The German Grand Prix is scheduled for Sunday 29 July 2001 at the Hockenheim circuit. In the days leading up to it, it is rumoured that the Jaguar team wants to hire Mika Hakkinen for the 2002 season. The German newspapers started this rumour. Furthermore, the drivers’ market is also shaking up in Italy. 20-year-old Felipe Massa will drive for the Alfa Romeo-N. Technology team in the Super turismo series. Massa is testing at Varano on Wednesday 18 July 2001, supervised by Giovanardi. The young Brazilian driver seems to be on his way to great achievements, at the point where he is being considered as Ferrari test driver in 2002. Badoer is in fact destined to drive for Minardi, which could be powered by the Ferrari engine. There is mystery regarding the second Toyota driver, who will drive alongside Mika Salo in 2002. Test driver Allan McNish is hoping to get that seat. The first day of the Monza test is characterized by a terrible incident. Michael Schumacher is involved in a 310 km/h crash at the Variante della Roggia Chicane. The 3-time champion is pale as a rag after getting out of the car. He is immediately taken to the medical centre for a check-up. At first glance, he does not seem to have a single scratch. The shunt was probably more dramatic than the incident at Stowe corner, during the 1999 British Grand Prix, where Schumacher broke the tibia and fibula of the right leg. It was a brake failure on that occasion. The Maranello team publishes a press release, stating that the cause of the incident was a sudden loss of grip from the rear wheels. As a result, Schumacher’s car first hit against the guard-rail. The car crawled all the way into the escape route and against the tyre barrier, after losing the right front tyre. It was a scary and horrible shunt. The F2001 car later folded a pole that supported the protection nets, spreading panic among the mechanics and the fans. Ferrari requests that the journalists do not spread the images of the shunt, which were filmed by the closed-circuit cameras of the Monza racetrack. Someone said that that the cause of the incident was a broken suspension. However, the Maranello team rules out a mechanical failure on the car. Michael’s health conditions are evaluated after the incident. He is taken to the medical centre with an ambulance and is visited by professor Emilio Rovelli. Schumacher leaves the centre after 30 minutes and states:
"I’m OK, everything is fine".
The Ferrari driver is brought back to the Ferrari garage with the medical car, amidst applause from the mechanics. The health centre issues a bulletin, which states that Michael is not physically injured. Nonetheless, he is still shell-shocked. The Ferrari driver sees the replay and the telemetry of the incident, together with his engineers, before eating a quick lunch with his brother Ralf. Michael says goodbye to Ralf after a while, preferring to interrupt the test. The German champion leaves the race track to return to his family home in Switzerland, in order to recover from the incident. He wishes to spend time with his wife Corinna and his two children. Michael should have done another two days of testing. However, given what happened, Barrichello will do the last two testing days for the Ferrari team. Gianfranco Giletti, who was in the Croce Rossa ambulance that presided the area of the crash, declares:
"He was really lucky: the dynamic of the incident was really violent. We were immediately reassured when we saw him coming out of the car on his own".
Michael had just got into the ambulance when he was joined by Ralf, who climbed out of the FW23 car to check on his brother’s physical conditions. Riccardo Tombini works for the Croce Rossa of Lecco and provided first aid to the Ferrari driver:
"They reunited here, on board of the ambulance. Michael, looking at the way he was waving his movements, was explaining the dynamics of the incident to Ralf. He was not particularly scared; we immediately tested his blood pressure and the values were within the norm. He only asked to nap for five minutes before returning to the pits. The doctors then came to check on him and was advised to follow them to the medical centre".
Michael Schumacher was able to top the timing sheets with a 1'23''869 before the incident. However, the lap time is deleted for exceeding track limits. Zonta is thus the fastest driver, finishing ahead of Wurz and Gene. Ralf has a day to forget. Ralf’s FW23 has an engine failure at first. Later on, he picks up a rear puncture. William’s test programme is slowed down by these technical issues. Ralf is relieved that Michael walked away from the incident unscathed:
"It is clear that I was a bit scared. That is why I got out of my car to know how he was doing. I think that he will now have a headache and I believe that he will test tomorrow. However, he could be here in the next following days".
The Williams driver takes the opportunity to emphasize how the Variante della Roggia chicane was already under investigation beforehand:
"We put forward some criticisms about the second chicane. I expect that there will be some alterations after Charlie Whiting’s inspection".
Giancarlo Fisichella did not see the incident, since he went through Variante della Roggia a couple of seconds after the incident:
"The car was wedged under the tyre barriers. I feared that Michael could have hurt himself. I was really scared. Fortunately, he wasn't. It was a very scary hit because his Ferrari was completely destroyed. I remember what happened to me last year on the same point of the track. Mine was insane but his crash was really bad".
