Michael Schumacher won the Monaco Grand Prix. Two days after the race, on Tuesday, May 19, 2001, some teams travel to the hot Magny-Cours track for a testing session. The asphalt of the French track is 53°C whilst the temperature reaches 35 °C. Ralf Schumacher sets the fastest time in 1'15"137 at the end of the first testing day, despite not yet having a fine-tuned car. The Williams driver is half a second faster than Michael’s 2000 pole lap of 1'15"632. Another four drivers are able to smash this limit, thanks to a miracle from the tyres. On the second day of testing, the new wings and modified suspensions are starting to give their contribution. The lap times will likely tumble once again, especially compared to yesterday. The absolute lap record of 1'13"864, which was set by Nigel Mansell in 1992, could be in danger. The big teams are testing many upgrades. McLaren-Mercedes is still trying to understand what went wrong with the starting systems of the two Silver Arrows. Ferrari does things on a grand scale and is bringing two cars for testing. It is the greatest possible effort from the Maranello team, even if there is one small hiccup. There is a delay in the arrival of some important aerodynamic parts from Maranello, such as suspensions and brakes. Schumacher goes out on track at around 4:00 p.m. for one installation lap, in order to get an insight of the Magny-Cours track. A race simulation is scheduled for the second day of testing, where the new engine upgrade will be tested. The team has not yet deliberated a much more powerful version of the 050 engine. The new engine has an increase of 10 horsepower and will consume less fuel in race trim. This is the perfect upgrade for the Canadian Grand Prix on Sunday, June 10, 2001. It will also give more flexibility to Ferrari’s strategies for the following championship races. While the team is preparing the F2001 for the afternoon session, Schumacher is being interviewed by journalists. They have microphones and notebooks to record and write what the world champion says:
"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, ndr] and we need to take advantage of it. We didn't actually do any specific development for the Canadian GP. The car has proved competitive on all the tracks so far, so I'm pretty hopeful that Montreal will go well too".
In seven races, Ferrari had only one mechanical failure. It is a good sign, isn't it?
"I would say that it is in line with those of previous years. What happened to Rubens in Spain is strange". [Rubes broke the rear suspension during the race and was forced to retire, ndr]
The Canadian track is favourable to 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 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".
McLaren has had poor reliability and risky starts. What is happening to them?
"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 these problems. I feel sorry for David. On the other hand, let’s not forget that David has finished every race this season. You can’t talk about the car’s bad 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. Mika has been really unlucky".
Does this mean that Coulthard is your main rival for the World Championship?
"I said that after Austria: Hakkinen is out of the fight. With Ralf failing to pick up points at Monte Carlo, the fight is between me and David".
Rubens Barrichello sets 78 laps at the end of the first testing day. His best time is a 1'15"448. The Brazilian struggled with a cramp on his left foot during the Monaco Grand Prix but says that he does not have any pain anymore. The Brazilian emphasises that he has not yet understood what caused it:
"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:
"Electronics are a very complex matter. We did a great job and were also lucky to set-up those systems 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 download 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. 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 during the Magny-Cours test:
"We tried a bit of everything, to use it for the upcoming Canadian and French races. We cannot afford to stop developing the car".
You have a chance to win the Canadian Grand Prix, don’t you think?
"It is a 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 much. I am waiting to race there with great joy, I cannot wait".
As previously said by the Ferrari driver, McLaren needs to address the issue with the electronic system.
Otherwise, the Woking team will continue to suffer with the syndrome of false starts. Alexander Wurz does 12 start simulations during the Magny-Cours test and is twice stationary in the middle of the racetrack. McLaren is also struggling with the V10 Mercedes engine, which is fitted at the back of the MP4/16 car. A bit before the end of testing, Wurz comes into neutral in the pit lane and a column of smoke is rising from the rear end of the car. It is an unmistakable sign 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 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. The Woking team had an overall difficult test at Magny-Cours. Furthermore, McLaren is in trouble from a sporting aspect. The Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), when ratifying the Monaco race result, found out that the marshals reported Ron Dennis and Norbert Haug’s verbal aggression towards Enrique Bernoldi. Do not forget that the Arrows driver stayed ahead of Coulthard for over 40 laps and legitimately defended his position. The FIA will start proceedings against the two managers for unsportsmanlike conduct and insulting behaviour towards a member of a rival team. It is written in the FIA regulations. The same thing happened to Ferrari a couple of years ago. The Maranello team was disqualified from the 1994 Portuguese Grand Prix and was banned for the next three races. The three-race ban was cancelled afterwards but the team had to pay a fine of 80.000.000 lire. This is because a Ferrari mechanic was locked inside the circuit with other colleagues and had knocked down a gate to exit from it. McLaren had a very unfortunate Monaco race. Hakkinen was forced to retire whilst Coulthard was forced to start from the back of the grid after stalling on the grid before the formation lap. To add salt to injury, McLaren could find itself in the dock and even charged for verbal aggression. Coulthard is not faring any better after being sued by a former hostess. For context, Coulthard crushed a Mercedes SL500 car in April 1999, while he was driving in Monaco. She claims that she was in the car with him and suffered injuries as a result of the car accident:
"Coulthard is a bully and drives like crazy".
