29th May 2001. Two days following the Monaco Grand Prix won by Michael Schumacher, some teams are going to a hot Magny-Cours for a testing session. The asphalt of the French track is 53° degrees whilst the atmospheric temperature reaches 35 °C. Despite this, with a not yet finely tuned car, Ralf Schumacher lowers by half a second the pole set by his brother Michael a year ago. He is able to do this with great easy. This limit is also smashed by another four drivers, thanks to a miracle from the tires. Furthermore, on the second day, the new wings and modified suspensions are starting to give their contribution, for which the times are likely to be lowered again. This means that the1'13"864 time, which is absolute record set by Nigel Mansell in 1992, could be in danger.
There are many updates being tested, but only for the big team. McLaren-Mercedes is still busy understanding what went wrong on the starting systems of the two Silver Arrows. Other teams, such as Ferrari, the team does things on a grand scale, as it brings two cars and the two official drivers. The greatest possible effort. One small hiccup is the delayed arrival of some important parts from Maranello regarding the aerodynamics, suspensions and brakes.
Schumacher goes out on track at around 4:00 p.m. and does only an installation lap to get insights on the track. A race simulation is scheduled for the second day which only means one thing: the debut of a new engine upgrade. At Maranello, the team has not yet deliberated a much more powerful 050 engine. This step is an increase of 10 horsepower and is not able to consume less fuel. This is perfect for the Canadian Grand Prix, scheduled for 10th June 2001, which will give more flexibility to Ferrari’s strategies for the following championship races. While waiting to get out on track to test, Schumacher is giving interview to the journalists, on their microphones and notebooks:
"We are testing here because this is the only opportunity to do it before the race (according to the FIA rules, a team cannot test on the track, where the race is being held on, a month prior to the event) and we need to take advantage of it".
In seven races, Ferrari had only one mechanical failure it is a good sign, no?
"I would say that it is in line with those of previous years. It is strange what happened to Rubens in Spain". (broken rear suspension)
The Canadian track is favourable for you:
"It is one of those tracks where Ferrari has always gone well. We often won here but everything can rapidly change. One must always assess how a car will react to the characteristics of the circuit, where, by the way, you cannot test before the race. This is why we always need to work hard in order to always have the best car. Also let’s look at this aspect. It is the first time, this year, that we are going to race in a medium-high speed circuit, which needs a completely different set-up, in terms of aerodynamics and of the mechanics, than what we are used to. In any case, I hope that the car will adapt well to this track and to work without any issues throughout the race weekend".
Poor reliability and risky starts. What is happening to McLaren?
"Be careful of not making the mistake of confusing the driver’s mistakes with the mechanical failures. These two aspects are not comparable. It is unusual to see McLaren having similar and mostly repeated mistakes. Coulthard has finished every race this season. You cannot talk about the car’s poor reliability".
What do you think about Hakkinen’s crisis?
"I do not know what is happening to him and I do not think about an eventual crisis for him. Mika has been really unlucky".
Does this mean that Coulthard is your main rival for the championship?
"I said that after Austria: Hakkinen is out of the running. With Ralf failing to pick up points at Monte-Carlo, the fight is between David and I".
Rubens Barrichello finishes the testing day, having done 78 laps and the best time is a 1'15"448. Having had problems with the left foot during the Monte Carlo race, the Brazilian says that he did have any pain but emphasized that he has not yet understood what happened:
"It was so strange to have foot cramps during the race which then went away. Only the toes’ insensibility lasted a bit longer. All it took was to make some movement afterwards. Luckily. I finished the race but it was very tough. I had a terrible time. During the race, I was focused on driving while, at the same, had to convince myself that the foot did not hurt. The car was perfect and could have been an easier job if it was not for that. It was easy for Michael, not for me. It never happened before, a mystery".
The situation is much worse for McLaren:
"The electronics are a very complex matter. We did a great job and were also luckily to set-up those system correctly. McLaren had and is having hiccups. It is a shame for them. Everyone said that driving would have become too easy. This is not the case, incidents can happen. something happened in the wheel systems or to the portable computers and servers which downloads the programs on the cars".
Do you feel sorry for Mika Hakkinen?
"In a way yes. I am sorry to see someone like him, with only four points to his name after seven races, retiring so early into the race. It is not cool. è bello. Mika is a driver who is undoubtedly worth more than the four points he has scored so far. When he dropped out of the race, it certainly helped Ferrari, but we want to win out there where it counts - on the track. We want the competition, the battles and the overtakes".
Rubens, you did a great job in those testing days:
"We tried a bit of everything, to use for the upcoming Canadian and the French races. We cannot afford to stop developing the car".
Could the Canadian race be the one for you?
"It is track that I like very much. There is an incredible peace in this island which helps a driver’s concentration. I like to go there very muck. I am waiting to race there with great joy, I cannot wait".
As previously said by the Ferrari driver, the main topic for McLaren is the syndrome of the false starts. Even in France, out of 12 start simulations, Alexander Wurz was stationary twice. However, even the V10 Mercedes engine, which is mounted on the only Mp4/16 on track, is a problem. A bit before the end of testing, Wurz comes into neutral in the pit lane with a column of smoke rising from the rear end of the car.