Giancarlo run towards the Ferrari garage:
"I was distressed. Strange thoughts were going through my mind. I saw a car against the wall. I feared the worst. It was inevitable to be worried. Completing the lap, I asked news about Schumacher’s incident. When I got to the pits, the mechanics still did not know anything. Luckily he was all right. Someone in fact told me that he was walking and I calmed down".
Did you see Schumacher?
"Yes, when he came back from the medical centre. It seemed to me that he was limping. I think that he was in shock given that he decided to go back home and to not continue the test. I did talk to him but when you have a high-speed crash, something remains inside you. Monza is a very quick track and it is terrifying when you go off track at 300k/h an hour".
Michael Schumacher undergoes new physical exams on Thursday, which exclude any physical damage. The German championship only complains about some bruises and various aches. Balbir, who is an Indian physiotherapist, is tasked to alleviate Michael’s pain. The reigning champion previously asked the Ferrari team to be fully exempted from the last two days of the Monza test. His next public appearance will be at a charity football match, which is scheduled on Wednesday 25 February at Mannheim, Germany. He will be fit enough to start the race weekend on Friday. The Lombardy trip is becoming increasingly more difficult for Ferrari, following Schumacher’s incident. Barrichello is also mocked by destiny. Rubens is only able to do four or five laps on the dry tyres, before a violent downpour falls on the circuit. The Brazilian driver is then forced to lap on a wet asphalt. This could be a blessing in disguise, given that it could either rain in Germany or in Monza. The other side of the coin is that Ferrari already lost a day and a half of the four testing days. Moreover, the weather forecast does not predict rain showers for the following days.
The Williams team dominates the second day of testing. Ralf and Juan Pablo monopolize the top-2 positions. Meanwhile, Jarno Trulli is involved in a near dramatic incident and the specifically designed rear wing of the Jordan car is completely destroyed. The driver from Pescara explains that the incident happened all of a sudden:
"It was really bad: 50 metres before Ascari, I heard the car suddenly accelerating. I braked but the rear was wagging. I then lifted off the pedal without losing control of the car despite continuing to zig-zag. I then went onto the escape route, by cutting the chicane. The car started to fly before landing back on track. At that point, I looked in the mirrors and I noticed that the rear wing was gone".
The drivers continue to remark that the Monza circuit is really dangerous, especially Ralf Schumacher:
"We put forward some criticisms about the second chicane. The escape route at the Seconda Variante is not long enough. I know that it would be a problem. Trees needs to be cut and the environmentalists would be against this. I expect that there will be some alterations after Charlie Whiting's inspection. It will be up to the FIA to make proposals".
Ralf and Eddie Irvine are on the same wave length:
"I do not like Monza, it is a boring track with long straights where it is impossible to overtake. it is one of the most dangerous tracks due to the high speeds, together with Hockenheim".
The North-Irish driver achieved a top speed of 336km/h during the 2000 qualifying session. Trulli explains the incident:
"Mine and Michael’s incidents can happen when you run on track where high aerodynamic load is needed. The cars thus need to be lightened up in order to go faster in the straights".
The same goes for Barrichello:
"The track has maybe become too narrow but Monza is always Monza. The Tifosi will watch us. Driving with Ferrari at Monza is something special".
David Coulthard is forced to withdraw from the second day of testing, since he is suffering with a stomach infection. Driving duties are taken over by test driver Alexander Wurz. He will drive alongside Mika Hakkinen, who is the fresh winner of the British Grand Prix. On Sunday evening, David talked with Jarno about the first-corner collision which took them out of the race. Trulli respects this gesture:
"I appreciated it because it was a pleasant and peaceful conversation".
Eddie Irvine is the fastest driver at the end of the third testing day, lapping in 1'24"530. He is followed by Montoya and Hakkinen. Rubens Barrichello completes 81 laps and has the 5th fastest time. The Brazilian had an engine failure during the day. In the meantime, Luca Badoer executes further tests for Ferrari on the Fiorano circuit. The Treviso driver completes 73 laps and does 16 start simulations, setting a 1'00"412 as his best lap time. There is still an aura of mystery around Schumacher’s incident. Ferrari previously embargoed the footage from the closed-circuit cameras to fully understand the cause of it. The team also denies the rumour that there are disagreements regarding the continuation of the Monza test:
"If I were Schumacher, I would come back immediately but the shunt was serious. It is only fair that Michael recovers with the assistance of his personal trainer in order to be fully prepared for the German Grand Prix. He will be there for sure".
The German newspapers continue the speculations, despite the official press release from Ferrari. Bild in particular uses this title:
"What is Ferrari hiding?"