Meanwhile, Ralf Schumacher is on top of the timing sheet at the end of the second testing day at Magny-Cours. His quickest lap is a 1'15"214 at the end of a 62-laps stint. Barrichello is 2nd fastest in 1'15"387 and sets 82 laps. Michael Schumacher completes 75 laps and is 3rd fastest with a 1'15"508. In the meantime, Brussels launches an offensive against the publicity and sponsorships of the tobacco agencies. UE health commissioner David Byrne explains:
"We want to break the connection between the consumption of tobacco and the positive image of social acceptance which is transmitted by the advertising campaigns".
The new legislation is also about the sponsorships of events, in particular sporting events, by the big tobacco agencies. The measure mainly concerns Formula 1, who will need to find new financial backers. This legislation will ban tobacco advertising and sponsorship in the European circuits. Ferrari will need to cover the image of the main principal sponsor. The new norms should become operative starting from 2004. Meanwhile, Williams carries out a testing session at the Monza circuit. Juan Pablo Montoya completes 49 laps, focusing particularly on the braking system and on the tyres. His best time is a 1'24"765. Sauber and Minardi are also testing in Italy. The Swiss team receives good news from the FIA court of appeal in Paris. BAR’s appeal against Kimi is rejected. According to the Anglo-American team, Räikkönen overtook Luciano Burti under yellow flags during the Austrian race. The Zeltweg race classification is now definitive and Kimi’s 4th place finish will stand. BAR acknowledges the decision. Team boss Craig Pollock declares:
"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".
Toyota completes a four-day test at Le Castellet with Allan McNish, who sets 200 laps. The Japanese team is also preparing to test at Imola and Monza in the following days. The Formula 1 debut is expected for the start of the 2002 season. The work of the Japanese team is in progress. Friday, June 1, 2001, is a rainy day. Despite the bad weather, Ferrari continues to test the three cars that will be used in Canada. At Fiorano, Luca Badoer completes 119 laps in total. He does 7 laps with Barrichello’s chassis (marked with the number 212), 6 with the spare chassis (211) and 7 with Schumacher’s one (210). Badoer’s best lap time is a 1'01"059. The cars arrive at Malpensa in the evening and will go straight to Montreal. The intense testing week is not over yet. The following day, Badoer continues testing the electronics, the aerodynamics and fuel consumption. The Treviso driver completes 50 laps during the morning and an additional 40 laps in the afternoon. The testing is suspended for a long time, since the engine needs to be replaced due to its high mileage. Williams relies heavily on the Michelin tyres for the Canadian Grand Prix. The French tyre supplier is quite performant during the testing days. The Grove-based team wants to leave behind the two disappointing non-scoring weekends at Zeltweg and Monaco. Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya are the drivers to watch. The semi-permanent track, which is all-braking and accelerations, suits the characteristics of the FW23 car. It is no coincidence that Michael Schumacher and David Coulthard count Williams to be one of the favourites for the race win, along with Ferrari and McLaren. Williams is really competitive during the test and is working to improve the performance of the FW23 car. This is an example. Williams is the only team to run both in France and Monza, in order to prepare the car set-up for the French Grand Prix and to test the Montreal upgrades. At the same time, the Michelin technicians test at the Brianza circuit and are able to identify the best tyre for the upcoming Canadian Grand Prix. Nothing has been left to chance. Based on the known and confidential results of these tests, Frank Williams gives his cautious predictions for the upcoming race weekend:
"Montreal is one of those circuits where it is important to have good grip and very good traction but it 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. I’m never foolhardy to go into a race optimistic but they have remarkably powerful engines and the cars have always looked good on the very fast circuits. The engines and the aerodynamics are extremely efficient, they’re well balanced and handle very well. In Montreal we should perform well".
The Williams team principal carefully emphasises that he is not satisfied with the results in the opening seven rounds of the 2001 World 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 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 the mechanical failures, the BMW engine has the highest power of any powertrain of the 2001 season. It has 850 horsepower. The engine is 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 tyres, given the competition between the two tyre suppliers. The tyre importance comes first, since 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 tyres’ performances are in line with our expectations. There are numerous parameters that determine the result and no eventuality can be overlooked. Here 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 tyres are constantly highlighted means that we are giving tyres which are suitable for every racetrack".
