Belgian GP - Spa-Francorchamps 2 September 2001
The 2001 Belgian GP was characterised by a number of restarts and weird occurrences.
The first start of the Belgian GP was aborted after Frentzen waved his arms on the grid with the countdown already under way. The German, who had managed to place his Prost on the second row of the grid, had stalled the engine and ended up having to start from the back of the grid. After four minutes the cars set off on another installation lap, but this time it was Montoya's turn to stall his engine. The Colombian, who had qualified in pole position, had to go down to the back of the grid with Frentzen. This situation left R. Schumacher in the highest grid spot, with M. Schumacher enjoying a clear run in front of him.
The lights changed and the race finally started. Actual pole sitter R. Schumacher took the lead ahead of his brother Michael and Barrichello. R. Schumacher's lead lasted only until the first corner, when his older brother got past him in a clean manoeuvre. Fisichella had moved up from eighth on the grid to fourth place, ahead of the two McLaren of Häkkinen and Coulthard. At the back of the grid Montoya had set off in his climb through the field and on lap two he already was in 16th place, where he found himself behind the struggle between Trulli and Irvine. On lap three Fisichella made a mistake and Häkkinen and Coulthard went past. On lap four Irvine overtook Burti, the two cars touched and both went out to the side. Burti careered violently into the tyre barrier that collapsed on him. The safety car came out as Irvine rushed out of his crashed Jaguar to help the stewards move the tyres out of the way to reach Burti's car, that was embedded deep into the barrier. On lap 6 the safety officers were still working on Burti's car behind sheets and the race was red flagged.
All the cars went back in no particular order to the starting straight and the drivers got out, visibly upset by the accident. After some 15 minutes Irvine walked back to the pits and reported that Luciano Burti, who had been taken away by ambulance, was conscious. The stewards rebuilt the tyre barrier and the drivers got back into their cars, getting ready for a new formation lap. The Belgian GP had more weird happenings in store, as R. Schumacher's car was jacked up and the mechanics failed to lower it before the formation lap started. The German was left stranded in his jacked-up car and shaking his head in disbelief as the other cars swarmed past him. The Williams mechanics' amazing feat meant that the actual pole sitter had to move to the back of the field for the start. The restart meant that the Belgian GP was reduced to 33 laps. With Montoya and his younger brother relegated to the back of the grid, M. Schumacher found himself in pole and took the lead as soon as the lights changed for the third time. Like he had done before, Fisichella stormed in from behind and went into second place in front of Barrichello. Häkkinen, Coulthard and Trulli completed the top six group. On the second lap Montoya, who had again been trying to make up positions from the back, suffered from a blown engine and retired. Barrichello, stuck behind Fisichella, was getting frustrated in his attempts to go past and place himself in second place in the Drivers Championship.
After only a few laps the drivers started going for the first pit stops, as they had not been allowed to refuel before the restart and they had already ran six race laps plus two formation laps. After all the top players had stopped, he big loser turned out to be Barrichello, who ended up in fifth place behind Häkkinen. Coulthard, in third place, found himself in the situation Barrichello had been in, stuck behind Fisichella and unable to go past.
Barrichello made his bad track position worse by going onto the grass and losing his front wing, dropping back and having to go to the pits for a new nosecone. Trulli caught up with the coasting Brazilian and overtook him for fifth place. Alesi too went past the stricken Ferrari, moving into the points. Finally Barrichello reached the pits and got his nosecone, but he had dropped down many positions out of the points. Button too suffered a similar fate to Barrichello. The Briton went over the kerb and damaged his front wing, which came off a little later on, sending the Benetton into the wall and out of the race.
On lap 22 the news was announced that Burti had been taken to hospital in Liege, where he was found to have concussion but no broken bones.
Between laps 24 and 30 the second round of pit stops took place. The positions situation did not change from before the pit stops as Coulthard came out just as Fisichella was going past to retain his second place. The Italian had made the tactic decision to keep his used tyres at the front and only replace the back tyres. At Eau Rouge the Scot finally managed to get to the outside of Fisichella and go past, immediately pulling away.
On lap 30, with only six laps to go, the big fight was for sixth place. Alesi held the position and kept on keeping at bay Barrichello, who was being pressurised by R. Schumacher. On lap 32 Barrichello managed to surprise Alesi and slip past the Frenchman to take sixth place, leaving him to hold up his rival R. Schumacher. Alesi's move out of the points was not the only bad news for Jordan, as Trulli's engine blew up almost as soon as his team mate had yielded to the Brazilian. Trulli's retirement put Barrichello up into fifth place, but also allowed Alesi back into the points in sixth. Alesi, having moved back into sixth place because of his own team mate's misfortune, had every intention not to lose his Championship point to R. Schumacher and did not allow himself to be caught out by the German like he had by the Brazilian.
M. Schumacher sailed unchallenged to the end of the race, scoring his 52nd win to break Alain Prost's record of 51 victories. Coulthard finished second to increase his stronghold on the second spot in the Drivers Championship. Fisichella was third in Benetton's best result this season and Barrichello managed some damage control by finishing fifth behind Häkkinen in fourth. Alesi kept a cool head and brought back one point for Jordan in only his second race for the team.
Next race is in Monza on 16 September.
|Images from Raisport and Il Corriere della Sera|
Last updated on by Federica Massagrande