The author of the article writes:
"The official version talks about a stone that damaged the car underfloor. It was not a driver’s mistake. The experts doubt this explanation. Schumacher is not talking and Ferrari is trying to hide this horrendous incident".
Badoer completes the 5-day test at Fiorano with 4 start simulations, setting a total of 70 laps. The three F2001 cars will now go to Germany. In the meantime, there are already some news regarding the immediate drivers’ market. Heinz-Harald Frentzen is fired from Jordan. He will be replaced by Ricardo Zonta for the upcoming German Grand Prix. This decision is communicated through an official press release:
"The contract between Jordan and Heinz-Harald Frentzen has been cancelled with immediate effect It has been a disappointing season for both of us. We had an exchange of views with Heinz Harald after the British Grand Prix and this is the result".
It was not a particularly enjoyable season for Frentzen, who is sitting in 10th position in the drivers’ standing. He only scored 6 points in the last 11 races. Jarno Trulli is only three points ahead of him. Nevertheless, he has been consistently faster than Frentzen in both qualifying and in the race. Jordan is going through a difficult period. The team was indicated as the third-best team at the start of the season, behind Ferrari and McLaren. However, Jordan has had huge reliability issues and did not live up to the expectations. The squad is now trailing behind Williams and Sauber. Eddie Jordan is trying to find a quick fix to the problem. The first concrete measure is sacking Frentzen for his poor performances. The German driver does not accept the excuses and attacks his former team:
"Following an unexpected termination of my contract by Jordan Grand Prix Limited, I will likely not be driving in Hockenheim this weekend. I contest the reasons I have been given for this termination. My position in this matter is now under legal advice. Due to the current situation, I am unable to make any further comment whatsoever at this time".
Ralf, Michael and Mika are under the spotlight during the press conference. Michael, how do you feel?
"I have no pain at all and, contrary to expectation, I already felt fine by Thursday. Over the weekend, I did my usual physical training and so I feel perfectly fine to play in the football game too. I relaxed myself playing football. Polster gave me the perfect soccer ball. I was even able to score. This took away what was left of the stress post-Monza incident. My main concern was checking if I had something broken after the incident. I was only thinking about myself, nothing else. I do think that being here, on a similar fast track as Monza, will not affect me. It was not my mistake. Something damaged the underfloor of the car and the downforce generated by the aerodynamic load was gone. The brakes were not involved this time. It ended well thanks to the great passive security of the car. I am certain of one thing. If I had the 1999 car (from the Silverstone stunt) I would not have fared so well. I would find myself on a forced holiday. I need to forget what happened and focus on this weekend".
This could be an important weekend for you:
"It is a very special place. I have a great memory of the 1995 victory, I was the first German to win this race. Crossing the start/finish line, my Benetton stopped and was towed for the rest of the lap: it was a very slow lap. For this reason, it was also a happy one. From then on, I never won again. Winning on Sunday would be very important. Of course it would be great to celebrate my 51st win right here in Hockenheim. Our car has been competitive on all circuits this year, so I think we can also be optimistic about the German Grand Prix".
The Frentzen matter is spoiling this joyful German atmosphere. It is not every day that a Formula 1 team fires a driver. Schumacher replies:
"It is not nice what is happening to him. It is a bit of a shame because they had a good time together in 1999, which means Heinz-Harald cannot be too bad as a driver. When times are difficult you should stick by your driver. Frentzen will now have to deal with a rather unpleasant situation. Certainly, I'm not very happy seeing what has happened to Heinz-Harald but he might get a better opportunity now. Those who know the Jordan team will not be at all surprised by this decision. Ralf had similar problem when driving for Jordan, I was informed about them. Jordan has two faces: the pleasant one, of the bright and witty character, and the businessman one. You would argue with him but he would only look at gaining a personal advantage. Everyone is free to see it as they like".
Todt claims that it will not necessary to win at all costs from now on, do you agree?
"I will always try to finish ahead of everyone. If I would find myself lapping half a second slower, then I would need to control the situation since I am not a magician. I will always try find the limit, that is for certain. Schumacher could win here in Hockenheim or at least one of us".
Jordan’s yellow motorhome is stormed by the journalists, who are trying to understand the reason behind Eddie’s decision to sack Frentzen. Jarno Trulli is wandering in the middle of the crowd but is quickly noticed by the journalists, since he has a showy orange shirt. Ricardo Zonta is looking perplexed and lost, after being promoted second driver for the upcoming race. Eddie already has an agreement with Jean Alesi for the rest of the reason. The team says that Frentzen refused to do a medical visit before the start of the season. The Italian driver admits:
"The news came as a big shock. When the news came suddenly yesterday, it was bad and hasn't helped anybody in the team. This weekend is not going to be easy. I’ve learnt that anything can happen in Formula 1 from one day to the next, so you can never relax. I just now want to concentrate on my race weekend. I want to finish this season on a high. I can help the team finish 4th in the constructors with my point. It would be a very prestigious result. Over the next few weeks, we will probably understand what happened".
