Michael Schumacher scored six victories and nine podiums so far and has a colossal advantage over David Coulthard in the drivers’ championship. The reigning champion has in fact a 31-point lead over the McLaren driver. There are seven races left to go until the end of the season and there is already someone who is calculating when Schumacher could seal his fourth world championship title. Take a look at this scenario: Schumacher wins the next two Grand Prix whilst Coulthard scores no points. The German could thus win the championship at his home race in Hockenheim, although it is an overly optimistic prediction. The more realistic prediction is that Ferrari wins the two titles at the Belgium Grand Prix, on Sunday 2 September. Otherwise, the Maranello team will secure both championships at the Italian Grand Prix on Sunday 16 September. Jean Todt curbs the enthusiasm as usual, yet he is secretly hoping to not wait until the last race of the season to win the two championships. Ferrari carries out the post-race briefing on Monday. Montezemolo congratulates the team for the win but also warns to not let the guard down when it comes to improve the car’s performance, especially in the reliability department. Todt explains the current situation:
"Seven out of 10 poles were ours and we were not able to score the eight one in France for 38 centimetres. Michael retired once, Barrichello thrice. Our rivals did not finish many times".
Bridgestone won the battle of the tyres on a track where Michelin should have been the strongest. This statistic is giving everyone the belief that the championship win is not too far away but it may not be enough for Bridgestone to renew the contract:
"We never give final judgements on last race’s basis. Michelin is doing extraordinary things".
Luca Badoer completes an intense day of testing at Fiorano on Wednesday 4 July 2001. He completes 84 laps, setting a 59"891 as his best time. The Ferrari test driver is particularly concentrating on the electronics and the starting procedures. McLaren, Sauber, Jaguar and BAR are doing a four-day test at Monza, in preparation for the British Grand Prix and the German Grand Prix. The third testing day is marked by a bad incident, involving Ricardo Zonta. Ten minutes before 15:00, the Brazilian is at the breaking zone of the Variante Ascari chicane when the EJ11 car sharply deviates towards the protection barriers. The front of the car crawls against the barriers, including the right front suspension and the sidepod. The car launches in the air without going over the net. Zonta is unharmed but the Jordan car needs to be entirely reconstructed. The cause of the accident is the failure of the left front suspension. David Coulthard tops the timing sheets on the third day of testing at Monza. The McLaren team focus on tyre testing and on numerous car upgrades. The Scottish driver sets a 1'24"024, which is nowhere near the 1'23"770 lap record. McLaren’s day is mixed, since the two drivers have to spend a lot of time in the garage. The mechanics are fixing the electronic innovations, suspensions and aerodynamics. Mika Hakkinen runs the entire length of the pitlane at one point with the car jerking along, after a rather slow out-lap. It is a demonstration of an unluck season for the McLaren team. The Flying Finn is forced to wait at the garage for a long time, while the mechanics are fixing the MP4-16 car. The second day of testing goes even worse for Mika. The McLaren driver loses control of the car at a speed of 300 km/h. The car knocks down the signalling panels and crashes into the guard-rail. According to rumours, the incident is caused by either a brake failure or a transmission one. The complexity of the test weight heavily on Coulthard’s humour. The Scot has a gloomy face but accepts to answer the journalists’ questions. He claims to have not tried the larger front Bridgestone tyres. According to him, the Japanese supplier notified McLaren that the team would only use the smaller ones for the Monza test. David also gives his view on the French Grand Prix:
"The situation in the championship is difficult. I obviously flicked off the button too early at the exit of the pitlane (this is the reason why he was punished with a 10-seconds Stop&Go penalty) when the race was wide open. I didn’t even realize it. When my engineer came on the radio and said: You’ve got a penalty, it really came as a surprise. I lost 2nd place for that. I have to just acknowledge it and move on. I will try to do better".
You are trailing by 31 points; does it not have an effect on you?
"No, because I have always the chance to win every single race. As long as I know that I am giving 100 percent, then I will take the positives out of my situation. There are drivers who do the same even if there are driving the Sauber or the Minardi cars. I feel I am driving well but I still feel that I can do more. That’s obviously what the goal is, to push more and try and get more out of the weekend. McLaren does not have the same performance as Ferrari and Williams at the moment. We know we need to improve. The easiest way to win is to have the best car. This is why we are working on the rear suspensions, the aerodynamics, the electronics, the tyres and even on the driver. Everything needs to be improved".
What cost you more: your mistakes or the poor reliability?