Unmistakable signal that the engine broke. Was it a major failure? Yes and no. No, because the engine did more than 378 kilometres, which is the equivalent of a more than a race mileage. Yes, because the security limit is way too low even if it has good performance. The point is that it is not the best one. Apart from technical problems mercilessly demonstrated even at Magny-Cours, McLaren will soon find itself in big trouble, coming from sporting authorities.
If the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), when ratifying the Monaco race result, finds in the marshals’ race report a reference to Ron Dennis and Norbert Haug’s verbal aggression towards Enrique Bernoldi (who was ahead of Coulthard for over 40 laps, by legitimately defending his position), then they will start proceedings against the two managers for unsportsmanlike conduct or insulting behaviour between a team member. It is written in the FIA regulations. Something like this, for example, happened to Ferrari. At the 1994 Portuguese Grand Prix, Ferrari was disqualified.
The three-race ban was suspended but the team though had to pay a fine of 80 million lire. This is because a Ferrari mechanic, locked in the circuit with other colleagues, had knocked down a gate to exit from it. Thus, after a very unfortunate Monaco race with Hakkinen retired and Coulthard forced to start at the back of the grid for the launch control system’s issues, McLaren could find himself in the dock and even charged for the verbal aggression. Coulthard is not faring any better after being sued by an ex hostess. She claims that she was injured in 1999 in an accident, while in the car with him:
"Coulthard is a bully and drives like crazy".
Meanwhile at Magny-Cours, Ralf Schumacher is once again the fastest driver with a 1'15"214, followed by Barrichello (82 laps completed with a best time of 1'15"387) and Michael Schumacher (75 laps completed and with a best time of 1'15"508). An offensive launch against the publicity and sponsorships of the tobacco agencies comes from Brussels. UE health commissioner, David Byrne, explains:
"We want to break the connection between the consummation of tobacco and the positive image, of social acceptance which is transmitted by the advertising campaigns".
The new legislation also decrees, among other things, on sponsorships of events, in particular sports ones, by the big tobacco agencies. The measure mainly concerns Formula 1, which will need to find new financial backers. This will run on the European circuits. Even Ferrari will need to cover the image of the main principal sponsor. The new norms should become operative starting from 2004.
Williams takes the fastest testing time at the Monza circuit as well. The FW23 is run by Juan Pablo Montoya. Sauber and Minardi are also testing in Italy. The Colombian, who is focused particularly on the braking system and on the tires, does 49 laps, the best one being in a 1'24"765. Sauber receives good news from the FIA court of appeal in Paris. The BAR’s appeal against Kimi is rejected. Raikkonen, according to the Anglo-American team, overtook under yellow flags at the Austrian race after finishing 4th. The Zeltweg race classification is now definitive. La BAR acknowledges the decision through a declaration of Craig Pollock:
"Of course, we accept the judgement of the International Court of Appeal. Our primary concern was to establish what drivers are allowed to do in the interests of safety in a yellow flag zone".
Instead at Le Castellet, Toyota completes a four-day test with Allan McNish, who does 200 laps. The team is preparing to also test at Imola and Monza in the following days. The Formula 1 debut is expected for the start of the 2002 season. Therefore, the work of the Japanese team continues. On 1st June 2001, the rain does not disturb Ferrari’s testing of the three cars that which will used at Canada. At Fiorano, Luca Badoer completes 119 laps in total: six are done with Barrichello’s chassis (marked with the number 212), six with the spare one (211) and seven with Schumacher’s one (210). The best time set by him is a 1'01"059.
In the evening, the cars arrived at Malpensa to go to Montreal. The intense testing week is not yet over. The following day, Treviso driver is back on track at Fiorano to continue testing the electronics, the aerodynamics and fuel consumption, with a total of 50 laps completed through the entire morning, to which 40 laps in the afternoon. The testing is suspended for a long time, when it is necessary to replace the engine at the end of its mileage.
Arriving at Canada, la Williams relies heavily on the Michelin factor. The tire supplier appeared to be quite performant during the testing day. The team, based at Grove, wants to leave behind the two disappointing week-end at Zeltweg e Monaco, having not scored a single point. Ralf Schumacher e Juan Pablo Montoya will be specially observed. The semi-permanent track, which is all-braking and accelerations, really adapted to the characteristics of FW23. It is no coincidence that Michael Schumacher and David Coulthard count Williams to be favourites for the race win, alongside the usual Ferrari and McLaren.
The test saw a competitive Williams, who is working to improve more. This is an example. The current third-best team of the season is the only who run both in France and Monza. For the first circuit, the goal was to prepare the cars’ regulation for the French Grand Prix di Francia and to test the Montreal upgrades. Simultaneously, the Brianza circuit allowed the Michelin technicians to identify the best tire for Montreal. Those elements make it clear that nothing has been left to chance. Based on the known and confidential results of these tests, Frank Williams, always cautions on the predictions, gives his opinion on the race weekend:
"Montreal is one of those circuits where it is important to have good grip and very good traction but is also important to have two very fast cars. This will mean that the set-up choice will be crucial. The next track is a fast-track version of Monaco. The top speeds will be very elevated, with almost two consecutive hairpins. The poor grip surface of the track will affect the traction and the brakes".