Jordan failed the objective of finishing the British Grand Prix, which is only a few hundred meters from Jordan’s headquarters. Jarno is aiming for a top-6 result on a track that he knows very well:
"This is my true home race, not Monza or Imola".
It is hard to blame him, given that he won 6 races in the 1996 Formula 3 championship. The Pescara driver was driving for the Benetton junior team at the time:
"100.000 people were watching those races; it seems like a F1 Grand Prix".
He arrived in Formula 1 in 1997. Jarno drove for the Prost-Mugen team for 7 races in 1997. He was replacing Panis, who was injured at the Canadian Grand Prix. Trulli finished in the points only once during those races. In the following years, the Italian had several mechanical failures, retirements and overall disappointing results. In 2000, he was penalized for no reason. The Italian wants to score points at Silverstone:
"The Monza test went well. I have got a bit of a cranky car. When you think that things would go bad, the car is surprisingly good. When you expect a great result, then it has a disappointing performance".
Jarno explains that Jordan made a leap forward in recent races, thanks to Bridgestone. One of the biggest weaknesses of the EJ11 car is the excessive wear of the tyres. The new Bridgestone compounds, which were prepared for Magny-Cours and Silverstone, seems to have solved this problem.
"We know that Ferrari, McLaren and Williams are still ahead of us. We want to catch them".
Are there any car upgrades? Trulli’s answer is quite worrying:
"I will use the version of the rear wing that broke at Monza. The team brought it here is because they found the reason of its failure".
The long Hockenheim straights could enhance the Bmw engine. The Monaco technicians, as well as Patrick Head and Frank Williams, are proud of it. People say that it is the most powerful engine in Formula 1. The horse powers do the talking. It seems that the BMW engine have passed the mythical threshold of 850 horsepower. Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya are gambling on this powertrain. The Colombian declares:
"The Monza test confirmed that the engine is our tramp card in high-speed tracks. We are the favourites here for sure".
Montoya finished 4th in Silverstone and was unable to step on the podium. He wants to take revenge on Ralf Schumacher at Hockenheim:
"Let’s be clear: our fight is fair competition. Ralf should have let me through at Silverstone but ignored the team order. This is now over. We push each other. This is a good thing for the team. It is clear that each one of us wants to win".
This is the third time that you will drive at Hockenheim, after the previous two outings in F3000:
"I want to win in Formula 1. Michael Schumacher is the man to beat, no doubt about it. He is the fastest and wisest driver, with a great car and a very strong team".
There is probably going to be another battle between the two Schumacher brothers. Ralf does not hide the fact that he is among one of the favorites to win this race:
"This track suits us. The engine counts a lot here, the aerodynamics are not crucial. The tyres, on a dry asphalt with high temperatures, should not hold any surprises".
Ralf Schumacher finished 4th place at the Nürburgring. He was penalized with a Stop&Go penalty for going over the while line at the pitlane exit. The Williams driver is determined to have a good result to homage his passionate fans:
"I will be looking forward to the unique atmosphere in the motodrom. Hockenheim is not particularly exciting from a driver's point of view, but there are some good overtaking opportunities. The most difficult thing is to achieve the right car set-up, as you have to find enough downforce for the twisty motodrom section and high speed for the long. The track characteristics will suit our engine".
Ralf Schumacher certainly does not forget that the Williams-Bmw team had a remarkable amount of mechanical-related DNFs, despite the two race wins. He has reached the chequered flag five times while Montoya inished only three races. Ralf Schumacher considers the circumstance as normal:
"After the first year in Formula 1, we wanted to understand where we stand. It was necessary to take more risks and mistakes can happen. It is better to do one step back and two steps forward rather than doing just step backwards".
