#679 2001 United States Grand Prix

2021-03-29 01:00

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#2001, Fulvio Conti, Translated by Monica Bessi, Davide Scotto di Vetta, Translated by Ylenia Lucia Salerno,

#679 2001 United States Grand Prix

The Italian Grand Prix will be remembered for the terroristic attacks in the United States and for Alex Zanardi’s horrific accident. There are some al


The Italian Grand Prix will be remembered for the terrorist attacks in the United States and for Alex Zanardi’s horrific accident. There are some allegations that Michael Schumacher wants to skip the last two races of the season. The world champion feels the need to nip these rumours in the bud. He adamantly denies the possibility of skipping the penultimate race weekend at the Indianapolis circuit:


"I never had any intention not to come here. That is not true. There were rumours saying that my season was over, the press writes things but they don’t necessarily need to be right. I have never thought about not competing in the final two events of the season, in Indianapolis and Suzuka".


He is not planning to stop any time soon. Willi Weber and the Ferrari team confirm that Michael will race at Indianapolis. This does not detract from the fact that the reigning world champion is going through a particularly difficult period. The tifosi saw him during the Monza weekend and noticed that he was terribly affected by the Manhattan tragedy. His entourage normally armours him to the point of hiding his own feelings. However, they admit that Michael was obsessed with the image of the aeroplane that collided with the twin towers. He could not take that image out of his mind: 


"I had the normal hesitations that we all had. If war would have started, none of us would have liked to come here and drive a race car. That was the only question mark, however things moved on rather quietly but actively. In a very sensible way, people feel that life can go on. It took me a week to get over it and get back to my normal lifestyle. The thing of it was, obviously, the family, which when you are with your kids and your wife, they don't understand what has happened. They want to enjoy themselves. They want to play. They want to live. That is what shows you that life continues. If you are young, you have maybe less of a vision of what has really happened. You are too young to understand. When I was young, and various things have happened in the past, I didn't fully understand what was going on. But now, at my age, it touches me a lot deeper and so you suffer much more".


The US Grand Prix will hopefully be a joyous event:


"Our sport is purely emotional - we give joy to the people. So, it is going to be a very good chance to give some laughs and smiles back to the people here in the United States".


Jean Todt states that Michael had the choice to pull out from the US Grand Prix:


"It is he who drives and he who needs to say if he feels like doing it".


Todt takes a swipe at Briatore, stating that the team principals should never pressurise the drivers into risking their lives:


"I have no respect for those who have never driven a Formula One car".


Briatore angrily replies that Schumacher has the power to take that decision, since he is the true leader at Ferrari. Mosley was told that Michael could sit out the last two races of the season. This was before the Ferrari driver had the chance to deny the allegations. The FIA president attacks the 4-time World Champion:


"If Michael does not want to go to the US, that is between him and his team. You cannot make him drive if he does not want to. What is being said about possible dangers at Indianapolis is crazy. President Bush has told America to go back to work and that is what we should do. People over there are taking all the security precautions which makes us happy to go to the US. Schumacher needs to remember that all drivers go but Formula 1 remains. It survived Senna’s retirement and can also do so even without Schumacher, if necessary".


A Bild article reports Bernie Ecclestone’s alleged intentions to take points and the title away from Michael, in case the Ferrari driver decides to skip the Indianapolis race:


"Ecclestone wants to take the championship away from Schumacher. Our Formula 1 hero is thinking about skipping the US race. The Formula 1 boss threatens to cancel his championship points. Does he want to obligate Michael to race in the US? Is Ecclestone crazy?"


The air traffic in the US restarts regularly, indicating that the Indianapolis Grand Prix will probably go ahead. The director of the Malpensa airport, Francesco Federico, says:


"Everything is back to normal. The American authorities communicated that we are only required to observe meticulously the normal security procedures for the equipment boxes".


Ralf Schumacher talks about the possibility of racing in the US. The German gives a speech at the BMW stand in the Frankfurt Saloon and freely expresses his opinions in an unabashed way:


"My personal opinion does not count. Bernie Ecclestone and Max Mosley have decided that we should also go to Indianapolis. Thus, we will race. My only hope is that the race goes smoothly, without complications".


Ralf replies that the drivers had an agreement for the start of the Monza race:


"All drivers wanted to start according to Michael’s proposal of a symbolic gesture. Everyone except for Villeneuve; then some team managers intervened and that was it. The start was normal, except for Trulli. That is the way it is".