However, Williams is also careful, emphasizing that he is not satisfied at all by the team’s results in opening seven rounds of the championship:
"We are not particularly pleased with ourselves because the blunt facts are that out of 14 starts this year, we have finished only three times, although each time it was in the points. We have had five accidents, five car failures, no engine failures, and three times we have been pushed off the road. It is a bit unfair to say it's been a lamentable performance, but I see no reason to be happy with three finishes out of 14 races. You will never ever win a championship like that".
Apart from mechanical failures, the BMW engine, with a maximum power of 850 horsepower, has reportedly the highest power of any powertrain in the season. This represents a certainty for Williams. The Montreal layout is one of the most ideal circuits to lay down the horsepower and acceleration of the BMW engine. Another aspect are the tires, even in a year which saw the competition between two tire suppliers. The importance of the tires comes first, because it is close to 50% of the global performance of the car. Michelin sportive director, Pierre Dupasquier, explains:
"The Monaco result revealed how every race is a step forward for us and the improvement of the tires’ performances are in line with our expectations. There are numerous parameters what determine the result and no eventuality can be overlooked. There is an example for all to see: McLaren is a great team but everyone can see that it is going through a rough period. The fact that the cars equipped with our tires are constantly highlight means that we are giving tires which are suitable for every race track".
Dupasquier does not talk about other things. However, the ongoing testing at Monza and Magny-Cours reveals that, for the following two races on French turf, Michelin has prepared super tires in order to avoid the mistake of suppling tires which are harder than necessary, like it was done in Monaco. At the eve of Canadian Grand Prix, there is a controversy between Niki Lauda, Jaguar responsible, and McLaren, between the case created around Adrian Newey. The Austrian, who already attacked the Woking team in the previous days, continues to do in a German bi-weekly newspaper Kicker. Lauda accused Newey of lack of character but his jibes are mainly directed towards Dennis:
"It is typical of Ron. Despite knowing that Newey had already signed for Jaguar, he quickly made a new contract with him. A sneaky thing. But that is how he is, a difficult guy".
According to the three-time world championship, the contested engineer is satisfied by the Jaguar deal:
"He phoned me and thanked me a millionth times on Tuesday evening. He was happy and convinced it was the right decision".
According to Lauda, Dennis exploited Newey’s weak side, by guaranteeing that he would help with any legal problems, to which the breach of contract with Jaguar could have exposed him:
"This will cost dearly to Ron; this is looking around hundreds of millions of dollars. The court case will start immediately".
For his part, the responsible of Mercedes motorsport activity, Norbert Haug, questioned by the German news agency DPA, coldly reacts:
"At the moment, I do not want to comment what Lauda said. We are sure that Newey will remain with us for three more years, given that he signed the contract".
A predecessor of Newey, John Barnard, also spoke on the subject of Newey and McLaren:
"Ron does not understand the kind of pressure a designer has. After a time, you start to wonder how you can keep the momentum up. I do not think Ron appreciates that".
According Barnard, Newey is much more attracted by the relaxed life that Jaguar would have guaranteed for:
"To look for a way that will give you a little more of an easy life is quite attractive. Somebody like Jaguar could probably offer him all sorts of things. I have been in the same situation when I got a phone call from Ferrari".
Newey protects himself from journalists by not showing up in the North America, even if it should be emphasized that is his habit to not go to at least three or four races per year. His absence in Canada, like the one in Brazil at the start of the year, was already announced before this controversy exploded. Good for him, so that he can avoid uncomfortable questions. In the paddock, Bobby Rahal, manager of the Jaguar team, attacks Newey in no uncertain terms:
"I think friendship is always based on trust and good faith, and obviously I personally feel those have been severely damaged in this situation. Sure, it is a disappointment from a personal sense, but that's just part of life and we go on. The facts are clear. Adrian signed a contract. Which the Queens Counsel have declared it a legally binding commitment, very specific in detail. Our legal team is pursuing all options. We will just see what happens over the course of probably several months".
Jaguar immediately obtains from the London High Court an injunction against McLaren to let Newey free by the end of the contract, which is on the 13th July 2002. To this stance, McLaren responds by a press release in which it says that Jaguar tried with aggressive ways to hire Adrian. Also:
"At no time, in the discussions regarding Adrian's contract extension, were McLaren aware of any binding contract between Adrian and Jaguar Racing".
The agreement between Newey has been reached on the 31st May 2001. It was clear that Jaguar’ statement - despite McLaren informing them of Newey’s change of idea - would not have been issued.
"Despite, Jaguar issued the statement and we could not do anything about it".
What really happened? Well, Adrian Newey, who felt responsible for McLaren’s recent failures, caused by the malfunction of the launch control system, decided to accept the invite of his friend Bobby Rahal to take of the designs of Jaguar Racing, when his contract would have expired in August 2002. Encouraged by his wife Marigold, Newey see the possibility to demonstrate his talent by transforming a slow car into a competitive one. Ron Dennis, who was informed in advance of this agreement, remains distressed by Newey’s behavior, who did not inform him. Jo Ramirez, when discovering the will of the designer, goes to Dennis’ office to presents his idea:
"Ron, you are the one who brought him out of Patrick Head’s shadows to allow him to guide our designer team and recognized his value by paying him like a driver. He cannot do this. What can he do that is so good, Adrian, to keep him against his will?"