"I can’t do anything about the car. I can’t try and solve it because it is not my specialty. You need to rely on the people around you to have a competitive car and then things will be better. In our quest to try and make things better, we miss things and make mistakes. We’re only human and it’s a human driven sport, despite all the technology that is involved. I’m not any harder on the people that made mistakes than I need to be, because we all can make mistakes. If someone is not prepared to take a risk, then you don’t arrive at this point in the championship – you’d be one of the other teams that can’t afford to take a risk. I feel that I’m driving well but I still know that I can do some more. I’m driving better but the potential to improve is still there and the results show that, since I also made mistakes. There is the regret of not finishing the race in Canada and to have started at the back in Spain and Monte Carlo. I do not know if I will win the championship but a season is not lost by having a bad race".
Do you need Mika’s help now?
"Mika has no chance of winning the World Championship. I have. I've contributed a few times during the course of a season where I've held station and let it be known before the start of a weekend that whatever happens I would be helping him. It's a logical act for the team to do. That's the policy McLaren has had in the past and I would expect that to be the one for the future".
How do you see your chances of winning at Silverstone?
"I am optimistic that we can win the race. In the previous testing days, Mika and Wurz tested interesting upgrades".
Did you sign the contract extension?
"Wait for the press release. I read everything about it and I do not want to say anything".
We have seen a black container above the roll bar during testing. What was it?
"It was an experiment that Mercedes conducted on behalf of the FIA. It is a system which detect the cars in front. It is a project for the future. You might not see it again".
Bernie Ecclestone is working behind the scenes to organize a striking night Grand Prix in Malaysia, which could be held in 2002. Ecclestone and organizer Philippe Gurdjian will meet in the next few days to negotiate the proceedings. A night race could be an historical event, according to Rahal. The Jaguar technical director excitedly states:
"It would be fascinating to see glowing brakes in the dark, with sparks coming out of the exhaust pipes. Eddie doesn’t like that idea. I think it’s possible, you just have to light it correctly. It would be aa big, big project but anything is possible. It would certainly be a lot cooler".
Badoer tests the three Silverstone-bound F2001 cars before the 11th round of the world championship. Badoer checks some electronic solutions and the starting procedures. He also laps on an artificially wet track, given that rain is a possibility for the British Grand Prix. Michael Schumacher has a troubled history with penalties, incidents and controversies at Silverstone. It is inevitable to think about that fateful Sunday 11 July 1999, when the Ferrari driver was the victim of a horrendous incident that almost ended his season. The 96 km/h frontal impact against the Stowe barriers was devastating. The car was destroyed and Schumacher was immobilized in the cockpit with a broken tibia and fibula of the right leg.
"Did that accident change me? No, I do not think so. Once I got back on my feet, I was physically much stronger than before. This is why I never thought about it. I do not want to talk about those terrible moments such as the operations and the recovery again".
If you think that the 1999 race was dramatic, wait until you hear what happened at the 1998 Grand Prix. Michael took a controversial win at the end of the race. During the last stages of the race, Michael supposedly made an inexistent overtake under yellow flags. The other teams disputed this move. FIA thus decided to penalize Michael with a 10-seconds Stop&Go penalty, which could have handed the lead to Hakkinen. Ferrari took advantage of a rule that allowed the driver to serve the penalty within three laps of the notification. Furthermore, Schumacher claimed that he had radio malfunction and served the penalty during the last lap. For a moment, nobody understood who won. A moment later, the computer gave the win to Michael. This was the first time that a driver won a race by crossing the start/finish line in the pit lane. At the 1994 British Grand Prix, Michael was given a penalty for overtaking pole-sitter Hill during the formation lap. At the time he was driving for Benetton. The German driver was advised by the team to not serve the 5-seconds Stop&Go penalty and ignore the black flag for the next seven laps. The marshals admitted that there was a defect in the written communication for Benetton. However, Michael was still fined 25.000 dollars by the Federals. After being removed from the race classification, he was disqualified for the next two races in Italy and Portugal. This two-race ban had a big impact on the 1994 championship. However, it did not end there. Twelve months later, Michael’s behaviour was under the radar of the British stewards once again. Schumacher went wide into the Priory corner, leaving a gap in which Hill tried to slip into. Damon tried to make the corner by breaking super hard but collided with Schumacher, causing the two to retire. Michael tried to re-start the Benetton car to no avail, since was beached in the gravel trap. Michael and Hills were reprimanded with a warning on that occasion. The next two British events were not any better for Michael Schumacher. The latter scored no points in both races. In 1996, his race ended after only three laps. A hydraulic circuit connection came loose, which locked the gearbox in sixth gear. In 1997, a bearing issue deprived the German of a possible success. The current trend is not favourable. However, the Ferrari driver has had a brilliant season so far and is not worried about the numbers:
"This is the track where the English team usually test at. It could be an advantage for them. I have never rated McLaren to be off the pace, to be honest. When you analyse their performance more deeply, you see they are still very strong. They will have a chance to win and I also think that Hakkinen will come back strong after a streak of bad luck. I am calm about it. Ferrari is doing well everywhere and we never missed a chance to be in the fight for the win. You will see it also on Sunday. I am not worried about the tires: Bridgestone is doing a great job, like in France".