The Williams driver confirms that he did not race with the right state of mind, following the terrorist attacks in America. He was also deeply affected by his friend Zanardi’s accident on Saturday. In the face of such dramatic events, he considers the Monza result as a secondary thing:


"It is a great achievement to have our cars finish 1st and 3rd but we were not in the right mood to celebrate it. I feel especially sorry for Montoya, who deserved the victory but was unable to fully enjoy and celebrate it".


The German driver admits that the Williams team has the realistic chance to finish 2nd in the constructors’ standings and wants to exploit it. He is not interested in finishing 2nd place behind his brother Michael:


"I don’t know, let’s see how the situation will evolve".


The Ferrari sponsors and technical partners removed their logos from the two F2001 cars before the Italian Grand Prix. Luca di Montezemolo thanks them for the gesture:


"I would like to thank our sponsors for their sensitivity and willingness to accept our proposal. We wanted to give a strong sign of solidarity to the American people during the Italian Grand Prix".


Villeneuve, Irvine and Trulli declare that it is time to stop terrorism:


"Let’s go to America to defeat terrorism. Let’s not give up on terrorism".


The drivers are on the same wavelength about the topic. In a quick survey, most of the drivers think that the Indianapolis race must go ahead. Jacques Villeneuve, who is the only North-American driver of the 2001 grid, declares:


"If I were to go immediately to the US, I would have some concerns too, in terms of security. I count on the fact that the situation will go back to normal in time for the Indianapolis Grand Prix. I hope everyone will continue working, otherwise the world ends".


Due to his North-Irish origins, Eddie Irvine unfortunately knows what it means to constantly deal with fanaticism and religiously-motivated terrorism:


"If we surrendered, we would be playing into the hands of those people. Instead, we should go to America and race there in order to give a sign that life goes on".


Jarno Trulli wants to race at Indianapolis:


"I cannot hide that there are obviously all the conditions to be scared. We, as drivers, cannot decide whether or not the race should go forward. In my opinion though, I believe that racing could be the best way to respond to these surreal attacks. It will be a sign that we want to move on".


Giancarlo Fisichella is not overwhelmed by the terroristic events:


"I am not scared, if we gave too much weight to these facts, we would never get out of our houses".


If the Indianapolis race goes ahead as planned, David Coulthard will race:


"I would fly with more worry than usual".


The same goes for Hakkinen:


"I would literally be petrified in front of this opportunity".


Niki Lauda explains his point of view in a column of the Welt am Sonntag newspaper:


"Ecclestone encouraged the drivers to go to the US. I, being a rational guy, could not agree more. Firstly, the risks are minimal. Secondly, the organisers insisted that the race would still go ahead. Thirdly, the FIA refused to cancel the race. Thus, all drivers will race at Indianapolis, including Michael Schumacher. There are contracts to be respected and I think that he has no right to skip the races. We have to choose between emotion and reality. If you go against the latter, you go against the system".


At the eve of the 2000 United States Grand Prix, Ferrari and McLaren were fighting for the drivers’ and constructors’ championships. The situation is very different now, since Ferrari has already taken both titles. This race is important nonetheless. Juan Pablo Montoya previously scored his maiden win in Formula 1. He aims to score a historic back-to-back result at the Indianapolis track, given that he triumphed at the 2000 Indy 500 race. Alesi will reach a new milestone on Sunday, since he will start his 200th Grand Prix at Indianapolis. Few drivers can boast this record. Patrese (276), Berger (210), De Cesaris (208) and Piquet (204) are the only drivers to have started more races. It is nice that Alesi will chalk up a double century in the North-American continent. He finished 2nd at the 1990 Phoenix Grand Prix and won the 1995 Canadian Grand Prix. 


"The last 12 years have gone so quickly but I feel an incredible sense of achievement to have made it to my 200th Grand Prix. There are so many things that have happened over this time, making it impossible to sum up my Formula One memories in just a few words. I think about how many times I have lined up on the grid, how many people I have met and the amazing times I have experienced. I am so thankful that I have remained safe during my career as I have unfortunately witnessed some very sad accidents on the track".


