaren-Mercedes enjoy a joyful catwalk, offering smiles and promises to the sponsors. Hakkinen, Coulthard and McLaren are not under the illusion that they will remain on top in qualifying and in the race. The other teams are scared by the Ferrari car that was seen in free practice. Hakkinen jumps to the top of the FP2 standing after using a set of fresh rubber. Michael uses the same set of tyres run for two hours, including FP1 and FP2. This choice is also facilitated by the fact that the F2001 does not seem to have any weak points in the tight, twisty, narrow and slippery section of the Monaco layout. The F2001 is a car that is already perfect in terms of set-up. According to the drivers, it is easy to drive. Jean Alesi would have surely loved to drive this Ferrari. Unfortunately for him, he has never benefited from these means during his Maranello experience. Jean has already done 190 Grand Prix but is still excited to drive at Monte Carlo. The Prost driver considers Monte Carlo as his home race, given that the race track is only a couple of hours away from Avignon:
"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".
It is clear that Alesi still wants to fight for the top positions. This is a year that has taken a turn for the worse so far, as it was the case in 2000. The Prost driver ends FP2 in a remarkable 8th, behind the top teams. This means double. The French mark is going through a tough period. The Prost team has made a number of aerodynamic and suspension modifications for this race. Looking at the first free-practice session, it seems that the car has made 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…The car is different. We have a new floor, a new front wing. The whole package looks like it is an improvement and there is a real chance of us doing well".
Alesi is disconsolate yet confident that the team can score points at Monaco. He looks at the boats and the blue sky for a moment before talking about himself:
"Alain Prost knows exactly what is going on and is working to turn this situation around. 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. This is our best free practice so far this season and this is a very encouraging sign. I hope this will also bring our first good result at the end of the weekend".
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".
According to rumours, the main talking point on Friday will be Montezemolo’s announcement of a new sponsor. The name of the sponsor is Vodafone, which is a British telecommunication giant. The Maranello has the desire to clean up the F2001 single-seater. The car has so many sponsors that it has become a patchwork, in terms of colours. The aim is to therefore have a simple, linear and red monocoloured image of the F2001 car. There is also the issue of rising costs, considering the sophisticated technology and Schumacher/Barrichello’s salaries. Furthermore, the Ferrari mechanics have created a funfair-type train in order to easily transport all the car supplies before and after each session. As predicted, Montezemolo announces a major sponsorship deal with Vodafone. It is a three-year deal, 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 red and everyone knows that I like red a lot. Red is still the most colour of our history, our present and our future. 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".
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".
Eddie Jordan is infuriated by the Ferrari announcement. On Wednesday 22 March 2000 at exactly 18:20, the English manager and David Haines, director of the global brand of the telecommunication tycoon, had an agreement. It was probably going to be a three-year deal, starting from 2002, for a total of 100.000.000 dollars, (39.000.000 in 2002, 50.000.000 in 2003 and 52.000.000 in 2004, plus a bonus of 9.000.000). During the meeting, David Haines would have said:
"You’ve got the deal".