At the eve of the British Grand Prix, Jaguar held a press conference in London. It is announced that Jaguar renews the HSBC sponsorship deal for three more years. Irvine is the start of the show, expressing his opinion on the battle for supremacy between Michael and Ralf:
"Michael has an easy life with his brother Ralf because he has a stronger character. Just look at how they behave. The older brother has more determination and you can see it in the pitlane, during the press conference and on track".
The Jaguar driver criticizes the Williams team:
"I think that Ralf is doing a great job but the team should have won more races. Williams is doing too many mistakes in their race strategy".
Irvine accuses his ex-teammate for the way he defended pole-position at the start of the Nürburgring race:
"Michael puts certain people in that position. I don’t think he would do the same to me, Villeneuve or Montoya because he knows he wouldn’t finish the race. It would be interesting if one of us for near the front because the point has to be made. I would be very surprised if Montoya or Villeneuve backed off. I think they would find it fun taking Michael off. I wouldn’t have pleasure taking him off but I wouldn’t back off either. Michael knows what he is doing, he’s not reckless. David, Mika, Ralf have had chances with him at the start of races and have backed off. The problem is that someone will eventually get hurt. Two cars crashing at the front of the grid, with 20 more coming at them, is not a good situation to be in. FIA race director Charlie Whiting needs to apply the rules fairly. He needs to pre-empt an accident rather than react to it".
Eddie talked with Charlie Whiting about Michael’s aggressive starts:
"If I back out of a move and Michael hits me, would he not be responsible of causing an inevitable crash? The answer is yes. This is ridiculous. It is as if one was shooting people in the street but he is allowed to continue since he is not hitting anyone".
At this point, Irvine remembers the last time a similar situation happened to him. It was when he collided with Hakkinen at the 1995 Argentinian Grand Prix. Meanwhile, Coulthard is under the radar of the British press. The Scot is the only driver who can provide some satisfaction to the local fans. Coulthard won two consecutive times at Silverstone, in 1999 and 2000. He hopes to take an historic hat-trick on Sunday, in order to become the first driver to achieve this feat since Jim Clark, who won four times on a row from 1962 to 1965. The McLaren driver declares:
"I'm determined to get back on the winning trail and there could be no better time for me to make it three British Grand Prix wins in a row. It would be brilliant if I could do that because I really need to win the British GP this year. Just from a history point of view, you'd rather leave your mark on British motorsport than other countries. It's nice to have won Australia, France, all the places I've won, but there's nothing quite like winning at home. It would be an important victory for my championship hopes. They have taken a dip recently, but are by no means over".
As long as McLaren is able to improve:
"Naturally it is deflating to see the gap increasing but because I didn't sit there looking at the points gap when it was four points, I don't notice so much that it's grown. You either win or you lose. So, if I lose the championship... it can be by 60 points. It doesn't matter if you've lost - I don't want to be, 'Oh, it's only a couple of points.' You either do a job which is capable and deserving of it, or you don't. At the moment we're not, so we need to improve. I just try to get the best out of each weekend. The easiest way to win is to have the best car and to be performing. Otherwise, it is impossible to fight for the title".
It is time for the free-practice sessions on Friday 13 July 2001. Michael Schumacher tops the timing sheets in FP1 with a 1'23''619. The reigning champion is 8 tenth faster than Rubens Barrichello. Hakkinen and Coulthard are 3rd and 4th respectively. The two McLaren drivers overturn the FP1 situation and underline their authority in FP2. Mika Hakkinen goes fastest with a 1'22''827 and is only 0.067 seconds faster than Coulthard. Barrichello is a further 7 tenths behind in 3rd. Michael is closely matching his teammate in 4th position. Frentzen and Heidfield round up the top-6. Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo have off-track excursions in FP1. Friday is a day that is dedicated on discovering the new Bridgestone and Michelin tyres. The Japanese tyres are going very well so far, as demonstrated by the performance of the Ferrari and McLaren cars. However, the same cannot be said about Michelin. The Williams drivers struggles in FP2 as well. Ralf is only 8th at the end of FP2 while Montoya is only 17th fastest. Ferrari reserves the right to use the new evolution of the 050 engine for Saturday’s qualifying and will use conservative modes in the two free-practice sessions and in the race. The engine will undergo durability tests throughout the post-race test. If it goes well, the evolution will be used for the long straights of the Hockenheim circuit. There are spits of rain at the end of FP2 but the teams were able to finish their respective programs. Ever since the Spanish Grand Prix, McLaren has always been the fastest car on Friday. Coulthard explained why on Thursday that McLaren’s weak point is qualifying. This is what the team worked on throughout the first day of testing. Mika Hakkinen and Ron Dennis held a public confrontation when taking part in the FIA press conference. The two in question do not clarify what is going on with the contract extension, making the matter even more confusing. Mika, did you ever thought about retiring at the end of the season?
