Ralf Schumacher and Williams-BMW were the winners of the 2001 Canadian Grand Prix. Three days later, on Wednesday 3 June 2001, Ferrari is back on track. Luca Badoer is in action at Silverstone. He is testing two chassis and is working intensely on the aerodynamics of the car. The Treviso driver completes a total of 43 laps and is 5th fastest at the end of the first testing day. His best time is a 1'24"420. The two official Ferrari drivers are also in England and will test in the following days. Michael Schumacher is driving an Alfa Romeo 156 station wagon and arrives on track at around 9:30 am. He is immediately surrounded by dozens of fans, who are eager to get at least an autograph. Michael signs many autographs in quick succession and heads to the Ferrari garage. During the lunch break, he speaks to a group of handicapped children and gives three interviews. Michael talks about his brother Ralph and his recent victory at the Canadian Grand Prix. It seems like the championship is becoming a family affair between you and Ralf:
"I was right about Ralf. I believed in him and was comforted by his results. For example, winning the F.3000 championship in Japan is a big achievement considering that it is a really difficult series. Even in Formula 1, despite an unlucky start, he is doing well. In 1999, I remember that he was leading the race at the Nürburgring when he picked up a puncture. By that point, I told everybody: he has great talent and he needs to have a good car in order to show it. Now BMW and Williams have prepared a car with which he can win races. If it becomes more reliable, Williams and Ralph can definitely fight with us for the championship".
Michael, you finished behind your brother in Canada:
"This is not the first time that I finished behind Ralf. That 2nd place is a very good result since Coulthard did not finish the race. I am delighted that Ralph got his second career win. This is the first time that a pair of brothers are 1st and 2nd on the podium".
The tyres made the difference:
"His victory was especially determined by the Michelin tyres. You must take into account that he had more fuel on board than me. At the start, I should have been faster in order to maybe make up the gap and beat him so when he came out of his pit stop, I was in front of him. I was not able to do it because my tyres were not performing as much as Ralf’s. He was not able to pass me but was one second faster per lap on average. In clear air, after my pit stop, he demonstrated that and was then able to jump me after making his pit stop. The European Grand Prix is my home race. It's always special to race in front of your home crowd. If I have a race with my brother, like the one we had in Canada, they will certainly not be disappointed. However it is so close now that you can never be sure until the race itself which one will be strongest. If the weather changes between qualifying and the race then it could swing either way".
What about you, Ralf?
"Michael is right about saying that it is not our year just yet. We have too many ups and downs to be consistent enough to be in the championship fight, even if we won some races. Nürburgring? This is my home race and there is always a great atmosphere, which makes it very special. It would be nice to have a similar success at home to Canada, but the Nürburgring will be more difficult for us than Montreal, so my realistic target is to collect as many points as possible. The circuit has very high safety standards but, typical to many modern circuits, it lacks character and there are no big challenges, except the chicane if it is wet".
What are the strengths of the FW23 car?
"The low fuel consumption of the engine and the tyres which were impeccable at Montreal".
There is also time to talk about private life. You and your girlfriend Cora will soon become parents:
"We are not thinking about the wedding just yet".