Instead, Vodafone decides to join forces with Scuderia Ferrari. The Global Brand Director did not have any decision power from Vodafone, even if he was part of the brand steering committee. Jordan and Haines had two more meetings afterwards. The first meeting was on Tuesday 6 February 2001 at the Silverstone headquarters. The other was on Wednesday 14 February 2001 at the Hilton Hotel in Heathrow, where it was eventually found an agreement. This is the reason why Eddie Jordan sues Vodafone, requiring a free of 150.000.000 dollars. To demonstrate that these words were truly said, Jordan will give the notebook of the commercial director and ex-journalist Ian Phillips, who registered the conversation. Vodafone reiterates that no agreement has been reached with Jordan, given that the terms have not been defined and that there is no binding contract. During the directive council meeting between Geither, Harris, Phillips and Perring on Tuesday 5 April 2001, it was decided that Vodafone would continue the talks with Ferrari. If these did not work, the earlier agreement with Jordan would be considered. Other meetings followed suit at the San Marino Grand Prix. The emissaries of Vodafone indicated that Jordan should not associate the brand with tobacco industry Bensons Edges. It is emphasized that that a possible agreement would have precluded the possibility for Benson to have the space on the car as a secondary sponsor. On Monday 23 April 2001, Eddie Jordan, David Haines, Peter Harris, Joe Kieser and Peter Dart meet at the Pelham Hotel in London. The English manager asked for explanations, after hearing the first rumours that talked about a possible agreement between Vodafone and Ferrari. On Thursday 10 May 2001, the executive Vodafone commission has yet another meeting. The next day, Geitner and Montezemolo signs a letter of intent. It would seal the subsequent agreement, even if the final signature arrives on the 22nd May 2001. Following the announcement, the Vodafone emissaries meet Jordan once again at Monte-Carlo. On the same day, the FIA president Max Mosley expresses his thoughts on the electronic liberalization and the chaos regarding the will of the cars manufactures to create a new championship:
"No, I do not regret to have 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".
Mosley announces the transfer of all commercial rights of Formula 1 to the duo Slec-Kirch, starting from Saturday 1 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, who accuses the FIA of monopoly. The FIA president declares that the alternative championship will be recognized by the Federation, as long as it follows the rule book:
"I think that in the end we will see an agreement that suits everybody. Good sense will prevail and there will be a deal".
David Coulthard secures pole position on Saturday 26 May 2001. This is his second pole of the season after Imola. Schumacher will start alongside his title rival. The second row is also monopolized by McLaren and Ferrari. Hakkinen rounds up the top-3 whilst Barrichello is 4th. Ralf Schumacher is 5th and will start ahead of Eddie Irvine. Jarno Trulli is 7th while Montoya is only 8th. It is a grid that truly matters, since it is very difficult to overtake on the Monaco street circuit. Schumacher tries everything to set the fastest time during the first stages of qualifying. It does not take long to understand that the battle for pole is between him and Coulthard. The first to take action is the McLaren driver, who is immediately driving very fast and setting one fast lap after another. After 30 minutes, he is under the illusion that he will be the poleman. Hakkinen is also going very fast, while Rubens Barrichello is struggling so far in 7th. Schumacher tries to react and exits the pitlane when there is less traffic. There are 15 minutes left to go until the end of the session. The German Ferrari driver snatches first place away from Coulthard. However, the McLaren is not the type to give up easily and goes on out on track a fraction before the other drivers join him. He improves his time with 1'17"430. Pole position is provisionally his for the time being. Schumacher is two tenths behind by. Hakkinen sets the 3rd fastest time, which is three-tenths slower than Coulthard. Barrichello is a further tenth behind in 4th. The current world champion makes a mistake on his final run and is not able to improve the lap time. Schumacher touches the guardrail at Portier and is forced to back out of the lap. It was looking like a very fast lap since Michael had set the fastest time in sector 1. This is a hoax like it was the case two years ago. Montezemolo reflects on the qualifying session:
"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 cracks a joke at the end of the qualifying session:
"I thought someone had moved the barriers as I arrived there".
The Ferrari driver then goes on to say:
"I had to abort my first run as both Arrows were driving around without using their mirrors. My penultimate lap was not perfect and then I had the incident at Le Portier on the final lap. I just turned into the corner too early and touched the barriers on the inside. I was one-tenth up after the first sector, but who knows what would have happened at the end of it. I’d rather be on pole than 2nd position but David did a better job than I did. Still, I am happy to be on the front row. We’ll have to see what we can do tomorrow; I am looking forward to the race".
Are you afraid of the McLaren cars?
"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".
Pole seemed possible but then you made the mistake at Portier:
"I was just too tight. I should have 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. 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. Being on the front row was the best we could do. It is better to start on the front row rather than behind".