"No chance - there is no way I am quitting. After the French Grand Prix, I had a great vacation in Finland and I was made aware of the media speculations about my future career. It is just chit-chat. I haven’t said anything to any journalist so it’s just a rumour. The team has an option of my services for 2002. I am currently in discussions with Ron Dennis and am very relaxed about the situation. As I have repeatedly said, my main objective is to win races this year and this is what I shall be focusing on at Silverstone".
Another topic is whether Hakkinen wants to willingly help Coulthard in the championship fight with Schumacher. The situation in the drivers’ standings speaks clear. Hakkinen has nine points after 11 races, against the 47 of his teammate Coulthard. However, neither Mika nor Dennis wants to discuss the situation at length. Hakkinen only admits that:
"There has not been a lot of discussion inside the team at this point in the season, looking at how many points I have. I have an extremely small chance to be in the championship fight. We are going to work as a team towards the end of the season. We will see how the races develop and make some decisions together".
Dennis agrees with Mika. He states that the two drivers have clauses in their contracts, in which they have the obligation to follow the team instructions at any stage of the season. Moreover, Ron emphasises that he gave those orders twice throughout the season. They thus do not give a clear answer on this topic, which is what Coulthard is impatiently waiting for. Hakkinen expresses the desire to win at least one more Grand Prix before playing second fiddle to his teammate. Mika, you have a chance to win on Sunday:
"Without doubt. Last month me and Wurz tested on this track. We have put the things we learnt to good use. The laps times do not matter now. I am satisfied about having a good set-up for the car. This year however we were the fastest on Friday and then having a poor qualifying session on Saturday. That is why it is better to stay quiet and keep focused".
The same goes for Coulthard:
"I’m reasonably happy with the progress we have made today but you always want to be quicker and have more grip. However, as always, we will not know where we really are until the end of tomorrow’s qualifying. I will do everything in my power to win in front of my people. We will know where we really are until the end of tomorrow’s qualifying. The thing at the back of my mind is what surprise can Ferrari produce in qualifying? I believe it is possible we could be setting the pace around here, but I would not be surprised if Ferrari go out in qualifying and produce something special. I feel more upbeat than in France".
McLaren does not struggle in qualifying, as it was the case in previous occasions. However, the team is forced to give away pole position to others. Michael Schumacher nabs pole position for the eight consecutive time. This is also his 40th pole position in Formula 1. The reigning world champion beats Hakkinen by 0.082 seconds. Coulthard is four tenths behind Michael in 3rd. Jarno Trull will start alongside the McLaren driver in 4th position. Frentzen will line up alongside Barrichello in 5th. The British weather plays a part in Saturday’s free-practice session. This is why the start of qualifying is not exciting. Nobody leaves the pitlane for the first 24 minutes. The sky is clouded but is it not raining. Schumacher is eclipsing the two McLaren drivers at first. However, the quali session turns on its head on the 45th minute. The track is quickly becoming dry and is constantly evolving. Times will tumble down. Coulthard takes pole position with 1'21"119. Immediately after, Hakkinen goes quicker with a 1'20"897. In the meantime, the two Ferrari drivers coming back to the pits to make some adjustments. There are 6 minutes until the end of the session. Hakkinen improves his time once again while Trulli goes 3rd fastest. It would be an impressive result for the Jordan driver if it stays that way. Schumacher spoils the party for Hakkinen after setting a 1'20"447. The German re-gains the pole position while smashing the old lap record. The final 5 minutes of the session are packed full of emotions. Michael does not improve his time. Hakkinen sets a 1'20''520, which is 82 thousand slower than the Ferrari driver. It is Michael’s first ever Silverstone pole. Williams do not continue their strong period of form. Ralf and Montoya have a disappointing session. Ralf Schumacher finishes only 8th whilst Montoya will line up 11th on the grid. On the other hand, Mika Hakkinen seems to have re-gained the spirit to fight for the win. Schumacher reviews the qualifying session and warns that the battle for the win will be tight:
"This was a difficult and interesting session as everyone waited for almost half an hour before leaving the pits. This meant there was not much time to get in the four runs and improve the car. This was complicated by the fact we had no dry running this morning. Then the timing monitors failed and although we knew the lap times, we could not see the sector times which can be useful in analysing where we need to improve. So, it was quite an exciting session. We made small changes to the car before each run, to suit the track and the conditions. I do not underestimate McLaren at all. They are doing great progress; the race will not be easy".
