Italian GP - Monza 16 September 2001
The Italian Grand Prix organisers had a revolt to handle just hours before the race was due to start. The drivers voted to do a "staged" start to the race, in which the cars would hold their grid positions without trying to overtake until after the second chicane. The rationale behind the move was that people were very emotionally drained after the terror attacks in America and Alex Zanardi's horrific accident the day before. The drivers feared they might not have the concentration required for a safe start on the fastest circuit of the season. All drivers expect from Villeneuve signed the agreement, until the team owners ordered them to do a normal start and that was the end of it.
So, when the lights changed Montoya shot off from pole position into the lead with Barrichello, R. Schumacher and M. Schumacher following. Button cut across the field and gained several positions, but found himself trying to go into the first corner when Trulli was already in it and hit the Jordan, taking it out. Many of the following cars were forced to cut the chicane to avoid becoming involved in the accident. On the second corner M. Schumacher took his chance and went ahead of his brother, who ended up in fourth place in front of Irvine and Verstappen.
On lap four Button's engine blew up in smoke and the Briton had to park by the side and retire. De la Rosa started slowing down and was overtaken by several cars. The other Jaguar, that of Irvine, fell back several positions too, both cars apparently lacking straight line speed. By lap eight Coulthard had moved up in fifth place ahead of Verstappen, but his Mercedes engine let him down and the Scot retired with plumes of smoke pouring out of his car and the disappointment of not being able to defend his second place in the Drivers Championship. On the following lap Barrichello decided that it was time to do his bit to move up in the Drivers Championship and, having been on Montoya's tail from the start, went for it and took the lead. M. Schumacher , in the second Ferrari, immediately started looking for an opening to go past the Colombian and catch up with his team mate, who was running away from the rest of the pack in the lead. Montoya's lack of speed compared with the Ferrari was mirrored in the performance of the other Williams driver, R. Schumacher, who was several seconds behind the leading three.
On lap 18 M. Schumacher came in for a fast pit stop. On the following lap Barrichello came in too from the lead, but the mechanics were not ready for him and fumbled with the fuel hose, causing the Brazilian to lose 16 precious seconds, rejoining in fourth place in front of team mate M. Schumacher. On lap 20 Häkkinen, who had dropped down several places after starting from seventh on the grid, stopped by the side and retired with gear trouble. The Ferrari pit stops left the two Williams of Montoya and R. Schumacher in the first two positions and Alesi and Räikkönen in fifth and sixth place. On lap 26 Montoya went in for his one pit stop of the race from the lead and came out behind Barrichello, who was in second place behind R. Schumacher. A few laps later the race ended for Frentzen, who parked his car on the grass and retired and shortly afterwards Alonso's race suffered a severe setback when the Minardi mechanics could not get the rear right tyre fixed in place during the pit stop.
On lap 35 race leader R. Schumacher finally had his pit stop, putting Barrichello back into the lead but managing to stay ahead of older brother Michael. Barrichello pushed hard and put in laps a second faster than Montoya in second place, trying to build up a big enough gap to allow him to have his second pit stop and retain the lead. On lap 40 the Ferrari mechanics got ready to receive a car and M. Schumacher came in and got out on the track behind his younger brother. On the following lap Barrichello had his second pit stop with a lead of only 16 seconds. The Brazilian lost the lead to Montoya and the second Williams of R. Schumacher also managed to stay ahead of Barrichello. With seven laps to go Barrichello had caught up with R. Schumacher and went for it on the straight. The Ferrari went alongside the Williams on the finishing straight and put its nose in the corner first. R. Schumacher cut the corner and went back in front, but then let Barrichello back into second place to avoid being penalised for gaining an advantage.
Montoya went on to gain his very first GP victory followed by Barrichello, R. Schumacher, M. Schumacher, De La Rosa and Villeneuve. The podium ceremony was a sombre event, with no champagne celebrations and all drivers carrying a black band on their left arm in sign of mourning.
Next race is in Indianapolis on 30 September. Currently the US GP is expected to go along as planned despite possible logistics problems in carrying the team equipment and personnel to America. All teams will take part in the race with one car carrying no sponsor logos as a mark of respect to the victims of the recent terror attacks to Washington and New York.
|Images from Raisport and Il Corriere della Sera|
Last updated on by Federica Massagrande