It is time for the first two free practice sessions on Friday 27 July 2001. Barrichello is the fastest driver in FP1 with a 1"41"953, followed by de La Rosa, Coulthard and Michael Schumacher. Eddie Irvine tops the timing sheets in FP2, lapping in 1'41"424. Montoya is 2nd, ahead of Barrichello and Michael Schumacher. Ralf Schumacher is only 10th fastest, after losing the first half of the practice session. The German made a mistake at the chicane and was forced to park the FW23 car onto the gravel trap. Mika Hakkinen confirms his good momentum with the 3rd fastest time. Barrichello and Schumacher are over half a second slower than Irvine. However, the Maranello team is primarily working on the car set-up for the race. The Ferrari duo does most of the running with a lot of fuel on board, without searching for the fastest lap. Ross Brawn declares at the end of the day:
"It is just a question of choosing the downforce level to get the balance at Hockenheim. You've got 75 percent of the circuit where you want the lowest downforce level possible and then 25 percent of the circuit where you want the highest downforce level possible. You’re trying to find a compromise. It was the usual sort of Friday. We had a small problem with the hydraulics on Rubens' car, but it’s not a worry for the race as the part that failed was not brand new and of course we will fit a new component for the race. We tried both types of tyres and there is a pretty clear distinction between the two. I think our position tyre wise for tomorrow afternoon and Sunday is fairly clear. Obviously, with more grip from the tyres, which you need in the Stadium section, you can afford to run less wing and that gives you more speed on the straights. We will have to take the extremely hot conditions into consideration".
The technical director is not worried about the hydraulic high-press system failure that slowed down Barrichello in the last eight minutes of FP2. The Brazilian driver summarizes the two practice sessions:
"I was not able to get that much running today, especially in the afternoon. In the morning, things went very well and the car was definitely in good shape. Then I had a hydraulic problem in the second hour which cost me the last ten minutes of the session. We still have a bit of work to do on defining the ideal set-up, but I am confident for tomorrow".
The Bridgestone tyres do not seem to be perfectly competitive; Michelin seems to have a great advantage on this track, thanks to a radical change which foresees much softer tyre compounds. The Japanese guys are a lot more conservative and are bringing the same compounds that were used at Silverstone. There is a simple reason behind this decision. Ferrari doesn’t want to risk anything, since Schumacher is on top of the drivers’ standing by a large margin. The goal is to drive safely until the chequered flag. Michael will not mind finishing 2nd or 3rd. The true protagonists of the German Grand Prix might be Ralf, Montoya and maybe Hakkinen. They have nothing to lose, unlike Michael. Those situations will be brilliantly good for Ferrari and Schumacher, since the aim is to keep Coulthard behind. It could also mean that Michael could skip an important appointment with Formula 1 history: equal Alain Prost’s record of 51 wins. All teams bring specifically designed front wings for this track, given that the Hockenheim and Monza circuits have very long straights. Ferrari will use the upgraded and more powerful version of the 050 engine for the race, after it was only used for qualifying in the previous race. The Italian team is also bringing a new rear extractor profile, whilst Panis is testing an innovative braking pedal. On Saturday 28 July 2001, Juan Pablo Montoya takes his first career pole position with a 1'38"117. Ralf Schumacher is 2nd, completing a front-row lockout for Williams-Bmw. Mika Hakkinen will line up 3rd. Michael Schumacher and Coulthard are 4th and 5th respectively. Barrichello is 6th, ahead of Räikkönen and Heidfield. De la Rosa and Trulli will line up in 9th and 10th. The Jordan driver suffered an engine failure during the latter stages of qualifying. Michael, tell us about your qualifying session:
"There was nothing wrong with the car, we were just slower than the other guys. We have performed normally, if you look at our gap to McLaren, but Williams has done a much better job than usual. Most of the difference has come from the tyres. This is one of the two tracks which is pretty much tailor made for our rival’s tyre company".
You will start from the second row of the grid:
"I was hoping to be closer to the quickest times after this morning, but this is the situation we now face and we have to live with it. However, I prefer to have the Williams eight tenths in front of me than Coulthard. I have to look at the situation in terms of the Championship. In the race, we must remember that to finish first, first you have to finish. Let’s wait and see wat happens. I would of course like to win the race because I have never won with Ferrari. I have to look at the situation in terms of the Championship: it is good for us, considering that one McLaren is behind us".
The Ferrari team perhaps expected more from the new engine. Anyway, the Maranello team is worried about minor brake issues in both cars. According to Jean Todt, the aerodynamic package is not working as expected:
"We would like to win here. Bearing in mind the situation in both championships, it will be important for us to bring home as many points as possible".
Schumacher’s only obstacle for the championship is Coulthard, who will start behind him. All Michael needs to do is simply stay ahead of the McLaren driver. Let’s not forget that Michael has a 37-points advantage over David. Could this be the secret tactic to keep the suspense alive until the final race of the season? Jean Todt cuts to the chase:
"We want to win this championship as soon as possible. If Bernie Ecclestone or his wife ask to keep the championship alive, I would say no".
How much are you satisfied about your first pole position in Formula 1?
"We worked really hard. Everything went really well. The car has been working very well and we were able to put together the perfect lap. To get the first pole in Formula 1 is very exciting. Beating Ralf in Germany is very good. Everyone expected either him or his brother to fight for pole but the underdog took it. It is an exceptional result. I now want to win. Scoring my first win in Hockenheim would be fantastic. It is Bmw's circuit".