Dupasquier does not talk about other things. However, the ongoing testing at Monza and Magny-Cours reveals that Michelin has prepared super tyres in order to avoid the mistake of supplying the hardest compounds, like it was the case in Monaco. On the eve of the Canadian Grand Prix, there is a controversy surrounding Niki Lauda and McLaren. It is about Adrian Newey. Jaguar announces that the Austrian designer will join Jaguar as chief technical officer when his McLaren contract expires in August 2002. The Woking team then states that Newey will continue working with the team beyond the terms of his existing contract. Lauda attacked the Woking team in the previous days and continues to do so in a German bi-weekly newspaper Kicker. Lauda accuses Newey of having a 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 champion, Newey was satisfied by the proposed Jaguar deal:
"He phoned me and thanked me a million times on Tuesday evening. He was happy and convinced that it was the right decision".
In other words, he emphasised that Newey signed a legally binding contract with Jaguar. According to Lauda, Dennis exploited Newey’s weak side by guaranteeing that he would help with every legal issues regarding a breach of contract with Jaguar:
"This will cost dearly to Ron; this is looking around hundreds of millions of dollars. The court case will start immediately".
Norbert Haug is asked to talk about the Newey saga by the German news agency DPA. The responsible of Mercedes motorsport activity coldly declares:
"At the moment, I do not want to comment on what Lauda said. We are sure that Newey will remain with us for three more years, given that he signed the contract".
John Barnard, who is Newey’s predecessor, is asked to give his take on the controversy surrounding Newey and McLaren:
"There is only a limited amount of time that you can apply yourself 100%. 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 and it is something that requires tremendous effort. I do not think Ron appreciates that - not with me and not with Adrian. It’s all part of how things happen".
According to Barnard, Newey is much more attracted by the relaxed life that Jaguar would have given him:
"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. I hadn’t thought about leading McLaren until I got a phone call from Ferrari and then I had all the private jet treatment to Maranello and so on".
Newey does not show up at Montreal, in order to protect himself from the journalists. It is also his habit to not go to at least three or four races per year, like it was the case in Brazil at the start of the year.
His absence at the Canadian Grand Prix was already announced before this controversy blew up. Good for him, so that he can avoid uncomfortable questions. In the paddock, the manager of the Jaguar team Bobby Rahal 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. However, this is not the case of being the jilted lover or anything like that. This is not an emotional thing. I am a big boy and life has all these kinds of ups and downs. Sure, it is a disappointment from a personal sense, but that's just part of life and we go on. Our legal team is pursuing all options. Queen's Counsel have declared it a legally binding commitment, very specific in detail. I don’t want to get into semantics but Adrian signed a legally binding contract. That probably best describes it. It was a very important move and I don’t think we should let go. We have not seen the end of this for some time. We will just see what happens over the course of probably several months. Stay tuned".
Jaguar immediately obtains an injunction from the London High Court, which states that McLaren needs to let Newey free when his contract expires, that is on Saturday, July 13, 2002. McLaren thus releases a press release, saying that Jaguar tried to aggressively recruit Adrian Newey.
"It is a fact that at one point Jaguar Racing convinced Adrian to leave McLaren. However, at no time, in the discussions regarding Adrian's contract extension, were McLaren aware of any binding contract between Adrian and Jaguar Racing".
Jaguar and Newey reached an agreement on Thursday, May 31, 2001. McLaren informed the English manufacturer that the Austrian designer changed idea and that he wanted to stay with them. However, Jaguar’s statement was already out by the time this happened.
"Jaguar issued the statement and we could not do anything about it".
What happened? Well, Adrian Newey has been feeling responsible for McLaren’s recent failures, caused by the malfunction of the traction control system. The Austrian designer thus decides to accept the invitation of his friend Bobby Rahal to take the position of Jaguar designer, when his contract expires in August 2002. He is encouraged by his wife Marigold to take the opportunity to demonstrate his talent by transforming a slow car into a competitive one. Ron Dennis is informed in advance of the agreement and is distressed by Newey’s behavior. Jo Ramirez discovers Newey’s will to leave the team and goes to Ron’s office to present 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?"
Ron’s commitment is as big as his pride. The McLaren team principal calmly replies:
"We are much better with him than without him, we have to keep him".
A couple of days after the Canadian Grand Prix, Ron Dennis, Bobby Rahal and Niki Lauda will come to an agreement. The Jaguar team will not go through with the legal cause; in exchange, McLaren will pay all legal expenses. In the meantime, David Coulthard does not care about the Newey saga:
"Concerning Adrian, there is nothing I can do and nothing is going to influence me winning the race this weekend. I just want to concentrate on myself, my car and trying to win. Michael says that I should think about it. I will think about it on Sunday because there is more than enough opinion on the Newey thing without me adding any more. I will just focus on the race. I do enjoy the challenge of the track though I have had no success here despite leading many times. I want to go home with 10 points".