Schumacher and Hakkinen are going to be the two main protagonists of the race. The Tifosi can breathe a sigh of relief, since Schumacher is ahead of the Finn by a big margin in the drivers’ standings. The fans enjoy a great qualifying spectacle and are hoping that it can be translated into an awesome race, even if it is not for the championship. Jarno Trulli will start 4th on the grid ad is quite pleased with his own performance. The goal for the Jordan driver is to finish on podium. The last time he stepped on the podium was over a year ago. He wants to fight for a podium finish, in order to have the chance to ultimately drive for a top team in the future. He could ultimately have a car that allows him to consistently fight for race wins and podiums. Montezemolo is often asked to say when an Italian driver will drive for Ferrari. The Ferrari president always gives an evasive answer, suggesting that Trulli’s dream to drive for Ferrari will not become true. Jarno is named after the Finnish motorbike champion Jarno Saarinen, who passed away at Monza under the watchful eyes of dad Trulli. The Jordan driver is still waiting for a McLaren call, even if the chances for it to happen are minimal. He will know his future in a month’s time but is realistically divided between Jordan and Renault. Jarno speaks about his qualifying performance:
"It is a shame to finish 4th because the car was really running well. It was also difficult because I was running completely blind thanks to having no computer readout of the lap times. So, I was completely blind and unable to know where I was losing and where I was gaining. I was improving every run and the last run was proving to be a very good lap. I was two tenths up on my previous best but unfortunately at the exit of Becketts, going over the kerb, we had a problem with the front suspension and so I had to slow down and stop. I'm sure I could have beaten Coulthard's time because I had a bit left for that last run".
Talk us through the car development:
"I don’t know what Eddie does with his money. We haven’t made any big step since last year. What is more annoying is that it’s a good car, as we show in qualifying, so it would have been good with development. I said this since the first Grand Prix: it would be a mistake to not improve the car during the season. However, the half a second deficit that we had at the start has doubled. This is pissing me off. I am tired of doing useless tests. It is not my fault that I have a winning mentality. let me assure you that it is a frustrating situation. It is disheartening for me, who has won all the junior categories, to accept that the driver does not make the difference in Formula 1. What is important is to have the right car in order to win. I would like to drive a better car. I do not want to finish my Formula 1 career without having the chance to drive for a top team. Everyone is asking, including me, what I would do against Schumacher or Hakkinen if I had a car like theirs. I would regret not having an answer to this. I only ask for one opportunity to drive a good car. I improve a lot since my debut. I am more constant, fast in qualifying and racing exceptionally. The winning cars are only two or three, considering Williams at times. With those, the driver still makes the difference. In those last few races, I will go on the attack as usual in order to try convince someone. It will be difficult but I am stubborn".
How does it feel to read that Ferrari could hire Räikkönen in 2003?
"No effect. Ferrari does not want to hire an Italian driver. I do not know why, ask them. I would definitely drive for Ferrari if I could".
Räikkönen stands out during the qualifying session, setting the 7th fastest time. He will start alongside Montoya, ahead of his teammate Heidfield and Ralf Schumacher. On the other hand, Minardi is not competitive in the slightest on this difficult Silverstone track. Alonso and Marques are the slowest drivers in qualifying. The Brazilian fails to qualify for the race. His 1’26’506 lap time is outside the time limit of 1'26'078, breaching the 107% rule. Furthermore, he is 6 seconds slower than the pole sitter. He is excluded from starting the British Grand prix tomorrow. Schumacher and Hakkinen are hiding their true potential during the warm-up session, leaving the scene to others. Coulthard sets a 1'22'994, which is 0.188 seconds faster than Trulli. Hakkinen is 3rd while is Schumacher 5th. The two old rivals are separated by Frentzen. Barrichello is continuing to struggle and is only 9th fastest, finishing behind Panis, Räikkönen and Ralf Schumacher. The one and a half second difference between Coulthard and Schumacher suggests that Ferrari has chosen to try a different race strategy compared to McLaren. On Sunday 15 July 2001, at exactly 14:00, everything is ready for the start of the British Grand Prix. The risk of rain is averted for the time being. The only few clouds in the sky are not threatening and the track is bone dry. Lights out, the historic Silverstone race is underway. Schumacher gets away well, protecting his advantage over Hakkinen. Coulthard and Trulli are squabbling for 3rd. The Scotsman sneaks ahead of Trulli around the outside of Copse but Trulli is not yet giving up. The Italian driver has an understeer moment and goes wide at the first corner. There is no room left between the two and the Jordan driver crashes into the right sidepod of the McLaren. Trulli is beached into the gravel trap and is unable to continue. He wastes an excellent opportunity to fight for the podium. Coulthard is sent into a big spin after the collision, finishing on the pitlane exit. Nonetheless, he is able to continue the race from last place. In the midfield, the two BAR drivers collide with each other. Jacques Villeneuve runs into Olivier Panis, causing the latter to go off track and into the gravel trap. His race is also over and is the second driver to join the list of retirements. Schumacher and Hakkinen are in a league of their own on lap 2. The two rivals are already breaking clear of the pack behind.