Did you expect Coulthard to be faster than Hakkinen?
"The fact Mika did his best time on a new set of tyres is a good thing, since I had to resort to use older tyres 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. The race will be very open".
Halfway through the afternoon, 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 reciprocates by giving his gloves, Ferrari T-shirts and a cap. While doing so, the champion makes a small gaffe while talking in German with Isolde. He asks her:
"Where do you come from?"
She answers that she is from South Tirol and he replies:
"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 complains that he wanted to started higher up:
"I tried for my first run to use a used set of tyres, 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 Casinò".
Jarno Trulli was enjoying the front row a year prior. The Jordan team threw a party for Jarno and his friends were congratulating him. Starting 2nd behind Schumacher was an incredible feat. 12 months later, the Italian driver sits in the corner of his caravan. 8th place is not exactly what he wanted. The Jordan driver is also furious with Michael Schumacher:
"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 Trulli is feeling at home for two reasons. He has the Monte-Carlo residence and spends most of the year here. Furthermore, he likes the track and has experienced very good and very bitter moments 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 tyres, 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".
Jordan-Honda had an issue with the electronics during qualifying. The various systems are far from being optimally tuned. Trulli will not use neither the automatic start or traction control at the start of the start. Fisichella will start two places behind Jarno. It is a track that suits Giancarlo’s driving style. Benetton-Renault has never qualified this well so far:
"Finally, we are happy. It is just great. 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. I did a fairly good job with the engineers on the balance and we had good mechanical grip. It is really encouraging for tomorrow as 10th is a good position to be in. I just have to make a good start and work from there. If we are lucky, we can score some points".
Flavio Briatore is gloating as well:
"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 is particularly proud of his 12th career pole position, since he believes it was the perfect lap. He also set a new lap record. Furthermore, Hakkinen thinks that Coulthard can challenge Schumacher for the title:
"David has improved a lot; it is not me who has become worse".
The Finnish driver seems resigned. McLaren has officially declared that they will not use team orders, due to the internal hierarchies. Mika promises that he will step aside if he has the chance to help Coulthard to win the championship. This is not what he said at Zeltweg. The Flying Finn declared that if he did not have the chance to win the race, he would have preferred to stay at home. This is a big step backwards. The journalists keep asking Mika what changed in him. The Finn annoyingly replies:
"I have a son".
This answer can maybe satisfy the many journalists that believe that Mika is gratified by fatherhood. Coulthard identifies the plane incident, which occurred 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".
Coulthard sets the best time at the end of the morning warm-up session on Sunday 27 May 2001, stopping the clock at 1'20"944. Hakkinen is 2nd fastest. The Scottish driver is also seven tenths faster than Schumacher. Barrichello is 4th albeit one and half second slower than the pace-setter. The teams are focusing on the electronic systems at the end of the session. Two weeks ago, several cars stalled on the gird after having with the electronics. Hakkinen’s McLaren was one of them. When it is time to start the formation lap of the Monaco Grand Prix, Coulthard stalls on the grid. The Scotsman is waving his arms in frustration. The pole sitter is still stuck as the last driver, Tarso Marques, streams past him. According to the rules, Coulthard is forced to start from the back of the grid. His qualifying effort is thwarted and the resolution of the launch-control problem is just a small consolation. Recovering from the last position 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 remarks 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 apologizes to Coulthard for saying this rather unfortunate sentence. At lights out, Michael Schumacher starts from pole position. Go, go, go! Michael leads Hakkinen going into Saint Devote. Barrichello is 3rd, ahead of Ralf Schumacher, Montoya and Irvine. The Jaguar drops to 6th on the run up to Casino Square. At the exit of Loews hairpin, Nick Heidfield tangles with the Arrows car and slams into the wall. The left sidepod of the Sauber car is completely destroyed and the German is forced to retire. Halfway through the second lap, Montoya has a massive issue. After a trip over the kerb, the rear of the Williams car steps out and the F3000 Champion slams against the Swimming pool barriers twice. He is forced to retire. That section of the track