Two things need to be emphasized about the Silverstone test. Fisichella is testing for the first time the evolution of the Renault engine, which will be brought for the French Grand Prix. Moreover, an Indian driver will test on the second day and will drive a Formula 1 car for the first time. 24-year-old Narain Karthikeyan will debut in the 2000 Jaguar car. In the meantime, Toyota and Mika Salo complete the Monza test. His best time is a 1'29"139. The Finnish driver only sets 24 laps after suffering various reliability issues, including an engine issue. The Japanese mechanics are forced to replace the engine at the back of the Toyota car. Heinz-Harald Frentzen missed the Canadian Grand Prix after complaining of dizzy spells after Friday practice. It is believed is that the headaches and the dizziness were an after-effect of the Monaco FP2 incident. He hopes to go back on track for the European Grand Prix at the Nürburgring. The medical tests that he sustained at the Nizza and Monte Carlo hospital show that there are no neurological damages. Despite the positive results, the FIA professor Sid Watkins invites the German to make a definitive check-up of his health status at London by the start of the following week. Badoer completes the Silverstone test on Saturday 16 June 2001 at Fiorano. The Italian test driver focuses on shoring up the electronics, the engine performance, the reliability of the sensors and some external components of the 050 engine. Badoer tests the three cars that will used at the Nürburgring on Monday 18 June 2001. He sets a total of 22 laps. The cars will fly over from Italy to Germany. It is time for the long-awaited European Grand Prix, which is the turning point of the 2001 championship. The two Schumacher brothers will drive at their home race. Kerpen is their home country, since it is only a few dozens of kilometers from the Nürburgring track. The Formula 1 fans are eager to watch the Nürburgring race, since 140.000 tickets are sold in a matter of seconds. The anticipation is huge and the drivers can feel it as early as Wednesday. Long ques are forming at the entrance to the camping outposts. The fans are trying to take the best possible spots to watch the race with their camper, caravans and tends. Many red flags are waving for Michael and Ralf Schumacher. It is no mystery that many fans are supporting Michael and Ferrari. Ralf is aware of this situation. The Williams driver will fight his older brother if he has the chance to do so. During the Montreal race, he was able to study Michael during the first half of the race. He then overtook the Ferrari driver with great coldness after the pit-stop phase. Michael does not care that he didn’t win the Canadian race. He later has a lapse in style whilst talking and joking about the karting race on Wednesday evening:
"I always have the black flag ready, the temperament of the Italians is well known".
It is better to think about the Ferrari team, who has left behind the fluctuating uncertainties of the past. Today, Michael and Rubens are easily able to finish on the podium even if the F2001 car has a bad performance. Thanks to this consistency, Michael has an 18-points lead over Coulthard. This means that the reigning champion can race without having too much pressure. The other side of the coin is Williams. The Grove team is having an inconsistent performance, with lots of ups and down that are largely derived from the behaviour of the Michelin tyres. The French tyres are phenomenal in some conditions. In others, though, they are not as good as the Bridgestone tyres. The Achilles’ heel of the FW23 car is the aerodynamics, which are particularly important at the Nürburgring. Taking those factors into account, Michael should have a much calmer weekend on home turf. Watch out for McLaren’s desire for revenge. Hakkinen had a good performance in Montreal. He and Coulthard are ready to do battle. It needs to be verified whether Mercedes can re-establish itself as the most powerful engine in Formula 1 and beat direct competitor BMW on the car market. The German engine manufacturer will bring a new engine evolution at the Nürburgring. This upgrade should give more power to the McLaren car. Meanwhile, there is no news regarding the Italian drivers. Both Trulli and Fisichella will not be able to count on a great deal of innovative support from Jordan and Benetton. At least Giancarlo can cradle on the illusion of a good car performance in France, since the new Renault engine should arrive at Magny-Cours. In the meantime, Sid Watkins declares that Frentzen can race at the Nürburgring. The cars head out on track for the first free-practice session on Friday 22 June 2001. The two McLarens monopolize the top-2 positions at the end of FP1. David Coulthard is the fastest driver with a 1'16'888. Hakkinen is 2nd, stopping the clock in 1'17'022. Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello are 3rd and 4th respectively. This is a result that should be taken with a pinch of salt. Do not forget that McLaren was the fastest team at the start of the Canadian weekend but had a sharp decline in performance in qualifying and in the race. Michael Schumacher is not surprised by the performance of the two Silver Arrows:
"Let’s hope that they did not have a full tank like us, otherwise there would be trouble".
Michael Schumacher does not want to reveal too many secrets in regards to the one-second deficit over the two McLaren drivers in FP1. It depends on an extra 25 litres of fuel in the Ferrari tank. Take those litres out in qualifying and there will be nothing separating Ferrari and McLaren. Hakkinen outpaces his teammate Coulthard in FP2. The Flying Finn is the fastest driver with a 1'16"408. The Michelin tyres should not work with colder track temperatures. Insiders thought that the Grove team was supposed to struggle with a 12°C air temperature. Instead, Ralf is 3rd fastest at the end of the second free-practice session. Michael is 4th fastest and is one second slower than Mika.
"It's always good to race at your home grand prix and everything has gone to plan today, so I expect we can be up at the front tomorrow. I am not worried about the gap to the quickest car today. I feel the situation here is similar to Canada, where we were not quickest on the first day but on the front in qualifying. As far as tyre choice is concerned, we will decide tomorrow morning. I am quite confident, but we still have some more work to do to find the right set-up but it won't involve any major changes".