The Scotsman arrived a week earlier to take part in the inauguration of the disco-restaurant of his friend Villeneuve (who is also a waiter). He has to deal with the aftermath of the Bernoldi case. The Brazilian was ahead of the McLaren driver for 42 laps and had been targeted by the duo Dennis-Haug after the race. The Arrows driver explains what happened:
"I got out of the car and I was a little bit tired. 78 laps of Monaco, for me 76 it was not so easy and during the early stages, I had a lot of pressure, almost one hour of pressure from David. 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. I spoke with David on Tuesday and for him it was ok. I didn’t understand what they meant when they said these things to me".
Schumacher agrees with this statement ("He did everything he was allowed to do and the FIA is there to judge whether it’s right or wrong. The FIA judged it fine and therefore I don’t see the argument"). David thinks different:
"I think it’s important that new drivers understand the rules of which we go racing. We 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. It might not be who is behind him the next time, but someone else and it results in an accident which could injure a driver. That’s the main issue".
The McLaren driver talks about the way Bernoldi was waving at the Mirabeau corner, which he did not like. Coulthard points out that the stall, before the formation lap, was not caused by a problem in the automatic traction control system. It was related to the management of the engine. The cause for Hakkinen’s retirement is also discovered. It was a drivability issue that forced the team to change Hakkinen’s chassis for this race. It is also like the Flying Finn 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. In Formula 1, racing and relaxing are not two things that go together. Mika could still win the championship. I cannot imagine him saying: I feel so relaxed. He is the same now as he always has been. Have you heard rumours that he will be at my service from this race on? I put them out there".
During the 2000 Canadian Grand Prix, Ferrari used the first team order against Rubens Barrichello and ultimately scored the second 1-2 finish of the season. Michael Schumacher was struggling with a car issue and was forced to slow down. The team thus ordered Rubens to stay behind his teammate. Schumacher was therefore able to leave Canada with a consistent margin in the drivers’ championship, having a 22-point lead over Coulthard and 24 over Hakkinen. The Flying Finn was preparing to start a furious challenge against the Ferrari driver. 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 him".
Barrichello was touched by Schumacher’s compliments and 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 instructions from the pit wall. I have great faith in the team. I am sure that I will be supported in case that I am ahead of Michael".
The Brazilian driver is still waiting for a chance to be compensated for what happened in 2000, regardless of the contract renewal for the next two seasons. Furthermore, Barrichello was in serious danger of losing the Ferrari seat before the Austrian Grand Prix. On lap 68, Jean Todt asked Barrichello to let Schumacher by. The Brazilian complied with the team order and made the switch with Schumacher at the end of the final lap. As a reward, Ferrari announced the extension of Barrichello’s contract during the Monte Carlo weekend. Despite this, Ferrari made him well aware of his role as second driver and Rubens was not allowed to grumble about it. He raced cautiously during the Monte Carlo race after suffering a cramp in his leg. Furthermore, he had to save fuel and brakes whilst driving with one foot. Canada should be the perfect place for Barrichello to have a brilliant performance:
"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".
The 2000 Canadian Grand Prix is also remembered for one curious detail. Coulthard remained stationary on the grid before the start of the formation lap. The Mercedes engine, at the back of the McLaren, switched off. The mechanics had to go out on track in order to activate the engine even if time was running out before the start of the formation lap. The race director decided to penalise Coulthard with a 10-second penalty. The Scottish driver served the penalty on lap 10, allowing Schumacher to win the race in a comfortable way after starting from pole position. Ferrari is ready to win in Canada once again. Jean Todt guarantees that:
"The race cars were prepared very well, in particular, during last week’s test at Magny-Cours. As always, the brakes, the tyres and the strategies are really important".
The Ferrari team has some concerns regarding the high fuel consumption of 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 cannot be changed during the race weekend. Michael Schumacher is worried that his brother Ralf will also be competitive at Montreal, without however neglecting other fundamental aspects:
"It will be necessary to understand how everything will work. The real problem is that there isn’t one thing which is more important than another. Engine, tyres 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 corners but there aren’t any here".
The eighth round of the 2001 championship has a special taste for Jacques Villeneuve. He has the opportunity to race in front of his home crowd. The BAR driver unfortunately does not have great Canadian GP statistics, where the track is named after his father Gilles. Jacques scored only six points in the last five Canadian races. His best result is in fact a 2nd place finish at the 1996 Canadian Grand Prix, finishing behind race winner and teammate Damon Hill. The 1997 Canadian Grand Prix was a race to forget for Jacques. His home race lasted two laps. The Williams driver was forced to retire after cluttering the external wall of the infamous last chicane. Despite the bad home result, Jacques was crowned world champion at the end of that particular season.