Saturday 28th July 2001, the odds for this qualifying session are respected: Juan Pablo Montoya takes his maiden pole position of his career. His fastest lap time is a 1'38"117, 0.019 seconds faster than his teammate. Ralf Schumacher completes a front-row lockout for Williams-BMW. Mika Hakkinen is 3rd fastest, ahead of Michael Schumacher and Coulthard. Barrichello, in the other Ferrari, is 6th ahead of Räikkönen and Heidfield. De la Rosa and Trulli will line up in 9th and 10th. The Jordan had an engine failure during the latter stages of qualifying. At the end of the session, Michael comments qualifying:
"The only positive thing about today's session is that Coulthard is starting behind me. I was seven tenths faster than Coulthard. We have performed normally, if you look at our gap to McLaren, but Williams has done a much better job than usual. This shakes things up a bit. I would of course like to win the race because I have never won with Ferrari. I have to look at the situation in terms of the Championship: it is good for us, considering that one McLaren is behind us".
Perhaps more was expected from the new Ferrari engine. Anyway, what worries the Maranello team are minor issues in the brakes. According to Jean Todt, the aerodynamic package is not working as expected:
"We would like to win here. Tomorrow it will be important for us to bring home as many points as possible".
The only obstacle for Schumacher is Coulthard, who will start behind him. What Michael needs to do is to not get overtaken by the McLaren driver. Let’s not forget that Michael has a 37-points advantage on David Coulthard. Could this be the secret tactic to keep the suspense alive until the final race of the season? Jean Todt cuts to the chase:
"We want to win this championship as soon as possible. If Bernie Ecclestone or his wife ask to keep the championship alive, I would say no".
How much are you satisfied about your first pole position in Formula 1?
"We worked really hard. Everything went really well. The car has been working very well and we were able to put together the perfect lap. To get the first pole in Formula 1 is very exciting. Beating Ralf in Germany is very good. Everyone expected either him or his brother to fight for pole but the underdog took it. It is an exceptional result. I now want to win. Scoring my first win in Hockenheim would be fantastic. It is Bmw’s circuit".
Montoya, how is your relationship with Ralf?
"We respect each other. The team does not order us to eat together. We only speak about car set-ups or engines. Outside of the track, we do not talk to each other. I think it is common between teammates. We try to beat each other. I do not care if our relationship is frosty".
Williams locks out the front-row for the first time since the Silverstone qualifying on Saturday 13 July 1997, with Villeneuve and Frentzen. The Grove-based team gives a peremptory order to Montoya and Ralf Schumacher: do not do something stupid in the first corner, otherwise the punishment will be terrible. Technical director Patrick Head expect no margin for error. He calls the two drivers to his office to give specific instructions: if you crash into each other, we will take no prisoners. The last time Bmw locked out the front row was at the 1986 Austrian Grand Prix, with Teo Fabi and Gerhard Berger. Montoya nods:
"Ruining everything at the start would not make sense. I need points and so do Ralf and the team in order to overtake McLaren in the standings. I have a great chance to win".
It is unknown whether Ralf thinks the same:
"I wanted to be the first German to score pole position at Hockenheim. Unfortunately, I was not able to give my best. I made a mistake on my third lap and then traffic penalized me on the final attempt".
His thoughts are on the race:
"Who has the fastest split times in sector 1 and 2, takes pole. This time it was not enough. The race is pretty long so anything can happen".
