Monaco GP - Montecarlo 27 May 2001
The pile-up that most people dreaded at the start of the Monaco GP because of electronics failure did not happen, instead, electronics failure played havoc with the starting grid position. Pole position driver Coulthard, who had dominated the practice session, hit the steering wheel in frustration when his engine died as the other drivers set off on the formation lap. The McLaren mechanics managed to restart the engine and the unlucky Scot could start the Monaco GP, albeit from the last position on the grid. With Coulthard out of the picture, the start had its predictable outcome and M. Schumacher, who had qualified in second position, took the lead ahead of Häkkinen, Barrichello, R. Schumacher, Montoya and Irvine. Coulthard failed to go ahead of any other car at the start and found himself racing in last place.
The first driver to retire from the Monaco GP was Heidfeld, who hit the barrier after touching an Arrows before the end of the first lap. Despite debris from Heidfeld's Sauber ending up on the track, no yellow flags were displayed and the safety car did not come out. On lap three Montoya ran wide just before the swimming pool, went into a half spin and hit the barrier at the first right-hander, damaged his car and retired. On lap 10 Button lost part of his rear wing, which affected the aerodynamics of his car for the rest of his race but did not take him out. By this stage Coulthard had managed to get up to 18th place, but had found himself stuck behind Bernoldi's Arrows. To make things worse for the McLaren driver, his direct title competitor M. Schumacher had caught up with the last position driver and was getting ready to lap him.
On lap 12 Panis went into the pits for an unscheduled stop, surprising the BAR mechanics who were not expecting him. After the team had had a good look at his car he rejoined the race, only to go back to the pits and retire on lap 16. McLaren's bad luck for the day was not exhausted with Coulthard's starting woes. Häkkinen slowed, let Barrichello through into second place, and drove back to the pits complaining of problems with the car handling. The McLaren mechanics replaced his steering wheel and sent him back out, but the Finn managed only one lap before he had to go back to the pits because heavy pulling to the right made the car extremely difficult to control. The other casualty at this stage of the GP was De La Rosa, who suffered a technical problem, managed to get his car out of the way in a safe place and retired. The retirements allowed Coulthard to move up to 16th place, though he still could not find the opening to go past Bernoldi, who was not afraid of keeping a title contender behind. Bernoldi was fighting for position and dutifully ignored a blue flag that an overzealous marshal kept on waiving at him lap after lap. The race computer indicated that Räikkönen should be blue-flagged, so it is possible that the marshal got the cars confused, though he certainly failed to realise his mistake for almost a third of the race.
On lap 26 Coulthard moved to the side and gracefully let race leader M. Schumacher lap him. The Scot was hoping to exploit M. Schumacher's slipstream when he went past Bernoldi, but failed to take advantage of the situation as the Arrows driver closed the door on him after letting the Ferrari through. The same thing happened again and again as Barrichello, R. Schumacher, Irvine and Villeneuve one after the other lapped the pair.
Burti was the next casualty of the race as he suffered technical problems, parked the car to the side and retired. Trulli's retirement was the most pyrotechnic of the whole GP as an oil fire sent the back of his Jordan up in flames. The Italian drove into the barrier, jumped out of the burning car and ran for it as the safety officers hurried to the scene with the extinguishers. On lap 37 Fisichella ran wide and hit the barrier sideways, but survived and retained his sixth place. The Benetton driver was not so lucky on lap 44 when he repeated the stunt. This time the car stayed well wedged into the side, leading to his retirement.
On lap 45 Bernoldi went for his scheduled pit stop and finally a very frustrated Coulthard had a free track in front of him. Soon the Scot was past Verstappen, who had had a long pit stop, and into 10th place, clocking the fastest lap time in the process. M. Schumacher immediately responded by putting in a new fastest lap on the following lap. Coulthard could also rely on the usual Monaco high rate of retirements to move up the positions. On lap 46 Frentzen went into the barrier and retired, allowing the Scot to move a position closer to the points. With Button having his pit stop, Coulthard moved just outside the points into seventh position.
On lap 54 M. Schumacher had his only pit stop of the race (7.0 seconds), temporarily letting Barrichello into the lead. M. Schumacher came out in second place behind his team mate and well ahead of R. Schumacher in third position. More drivers were hit by retirement, playing into Coulthard's race to get precious Championship points. First Alonso had problems with his car, parked it well out of the way and retired. Then R. Schumacher was hit by fuel problems and had to let Irvine through, who moved into podium position. R. Schumacher coasted to the pits, where his car stalled and the Williams mechanics failed to restart it. The German stepped out of the car and retired, letting Coulthard into sixth place. Barrichello had his pit stop (6.9 seconds) and the status quo was re-established as he rejoined the race in second position behind team mate M. Schumacher, who moved back into the lead. Irvine too had his pit stop too and managed to retain his third place to give Jaguar their first ever podium finish.
Coulthard had been showing off McLaren's tank size by staying out for three-quarters of the race, making up positions as the other drivers went for their pit stops or retired. With only 13 laps to go Coulthard finally went for his only pit stop of the race from sixth place. After 6.6 seconds he restarted and went back out into sixth ahead of Button, keeping his precious Championship point. When Alesi had his pit stop, Coulthard managed to go past just as Alesi came out of the pits and the Scot moved into fifth place for two Championship points. On the final lap M. Schumacher slowed down to allow team mate Barrichello to catch up, so that the two could enjoy a formation finish. Sure enough the Ferrari duo passed the finishing line in the scripted order, followed by Irvine who gave Jaguar their first ever podium, Villeneuve, Coulthard and Alesi, finally bringing the first point home for Prost.
Next race is in Canada on 10 June.
|Images from Raisport and Il Corriere della Sera|
Last updated on by Federica Massagrande