Rubens Barrichello is 5th at the end of the FP2 session and admits that it is difficult to interpret the track situation:
"It was not a particularly exciting day, although we saw quite a few spins caused by the wind and the dirty track. Circuit conditions here are very different to those we encounter at other tracks. I had a problem with the throttle pedal halfway through the second hour and I am not entirely happy with the performance of the brakes on my car. Apart from that, I am reasonably confident about our performance level. Williams had a very strange and incomprehensible Friday. In FP1, Ralf and Montoya were slow. In FP2, they were fast. In fact, Ralf made a specular lap time suddenly and jumped up to 3rd. Then they finished the session slowly. Why? I do not know; nobody can explain it to me".
It is true. Ralf Schumacher surprises everyone by going 3rd fastest in FP2. The FW23 car is showing signs of tyre blistering, even if Ralf has only done 17 laps in total. It is a cause for concern for Williams and Michelin. This is an issue that makes you wonder: how many pit-stops are going to be done during the race? In 2000, most of the teams did a two-stop race. Someone claims that a three-stop race strategy is on the cards this weekend. Meanwhile, Williams announces that Ralf will stay with the team for two more years. The German is encouraged by the contract renewal and will probably earn around 15.000.000 dollars per season.
"I am very happy that we have reached an agreement to extend our relationship until 2004. I am looking forward to the continuation of our successful partnership with Williams BMW and believe we will meet our targets together. It's a good team and I believe we can fight for the world title next year. It was a very simple, obvious decision to make".
On Saturday, Michael and Ralf are putting on a show for the 140.000 fans that are attending the race. The battle for pole position is a family affair once again. The other drivers are not able to match their qualifying pace. Ralf make his intentions clear from the beginning of the qualifying session and sets the provisional pole position. Inside the Ferrari garage, Michael is looking at the screens with a frown and gestures to the mechanics to start firing up the engine. Soon after, the current world champion is back on track for the out-lap. Michael makes some mistakes on his lap and is not able to improve Ralf’s time. The Ferrari driver may be suffering from the long idle stop that he had during the last free-practice session. In the morning, the hydraulic system of the F2001 fell apart and Michael had to stay inside the garage for a long time. The qualifying session is not yet over. The Ferrari driver then goes back into the pits and makes a nod. The mechanics understand the meaning of it and are making some changes on the car’s aerodynamics before sending him out on track. The aero changes are working and Michael is setting a great lap. The car is sliding around but he is able to manage it. Michael is able to keep the car on the right line, despite going over the kerbs. The 140.000 spectators shout and cheer as Michael crosses the line to take pole position. Nobody will be able to improve his 1'14"960 lap time. Ralf tries to do so but is shocked by Michael’s blistering lap time. Montoya sets a 1'15"490 lap time which is only good enough for 3rd. Coulthard and Hakkinen have yet another disappointing qualifying performance, despite topping the timing sheets on Friday. The McLaren drivers will start the race from the third row of the grid. Barrichello has a difficult session and is never able to the fight for pole, he will start from 4th tomorrow. Schumacher thus takes his seventh pole position of the season. He declares to the press:
"After losing half the morning with a hydraulic problem, we were not sure what to expect in qualifying, as I did not have time to run new tyres in the morning. I was confident with what I saw yesterday but I didn’t think we could go that fast. We improved the car for this morning and during qualifying, we made a further set-up change in between the runs and that made me quicker. When I saw the times developing out of the free practice session so fast, I was very surprised. It is now really a family affair so you, journalists, will have to get used to it. I almost laugh when I think about it. I fought with many drivers for years and now I find myself fighting with my brother. Cool, is it not?"
Ralf is sitting beside Michael, who is continuing to smile. The Williams driver has a happy face and seems to really like this family fight. Like it was the case in Canada, the two Schumacher siblings will start ahead of everyone. How will it go?
"I think that it will go great, we are brothers, we are intelligent enough to be fair to each other. Everything will be fine, just like in Canada".