The Canadian did not score points in the following Canadian races and had two other race-ending incidents. In 1998, he had to endure a difficult season with Williams. The Canadian champion has to now deal with the laborious growth of the BAR team. His new goal in Formula 1 is to win a championship with the British team. In particular, he is looking forward to scoring points in his upcoming home Grand Prix. Jacques approaches his home race with renewed enthusiasm. Last Sunday, he inaugurated his new restaurant. It is called the Newtown and is located on Crescent Street, which is one of the most crowded and elegant streets of the Quebec capital. He also broke his Monaco non-points taboo and scored a 4th place finish at the end of the race. The Canadian talks about the Monte Carlo performance:
"I never did so well at Monaco before, not even in the Williams days. It means that we got everything right. Our race pace was much better than our quali pace. I was just pushing at the end, trying to get Eddie to make a mistake and get 3rd, but he didn’t. I also knew that he was much faster than me. On a track like Monaco, it is easy to make a mistake and this is why it was better to manage 4th place. The car was very precise. It was a little bit on the nose, a little bit loose, but it stayed strong until the end and the team did a great job during the pit stop as well".
Jacques would sign up for a repeat performance at the Canadian Grand Prix in Quebec. He also wants to cancel the impression that teammate Olivier Panis is much faster than him so far:
"The Monaco result arrived at the right moment. It was great to get a good result before Montreal. Who knows, maybe I will also do well here at my home Grand Prix".
A good result would allow BAR to breathe a sigh of relief for the future. The Canadian asks for precise guarantees, in order to stay at BAR for the near future. It translates into one word: performance. The good performance at the Monaco Grand Prix is a good way to start:
"Progress has been made this year. I will be happy if the results continue to arrive. The schedule seems serious to me".
Jacques admits that he wants to stay at BAR. Technical director Malcom Oastler is optimistic:
"The goal is to score points with both cars. From this point of view, the tests at Magny-Cours confirmed to us that we are in good form".
The cars head out on track on Friday, June 8, 2001. David Coulthard is the fastest driver with a lap time of 1'18"763. The McLaren-Mercedes driver is almost four tenths clear of Barrichello and Michael Schumacher. Rubens and Michael set almost identical times. Rubens records a 1'19"140 while Michael a 1'19"166. Mika Hakkinen sets the best time in FP2 with a 1'17"672, finishing ahead of his teammate Coulthard. Eddie Irvine sets the 3rd fastest time, followed by Barrichello, Montoya and Ralf Schumacher. Michael Schumacher is only 11th at the end of the FP2 session but he is not worried:
"At the start of the second half of the session, we decided to make a change to the car which took longer than expected. That is why I did not do so many laps in the second hour. In any case, we managed to get through our planned schedule. We worked a lot on the brakes, which are put under a lot of stress at this track. I am not worried about qualifying as the difference in laps times, between mine and those of my main rivals, does not reflect the true situation. I only worked towards the race. I will have to come up with something in qualifying but I am not worried about the race".
It is clear that McLaren is in excellent shape. Coulthard and Hakkinen top the two free practice sessions on Friday, inflicting heavy gaps to the others. Irvine and Barrichello are almost a second behind in FP2. Everyone’s attention is still focused on the braking system and on the tyres. The braking system was tested by Schumacher in free practice. Ferrari’s fear is that Michelin found something to improve the performance of the tyres. These doubts will come to light in Saturday’s qualifying session. Jaguar is showing positive signs of performance after the Monte Carlo podium. In the meantime, the Williams drivers worked intensively on car set-up, taking the top positions on Friday. In fact, Juan Pablo Montoya sets the highest speed trap with 328.7 km/h and is 5th fastest. He is two thousandths faster than his teammate. Frentzen was involved in a violent Monaco incident in FP2 and complains of dizziness and difficulties in concentrating in free practice. The German thus decides to not participate in the race. Jordan decides to replace him with test driver Ricardo Zonta, who drove for BAR in the 1999 and 2000 seasons. Michael Schumacher overturns Friday’s results and predictions on the following day, putting everyone in line with a perfect pole position. The Ferrari driver does an almost perfect qualifying session. Ralf Schumacher is 2nd fastest, half a second slower than his brother. Coulthard and Trulli are on the second row while Barrichello’s Ferrari and Panis are on the third one.