Rubens Barrichello is hunting for 2nd place in the drivers’ standings. The Brazilian is now the father of little Eduardo, who was born in a São Paulo clinic on Monday, September 24, 2001. The US weekend officially begins on Friday, September 28, 2001. Michael Schumacher tops the timing sheet in FP1 with a 1'14''085. Barrichello and Coulthard finish 2nd and 3rd. Judging from the FP2 results, Mika Hakkinen does not look like a driver who will retire at the end of the year. The Flying Finn is the fastest driver with a 1'13''387, lowering Schumacher’s 2000 pole position time by 7 tenths. Michael is 2nd fastest, ahead of Barrichello and Coulthard. Schumacher and Montoya have a disappointing day, finishing 9th and 10th respectively. Let’s not forget that the Grove-based team is probably hiding its potential on Friday, more so than the other teams. Giancarlo Fisichella has an unlucky FP2 session, after setting the 4th quickest time in FP1. Eight minutes into the session, he spins into the gravel trap. The Italian is unable to continue. There is some concern regarding the tyre choice. The Bridgestone soft compounds degrade really quickly, whilst the hard tyres do not have any lap performance. Schumacher and Barrichello complete 43 and 44 laps respectively, testing the two compounds that the Japanese supplier brought at Indianapolis. The Bridgestone team will probably use the same tyres that were used in France and in Hungary. Both F2001 cars have a medium-high downforce configuration. The rear wing has one principal pylon and two wings, while a medium-size flap is fitted on the front wing. Together with Ferrari, the bodyworks of the Jaguar, Jordan and Benetton cars have a flashy American flag. Coulthard waits until the end of the session to celebrate Hakkinen’s 33rd birthday. The Scottish driver gifts his teammate a chocolate cake. Bernie Ecclestone is attending the Indianapolis race. The Formula 1 boss looks around to observe the grandstands that are not as full as last year. He extends his arms when asked if he is afraid:


"No, I am not afraid and I do not understand the people who fear terrorism here. The risks are everywhere, always. We cannot be inside our houses for ten years; it would be unreasonable. Furthermore, it seems that there are so many controls and more eyes than elsewhere in order to guarantee maximum security. This is why I came here".


That was to be expected. This is a strength challenge for Ecclestone. He is attending the race weekend, whilst Max Mosley does not. The Formula 1 circus does not appreciate this absence. Michael Schumacher wants to explain himself during the Friday press conference. He points the finger to the media and emphasises that he never thought about skipping the Indianapolis race:


"I never had any doubts about racing in Indianapolis. Naturally, like everyone, I wanted to see if anything would happen after the attacks in the US, but, as I said, in principle, I always wanted to race there. My hesitation was normal, anyone could be devastated in a situation like this. I then understood that it was going back to normal and that the people wanted to watch the race, to move on. It is the right thing to be here. I admit that I had to go through a period of profound crisis. After Monza, it took me a week to get back to normal. On Tuesday, I felt a bit better. Aside from that, I am happy to be racing here in the US and I hope that this weekend's Grand Prix will entertain the crowd and bring some happiness and relief after the terrible events of a fortnight ago".


Maybe it was better to not race at Monza?

"It was a terrible weekend for a number of reasons, without forgetting what happened to Alex Zanardi. I had the feeling that it was a cursed day and not the right weekend to race. We went through another very difficult moment at the 1994 Imola weekend, when Senna and Ratzenberger passed away. Back then, I was a bit younger and did not have a clear vision of the situation. Now it is different. I feel those kinds of things even more".


President Mosley says that Formula 1 continued without Senna and will do so without you:


"I know that Formula 1 existed before me and will continue without me, there was no need to remind it".


Have you ever thought about quitting?


"In fact, I could say neither yes, nor no. In critical moments, many things go through your mind. It is an extremely difficult week for me".


Did Ferrari give you the choice to decide whether to race or not? 


"It is quite true that Ferrari even in Monza was very open and said that if I feel it is not the right time to race, they would leave me the decision on what to do. And I thought that was very fair from the team to both drivers, honestly. Nobody knew what was going to happen from Monza onwards. I felt kind of obliged to race in Monza for all the Italians. If things would have become difficult or war would have started, then probably none of us would have liked to see a race down here. If I decided to skip the race, Luca Badoer would have theoretically replaced me".

Even if you were fighting for the championship?


"In those difficult moments, I think it wouldn’t have made any difference. Some things strike you or not: for me, it was quite tough".


Did you manage to let go of the Monza disappointments and friction?


"No. What is obviously not so good is that you use the weakness of some drivers to simply tell them what to do and you know they can't do anything against that. Sentences like ‘I pay you and you should race’ are a complete lack of respect. The drivers are there to drive, they know how to do this job".


What kind of atmosphere are you feeling here in Indianapolis?