Williams continues its run of form during the warm-up session on Sunday 29 July 2001. At 14:00, the stands are coloured in red. The fans are supporting Michael Schumacher, who is aiming to take his 51st win in Formula 1. In the meantime, Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya are looking forward to race at Hockenheim. This is the last time that this lay-out will be used. From 2002, the new circuit configuration will not go through the evocative passage of the German woods. Light out, the race is underway. The two Williams-BMW have a brilliant start. Michael has a slow getaway from 4th position. Moments later, the Ferrari has a gearbox issue. Michael stops in the middle of the race track. The F2001 car could be a potentially dangerous hazard for the cars behind. Luciano Burti is unsighted behind a Jordan and is unable to avoid Michael Schumacher. The Prost driver tangles with the back of the F2001 car and launches into the air, collecting Bernoldi’s Arrows in the process. The cars are severely damaged. The race director initially opts to bring out the Safety car, in order to clear up the stricken cars. However, there is too much debris and carbon fiber on track. At the end of the 1st lap, Charlie Whiting decides to red-flag the race. Michael Schumacher, Luciano Burti and Enrique Bernoldi can thus take part in the race with the spare cars. Tens of thousands of German fans are relieved by this news. The debris was flown in every direction after the three-car incident. Andy Davis’ leg was hit by the debris. The Jaguar employee is taken to the hospital with an auto-ambulance. The start/finish straight is cleared of scattered debris. The race will re-start as if the incident did not occur. For the second time this afternoon, lights out and away the cars go. The Williams drivers re-enact their first getaway. Montoya leads ahead of Ralf Schumacher, while there is an intense battle between Ferrari and McLaren. Michael Schumacher uses the slipstream effect to overtake Hakkinen for 3rd. Coulthard is trying to defend against Barrichello but cuts the chicane. The McLaren-Ferrari duo are now running side by side. Going into the entrance of the Motodrom section, Rubens makes a spectacular around-the-outside move to overtake the McLaren driver for 5th position. In the midfield, Pedro de la Rosa and Nick Heidfield are involved in a big accident. The Spanish Jaguar driver completely misses the breaking point of the Clark chicane. By locking up the brakes, he hit the rear of Heidfeld’s Sauber. Both drivers are forced to retire. At the end of the 1st lap, Montoya lead from Ralf Schumacher by 1.4 seconds. Michael is 3rd, ahead of Hakkinen, Barrichello and Coulthard. Barrichello breezes past Hakkinen for 4th. The Brazilian has a lighter fuel load compared to the McLaren. On lap 6, Michael Schumacher switches position with his teammate.
The two Ferrari drivers are on two completely different strategies. The incidents are not yet over. On lap 7, Zonta and Bernoldi make contact. The Jordan driver loses the front wing and leaves plenty of debris throughout the race car. His race is over. On lap 10, Montoya has a sizeable 6-second lead over Ralf Schumacher. Three laps later, fluid is leaking out of the left sidepod of Mika Hakkinen’s McLaren. It is a radiator failure. The Finn is forced to park the car in a safe place. He is the latest driver to retire. Having taken less fuel on board at the start of the race, Barrichello makes his first of two scheduled pitstops on lap 16. He filters back in 5th place, behind Coulthard. Montoya and Ralf are in a league of their own and are trading fastest lap times. The Colombian first sets a 1'42"089. One lap later, Ralf goes even quicker with a 1'42"048. Kimi Räikkönen and Eddie Irvine are out of the race, suffering technical problems on their respective cars. Barrichello quickly catches up to Coulthard after making the pit-stop. On the 19th lap, the Ferrari driver goes around the outside of Coulthard at the entrance of the Motodrom section to re-gain 4th position. The Williams pit-crew is ready to service the race leader. Montoya’s pit-stop lasts 29.9 seconds. The Grove-based team had an issue with Montoya’s fuel hose and had to switch to Ralf’s one. Two laps later, Michael Schumacher exits the pits with a fresh set of tyres and plenty of fuel. However, he has to deal with the second retirement of the year. The cause of the DNF is a terminal fuel pump issue in the F2001 car. Th sole remaining Schumacher is still the race leader at the start of the 25th lap, despite having a slow 11-seconds stop. Barrichello and Montoya are 2nd and 3rd. There is more drama going on. Montoya suffers a BMW engine failure and is the latest driver to retire after Hakkinen and Schumacher. On lap 27, Coulthard’s Mercedes engine blows up. The Scottish driver, who was already relishing the idea of recovering a few points in the drivers’ standings, pulls over to retire. Three top runners are out of the race, Ralf Schumacher is firmly in the lead with a good gap over Rubens Barrichello.
At the end of the 32nd lap, the Brazilian’s hopes of winning the race go down the drain. His second pit-stop lasts over 20 seconds. The Ferrari team encountered difficulties with the fuel hose. Despite this delay, the Brazilian driver is still able to stay in 2nd place. Jacques is nowhere near the Brazilian after the pit-stop phase. There are 17 laps to go until the end of the race. Villeneuve is under pressure from Fisichella and Button, as well as Jean Alesi. Jacques is able to finish 3rd, racking up BAR’s second podium of the season. The Benetton team enjoys a double-points finish. Giancarlo Fisichella claims 4th position while Jenson Button finishes in 5th. The British rookie scores his first points of the season. Alesi has yet another impressive race at the wheel of the modest Prost car. The French veteran scores one point for 6th position. The driver of the day is Ralf Schumacher, who emerged unscathed from an elimination race. This is his third win of the season. Michael listened the race from the sidelines via radio, together with two marshals. During the in-lap, he cheers for the race winner. Eventually, the Ferrari driver is able to go back to Parc Ferme to hug and congratulate Ralf. Ralf overtakes Barrichello for 3rd position in the drivers’ standings. The Williams driver is only 7 points behind Coulthard. Michael Schumacher has 84 points. Given how things went, the German cannot complain. Winning the Hungarian Grand Prix would be enough for the Ferrari driver to seal the world championship. For once, the two title rivals are on the same page. The title is already in Schumacher’s pocket. Coulthard’s championship hopes are completely buried after this race, however he wants to fight until the end:
"I am not angry but disappointed with today's result. We should have more reliability and our retirement influenced our season. As a team, we did not do what should have done and now we have to ask why".