Kimi Räikkönen is 7th while Hakkinen must settle with the 8th fastest time. Montoya has a terrible session and will start from 10th position. The qualifying session is marked by Schumacher’s dominance. He is able to immediately set his own pace and the pole position is never under threat. The session has two incidents. Barrichello is the first casualty, crashing into a spot where the kerbs are much higher and dangerous. Heidfield is also involved in an incident. Michael claims his sixth pole of the season, setting an exceptional timed lap that is three seconds faster than the 2000 pole. He blitzes the competition, since the margin over the others is quite big. Nobody can ask more from him. Nobody, not even Ferrari, expected so much from him. The two Schumacher brothers celebrate the 1-2 result at the end of qualifying. It is something that has already happened once, back in April at the Brazilian Grand Prix. On the other hand, the McLaren drivers had yet another disappointing qualifying performance, especially Hakkinen. The question is as follows: who can fight Michael Schumacher for the Canadian win? Ralf takes the role of the antagonist for this Grand Prix. The Woking team is the disappointment of the day. Coulthard saves McLaren’s day by ending the quali session in 4th. Hakkinen, instead, is becoming a shadow of the driver that was able to fight and defeat Schumacher in the past. Coulthard expresses his disappointment:
"I do not think we got the maximum out of the car. The preparation was not optimal. In my last run, I 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".
Rubens Barrichello had a bad day in the office. The Brazilian had a hydraulic system issue during the morning session. Furthermore, he was involved in a scary shunt in the afternoon. He was fortunately unscathed. The qualifying session was suspended after Heidfeld’s incident, whilst Rubens was stationary on the pitlane with the engine off. The result was a pile-up effect that annoyed the McLaren drivers. The Maranello team is fined 10.000 dollars for the pitlane chaos. The 5th place does not cheer Barrichello 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. Despite the fact that the mechanics did a great job, the set up was not ideal for me. There are some small differences that make it difficult for me to drive. There was no time to change anything. In the end I did not have time to change tyres before my final run, so I was unable to improve and get a better position. It will be a very open race tomorrow".
Michael Schumacher is in a completely different mood than Barrichello, since he will start the race from pole position. Furthermore, the current world champion only completed 6 out of the 12 laps that are allowed by the rules.
Furthermore, he was half a second faster than his brother Ralf:
"I am surprised at the margin that I have over the others. I did not expect it. After yesterday, I didn’t expect it to be that big. The other guys didn’t seem to take advantage of the new tyres - but that doesn’t mean it will continue in the race because we won’t always have new tyres. The car is as good as it can be in race conditions but nothing is ever perfect. There are a few issues still to sort and I am trying to improve in the warm-up. 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. I am optimistic for the race, because we are on the right track. If I were to bet, I would bet on the red Ferrari".
Schumacher had a small argument with Juan Pablo Montoya in FP3. The Colombian was reprimanded for staying out on track, despite having an oil loss. Jacques Villeneuve was really angry with Montoya, since he was rear-ended by the Williams driver on Friday. During the drivers’ briefing, the BAR driver attacked Montoya and confronted him head-on:
"If you continue like this, you will kill someone".
Montoya had an unfortunate reply to the accusation. The Colombians alluded to the Melbourne incident, when the track marshal was killed by Villeneuve’s tyre. That is when the commotion broke out. The two drivers insulted each other for a long time in front of their fellow colleagues and Frank Williams had to intervene. Jacques continued to attack Montoya in front of the journalists:
"Montoya is a clown. If you have a peanut-size brain, you will not get very far. I am upset, it must be the fifth or sixth time that he’s blocked me - he’s on a mission or something. Normally when you get blocked - I’ve blocked some people as well - you try to get out of the way. Sometimes you don't make it but you still make an effort and give room to the other person. It seems that Juan Pablo, every time he sees someone in the mirror, 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".
On Sunday, June 10, 2001, at 1:00 p.m., everything is ready for the start of the Canadian Grand Prix. The fans will witness a duel that will exclusively involve the Schumacher brothers for the race win. At lights out, Michael and Ralf have a great start and arrive side by side at the first corner. The winner of the fight is the Ferrari driver, who maintains the lead of the race. Coulthard tucks in behind the two Schumacher brothers and is settling for a long race. Rubens Barrichello uses his horsepower advantage and a lighter fuel load to overtake Trulli, after a great scrap that goes on for a few corners. At the end of the 1st lap, Michael leads ahead of his brother Ralph and Coulthard. Barrichello is 4th, ahead of Jarno and Olivier Panis. The BAR driver rounds up the points paying positions. Mika Hakkinen has a dreadful start and is now stuck in the midfield in 10th. Home hero Villeneuve has an awful and delayed start and is now at the back of the grid. Giancarlo Fisichella is not able to finish the first lap of the race. The Italian driver 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 Benetton teammates clash with each other. Unlike Giancarlo, Jenson Button can at least continue the race. The season goes from bad to worse for Benetton. In fact, one of the written rules in Formula 1 is to not clash with your teammate. By the second lap, the midfield loses even more cars. It is now Nick Heidfield and Eddie Irvine’s turn to retire. The Sauber and the Jaguar drivers are involved in a collision and are off track at turn 3. Barrichello is the driver to watch at the moment after having a great start. He does not want to allow the two Schumacher brothers to escape. At the end of the 2nd lap, the Brazilian uses the entire slipstream to effortlessly overtake Coulthard by the end of the final straight. David does not have any chance of defending the position and drops to 4th. On lap 5, it seems like Ralph is quicker than Michael but he is stuck behind the Ferrari driver and is even being pressured by Rubens for 2nd. The latter will put Ralf’s defensive skills to test.