However, Ron’s commitment is as big as his pride. He, with great calm, responds:
"We are much better with him than without him, we have to keep him".
A couple of day after the Canadian Grand Prix, Ron Dennis, Bobby Rahal and Niki Lauda will come to an agreement in order to avoid a legal cause, in exchange for the payment of the legal expenses by McLaren. In the meantime, though, David Coulthard is indifferent to this polemic:
"On Adrian, there is nothing I can do on that subject which is going to influence me winning the race this weekend. I just want to concentrate on myself, my car and trying to win. I have had no success here but I scored lots of points".
The Scotsman, who arrived a week earlier to participate at the inauguration of the disco-restaurant of his friend Villeneuve (who was also a waiter), has to also deal with the aftermath of the Bernoldi case. The Brazilian was ahead of the McLaren driver for 42 laps and, after the race, had been targeted by the duo Dennis-Haug. The Arrows drivers explains what happened:
"I came out of the car and I was a little bit tired. When I came back from the scales, two people like Ron Dennis and Norbert Haug came to talk to me. I didn't really understand what they meant, you know, because I was doing my job".
A statement with which Schumacher agreed ("The FIA judged it fine") but not David:
"There was a couple of occasions on the track that I felt were outside the agreement that we have as drivers. If you do not have rules, then it becomes a much more dangerous place for us all to race. I felt there were a couple of occasions where he went beyond that. Next time, it might be someone else and it results in an accident which could injure a driver".
The McLaren driver, in fact, talks about Bernoldi waving at Mirabeau, which he did not like. Also, regarding Monaco, Coulthard points out that the stall, at the formation lap, was not caused a problem in the automatic launch control system, but to a problem related to the management of the engine. The cause for Hakkinen’s retirement was also discovered: it was a drivability issue which pushed the team, for this race, to change Hakkinen’s chassis. Talking about him, it seems like he is the third knot to be tied for McLaren. According to some rumours, he will retire at the end of the season. Coulthard has no illusions:
"There are no strategies and the drivers are not allowed to agree with them. I cannot imagine him saying 'I feel so relaxed.' Have you heard rumours that, he will be at my service from this race on? I put them out there".
Right on the Canadian of the Notre Dame Island, Ferrari used the first team order against Rubens Barrichello. This happened in 2000, when Ferrari scored the second 1-2 of the season. Michael Schumacher was slowed down by a problem. The team ordered Rubens to stay behind his teammate. Following the victory and after thanking his teammate, Schumacher was able to leave Canada with a consistent margin in the championship, 22 points ahead of Coulthard and 24 on Hakkinen, who was preparing to start a furious come-back. Immediately after the race, Michael declared:
"I want to publicly thank Rubens for the way he behaved towards me; he protected me when I was having issues and I will surely be able to reciprocate what he has done for me at some point. You will see, I will repay it".
Barrichello, after being complimented and thanked by Schumacher, said on that occasion:
"I had no problem staying behind Schumacher. When the team asked this, I did not even think about not following the instruction from the pit-wall. I have great faith in the team. I am sure that I would be supported in case that I am will be ahead of Michael".
The Brazilian driver is still waiting for a change to be compensated for what happened in 2000, regardless of the contract renewal for the following two seasons. Furthermore, after Zeltweg, when Barrichello was in serious danger of losing the Ferrari seat. Instead of listening to the order to let Schumacher by, with five laps to go, he instead slowed down at the finish line to do so. As everyone knows, within a couple of days, there was the announcement of his contract. Although, Ferrari made him well aware of his role in the team of second driver, without too much grumbling allowed. Rubens, which drives with only one foot, is saving brakes and fuel. This could be the time to have a brilliant performance for the Brazilian:
"I am hopeful after Monte Carlo and the Magny-Cours test. It is a medium-high speed track, the brakes are really important here and you brush against the protective walls".
Concerning last tear’ race in Montreal, there is also a curious detail to remember because of its close actuality. Coulthard, even then, was stationary at the start/finish line before the start of the formation lap. The Mercedes engine, at the back of the McLaren switched off. The mechanics had to had to re-enter the track, when time ran out before the formation lap, to re-activate the engine. The race director decided to penalize Coulthard with a 10-second penalty. Ten laps into the race, he served the penalty which gave way to Schumacher who was already ahead, having started the race from pole. La Ferrari is ready to repeat the exploit. Jean Todt guarantees that:
"The race cars were prepared very well: in particular, during last week’s testing days at Magny-Cours. As always, the brakes, the tires and the strategies are really important".
Down at Ferrari, there are some concerns regarding the high fuel consumptions that are required by the Canadian track. The fuel tank of the F2001 can take a maximum of 120 litres of fuel. Williams can arrive at 145 litres while McLaren is in between. The problem is that the car, on this case, cannot be changed during the race weekend. What Michael Schumacher is worried about is especially his brother Ralf’s competitiveness, without however neglecting other fundamental aspects:
"It will be necessary to understand how everything will work. The real problem is that one thing is important than others. Engine, tires and fuel consumptions need to be combined together in order to get the best out of them. Montreal is not my track and does not suit my driving style. I prefer high-speed corner but there are any here".