"There is also a certain expectation. Last year, 300 thousand people created a beautiful atmosphere for us drivers. Aside from that, I am happy to be racing here in the US and I hope that this weekend's Grand Prix will entertain the crowd and bring some happiness and relief after the terrible events of a fortnight ago. Basically, the problem you face here is that it is not the most challenging circuit. That is the way it ended up, being a compromise in terms of challenge to us. Villeneuve says that it is a Mickey Mouse track? He is not that tall either. He also says that Prost and Senna were stronger than me because they raced with the same car? Jacques and I are not the best of friends…".


Bernie Ecclestone talks about Schumacher’s attempt to make a non-attack start in the first corner:


"I am happy that the agreement was over because it was illogical. I do not discuss the reasons behind it but the timing was all wrong. Schumacher should have thought about this on Thursday and not two hours before the start of the race. He then talked about security, saying that the first chicane could have been a risk, having all cars piled up. Yet, he was the one who wanted that chicane in the first place. He designed it himself and this should be known. Thus, I agree with team managers like Briatore, who asked their driver to race normally".


Michael states that Briatore should have not interfered with the decision:


"I don't agree with what Flavio has done to his drivers or some other team principals to basically tell the drivers what to do. The drivers are there to drive, they know how to do this job. I guess Flavio has never sat in a racing car so far, he does not know what it feels like. Therefore, it is a little bit inappropriate to tell the drivers what to do. But that's his decision and not my decision. But what is obviously not so good is that you use the weakness of some drivers and simply tell them what to do and you know they can't do anything against that".


Briatore instantly exclaims:


"Different head, different idea. I believe it was not only me, Pollock was in the same line. For me, it was the approach of the drivers that was wrong. On Thursday, the drivers did not talk about any kind of new start at the briefing. I felt like the new start was unfair when I heard the news on Sunday morning. It is not true that all the drivers were together, because Giancarlo Fisichella basically told me 'I want to start normally but Schumacher decided for everybody'. Everybody now is with Michael. Button was not so strong either".


Michael gives a sarcastic remark: 


"I didn’t know you were there".


Flavio explains his point of view:


"This was Fisichella. Michael is in the position of the driver but sometimes he is the team manager as well, he makes the decision for both. I am only the team manager and I try to do the best for my drivers and for the team. If the drivers come to us Thursday and nicely talk, maybe we can find a solution. Not Sunday midday before the race".


Michael comments the free practice results:


"It was a pretty normal Friday today. We just did our usual work of adapting the car to the circuit. There were no particular problems. Aside from that, I am happy to be racing here in the US and I hope that this weekend's Grand Prix will entertain the crowd and bring some happiness and relief after the terrible events of a fortnight ago".


The reigning champion particularly focuses on his eternal rival:


"I am happy for Mika. He is always a great champion; I like to race with the best drivers. It will be difficult, in my opinion, to take a sabbatical year and then come back at the wheel of a Formula 1 car. I will miss him very much. Everyone will miss someone like him".


Barrichello is particularly satisfied with the free practice results:


"It was the first day after becoming a father to my son Eduardo. The track was dirty and it was quite windy. I am happy to be here in Indianapolis. I like it here and would have been disappointed if the race had been cancelled. We did a lot of laps today and that has given us a lot of data, which will help us for the tyre choice. From what I can see, the car seems to work pretty well. Tomorrow's qualifying will be all about being on the track at the right time".


In the meantime, Luca Badoer is testing some new mechanical and electronic solutions at Fiorano, focusing on the 2002 car development. The new car is already at an advanced stage. The Ferrari team is doing an on-track check of the test-bench data, in order to gain time and guarantee an increase of the car performance. Ferrari completes a 50 km shakedown, taking advantage of the FIA regulations. Badoer’s best time is a 1'00''94, which is set in high-fuel racing conditions. The driver from Treviso completes a total of 16 laps. The qualifying session is held on Saturday, September 29, 2001. During the first 45 minutes of the session, it seems like Ralf Schumacher and Mika Hakkinen will battle for pole position. There are 15 minutes left. Schumacher sets a blistering 1'11''708 lap time on his third attempt. Michael Schumacher is confident that this lap will be enough to take pole position. In the last five remaining minutes of the session, he sits in the garage. He talks to Modesto Menabue, without forgetting to look at the monitors. He wants to see if someone else beats his time. Mika gets within two tenths of Michael’s time but it is not enough. The Ferrari driver will start ahead of everyone for the 42nd time. He scores his 10th pole position of the 2002 season. Michael equals Senna and Villeneuve in the classification of most pole positions in one season, although he will be unable to catch Nigel Mansell. The English driver took 14 pole positions in 1992. Mika will line up in 2nd position, ahead of Ralf and Montoya. Michael shakes hands with the Ferrari mechanics and waves to the crowd in the grandstands. The fans are waving many Ferrari flags. There is a celebrating atmosphere surrounding the Indianapolis circuit. Michael thanks the American fans with raised arms and arrives to the press conference late:


"I am very happy. The car has been going pretty well all weekend and we have continually improved. Things are looking positive. As far as qualifying is concerned, I could not have gone any better than this. You know when you have reached the maximum, especially when you don’t have a view on how to improve the car, any more without just wasting time. When you have done the best for what’s possible in the circumstance, then you call. I knew I couldn’t improve anyway. I was worried that it might be a little tight and not as good but it worked out better in the end".


Hakkinen and Ralf are your biggest competitors for the race win:


"I thought Ralf was second fastest. Anyway, we have now used to be only Mika and myself in 1999 and 2000, and ’98 to some degree. Now it’s my brother on top, which makes it more exciting and interesting. You have more variation within the positions over the season, and that’s obviously something I enjoy at least. We will see. Without doubt, Williams-BMW is clearly improving. Engaging in a fight with my brother Ralf is always exciting. My Ferrari is consistent enough to the point of thinking about having a very good race".


Do you think you can win the race?


"I always hope to win, I always race for the victory even when I have it in my grasp. My motivations come from my constant search for the winning pleasure. Having wrapped up the championships early makes you free for the individual event. You simply enjoy that and try to fight, try to do the best and try to win. I hope to do the same as last year and win the race. We have lots of supporters in the US. Obviously with all that happened, we would like to put a smile back on people’s faces and put on a good show - and do that by winning the race".


After your first attempt, we saw a bit of smoke coming from the car: 


"Cannot resist from smoking, that is my main problem. No, it was simply the last lap. When I made that mistake, I simply locked the front wheel. The only worry I had before the qualifying session was that we had to change the engine after this morning’s practice session. It was not the same specification as the first one. I cannot complain about the new engine that I had. It felt very good and powerful. I think the run to the first corner, after the start, will be exciting tomorrow".


Is there any chance to overtake on this track?


"You have a very good opportunity for overtaking manoeuvres down here, certainly. It's a very long straight, which happens to give this opportunity. We do have other circuits where we have, as well, opportunities. I hope to have a good start in order to not make any overtake. However even if you are not up front, you still can hope that you might overtake in order to win the race. Jokes aside, Mika and Ralf will give me a good fight, given that Montoya and Rubens will start further back. My teammate is fighting Coulthard for 2nd place in the drivers’ championship. I am sure that he will have the chance to do a good race".


Jean Todt is satisfied with the qualifying result:


"A tenth pole position this season represents a personal best for Michael Schumacher, while Ferrari has now equalled the result it obtained in 1974 and 2000. After this morning's free practice, it was necessary to change the engine in Schumacher's car because of an oil pump problem. Rubens has a good grid position from which he can try and improve his position in the drivers’ standings. I expect a hard-fought race tomorrow on a track where overtaking is a possibility. I am happy to see a Ferrari on pole here for the second consecutive year on such a famous circuit and in front of the American public".


Ross Brawn gives a detailed analysis of the session:


"It's very good to see Michael on form again. Monza was just a glitch! Considering the fact that we are the only Bridgestone runner to have chosen the hard tyre, I think it is a good achievement. Now we will find out if it gives us a better tyre for the race. I think the tyre choice might have had something to do with Rubens not setting such a good time, even though he has a good grid position. In Michael's case we have also saved a set of tyres for the race. I also expect Rubens to have a good day tomorrow, because although today's result was not the best, his performance in the last three races has been very strong".


Hakkinen is unable to start ahead of everyone, as it was the case on Friday. Mika has mixed memories about the Indianapolis circuit. It was where he had to give up the hopes of winning a third consecutive title. It is also the place where people are seeing a revitalised Flying Finn. The double world champion is Schumacher’s most dangerous rival. They have something in common now: the possibility of racing without any added pressure. The Ferrari driver has already won the fourth championship title, whilst the Finn has nothing more to demonstrate. The Flying Finn explains:


"I feel good. I can just focus now on the two races left and try to do the maximum for myself and for the team and enjoy and take everything out of these two Grand Prix that I can. From Thursday, I told myself that the goal is to simply win the last two races".