The number 2 Ferrari driver is eager to pounce on the Williams driver at the exit of the hairpin but 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 position. Michael and Ralf break away from the pack, aiming to fight each other in total solitude. The race pace of the two brothers is proving too much for the other drivers. Coulthard regains 3rd place after Barrichello’s spin. Trulli and Panis are fighting for 4th, followed closely by Jos Verstappen. Barrichello’s difficult recovery drive is underway. On lap 11, he overtakes Pedro de la Rosa for 11th. Eight laps later, Barrichello is chasing the underperforming Montoya. He wants to rectify the previous mistake. Arriving at turn 5, Montoya loses control of the Williams car and slams against the wall to the right. Rubens is forced into evasive action and crashes as a result. The Brazilian irretrievably damages the Ferrari car. Montoya and Barrichello are out of the race. The Safety car is called into action, allowing the marshal to remove the stricken cars and the debris on track. On lap 22, 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 and looks to have caught his brother napping. The leader builds up a 2.6 seconds margin over Ralf by the end of the 23rd lap. Ralph, though, has a great car and is quickly able to catch up to the leader. The two brothers are working in tandem in order to create a gap to the others. During the course of the 24th lap, Bernoldi suffers an engine failure and is out of the race. By lap 34, there is yet another retirement. Villeneuve’s race is over due to a broken driveshaft. This is his fifth retirement out of six Canadian races. 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. However, the latter is not having any of it. The intense series of pit stops starts on lap 36. First up, Trulli and Panis are coming to the pits simultaneously. The Jordan mechanics do an excellent pit stop, allowing the Italian driver to hold the position. Panis is frustrated by this. On lap 38, the Jordan driver is crawling back to the pits with brake issues and is forced to retire. The drivers that have not yet pitted are the two race leaders and Mika Hakkinen. In the meantime, the Finnish driver is up to 3rd place, since the others around him have made a pit stop.
He is lapping very fast and is trying to complete an undercut on all the cars who were ahead of him before the pit stops phase, including Coulthard. On 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. 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 sets the timing sheets alight with very quick lap times. 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. The Williams driver is thus the new race leader, with a 4-seconds advantage over Michael. On lap 54, Hakkinen is the latest to pit and is able to retain 3rd place to Coulthard’s detriment. There are now 15 laps to go until the end of the race. Coulthard suffers a disastrous Mercedes engine failure and is out of the race. It is undoubtedly a heavy retirement for Coulthard’s championship hopes. On lap 57, the race is drawing to a close and there are no twists and turns in sight. Ralf Schumacher leads the race ahead of Michael, Hakkinen, Trulli, Räikkönen and Jean Alesi. This race order changes once again when there are six laps to go as Jarno Trulli brings the Jordan car into the pits to retire, after suffering brake issues. Räikkönen and Jos Verstappen benefit from this retirement and 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 after suffering a brake failure. Ralf Schumacher manages the race lead without any problems until the end. At the end of the 69th lap, the Williams driver crosses the line to win the Canadian Grand Prix. It is his second career win. His maiden win was at the San Marino Grand Prix a couple of weeks prior. A masterful performance by the Williams driver. During the in-lap, he is even able to admire some race marshals waving at him. Michel Schumacher crosses the line in 2nd, 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 over Coulthard. The gap between the two is now 18 points. Mika Hakkinen completes the podium, putting an end to his bad luck. The Flying Finn scores his first podium of the season. Kimi Räikkönen is 4th, which is his best career result so far. Jean Alesi is 5th. Alesi gives his race helmet to a fan during the in-lap, making his day unforgettable.
Pedro de la Rosa takes advantage of the many retirements and scores one important point for Jaguar. It has never happened that two brothers finish 1st and 2nd in the history of Formula 1. This record now belongs to the Schumacher family. Mika Hakkinen is bitterly smiling, since he is already used to finishing behind one of the Schumacher brothers. This time, the Finn finishes the race behind both:
"Lucky there are not three! Then there would be a problem".