The eight round of the championship has, without doubt, a special taste for Jacques Villeneuve. HE has the opportunity to race in front of his compatriots at his home race. Unfortunately for him, he does not have a great point finish. In the circuit, named after his father Gilles, Jacques scored only six points in the last five races. All of them were scored in 1996, thanks to a 2nd place finish behind Damon Hill. The following year, the one that consecrated him as world champion, his home race lasted two laps, before he cluttered the external wall of the infamous chicane which leads to the start/finish straight.
Then? The Canadian did not score in the following years and had two other race-ending incidents. In 1998, he had to endure a difficult season with Williams and now there is the laborious growth of BAR, which is his new challenge in F1. Thus, he is looking forward to have a point-finish here. Jacques approaches the race, in front of his home crowd, with renewed enthusiasm. This is certainly not because, last Saturday, he inaugurated the Newtown, his new restaurant at Crescent Street, which is one of the most crowded and elegant streets of the Quebec capital. The renewed enthusiasm comes to him from having finally broken the Monte Carlo taboo, a track that he has always disliked, after finishing 4th. The Canadian comments this performance:
"I never did so well at Monaco before, not even in the Williams days. It means that we got everything right. At one point I was hoping to catch Irvine for 3rd but I knew that he was much faster than me. On a track like Monaco, it is easy to do a mistake and this is why it was better to manage 4th place".
Now Jacques would sign up for a repeat performance at his Quebec. This would cancel the impression that his teammate, Olivier Panis, is going much faster than him this season:
"The Monaco result arrived at the right moment: who know, maybe I will also go well here at my home Grand Prix".
A good result would also allow BAR to breathe a sigh of relief regarding the future. The Canadian, to stay at BAR, asks for precise guarantees which translate into one word: performance. What happened at Monaco was a good way to start:
"Progress has been made this year. I will be happy if the results will continue to arrive. The programme seems serious to me".
A half admission of his will to stay at BAR is confirmed. Technical director Malcom Oastler is still optimistic:
"The goal is score points with both cars. From this point of view, the tests at Magny-Cours confirmed to us that we are in good form".
8th June 2001. Mika Hakkinen sets the best time in Friday’s two practice sessions, ahead of his teammate Coulthard. Eddie Irvine sets the third fastest time, followed by Barrichello and the two Williams of Montoya and Ralf Schumacher. The unjustified absence is Michael Schumacher, who is only 11th. The German, anyway, is not at all worried:
"It was expected. You will see that the situation will be different in the race. I am more worried about how fast some cars are going here. I am still hopeful; I am not worried about qualifying as things will be better then. I only worked towards the race. I will have to come up with something in qualifying but I am more worried about the race".
What is certain, however, is that McLaren is in excellent shape. Topping the two-practice session on Friday, Coulthard and Hakkinen were capable of inflicting heavy gaps to the others. Irvine, 3rd fastest, is almost a second behind, as is Barrichello. Everyone’s attention is still on the braking system (tried by Schumacher) and for the tires. Ferrari’s fear is that Michelin found something to improve the performance of their cars. Doubts that will come to light in Saturday’s qualifying sessions. After the Monte Carlo podium, positive signals are coming from Jaguar. After two hours of intense work on the car set-up, the two Williams-BMW take the top positions in Friday’s time classifications.
In fact, Juan Pablo Montoya is the author of the highest speed trap with 328.7 km/h, as well as setting the 5th best time, two millimeters ahead of his teammate. During Friday’s two practice sessions, Frentzen, who was involved in a violent incident at the Monaco race, complains of dizziness and difficulties in concentrating. Frentzen thus decides to not participate in the race. For this race, Jordan decide to replace him with test driver Ricardo Zonta, who drove for BAR driver in the 1999 and 2000 seasons.
The following day, Michael Schumacher overturns predictions based on the results of the free practice sessions, and puts everyone in line with a perfect pole position. The Ferrari driver did an almost perfect qualifying session and is followed, half a second behind, by Ralf Schumacher. Coulthard and Trulli are on the second row while Barrichello’s Ferrari and Panis’ BAR-Honda are on the third one. Hakkinen must make do with a miserable 8th place, behind his young compatriot Kimi Raikkonen. Montoya has a terrible session and is not able to qualify 10th. The qualifying session is marked by Schumacher’s dominance. He is able to immediately set his own pace. His pole is never under threat. The session has two incidents: the first one is done by Barrichello, crashing into a spot where the kerbs are much higher and dangerous, and the second one by a Heidfield.
Now on his sixth pole of the season, Michael did an exceptional timed lap which is three seconds faster than his last year’s one. The margin over the others is quite big. Nothing more could be asked of him. Nobody, not even Ferrari, expected so much from him. To see the two Schumacher brothers celebrating together after crossing the line at the end of qualifying is a thing that already happened once, back in April at the Brazilian Grand Prix. It is true that in the face of yet another disappointment for the McLaren driver, one has to seek, at all costs, an enemy to fight against the older Schumacher who lead the world championship. This time, it is up to the Ralf to take on the role of the antagonist. The Woking team, in fact, has to be the disappointment of the day. Coulthard limits the damage with a second row start whilst Hakkinen is becoming even more a shadow of the driver who was able to fight and defeat Schumacher. Coulthard expresses his disappointment:
"I do not think we got the maximum out of the car. The preparation was not optimal. For my last run, was only able to improve in the last sector and I could have been even faster. This is all relative talk, what is important is the race and I am not starting the race defeated".