Coulthard’s analysis is pitiful and the conclusion is almost obligated:
"It is an unpredictable sport. As such you have to keep an open mind, weekend to weekend. It is not over even if it is in reality".
He is still angry with the race director:
"It is difficult to accept. It was waved because it was Schumacher’s home race. The race should have not been red-flagged. The most dangerous start was the start but that was it. We could have all driven through slowly since the safety car was out. They had minimum two and a half minutes to clean the debris on track before we came around".
It was terrible weekend for you:
"It was my last chance and it was a very difficult weekend. I had a good battle with Rubens during the first couple of laps but was suffering from a lot of understeer. On a situation like this, how can you pray for a miracle?"
You don’t. McLaren’s atmosphere is in perfect sync with this resignation. The anger for the red flag, which allowed Schumacher to start with the spare-car, is a comfortable alibi for not taking into account the two blown-up Mercedes engines. Those are embarrassing failures in comparison to rival BMW, who won yet another race. Ron Dennis is trying to involve everyone on this shipwreck, continuing to go on with the story of the red flag ("I respect the decision of the race director but he Safety car was needed in other..."), when the topic of disaster is brought up:
"We lost as a team, not just those who build the engine. It is race to forget and it should make us think".
Jacques Villeneuve does not agree with the race director’s choice to red-flag the race:
"I was surprised when the safety car was out when there was a red flag, because we already went through the debris once. By then the track was clean, so the most dangerous moment of the race is actually the start. Usually, it is one thing or another so I was really surprised".
Barrichello did not like this indecision as well:
"The red flag should have come earlier. Going through the debris for one lap could have been dangerous".
Michael Schumacher consoles himself from the bittersweet defeat in his home race. He then makes a promise:
"I almost have the World Championship in my pocket. I only need four more points to win, I will try to close the championship as soon as possible. It would have been nice to score another six points so we could have finally done it in Hungary but we will have to wait a bit longer".
It is an emotional day for Michael. He is not worried about the retirement in Germany and the incident during testing:
"I am not too disappointed as the situation in the Championship remains the same. We have had such a reliable car over the whole year, one day it had to hit us back as well. The incidents are part of this sport. The ones that I had were completely different from each other. At Monza, I had a massive shunt against the barrier. I was lightly hit here. It was surely harder for Burti. I do not what happened. At the first start I told Ross Brawn that I had a problem with the gear selection. He told me to reset the gearbox programme and to shift into first gear. I responded okay, whilst trying to warn Barrichello. If I stalled, he should have tried to avoid me. After this, the car seemed stuck. I did not know where to go. I looked in the mirrors as two cars suddenly appeared. When I saw Burti in my mirrors I couldn't move out of the way and that was it".
Coulthard said that the race director should have red-flagged the race. How do you replicate to this accusation?
"The FIA race director made the right decision, there was too much debris on track. Continuing the race would have been irresponsible. It is a high-speed track and you want tyres picking up pieces of carbon fibre whilst the cars are going full speed. Coulthard says this because he is desperate".
Schumacher is not someone who normally settles for 2nd, let alone not finishing the race. However, he is not disappointed by the result. Coulthard in fact did not score points. The reigning world championships compliments Ralf:
"It is a nice sensation. I am very happy for Ralf as this is our home race and it was good to see him win here. It would have been nice to get on the podium with Ralf and Rubens and the fans would have liked it".
Michael wants to round up the championship as soon as possible. On Sunday night, he throws a party at Walldorf hotel. The celebrations last until dawn. The people that are participating in this party are rigorously German. Michael leads the party, followed by Ralf, Haug and Theissen. The Bmw man is wearing a Ferrari T-shirt. Haug, who is the Mercedes soul, is the lead singer in a rock band. He is more focused on singing, rather than thinking of the two blown-up Mercedes engines that took Coulthard and Hakkinen out of the race. It is a gigantic happening, in which Schumacher does not certainly back down. He is not exaggerating with the alcohol. He will do so once the championship is over. In terms of jokes, the world championship is more aggressive than ever. At one point, the champion is pushed into the pool by someone unknown. This party is a good sign, according to someone. Michael feels that the championship is already in his pocket. He could be crowned World Champion in two weeks’ time.