By the next lap, Coulthard is trying to come back into the pits but has yet another spin. The cause is a rear right suspension failure, suffered from the incident with Trulli. Coulthard’s race is thus over and his championship chances take yet another blow. The race situation is stabilized out on track. Michael Schumacher leads ahead of Mika Hakkinen. The Finn has less fuel on board and is much faster than the Ferrari driver at this stage. It seems like Schumacher is struggling to keep Hakkinen at bay. Montoya three-seconds behind the leading duo in 3rd. Rubens Barrichello is 4th, ahead of Ralf Schumacher and Kimi Räikkönen. By the start of the 5th lap, Hakkinen has a better exit out of Copse and is trying to overtake Michael for the lead. The Finn is now alongside Schumacher. The McLaren driver dives past the current world championship with a fine move. The Ferrari hasn’t got any chance to respond and Mika takes the lead of the British Grand Prix. At the Hangar Straight, the leader is breaking clear of Schumacher at a fast rate of knots. By lap 10, the Flying Finn is already 11 seconds clear of Michael. The reigning champion is then hunted down by Juan Pablo Montoya on lap 13. The Williams driver imitates Hakkinen and effortlessly overtakes the German with the use of the slipstream at the start/finish straight. The gap between 1st and 2nd is 25 seconds. Hakkinen makes his first out of two scheduled pit stops on lap 22. He re-joins in 2nd position behind Montoya. The German is doing a one-stop race. Montoya is on a two-stops strategy and pulls into the pits at the end of the 24th lap. Hakkinen re-takes the lead of the race. On lap 27, the Flying Finn is 11 seconds clear of Schumacher. Montoya is running in 5th place after the first pit-stop, running behind Barrichello and Ralf Schumacher. The battle between the Brazilian and the German for 3rd ends on lap 37. The Williams driver retires with a BMW engine failure. Hakkinen and Schumacher pit simultaneously for their pit-stops by the start of the 40th lap. The Finn retains the race lead whilst the Ferrari driver is 4th, behind his teammate and Montoya. On lap 45, the top drivers have completed the scheduled pitstops. Hakkinen is still in 1st position, while Schumacher is 2nd. Barrichello is defending 3rd place against Montoya.
Räikkönen and Heidfield round up the top 6. Sauber is aiming for a double-points finish. The 60th and final lap comes without a single twist. Hakkinen cruises around in the last sector of the track to say hello to the celebrating crowd. The chequered flag falls and Mika now can officially celebrate his return to victory, after having a troubled season that was characterized by incredible doses of bad luck. His previous win in Formula 1 was at the 2000 Belgium Grand Prix. Michael Schumacher finishes 2nd and extends his championship lead over Coulthard with 6 more points. Do not forget the Scott’s race was over after just a few laps. Barrichello bounces back from a disappointing qualifying session to finish 3rd. The Brazilian was very competitive throughout the race. Montoya, Räikkönen and Heidfield round up the top-6. Sauber consolidates 4th place in the constructors’ championship with the double-points finish. The Swiss team has now 19 points. Jordan drops to 5th with 15. Ferrari continues to lead the championship with 118 points. McLaren is 2nd with 66. Despite Hakkinen’s win, the Woking team is unable to close the gap to Ferrari. Schumacher is in the lead with 84 points whilst Coulthard is stuck at 47. Hakkinen climbs to 5th place in the drivers’ standings with 19 points. the Finn does not care about this stat and merely responds to the people who thought that it was time for retirement. The technical problems did not allow the Finn to show his full potential. It was an agony. This time, though, he was able to express his impressive speed. The Flying Finn signs several photos and notes that the fans are giving to him. It is just like the good old days, when Mika beat Michael for the 1998 and 1999 championships. The Ferrari world championship held a match point in this race but was unable to convert it. The championship will go to Hockenheim, where Michael has a second chance to secure the drivers’ title. Mika, you are the winner of the British Grand Prix for the first time in your career. How does it feel?
"It feels really good to finally win one after all the trouble that has been going this year. It was good to win it this year and particularly at Silverstone, driving for an English team and in front of an English crowd. We put on a great show. I wanted to push really hard so I had time to park the car and have a cup of tea before Michael got back. I also wanted to see the crowd. I was slowing down because I was not in any rush. There was a big gap to these guys, so I decided to take it easy".