A bad day in the office for Rubens Barrichello as well. The Brazilian was slowed down in the morning by a fault in the hydraulic system. In the afternoon, he had a scary crash from which he was unscathed. Then, before going on track for one last time after the session was suspensed due to Heidfeld’s incident, Rubens was stationary on the pitlane pit lane with the engine off. This created a pile-up effect which annoyed the McLaren drivers. The Maranello team was fined 10.000 dollars. His 5th place does not cheer him up:
"This was not one of my better days. On my first run I had traffic, while on the second, I finished up in the wall at the last chicane having jumped over the kerb. I think I went a bit over the limit. I ran back to the pits and jumped into the spare, which had been set up for Michael. the set up was not ideal for me. There are some small differences that make it difficult for me to drive".
Naturally, Michael Schumacher is in a completely different mood than Barrichello. He only took only 12, out of 12 allowed by the rules, to take pole position by lapping half-a-second faster than his brother Ralf:
"I am surprised at the margin I have over the others. I did not expect it. Now I would like to see Ralf near me even on the podium, because he is my brother. He would also take points away from McLaren. We improved a bit and it was showed. As for the race, the car is as good as it can be in race trim and I am optimistic per the race, because we are on the right track. Of course, if I were to bet, I would bet on the red Ferrari".
After the practice session in the morning, Schumacher had a small argument with Juan Pablo Montoya. The Colombian had been reprimanded because he stayed out on track despite losing oil. Jacques Villeneuve was really angry with Montoya. In the following drivers’ briefing, after being rear-ended on Friday, the BAR driver attacked Montoya and confronted him head-on:
"If you continue like this, you will kill someone".
Montoya had an unfortunate reply. Alluding to the what happened in Melbourne track when the track marshal was killed by Villeneuve’s tire. That is when the commotion broke out. The two drivers insulted each other for a long time in front of their fellow colleagues. Even Frank Williams had to intervene. Jacques, in front of journalists, continues to attack Montoya:
"Montoya is a clown. If you have a peanut-size brain, you will not get very far. It seems that Juan, every time he sees someone in the mirror, he slows down and stays on the line purposely so I really don't know what kind of game he's trying to play. Talking with someone like him is a waste of time".
Sunday 10th June 2001, at 1:00 p.m., everything is ready at Montreal to get the race underway and to witness a duel that will exclusively involve the Schumacher siblings for the win of the Canadian Grand Prix. At lights out, both Michael and Ralf have a great start and they arrive side-by-side at the first corner. The winner of the fight is the Ferrari driver, who maintains the leads of the race by using the inside line going into the first left corner. Following, in 3rd position, is Coulthard, who tucks in behind the two Schumacher siblings. He settles in for a long race. Rubens Barrichello uses his horsepower advantage and a lighter fuel load to overtake Trulli, after a great scrap which went on for a few corners. At the end of the first lap, Michael leads ahead of his brother Ralph and Coulthard. Barrichello is 4th, ahead of Jarno and Olivier Panis, who closes the top-6 points paying positions. Mika Hakkinen has a dreadful start and is now stuck in the midfield in 10th. Home hero Villeneuve has an awful start, clearly with a delayed start, and is now at the back of the grid.
Giancarlo Fisichella is not able to finish the first lap of the race. Firstly, he is involved in a collision with Bernoldi at the hairpin. By the end of the long straight, Button is side-by-side with his teammate and Bernoldi. The two teammates clash with each other. Jenson Button, unlike the driver from Rome, can at least continue the race. The season goes from bad to worse for Benetton. In fact, one of the written rules in F1 is to not clash with your teammate. By the second lap, the midfield loses more cars. After Fisichella, it is Nick Heidfield and Eddie Irvine’s turns to retire. Both Sauber and the Jaguar drivers are off track at turn 3 due to a collision between them.
Despite having a great start, Barrichello is the driver to watch at the moment. He does not want to allow the two Schumacher brothers to escape. The Brazilian uses the entire slipstream, given by the McLaren, to effortlessly overtake the Scotsman by the end of the straight, before the last chicane by the end of lap 2, David does not have any change to defend and drops to 4th. Meanwhile, it seems like Ralph is quicker than Michael but stuck behind the Ferrari. By lap 5, he is being pressurized by Rubens for 2nd and will put his defensive skills to the test. The number 2 Ferrari driver, eager to pounce on the Williams driver at the exit of the hairpin, spins out. This is partly caused by a malfunction of a sensor in the traction-control system. The Brazilian loses several spots and re-joins in 14th. This allows Michael and Ralf to break away from the pack and to fight each other in total solitude. The race pace of the two brother is proving too much for the other drivers. Due to Barrichello’s spin, Coulthard is able to regain 3rd place. Trulli and Panis are fighting for 4th, followed closely by Jos Verstappen.