Ralf Schumacher, who will turn 26 on Saturday, June 30, 2001, has grown up and is no longer a young driver. This is not the first time that the two brothers are on the podium together. In fact, it is the fifth time that it happened. However, this is the first time that the hierarchy of the Schumacher family is overturned. Usually, it is Michael who raises the victory’s trophy while Ralph sprays the champagne from 3rd place. The first family party on the podium dates back to Sunday, September 13, 1998, at Monza. Michael won the race while Ralf finished 3rd. The second time was at the 2000 Italian Grand Prix. The growth of the William driver was fast. Long gone are the Jordan days, when he debuted in 1997 and was considered to be the bad copy of his brother. According to some, he was a little loud and obnoxious and was less talented than Michael. This belief got so ingrained that even the Jordan team started to not believe in Ralph, especially after the 1998 German Grand Prix. At the time, the family atmosphere was not as happy and joyful as it is the case now in Montréal. In fact, Ralf knocked Michael off track during that particular race. The off-track fight, that occurred within the motorhome’s closed door, had its effect. From then on, the fight between the two became fairer. One example was the tussle during the 2000 British Grand Prix at Silverstone. The first driver to hug the race winner is Michael, who is still wearing the helmet. In the following press conference, the little brother seems almost embarrassed to interpret the role of the n.1 Schumacher for the first time. He has been the better brother for at least 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. Ralf is asked to talk about the first half of the race, when he was stuck behind Michael. Is it difficult to stay focused when you have your brother ahead of you. Michael is quick to take the floor and jokes:
"Why is he going so slow?"
"Actually, that's slightly the case. When I was following him, I thought he was going to pull away and then I saw that the two of us were pulling away from the rest of the field and I thought ‘ok, why isn't he going quicker?’ At the beginning I thought he was saving his brakes or his tyres but then he kept his pace. I knew that I would have the upper hand at the end. I had to look after my brakes at the beginning of the stint as well, so I took it quite easily. I tried to overtake him a couple of times at the end of the straight but then I realised there was no sense. Obviously, he didn't want to let me by - maybe next time - and then I called the team on the radio and said: ok, I'll back off now and wait until he goes to the pits and then I think we could pull out the gap to win".
How was it like to fight with your brother?
"I think we have shown in the past that whenever we've come together, it has been very hard fighting between us but fair. I was following him quite easily today. The car was brilliant. The whole time I was always waiting for Michael to make a mistake but he didn't. I tried a couple of times on the final straight but it was difficult. I decided to wait for the pit stops and hope it would work. I would take the lead there, knowing that we would go longer anyway - and it did".
Do you think you can join the title fight?
"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 Constructors 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".
Michael Schumacher admits that Ralf was faster than him on this occasion:
"I have no problem with him winning. If he is faster, he is faster. If I have to be beaten by someone, my brother is certainly the best person: I prefer him over anyone else. I got six important points for the championship; he got his second win of his career. I am sure Mum and Dad will be very proud of us, this is the first time we finish in this order on the podium together. It is the first time that a pair of brothers are first and second on the podium. A happy family day, I would say".
This was the first time that Ralf beat you, wasn't it?
"In karting, we often fought together but those were other competitions. There is a 6-and-a-half-year difference 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. Williams has a good car and a good driver. When the package is right, they can beat us and they did. He was faster. Michelin tyres were a bit better here. We were the best Bridgestone team. It was important to take home 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 make mistakes. He was close to an overtake but when you’re on the inside, basically you have to brake a little bit earlier to make the corner and I was braking late to try the maximum and stay ahead. 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 understand that he didn’t try to take the maximum risk in overtaking me. Initially I pushed very hard in order to maybe make up the gap and beat him so when he was back on track, I was in front of him. However, it’s normal that this doesn’t work because you are always faster by the end of your stint then whether you put fresh tyres 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:
"At that moment, I pushed very hard, but once I saw him pulling out a gap in front of me, the car felt a bit nervous because I was pretty near the limit. At that point, there was only one strategy: try to save the race and settle for 2nd place. I just looked after my car to the finish in order to take home six points".
You still have an 18 points advantage over Coulthard. That’s a big margin:
"Yes, but we also know that it is quick to accumulate points but also to lose them. The fight is wide open and I am not making any illusions".
Rubens Barrichello needs to deal with yet another frustrating racing weekend:
"I do not look for excuses. When I am wrong, I say so. The car was fast at the start but I had problems with the traction control. 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 set-up, it is 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".
McLaren is satisfied with Hakkinen’s performance and podium finish, which was achieved with a great strategy and a strong race pace. After three consecutive retirements, the Finn was finally able to score solid points. Mika was stuck at 4 points beforehand and now has 8. However, the gap to Schumacher is 50 points. Needless to say, his World Championship hopes are close to zero. David Coulthard leaves Canada with an 18 points gap to Schumacher in the drivers’ standings after his DNF. The Woking team needs to understand why the Mercedes engine blew up. 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 in it".
This the right spirit to approach the European Grand Prix, scheduled for Sunday, June 24, 2001, at the Nürburgring circuit. The two Schumacher brothers will be highly motivated to win at their home race.