is under yellow flags as the marshals are clearing the Williams car out of the way. McLaren is not having a good race so far. As expected, Coulthard is stuck behind the two Arrows. Hakkinen is not doing any better at the end of the 10th lap. On lap 12 out of the scheduled 78, the Flying 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 issues. The handling problem seem solved and Hakkinen is gaining back the speed. It is only an illusion though. By the end of the 15th lap, it is game over for Hakkinen. It is his fifth retirement out of 7 races. According to rumours, there was an issue with the differential. McLaren is having an overall dreadful race, despite the pole position. So far, it is an indescribably frustrating and cursed season for the former world champion. McLaren’s weekend goes from bad to worse. At the start of the 21st lap, Coulthard is up to 13th but is still stuck behind Bernoldi’s Arrows. Bernoldi is lapping on average 2-3 slower than Schumacher and should maybe relinquish his place to a much faster McLaren. The Brazilian is doing his own race though, fighting for track position and testing Coulthard’s strength character to the limit. On lap 26, McLaren's day is summed up by one image: 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 gives room to the leader, but loses ground to the Arrows. David excepted a completely different afternoon after securing pole position on Saturday. The 27th lap 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 against the two Honda powered cars. The 1997 world championship is not too worried about the Rome driver. The latter temporarily enters the points paying positions on lap 30. The Honda engine at the back of Trulli’s Jordan erupts in flames and he is forced to retire. On lap 40, Irvine looks set to equal Jaguar’s best ever result if he can hold on to 4th. Nobody predicted that a Ford-powered Jaguar would lap 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. Benetton’s hopes of scoring points vanish on lap 43. Giancarlo Fisichella loses the backend of the car, hits the outside wall at Saint Devote and is out of the race. Bernoldi pits, allowing Coulthard to have clear air. The Brazilian is about to sprint out the pits whilst the refuelling is not complete, slowing down the entire pit-stop procedure. Coulthard, having not yet stopped, is closing in on the points-paying position. This could happen, given that he can now fully exploit the potential of the MP4-16 car. Alesi has a very good chance of scoring points for the Prost team. Back to the front, Schumacher and Barrichello are dominating the race. Nobody is able to challenge the two scarlet cars even after the round of pit stops. The Maranello team is set to take the first 1-2 of the season. Schumacher come to the pits for his one and only stop on lap 53, 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 failure. He is slowing down massively and, is forced to retire on lap 57. Barrichello relinquishes the lead to Schumacher after making a 6.9 stop at the end of the 59th lap.
Coulthard pits on lap 67 from 6th position. He will hang on to the position without too much trouble, since Jenson Button is unable to get through. Alesi is ahead of the duo in 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 during 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 to pick up a valuable championship point. Furthermore, the Prost team would be level on points with Arrows and Benetton in the Constructors’ Championship. Going into the last few corners of the 78th lap, Michael Schumacher slows down to let Barrichello close up. At the chequered flag, the two Ferrari cars stage a photo-finish. Eddie Irvine finishes in 3rd and will join the two Ferrari drivers on the podium. In 2000, he achieved an important 4th place. This is also Jaguar’s first-ever podium in Formula 1. Jacques Villeneuve is 4th. Coulthard completes a really nice comeback drive from last place and crosses the line in 5th position. This result does not satisfy the McLaren driver. There are now 12 points separating him and Schumacher (40 to 52). As previously said, Jean Alesi finishes in an excellent 6th. Ferrari extends their lead in the constructors’ championship. It seems like no one is able to challenge the Maranello team so far. Ferrari has 76 points whilst McLaren only 44. The Woking team had another disaster with the electronic systems, even if it was slightly mitigated by Coulthard’s brilliant race recovery from last position. It is thus evident that McLaren needs to resolve this issue as soon as possible. Ever since the return of the electronic systems, the Silver Arrows stalled on the grid on three different occasions. This makes everything so easy that it seems difficult. This is Michael’s final thought. Rubens cries out in pain after suffering cramps on the right foot. He emphasizes that he did the whole 60 laps of the race without any feeling from the foot:
"My race was not as easy as it looked, because round about lap 10, I started to get a 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, since I couldn’t feel my foot. 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".