How special is it to win at Silverstone?
"It's probably difficult to understand 100 per cent how important this win is for me. It’s something incredible, something that’s missing from my black book. I won quite a few times here is Formula 3 but never in Formula 1. I was not thinking about Spain at all. Well, not quite. On the last lap I was sure that something was going to happen, dear God don’t. But it was ok. In the podium, I really struggled to keep hold of my tears: I did not know where to look. Below me, the mechanics were cheering for me. Up above, the Finnish flag was waving. I suppose it is a fear for every Grand Prix driver, who has won a Grand Prix, that you might never going to win again. That is why I kept pushing very hard to win again because you know it's a great feeling. After every loss, I was always frustrated and angry. I tried to then recharge and to think about how nice a victory would feel again. We did it finally. I found myself again, having a car to my liking and adapted to my style of driving. The strategy and the team were perfect. I was really surprised what the mechanics did. Hopefully there will be more wins before the end of the season from me and McLaren".
The fairy-tale of the rediscovered champion is enriched by another tear-jerking detail:
"I am really happy because it is the first time that I won since becoming a father".
Schumacher gives Hakkinen a high-five after climbing out of the car. According to someone, he did not resist Hakkinen’s overtake as he does usually. The McLaren driver speaks on his behalf:
"I was surprised what happened to Michael to be honest because he was reasonably quick in the first sector and not so quick on the last sector and the mid sector so I was surprised what happened to him. I was surprised: I do not know whether it was a mistake or if he had problem with his car but it gave me the opportunity to overtake him. I got beside him and we continued like that in turn 2 and turn 3. I even gave him a little bit of room in case he wanted to race for a couple of corners but he lifted. I think that he does not have a reason to race with me at the moment".
The contract renewal could be announced in the next several days. Sportive director Jo Ramirez declares:
"Everybody was very happy with Mika’s win, which he achieved with a superb drive. We were sure that, as soon as he had the right car, he would have been ahead of everyone once again. It is too late to think about the championship but Mika will come back fighting next year. With McLaren, of course: his win was the best answer to all those rumours about his retirement. This sport has a short memory, people tend to quickly forget what Mika did".
Mika is asked to talk about a potential contract renewal:
"As you know, the team has an option for me in the future, so we will see".
Ron Dennis summarizes Ferrari’s race and the overall championship situation:
"I don't want to be too critical of Ferrari, because it so easy for us to criticize ourselves. Motor racing is very challenging, and to be very competitive all the time is very difficult. If I had my worst weekend and out of it came a second and a third, I'd probably be pretty happy. But most certainly their strategy was completely wrong. I don't think anyone in the team would argue to the contrary and it's a bit of a mystery to us as to why they even considered it. The Drivers' Championship is, I fear, more difficult. It's not over though. We are fighting for the constructors' crown, since is going to be a little easier to achieve than the Drivers' Championship. If Michael finishes all the races, we are under no illusions that it's going to be tough. But a couple of difficult results for him and it could quickly swing".
Coulthard declares that he is not yet giving up on the championship:
"I do feel very disappointed and a bit down. Obviously, my chances of the Championship are now very difficult, but I refuse to give up until the points don't add up. As everyone saw, Trulli made contact with me and irreparably damaged the rear right suspension. Jarno made a good start. In the first breaking zone, I was ahead of Jarno and I thought I could hold the inside line. Two into one does not go and that is what happened. It is evident that the races are only lost at the first corner, not won. Trulli should know this. By doing this, he ruined the race for both of us. I am not angry with him because it does not matter anymore. Ferrari were on the wrong strategy so I felt there would a 1-2 finish or us. Had we been able to run 1-2, I knew what the outcome would have been. I would have won without Trulli. Hakkinen would have pulled over, no doubt. It would have been a great scene with him paying me back in front of my home crowd. He would still have got the credit, but my title hopes would have been boosted. Unfortunately, all that has gone out of the window. I am disappointed for my own aspirations. Clearly there is a danger of the championship running away, but Mika proved that Ferrari can be beaten and I know I can race against Michael when everything is equal. I just need my chance to show it. Although Michael has edged further ahead, I absolutely refuse to accept defeat until he has got it in the bag. Anything can happen".
Dennis does not take any prisoners when criticizing Trulli:
"They were both fighting for the same bit of road that just was not there. David was ahead and so we felt that Trulli should have given him the corner".
Jarno defends himself:
"Maybe it was my look. It is not a bad idea to check the mirrors once in a while. I gave him as much space as I could have in the inside. I tried to get out of his way but there was nowhere to go. It was an accident. I had a very good start. I was next to David and I don’t know if he saw me. He may have closed the door. I supposed you could say it was a racing accident. I also think that Coulthard should have been more careful. His championship fight is now over. I will have a word with him later to clear the air".