It will not be an easy operation, since you will start behind Michael:


"I am not disappointed to be beaten by Schumi. I am really pleased to have been able to fight for pole position. It was so close and I enjoyed it. To be on the front row is great, and I will go flat out tomorrow. We made a few changes to the car during qualifying but nothing major as the balance just seemed to be there. I was behind David at some point to see if I could get a tow, but it didn't work as you have to be able to be extremely close. The pieces from Fisichella’s Benetton car did not influence me during the last flying lap. I aborted the second run because I was not quick enough and it was not smart to continue. Points are scored on Sunday, not after qualifying. I am really looking forward to the race, which I think will be exciting. The circuit is so wide and there are plenty of opportunities for overtaking. I want to put on a great show for all the fans. It will be the best way to say goodbye".


Ralf Schumacher has a happy yet astonishing expression:


"On my last lap, I was braking too late into turn four so that is the reason I did not improve my time. We should be satisfied with our positions as this is where we expected to be. We have struggled all weekend to find the right balance and I still believe it is going to be difficult tomorrow. It would be nice to have a place on the podium".


Ralf’s performance can be partly explained by the Michelin tyres. The Williams driver wanted a meeting with the French supplier on Friday, in order to discuss the issues encountered during FP1 and some of the imprecise regulations:


"We were unable to find the right compromise between the high and low speed sections of the track. The tyres were not favoured by the low temperatures. Let’s hope that they will be higher tomorrow".


Ralf and Juan Pablo Montoya will start 3rd and 4th respectively. The Colombian driver wants to put on a show for his fans, who made a great deal of noise throughout qualifying. He also wants to improve on 4th place:


"It was a really difficult day as we could not really get our hands on the handling of the car. I think it was a pretty average qualifying for me. I had traffic in my third run, which was my quickest, and on my last I made a mistake. I am sorry because in my heart I thought I could do better".


Rubens Barrichello is 5th fastest at the end of the qualifying session. He will start alongside Nick Heidfeld. David Coulthard will line up in a disappointing 7th position. Jenson Button is 10th fastest, which is his best qualifying result so far. The Benetton-Renault team has made a leap forward in the last couple of races. Fisichella is two tenths slower than his teammate and will start in 12th position. Ferrari is the only team to opt for the Bridgestone hard compound tyres. Prost will use the hardest compound provided by Michelin. The other teams choose the softest compound. Fittipaldi is a myth in the United States after winning a couple of Indy 500 races. Emerson tries to console Rubens Barrichello, who is not dejected by the result:


"On the second run I tried the tactic of slipstreaming but unfortunately it did not work. Finally, on my last two runs, the track conditions meant I could not improve my time. The car was balanced this afternoon, the engine was going well, I only needed a tow. Nevertheless, I have a good grid position. As long as I immediately gain some places at the start, it will be fine. Overtaking is possible here, so I reckon I can have a good race".


The Brazilian driver finished 10 times on the podium, out of 15 races. He finished 2nd five times and scored five 3rd place finishes. This is how Barrichello is building upon the chance of becoming vice world champion. It would be a prestigious goal for him and Ferrari. The Brazilian driver has had difficult moments throughout the season but has gradually adapted to his second-driver role. Jean Todt previously said at Monza:


"I hope to find a Rubens like this also in America. From week to week, I sometimes find him a bit different".


Rubens, are you ready to take 2nd position in the championship?


"I think that I can go even faster. I am happier now that I have become a dad. I always thought that the happier a driver is, the better he does things. I know that Enzo Ferrari and Emerson Fittipaldi said that a driver loses one second when every child is born. I do not believe it and I want to prove that my passion for racing is intact. When I get in the car, I only think about this".


You explained that that your excellent quali performance was due to a major support by the team:


"Since Michael and Ferrari won the championships, I have two races at my disposal to win a Grand Prix, with the full support of the team. We are a great group. It would be great, for Ferrari, to finish 1st and 2nd in the drivers’ championship".


Do you think you can win?


"Let’s say that I now like to wake up in the morning with the feeling that I can win. Between Indianapolis and Japan, I seriously hope to win. The 2nd place objective is very interesting but it is even more important to fight for the win".


The win would be a nice gift for Eduardo:


"Eduardo and my wife Silvana deserve this win. It would be fantastic to have my son here when I win a race. It would be nice to win here in America in a moment like this. We are happy to race here and we would like to give a good show to this crowd. I am hopeful. Every race we go to, Ferrari is the favourite. This track is a combination of mechanics and aerodynamics and we have a bit of everything. I reckon I can have a good race from the third row of the grid".