However, Ralf won in Canada:
"I do not expect to see a repeat of Canada tomorrow, our tyres are very good and consistent here. I think we have the better tyre for the weekend but we have to see what happens. I do not think that it will happen again. Our cars look very good here and we should be in good shape for the race. Through the weekend, we focused all our time on the race pace. I do not think he will win the race as he could have problems with the tyres. In Canada we only did a one-stop and it decided the race for him. Instead, now we will do two-stops. I would not rule out doing a three-stops race. The strategy will be flexible".
Michael jumped for joy when Ralf took his maiden win at Imola and hugged him at the end of the race. You were happy that your brother won in Canada, despite the defeat. What if Ralf continues his run of form?
"Who knows. I think that I will be happy if Ralf wins again tomorrow. His victory would keep Coulthard further away from me. By helping me, Ralf would be twice my brother. Should he win in the next races, I do not know how would I react. In that case, one thing is certain: he would become my one true and new rival. Brother or not".
What do you think of McLaren’s performance so far?
"We have seen them struggle in qualifying before and then they are strong in the race. I would not be surprised if they were competitive in the race again tomorrow, because it seems to be a different issue for them. For us, it’s pretty even but I don’t write them off until the end of the race".
Is Ralf aspiring to be the new Michael?
"No, not at all, Ralf wants to continue to be Ralf. I do not think he want to become like me. Beware: we are the two Schumacher brothers. We have a great natural talent and, like our entire family, we have been educated to progress, improve and work hard. In this, Ralf is a great Schumacher and my brother".
The local press is excited by the fight between the two siblings and writes about unveiled talismans. They also talk about mother Elizabeth, who is complaining that she rarely sees her two children. Ralf Schumacher gives his thoughts on the brotherly fight:
"We both have many fans, even if some of them are wearing red but the Williams white-blue colours are rising. If people knew us better, they would understand that there is not big difference between me and Michael. Sometimes he is misunderstood: they do not know how funny and nice he is. However, they love both of us for what we have done. From the start of the weekend, I felt the pressure of the family fight. I now need to start thinking that it is a race like any other: it is one of the seventeen races to be won at all costs. For sure, starting on the front row with my brother will be exciting. I cannot wait. Let’s see how it plays out in the end. He won so many races and would not be disappointed to finish behind me in 2nd, like in Canada, At the same time, I would not mind finishing behind him".
Ralf, is there one quality that you would like to steal from Michael? He thinks about it for a bit before saying:
"None, judging from the last race. Then we will see".
Ralf has extended his contract with Williams for two more years. Michael’s contract with Ferrari will also expire at the end of the 2004 season. This could mean that Ralf could take Michael’s place at Ferrari from 2005 onwards. It’s also fair to say that the Maranello team is thinking of hiring Ralf for the future. Montezemolo is asked to talk about this subject:
"Ralf is more exuberant than Michael but has matured over the past few years in F1. However, I am happy to have our Schumacher".
On Sunday 24 June 2001, over 140.000 fans flock to the grandstands for the ninth race of the season. The head-to-head battle between the two Schumacher brothers is going to be very intense. The Ferrari drivers are very quick during the 30-minute warm-up session. Barrichello is ahead of Schumacher by a tenth of a second. The Brazilians’ fastest lap is a 1'18"209 whilst the German’s one is a 1'18"371. Ralf Schumacher is the best Michelin’s runner and is not too far behind in 3rd with a 1'18"392. During the formation lap, Michael is left stranded at the last corner. The F2001 car has a fuel pick-issue. The Ferrari driver quickly gets out from the cockpit and seizes a scooter, which should normally be used by a marshal. Michael quickly hurries back to the Ferrari garage to get into the spare car. It is a minor inconvenience that does not destabilize Michael in the slightest. Everything is ready for the start. At lights out, both Michael and Ralf have a clean and good getaway. The Ferrari driver squeezes his brother towards the pit wall before arriving at the first braking zone. Michael is thus able to maintain the lead. Juan Pablo Montoya claims 3rd place. Coulthard and Hakkinen overtake Barrichello and slot in 4th and 5th position respectively. The Brazilian is the driver who loses out the most positions at the start. He drops to 7th place after being overtaken by Coulthard, Hakkinen and Jarno Trulli. Lap 1 is completed. Michael Schumacher leads by 1.4 seconds from his brother Ralph. Montoya is 3rd, followed by Coulthard, Hakkinen, Trulli and Barrichello. At the start of the 5th lap, Michael is trying to break away from his brother. The gap between the two is oscillating between two and three seconds. The two Schumacher brothers are in another planet, in terms of race pace, compared to the others. On lap 10, Ralf is putting the hammer down and is starting to cut down Michael’s lead. On lap 17, Ralf sets the fastest lap of the race in 1'18"745 and drastically reduces the gap to the leader. Michael is under pressure from his brother and is even able to look at him through the F2001 mirrors. In contrast, Ralf is biding his time to try an overtake on Michael. While the leading battle is raging on, Olivier Panis’ 100th race start in Formula 1 ends prematurely. The BAR driver has a spin on lap 23 and is forced to retire. The cause of the spin is gearbox-related, due to electronic issues.