The Ferrari driver’s difficult recovery drive is underway. On lap 11, he overtakes Pedro de la Rosa’s Jaguar for 11th. Eight laps later, when chasing the underperforming Montoya, Barrichello’s chances to rectify his previous mistake are over. Arriving at turn 5, Montoya loses control of his Williams and slams against the wall to the right. Rubens, immediately behind, is forced into evasive action and crashes as a consequence. The Brazilian irretrievably damages the Ferrari. Montoya and Barrichello are out of the race. This brings out the Safety car, in order to remove the stricken Williams and Ferrari cars out of the way and the debris on track.
Lap 22 out of 69. The big gap that the two Schumacher brothers had, over the rest of the field, is no more. Green light is waved and the race can restart. Michael quickly gets up to speed, looks to have caught his brother napping and builds up a 2.6s margin by the end of the 23rd lap. Ralph though has a great car underneath and is quickly able to catch up to the leader. The two siblings are working in tandem to create a gap to the others. During the course of the 24th lap, Bernoldi’s race is over due to an engine failure. By lap 34, there is yet another retirement. Villeneuve’s race is over due to a broken driveshaft. This is his fifth retirement our of six Canadian races. By now, 9 drivers are out of the race: Fisichella, Irvine, Heidfield, Alonso, Button, Barrichello, Montoya, Bernoldi and Villeneuve.
By lap 35, Ralph has had enough of the Ferrari and is looking to overtake Michael for the lead. The latter is not having any of it. At this point of the race, on lap 36, the intense series of pit-stops is starting. First up, Trulli and Panis are coming to the pits simultaneously. The Jordan’s mechanics do an excellent pitstop which allows the Italian driver to hold the position to the frustration of his rival Panis. On lap 38, the latter is crawling back to the pits, due to brake issues, and retires. The drivers who are postponing the only stop, as long as possible, are the two race leaders and Mika Hakkinen. In the meantime, the Finnish driver is up to 3rd place, after the others have pitted. He is lapping very fast to try completing an undercut on all the cars who were ahead of him before the stops, including Coulthard.
Lap 46. Ralf is still continuing to put intense pressure on his older brother and tries a move at the end of the straight but backs out of it. In fact, at the end of the lap, Michael Schumacher completes an 8.4 pit stop. This is an important moment. Ralf Schumacher extends the first stints by 4 laps and setting the timing sheets alight with very quick lap times for the Williams driver. By the end of the 50th lap, Ralph is coming into the pits for his scheduled pit-stop. At the exit of the pit lane, Michael is nowhere near Ralph. Thus, the latter will continue to lead the race with a 4-seconds advantage to Michael. On lap 54 Hakkinen is the latest to pit and is able to retain 3rd place, ahead of Coulthard. With 15 laps to go, the Scotsman’s race ends disastrously with a Mercedes engine failure. This is undoubtedly a heavy retirement for Coulthard’s championship hopes.
With 10 laps to go, the race draws to a close with no twists in sight. Ralf Schumacher leads ahead of Michael, Hakkinen, Trulli, Raikkonen and Jean Alesi. However, with six laps to go, the race order changes once again. Jarno Trulli brings the Jordan cars into the pits to retire after having brake problems. Raikkonen and Jos Verstappen benefit from this. They are now running in 4th and 6th respectively. The Dutchman’s joy is short-lived. With one lap left to go until the chequered flag, Jos hits the barriers due to a brakes’ failure, as it was the case with Trulli.
Ralf Schumacher manages the lead without any problems until the chequered flag and can now celebrate his second career win, after the one in Imola a couple of weeks prior. A masterful performance by the Williams driver. In the in-lap, he is even able to admire some race marshal waving to him at his arrival. Michel Schumacher finishes 2nd. Despite finishing 20-seconds behind his brother, the glass is half-full for the three-time world champion. In fact, he is gaining a further 6 points and he now has an 18-points lead to Coulthard.
Mika Hakkinen completes the podium, which puts an end to his bad luck, and scores his first podium of the season. Kimi Raikkonen is 4th, which is his best career result so far. Jean Alesi is 5th and, as soon as he gets out of the car, makes a fan's day in the stands unforgettable by giving him his helmet. Pedro de la Rosa, who took advantage of the many retirements, complete the top-6 and scores one important point for Jaguar. It had never happened that two brothers came 1st and 2nd. This record now belongs to the Schumacher family.
"Lucky there are not three".
Mika Hakkinen is bitterly smiling, already used to stay behind one of the Schumacher but never two. Ralf Schumacher, 26 years’ old on 30th June 2001, has grown up. This is not the first time that the two siblings stepped on the podium together: in fact, it was the fifth occasion that it happened. However, this was the first time that the hierarchy of the Schumacher family were overturned. Usually, it is Michael who raises the victory’s trophy whilst Ralph is spraying the champagne from 3rd place. The first family party on the podium dates back to 13th September 1998, at Monza. Michael was 1st and Ralf 3rd. Just as in the 2000, at the Italian Grand Prix.