This is your 29th victory for Ferrari and your 5th win in the streets of Monaco. How did you do it?
"It was an easy drive, but still hard work as it always is here. I don’t feel that emotional because it has been a straightforward win. It wasn’t anything exceptional, nothing exceptionally happened through the race which could make you emotional. I am happy. It is always nice to win in Monte-Carlo; it is always special. I was out in front on my own. I was thinking about reliability most of the time, at one point I had a chat on the radio with Ross about the other driver and he told me to keep my concentration and that his heart was not strong enough for another incident, like I had in Indianapolis. To win here in Monaco, you need to finish the race. 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 the radio communications were ongoing and intense. Todt reveals that the pit-wall had to spur Barrichello to focus on the race. Michael, did you realize that 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 in order to let the faster cars go by. I was also lapped in the past. Coulthard is now my rival and has become really strong. 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 that 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 with these electronic issues. Todt does not respond:
"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, Barrichello is talking about his cramp on the right foot while Eddie Irvine looks at the journalists. Without saying anything, the Jaguar driver is pouring his thoughts towards Barrichello. The North-Irish man publicly says:
"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".
Is McLaren gifting the championship to Ferrari or does Ferrari not want to win it? Rubens’s reply to Irvine is the following:
"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".
Schumacher welcomed Irvine to the podium. Irvine replies with a triple-bladed smile:
"The story changes but the drivers are always the same".
The ex-Ferrari driver is a cheeky bugger:
"Villeneuve overtaking me? Not at all, I was the one who enjoyed deceiving with him".
The 32-year-old driver from Newtownards ends his podium droughts after 32 races. His last podium was at the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday 31 October 1999. The former Ferrari driver lost the championship in Japan, whilst Schumacher party dressed as a night porter in the McLaren stand. It is a memory that Jordan will never forget. Irvine scores his first points of the season:
"Since it is not contract negotiation time, it is probably the aero package, it made a huge step".
Eddie says these words laughing. The Jaguar driver parties on his boat after the post-race conference ("Now we're going to open everything that there is to open" announces with an elegant double entendre). The technical checks 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 is still the only driver to have scored points in all races of the 2001 season, after finishing 5th at the Monaco Grand Prix. He is not happy though:
"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".
Enrique Bernoldi stopped Coulthard’s comeback drive for a long time. The press mocks the McLaren driver at first but will then write that the latter would have finished higher if it wasn’t for the Arrows driver. 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 does not hold anything back when talking about Bernoldi and the Arrows team:
"I told Bernoldi that his behavior was unsporting and not reflective of the attitude that a young developing driver should be putting into his career. 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 hopes are dwindling by the second. On the other hand, Mika Hakkinen’s season is already over. Coulthard’s car stalled on the grid while the Finnish’s race ended on lap 16. The McLaren has no answers for the disastrous weekend. Hakkinen says:
"I do not know what happened. I made a good start and was close behind Michael when all of a sudden, the car started to pull to the right. The car started to vibrate a lot and had issues with the gearbox. I went into the pits but the crew couldn’t find anything wrong immediately and we decided to go back out. However, the car was still behaving in a strange manner. I decided that it would be impossible to go flat out and there was no other option than to retire. We are not sure what the problem was but I’m sure that the engineers will find out very soon. 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".
Going forward, Hakkinen needs to find someone who can motivate him. The Finn only scored four points in the last 7 races and his championship campaign is already compromised. It is going to be very difficult to close the gap to Schumacher. The current world champion is consolidating his championship lead with 48 points.