Schumacher’s only smile is reserved to Hakkinen. The current world champion sincerely congratulates the Finn through the press:
"I am happy for him. He had a tough time and deserves this win".
Why was Ferrari so slow today?
"For a number of reasons. My car wasn't quite the way I would have liked it. I had some problems, especially at the entry to Copse corner, where I got sideways a couple of times. The car was not well balanced and I could not get the maximum out of it. My main concern at this point was just keeping the car on the track and when Mika came alongside me, there was nothing I could do. The strategy, as always, was a joint decision with the team. After the warm-up, we realized that McLaren chose to do a two-stop strategy. We thought about it but we choose the conservative and less risky solution. However, I don't think a different strategy would have necessarily changed anything: maybe, if I had been able to keep Mika behind me, we would have had a different result. We did not have that much experience with the new tyres, especially after I had a puncture on Friday and along with the changing weather, it was not easy to find the right strategy. We simply were not fast enough here, but the next race could be different. At least we brought home some good points. Looking at the standings, you can see that Rubens scored 10 points for the constructors whilst. I gained six points to Coulthard".
It seems like you are happy about this result:
"Settle for 2nd is not great and does not bring me happiness. I do not like driving like this. It was a good result, but…I want to continue to win. That is what I am here for. I now have 37 points in my pocket with six races to go. It is nice to know. We need to improve and do better for the next race".
Did you realize that Coulthard was out of the race?
"No, because my eyes were glued on the mirrors to see that Mika was up to when he was right behind me. I did not see what happened to Coulthard. They told me on the radio and I immediately understood that it was a good thing for me. With a difficult car to drive, why risk everything at that point? Hakkinen was much faster than me and there was no point fighting".
Were you surprised by McLaren’s race pace?
"No. The situation at McLaren is clear. It is a very fast car, especially in the races. It lacks reliability and they are having difficulties with the start procedures. We did not fight against them but we know they are quick and that they will improve".
Is the championship already in your pocket?
"It is not over and we have to keep continue fighting. The certain thing is that the championship is becoming more difficult for Coulthard. I want to continue winning races".
Could you win the championship title in Hungary?
"Who knows. Forget about it, let’s think about the next race".
What about equalling Prost’s record of 51 wins?
"I need one win to achieve this. It will come when it is the right time".
On the other side of the garage, Rubens Barrichello is partially satisfied with 3rd place. The Brazilian driver still has some complaints about the car set-up:
"I am happy with this result, because this is my first Formula 1 podium at Silverstone. I made up a few places at the start and certainly going for a long first sting was the best idea. The car did not really have the balance I like since Friday, to be honest. It was different to the way it had been at the test. So, I was driving carefully, while still trying to be quick. Even with the heavy fuel load, I was coping well. The car was good at the exit to Becketts which allowed me to keep the Williams behind me. I managed to keep ahead of Montoya after my pit stop and the car was better on the second set of tyres. At the end, I was able to relax a bit. I can say that the difficult and negative phase is over. I have to be reasonably happy with the two podiums in two races".
Maybe Ron Dennis was not so wrong when saying that Ferrari completely messed up the race strategy. During the usual Monday post-race meeting, Jean Todt admits that:
"We had opted for a one stop strategy for both cars and in the end, this turned out to be less effective than a two stopper, especially with Michael. He wanted to do an aggressive race. It worked though for Rubens, who started behind on a track where it is difficult to overtake".
Dennis said that the Ferrari strategy was wrong:
"Dennis is responsible of his own words. McLaren had a strategy which was better adapted to the race conditions. I think our cars were not set up as well as they might have been. As things stand, we need to mainly concentrate on the championship. We were conservative: it was not worth taking risks for the win. Let’s keep our foot on the ground: a 37-points advantage can be lost in four races".
On Tuesday 17 July 2001, Schumacher is on track for a three-day test at Monza. He will later test at Fiorano on Friday 20 July. Michael has a 37-points gap over Coulthard. In theory, 13 points might be enough to seal the fourth title. If Coulthard does not score points in the next two races, Michael needs to win the German Grand Prix and finish at least 4th in Hungary. If Michael finishes 3rd in all remaining races, he will still be able to secure his fourth world championship. There are 60 points still available. Schumacher has the possibility of reaching 144 points while Coulthard could finish the season with 107 points, depending if either of the two can win the last six races of the season. If the two title contenders finish with the same number of points, the championship is being given to the driver who has taken the most wins throughout the season. If both drivers have the same number of wins, the best race results are taken into account. The road to the fourth championship is smooth sailing for Michael Schumacher.