Almost halfway through the race, Montoya is lapping faster than the two leaders and is now 5 seconds behind the Schumacher brothers. By the end of the 30th lap, Ferrari and Williams are ready to service Michael and Ralph for their simultaneous pit stops. It is a crucial time for the outcome of this race. Ferrari’s mechanics are impeccable. Michael’s pit-stop last 8.4 seconds and is a second quicker than the Williams’ one. Michael stays ahead of Ralf. The two brothers come back on track in 2nd and 4th position respectively, since Montoya has not yet pitted. David Coulthard is in between the two brothers. Looking at the replay, Ralf has crossed the pit exit line with a wheel. According to the rules, a driver is not allowed to cross the white line at the end of the pit lane. The stewards are taking a look at it. On lap 31, Montoya pits and relinquishes the lead to Michael Schumacher. On the same lap, Ralf is successfully able to pass Coulthard. This is a key move, since he will not lose touch with the leader. The next target is Michael. In the meantime, Coulthard is under threat by Montoya for 3rd. On lap 37, the Colombian misses the breaking point at the Veedol chicane and goes straight into the grass. Despite the mistake, the Williams drivers gains the last podium spot. Coulthard makes his one and only scheduled pitstop on the 38th lap. The McLaren driver exits the pits in 5th. He is just behind Barrichello, who needs to make his only pit-stop of the day. The fight for the victory is still wide open. On lap 40, the race director decides to punish Ralf Schumacher with a 10-seconds Stop&Go penalty for previously crossing the pit-exit line. Thanks to this, Michael Schumacher is able to lead the race comfortably and is breathing a sigh of relief. No one is behind to challenge him. Michael is not threatened by Montoya. The gap between the top-2 is stabilized at 8 seconds. Barrichello is 3rd but needs to make a pit-stop. Ralf Schumacher is 4th ahead of Coulthard, Jacques Villeneuve and Trulli. Onto lap 44, Trulli is forced to retire for a transmission problem. Four laps later, the European Grand Prix is over for Jordan. Frentzen retires as well. Looking at the battle for the podium, Barrichello makes his only pit-stop on lap 45 and drops to 5th. At around the same time, Ralf Schumacher makes a second pit-stop and loses track position to Coulthard. The McLaren driver is now in a solid 3rd place. The Williams driver is at least able to stay ahead of Barrichello in 4th position. Despite a late excursion onto the grass, Barrichello consolidates 5th place ahead of Hakkinen. In the final stages of the race, Jean Alesi is trying to overtake Kimi Räikkönen at the Dunlop corner but awkwardly spins out.
The French driver is unable to restart the car. At the end of the 77th lap, Michael Schumacher takes his 5th win of the season and his 49th career win in Formula 1. Montoya and Coulthard round out the podium. Ralf Schumacher finishes in a disappointing 4th while Rubens Barrichello is 5th. An impalpable Mika Hakkinen finishes a minute behind the race winner in 6th, completing the point-scoring position. Michael Schumacher has 68 points in the drivers’ championship and has a 24-points lead over Coulthard. Barrichello is 3rd with 26 points. Ralf is 4th with 25 points. Ferrari consolidates the lead in the constructors’ standings with 94 points. McLaren and Williams have 53 and 37 points respectively and are fighting for 2nd place. Ralf makes a two-hands gesture whilst approaching Michael on Parc Ferme, whispering in his ear:
"You cut me off, eh?"
Michael spreads his arms as if to say:
"It was fine, what do you want?"