The growth of the Williams driver is fast. Long gone are the Jordan days, when he debuted in 1997 and was considered to be the bad copy of his brother: a little loud and obnoxious and was, according to some, less talented than Michael. At the point where even the Jordan team did not see much of him in the end. bene. At the time, the family atmosphere was as happy and joyful as it is now in Montréal. At Nürburgring, Ralf knocked Michael off track. The consequent fight, within the motorhome’s closed door, had its effect. From then then, the fight between the two become more, like the one at Silverstone in 2000.
Naturally, the first one to hug was Michael, still wearing the helmet. In the following press conference, the little brother seems almost embarrassed to interpret, for the first time, the rule of the n.1 Schumacher. He was the better brother, at least for one day. Michael often takes Ralph under his wing to protect him from the malicious questions, proudly officiating at the investiture ceremony of his little brother. For example, Ralf is asked about his thoughts when seeing his brother in the rear mirrors of his Williams and Michael is quick to take the floor and say:
"Why is he going so slow?"
Another question that recurs is if it is difficult to accelerate when you have your sibling ahead of you. Ralf responds:
"I think we have shown in the past that whenever we've come together, it has been very hard fighting in between us but fair. You saw today I didn't try any stupid moves but I did try to overtake him as I would anyone else. I was waiting for him to do a mistake. Obviously, he did not. I tried a couple of times on the final straight but it was difficult. I waited for the pit stops which I thought we were going longer anyway. It worked that way".
They then asked him if, with this win, he can join in the title win:
"As a package we are too young. I am pretty sure it depends on the tyres. We can try and take advantage of some other teams’ weaknesses and maybe be second in the teams’ championship at the end of the year. Now it is good to go back home. It would be great if we could repeat our brotherly fight at the Nürburgring".
From his part, Michael Schumacher takes with philosophy the defeat at the hands of his brother:
"If I have to be beaten by someone, certainly my brother is the best person: rather him than anyone else. I am sure our parents will be very proud of us".
This was the first time that Ralf beat you, is it?
"In karting, we often fought together but those were other competitions. There is a 6 and a half different between us so that is why there were many occasions to do so. At the time, he was my mechanic. I am happy to see him on the top step".
Why do you think Ralf was faster than you today?
"It is difficult to accept it but that’s the way it is. His Williams was faster. Michelin tyres were a bit better here. We were the best Bridgestone team. It was important to take home the six points".
Before the round of pit stops, you were able to stay ahead of him:
"Initially I pushed hard to make up a gap without risking too much. I saw that he was much faster than me. The point is that he is experienced enough not to do mistakes. He was close to an overtake but did not take the maximum risk. When the Safety car was out, I understood that I would have difficulties. He went much longer than me, on the first stint, and it worked out for him. I, as soon as he returned on track, tried to push. It is normal that this does not faster because you are always faster by the end of your stint then whether you put fresh tires and the fuel on board. We are working hard to become the best team once again. We will find out in the future and we need to improve on the fuel consumption to catch up with the competition".
When Ralf overtook you after the pit stop, it seems like you almost gave up the chase to him:
"I pushed at this moment very hard. Once I saw him coming up ahead of me, he was putting quite a margin to me. The car felt a bit nervous because I was pretty near the limit. At that point, I settled for 2nd place. There was only one strategy: drive at my pace to take home the six points".
18 points is still a big margin:
"Yes, but we also know that it is quick to accumulate them but also to lose them. The fight is wide-open and I am not making any illusion".
Instead, for someone who is not called Schumacher, it was not a good Sunday afternoon. Rubens Barrichello needs to deal with yet another frustrating racing week-end:
"I do not look for excuses. When I am wrong, I say so. The car was fast at the start. On lap 3 I had to switch it off as it was causing a misfire. It might have been a problem with a sensor. I tried to switch it off but, when you have prepared the weekend with one setting, it was difficult to adapt. This is what caused me to spin. The car had too much oversteer when I tried to push. After that, the car was not as competitive as at the start of the race. When I came up behind Montoya, I was not able to pass him because I no longer had traction control. Then, he went sideways and off the track and came back across it. I tried to avoid him but there was no room to get by and so I ended up in the wall. This has been a poor weekend for me".
At McLaren, there is satisfaction for Hakkinen’s performance and for the podium achieved with a great strategy and a strong race pace. After three retirement, he is finally able to move up on the driver’s standings. Mika was stuck at four points and now he has eight. However, the gap to Schumacher is 50 points. Needless to say, his championship hopes are close to zero at this point. Instead David Coulthard leaves Canada with an 18-points gap to Schumacher in the standing after his DNF. He now needs to deal with the causes of the blown-up Mercedes engine. This is now a good sign for the following races. Although the gap is quite big, David states that he does not have any intention of giving up:
"If you do not like a challenge, you should not be in Formula 1. I am still in the fight for the championship. I have no doubt that I can still win and will continue to work towards it. On the formation lap I realised that I had a problem with the front suspension. As the race progressed, it got worse. I decided, with the team, to continue and go for the points which I would have been capable of achieving. Then the engine suddenly let go but that is how it works. The secret is to always believe".
For sure this is the right spirit to approach the European Grand Prix, scheduled for 24th June 2001 at the Nürburgring circuit. It is also the home race for the two Schumacher brothers, which will have another motivation to win there.
Davide Scotto di Vetta