Trulli is 8th, followed by teammate Alesi and Jenson Button. The Benetton driver will start ahead of Kimi Räikkönen and Fisichella. Fernando Alonso posts the 17th best time, despite an underpowered Minardi car. Panis and Villeneuve have a very difficult qualifying session and will start 13th and 17th respectively. On Sunday morning, the warm-up session is characterised by Hakkinen’s mistake. The session is interrupted for 15 minutes, since Montoya’s car has an engine blowout. Oil is pouring out of the FW23 car and into the race track. Mika does not notice that the pit lane is closed and goes out on track regardless. The stewards cancel his best qualifying time. Mika is thus demoted to 4th position. A couple of hours later, the two Schumacher siblings are lining up on the front row of the grid. For the last time, Murray says the usual iconic commentary line. At lights out, Michael maintains a slender advantage over Mika. Ralf has a difficult getaway and is overtaken by Montoya. The Colombian tries to surprise the current world champion with a move around the outside of the first corner. Schumacher is able to defend his lead. Barrichello shows how it should be done and snatches 3rd place away from Ralf. At the back of the field, Tomáš Enge seems to have stalled off the line. On the replay, the rookie had a delayed start due to a problem. The Czech driver had to resort to the manual starting procedure, since he is still encountering some difficulties in adapting to a Formula 1 car. Hakkinen and Coulthard queue up behind the Ferrari and Williams cars. The leading cars approach the start/finish straight at an average speed of 220 miles per hour. Jarno Trulli and Nick Heidfeld are battling with Kimi Räikkönen for 7th position. The trio make use of the full width of the track and are three-abreast going into turn 1. Kimi is sandwiched between the Sauber and the Jordan cars. Three into one unfortunately won’t go. The Finn loses the front wing and damages the driveshaft. 


The future McLaren driver is forced to retire. Schumacher emerges from the haze and is breaking away from the squabbling duo of Montoya and Barrichello. The Brazilian is on light fuel, since he is on a two-stop strategy. He uses the slipstream to easily overtake Montoya for 2nd place. Schumacher and Barrichello swap positions on lap 5. Michael is trying to help Rubens in the fight for 2nd place in the drivers’ championship. Rubens is leading the race while Coulthard is 6th. As things stand, Rubens would score 10 points and overtake the McLaren driver in the standings. Rubens scampers off into the distance. On lap 28, Barrichello has a 12-second margin over Michal Schumacher. Rubens makes his first stop at the end of the lap and re-joins in 5th position. Schumacher is now leading the race but is being pursued by Montoya. The Williams driver uses his US racing knowledge to get a good momentum out of the banked curves. He then tucks into the slipstream of the Ferrari car in the straight at the start of the 34th lap. Michael Schumacher is wary of a move down the outside but is leaving the inside line exposed. Montoya overtakes him for the lead of the race. Montoya dives into the pitlane at the end of the 36th lap. His only pit stop of the day lasts 13.2 seconds. The Colombian re-joins in 5th place. Ralf Schumacher is having a lacklustre race so far and it does not get any better. He spins off track at turn 6. The Williams-Bmw car is beached and Ralf is forced to retire. Fernando Alonso is also out of the race with a broken driveshaft. On lap 39, Yoong is out of the race with a gearbox issue. During the same lap, Montoya retires with hydraulic pump failure. The marshals are waving double yellows for the stricken FW23 car. Schumacher pits, handing the lead to Hakkinen. The two McLaren cars have not yet stopped. Hakkinen and Coulthard were carrying more fuel at the start of the race. 


This explains why the two MP4-16 cars struggled during the first half of the race. Jacques Villeneuve and Pedro de la Rosa are fighting for 10th position. The duel between the duo ends with a bang. The Jaguar driver clips the right sidepod of the BAR car, sending Villeneuve into a spin. Hakkinen is in the pitlane on lap 45 out of 73, after setting a series of quick laps. At the end of a 9.6 pit stop, the Flying Finn exits the pitlane in 2nd position. He is behind Barrichello but crucially ahead of Schumacher and Coulthard, who stopped at the end of the 43rd lap. Rubens is yet to make the second pit stop. On lap 50, Barrichello hands the lead to Mika. Eddie Irvine has the better of Heidfeld for 6th position. Barrichello is trying to catch Hakkinen. On the 68th lap, the gap between the two drivers is three seconds. The gap between Coulthard and Schumacher is under two seconds. An exciting fight is brewing. Rubens is suddenly starting to slow down. A trail of smoke flows intermittently from the rear of the F2001 car. The gap between the top 2 is increasing. By the end of the next lap, it is over 10 seconds. The white smoke is becoming more intense. Barrichello is able to continue, even if he drops to 4th position. On lap 71, the Ferrari V-10 engine gives up. The Brazilian parks the Ferrari car in a safe area. Mika Hakkinen can celebrate the victory. The Flying Finn is the winner of the United States Grand Prix. Mika unexpectedly wins his 20th and this will be his last win in Formula 1. Michael Schumacher crosses the line in 2nd position. The F2001 is alongside the MP4-16 car during the lap of honour. Michael congratulates his old rival. David Coulthard is on the last step of the podium and consolidates 2nd place in the drivers’ championship. Trulli, Irvine and Heidfeld complete the top 6. Trulli is disqualified for the excessive wear of the floor. The Jordan team will win the appeal that is presented to the FIA. The decision to disqualify Jarno had been taken in the absence of the three sporting stewards. It is a circumstance that violates article 134 of the sporting regulations, which stipulates that all three stewards have to make a decision. Trulli will be reinstated to 4th position after a month. At the end of the penultimate race of the season, an emotional Hakkinen declares to the press:


"What a weekend. I am delighted, that was definitely one of the highlights of the season. This Grand Prix is definitely one of my most important victories. Winning the British GP and Monaco GP is something I have always wanted to do and now it is in my book. Indianapolis was the other one. Everyone wants to win those races. I had a good race and we definitely used the right strategy today. We were confident that the car and the Bridgestone tyres could cope with a one-stop strategy. The car was a rocketship like the old times".


Mika will never forget this victory:

"I am never going to forget this, it's great. This weekend has gone so fantastically, except for this morning. I am still a bit confused to be honest about what has happened today, particularly because of this morning's incident and what happened to me".

Mika was angry after being demoted to 4th position at the start:


"I was pissed off. I was really upset. In reality of course, there is no excuse, but after all there were five cars lined up in that position where they were, it’s impossible to see the light. Particularly that position where the light is and all these five cars were lined up when I was entering and that same place, there's a kink when you exit the pitlane. So, it was just physically impossible to see that light. So, of course, I was disappointed to get information from the stewards that they were giving me a penalty, you know. Rules are rules, but you have to use common sense and understand, you know, if you cannot see, you cannot see. So I was, you know, I was really looking forward to seeing some stewards on the podium, to be honest, earlier. So, you can imagine what could have happened".

Mika is almost saying goodbye to this sport. The Flying Finn does not regret leaving the Formula 1 world and will continue pushing until the end, like a true champion:


"Today's result is due to the efforts of the team. They are motivated. I am sure that, at Suzuka, they will give me the car to leave a mark. They did an incredible job this weekend. The mechanics worked so hard to get my race car ready after I went off in the closing stages of the warm up. On Friday, they were even able to put a fresh new engine in just 35 minutes".


He does not forget about Jo Ramirez, who will leave the McLaren team at the end of the season. Mika gifts him the trophy and the helmet. Hakkinen can also be tough on those who make his life difficult:


"After Monza, I am relaxed. I was able to tell everybody what I planned to do in the future. I was able to really focus a hundred percent. I wanted to give one last joy to my fans. This is a gift for Finland".


Murray Walker will say farewell to Formula 1 after 23 years. The US Grand Prix is his last appearance as a Formula 1 commentator and ITV British journalist. Walker shares his thoughts on his impending retirement:


"A sad ending, albeit a happy one".


James Allen, who was an ITV correspondent for ITV since 1997, will cover Murray’s role. Barrichello is bitter for the DNF, which was caused by a blown-up Ferrari engine:


"It was a real shame. Since Michael won the championship, apart from Monza, I cannot get anything right. Things were looking good until the engine problem. In the final part of the race, I was gaining around half a second a lap on Hakkinen when I felt something was not right with the engine. That smoke at the back of the car was a blow to the heart. I am disappointed. Having the spare car at my disposal proves the team believes in the fact I can win. Today, I showed that I have the right motivation to succeed in that".


Michael Schumacher scores the 13th podium of the season. Ross Brawn confides to the English journalists:


"Michael truly thought about retirement. He feels he is incredibly lucky to be in the position he is. He has a great life, great family and after everything that happened, it has made him realise what he could lose. We talked with him. In the end, he decided that he likes racing too much. Racing is his passion". 


Michael is motivated to continue. He is already looking forward to the start of the 2002 season, although the 2001 season is not over. It is almost time for the Japanese Grand Prix. Schumacher wants to end the season on a high note.


©​ 2024 Osservatore Sportivo


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