Ralf then tells Michael to piss off with a hand gesture before storming off. In front of the journalists, Michael reiterates that he has done nothing wrong:
"I am right, the regulation allows this".
The fight between the Schumacher brothers is in full swing. Michael wins this time. On the other hand, Ralph is unable to step onto the podium after receiving a 10-seconds penalty for that almost imperceptible error at the end of the pit-lane exit. The Williams driver understands that his brother is not giving anything away to anyone. Every relationship, even a blood one, does not matter when you are racing. These are Ralf Schumacher’s first words after the race:
"I am extremely disappointed about the outcome of the race".
The Williams driver goes on to say:
"Without the penalty, I had a chance to win in front of my home crowd. However, under the circumstances I have to be happy with fourth. I have to accept the penalty. As for the white line incident, I was looking in my mirrors when I left the pits and obviously concentrated more on the traffic behind me than the line. I am still really angry; I do not want to say anything I might later regret".
The Williams team confirms that Ralf is furious with Michael. Patrick Head explains:
"Michael squeezed Ralf at the start and then cut him off, when he saw that that he was coming into the pits. I think they quickly need to talk to each other".
The Williams technical director accepts Ralf’s penalty:
"Rules are rules".
There are also some people who think that Michael did nothing wrong, like for example Niki Lauda. The experienced Jaguar boss remarks:
"I told Ralf that his brother’s moves are normal and that he should rather take out his anger on those stupid stewards. The penalty was too severe. Ralf did not damage anyone. Even Michael did the same thing but was not penalized for it. Just give him a fine of 5.000 dollars which would have not spoiled his race. Williams also did a mistake: when Michael went into the pits, Ralf should have stayed out".
Mercedes boss Norbert Haug is another neutral observer of the brotherly fight. He claims that Michael has done worst things in the past. Jean Todt protects his driver as usual:
"In this sport you have to be strong, you cannot afford any weaknesses. Michael’s move was tough but also fair. This was one of the best races he has done since joining Ferrari".
Willi Weber, who is the manager of the Schumacher family, is on Michael’s side on this occasion:
"This is Formula 1. Michael had the right to defend his place. I can understand Ralf’s frustration because he threw away a podium with that penalty. He will calm down: they must think that nobody goes as fast as they do. They must be proud to represent the top of the sport".
The Ferrari driver supports his defensive tactics:
"I am certainly delighted. Nothing better can happen than winning your home Grand Prix, we have had a superb weekend. First, we got pole position. The start was not as perfect as it was supposed to be. Again, I had a little dip where I lost out a couple of meters and then I saw Ralf on the inside. Obviously, I knew about the two-stop strategy I was on, not knowing what strategy he was on, so I had to make sure I would be first in the first corner, otherwise I would be in trouble. I do not think he touched the barriers. I used the maximum that the rules allow you, to move over once, and tighten up the line. I think that is the way you have to work unfortunately".
What do you think about Ralf’s penalty?
"It’s a tough decision for Ralf to get this stop-and-go penalty for, as a I heard, just half a car passing the white line. Rules are rules. The stewards applied the rules in a fair way. Shame for Ralf, it would have been a pretty tough battle. It is quite a strong decision which destroyed his race. I can understand his anger but I was also punished, years ago, for making an overtake during the formation lap even if it was a venial sin".
Do you think Ralf could have won the race without that Stop&Go penalty?
"I do not think so. In the first half of the race, we did not have the right tyres and struggled with the first set. This is why Ralf was so close to me. Then when we got the second set of tyres, things were sorted, we changed the balance of the car and I was much faster. Before his pit-stop, we were pretty confident that we could win on our own strengths".
Let’s talk about the family fight between you and Ralph:
"I always look forward to some degree to fight against my brother because then, to be honest, it does not matter who wins in the end, to some degree. I would have liked to see him on the podium instead of Coulthard".
Is it not harder to fight against your brother?
"I would do this to anyone, honestly, and he does not give presents to me either, because we both work for different teams. That's the way it is. If you look back to past races, we made it very difficult for each other. We always leave room to survive for the other on. I was pretty much in charge, when he was pressuring me, except for one moment. I ran wide in turn five because I locked up rears and then fronts. I could not see where he was at this moment, so I tried to leave a little bit of space, although not making it too easy for him to overtake".
What about McLaren?
"They are not very fast at the moment. But it would not be fair to write them off and I will not make the mistake of dreaming about the world championship ahead of time".
A 24-point lead in the championship is a good advantage:
"It is really positive, yes, but there are eight races to go. We have seen in the past that things can change really quickly from one race to another. I often mounted a challenge, for the championship, at the end in the last couple of years".
Do you now consider the Williams drivers as your main rivals for the race wins?
"It looks like it. Especially at Magny Cours, because that’s quite a special circuit concerning tyres. I know Bridgestone is working very hard, and so does Michelin, so it's something which is on the edge, and whoever gets it just right is up front. That's the situation at the moment. This time we seemed to have the better end. Maybe next time we will be the other way around. But David just mentioned that somewhere they are losing out a bit and we don't know when they're going to fix it, but until then it is probably be a white/blue-red battle".
What happened during the installation lap, when you were stranded at the final corner?
"It was a shocking moment. During the installation lap, something failed, I do not know what it was, and I had to stop. And it was at the worst point, obviously, because it was very far away from the pits, so I was wondering how to get back. I only saw this BMW scooter without a key, so I was lucky. Suddenly a man appeared and gave me the key so I got going. Obviously, at this moment I thought that I should have enough time but you never know. You don’t have time to watch on your watch. It is a strange feeling, stopping down there, and seeing your chances slipping away. When I arrived, Ross Brawn was there waiting for me with the clock in hand. He told me to calm down and that I was even earlier than other times".
The Maranello team has a 41-points advantage over McLaren in the constructors’ championship and are concentrated on the next races. During the technical reunion, Luca Montezemolo is more critical than usual:
"When you lose, you do not want to increase the pressure on the technicians. When you win, you can be harsher on the race analysis. In this sport, even the team who finishes 1st is making mistakes and needs to take advantage of the victories to correct them. In Formula, a team wins if it makes less mistakes. Now we really have to concentrate, especially when it comes to reliability and the start procedure. We should give two cars that will finish the race, without problems, to our drivers and we also need to improve the launch control system at the start".
Barrichello, you struggled at the start of the race:
"The launch control does not work as it should. That is why I had a bad start and talked with the team about it. The initial getaway is fine but then I get stuck there. I had to brake to avoid being squeezed in between the two McLarens. The truth is that other teams adapt the starting system better than we do. Had the system worked, I could have maybe finished 3rd. I was struggling in the early stages of the race, lacking a bit of grip and I also had a ton of fuel on board as we had opted for a one-stop strategy. I am not sure if this was the ideal choice, although starting with used front tyres was the right decision. This has definitely not been my best weekend, but at least I managed to bring home a couple of points".
Montezemolo reflects on Barrichello’s race:
"Rubens did a great race but was penalized by the electric start procedure: Schumacher did not get off to an optimal start either but managed to maintain his grid position. The Brazilian, having a heavier car for a 1-stop race, was unable to do the same. Of course, winning in Germany on our main competitors' home turf is even more satisfying and motivating. I reckon that it was one of Schumacher's best ever wins with Ferrari. We need to stay focused because we have not won anything yet. As we saw last year, two bad races are enough to re-open the championship".
Schumacher has continued to say these things for a while now:
"Magny Cours is one of the toughest tracks on the calendar. The tyres will have an important role and it seems like the Michelin, on the Williams, could be better suited for it. I think that the fight with Williams will continue. I expect a comeback from McLaren. The championship gap to Coulthard is good but he could come back into the fight. Thus, I need to continue to keep a close eye on him".
Mika Hakkinen describes his 6th place as a disaster after having a lacklustre Nürburgring performance. The first half of the championship is now over. Despite a great deal of bad luck, Mika is a shadow of the driver that we have seen in previous years. What is going on with the Finnish driver? It is concerning that he also does not understand what is happening. It is too early to talk about retirement but the 2001 season has been quite discomforting for Hakkinen. Apart from the bad luck and the lack of pace, the MP14-16 car is unrecognizable. The Woking continues to state that there are eight races left and the championship is long. It is true. Mika could come back to be the driver who performs for the team, as it was back in the day. If so, the Flying Finn would need to deal with Michael and Ralf. Let’s also not forget about Coulthard who has become the n.1 driver at McLaren. This is unfortunately not the case for Barrichello at the moment.