Formula one, 2001 season Austrian Grand Prix at the A1-Ring: Race Report the jpoc guide



The McLarens put their nightmare qualifying behind them by setting the two fastest times in the Sunday morning warm up. The real surprise of the warm up was the performance of the Williams duo who were closer to the back of the field than to their qualifying positions. Since most cars were expected to be on a singe stop strategy, this didn't seem to be a result of fuel load and the drivers behind the Williams must have been afraid of being bottled up behind them while pole sitter Michael Schumacher hurried away in the lead.

It was not to be like that. When the red lights went out, four cars were left on the grid but Montoya and Ralf Schumacher made fine starts while Michael Schumacher was very slow away and soon found himself back in third place. Indeed, for a moment it looked as though Coulthard charging hard from the fourth row was going to pass the pole sitter but in the end he gave ground and the order was Montoya, Ralf, Michael, Barrichello, Coulthard and Irvine who made a brilliant start to go from thirteenth to sixth.

Irvine benefitted from and capitalised on the mayhem caused by the failure of Trulli, Heidfeld, Hakkinen and Frentzen to get away. With four cars stuck on the grid, it was clear that the track would not be cleared in time for the leaders to come through at racing speed and the safety car was put into action. Meanwhile, the marshalls struggled to shift four cars. The were quickly able to move Heidfeld and Trulli into the pit lane but the cars of Hakkinen and Frentzen were more difficult as it appeared that they were stuck in gear.

As the safety car circulated we all wondered if Ron was practicing his pronunciation of "brain fade" or if he would reveal the depth of his favouritism but not slagging off Mika as soon as he could grab a passing journalist. Finally the grid was cleared, the safety car came in and they were racing again.

In the mean time, Trulli, Heidfeld and Hakkinen got going again from the pitlane. Frentzen was gone though with a broken tranmission. Of the three that got going, Hakkinen was back in the pits retiring after just one lap and Trulli was black flagged for rejoining the race while the pit lane was closed due the to safety car period but before that happenned he found the time to drive into De la Rosa and put himself off onto the grass.

Montoya has had a lot of practice in the art of the rolling start and he put it to good use when the safety car pulled off. He held everyone at bay and looked comfortable in the lead. The only change in the top six in the immediate aftermath of the safety cas that Verstappen got past Irvine for sixth. Jos was running a two stop race and so he had a lot less fuel to drag around than the other drivers.

At this point, Barrichello actually had a look inside Michael Schumacher at the end of the start finish straight but surely he was joking?

Next, Jos Verstappen passed Coulthard for fourth place and set about closing the gap to Rubens Barrichello in the second Ferrari. By lap seven the Dutchman was right up with the Brazillian and looking impressive indeed. Meanwhile, further back it was clear that Irvine's start had put him in a position further up the field than he could sustain and Villeneuve and Bernoldi were up with him and looking to pass.

So many overtaking manouvres in one race was almost too much to keep track of but at the front some gaps were appearing and the two Williams looked to be safe in first and second place.

On lap nine, Bernoldi got past Villeneuve for tenth place and a lap later he was by Irvine while Panis set fastest lap in his pursuit of the leading group. The action continued as, on the same lap, Villeneuve spun trying to pass Irvine and Ralf Schumacher had a brief off. Villeneuve regained losing one place but Ralf fared worse. His off didn't lose him a place but he then slowed and crawled into the pits to retire telling reporters that he had encountered brake troubles.

By lap thirteen, all of the retirements had brought Jenson Button up to an unaccustomed fourteenth place but the action was all at the front of the track. The remaining Schumacher was right up with leader Montoya and their scrapping slowed them and allowed Verstappen, Coulthard and Raikkonen to close right up. It was thrilling stuff as the top six were separated by just two seconds and at time, it seemed that the leaders were expecting to go into corners three abreast!

Schumacher tried to pass Montoya on the left up the hill but Juan Pablo held him off and they went up the hill to the hairpin pretty well side by side. They tried to outbrake each other into the right hander and neither could make the corner. Schumacher looked in better shape but he had the outside line as as the Williams understeered in front of him he was forced to turn away from the apex. Both drivers were briefly off the track and that allowed the rest of the leading bunch to pass them.

It was great stuff. Two fine drivers going for it and neither prepared to give way yet avoiding contact and regaining the track albeing after losing several places. They rejoined in sixth and seventh having reversed their earlier order on the road and Schumacher was soon catching fifth placed Panis while further down the field Bernoldi drove into the pits and got out of the car.

Little else happened until Lap 21 when Verstappen pitted and rejoined in eigth behind Irvine again while Barrichello looked comfortable up front and set fastest lap while his team leader was getting past Panis and then Raikkonen at turn three. Meanwhile Burti ran onto the grass allowing Button to perform an overtaking manouvre which is a rare treat for his fans these days. That took him up to twelfth.

Montoya was closing on Panis and finally got by when the Frenchman fluffed the last corner at the end of lap thirty seven. It was not to get any better than this for the Colombian though. He was closing on Raikkonen when he slowed and pulled off the track. Five retirements out of six races must be very frustrating when you can expect strong finishes if things hold together.

By lap 44, things were looking strange indeed. They drivers had almost completed two thirds of the race distance but the leaders had yet to stop. The Ferrari mechanics were playing the "run out and look like it's a pit stop" game only to walk back into the shade inside the garage having, so they hoped, put the wind up the McLaren team.

Finally, on lap 46, Schumacher was the first of the top three to pit. He actually made his single stop after Verstappen made his second and Barrichello stopped a lap later. Coulthard was clearly carrying a lot more fuel and he stayed out setting first a personal best time and then the fastest lap as he kept the hammer down and finally, at the end of lap 50, well past the two thirds distance mark he pitted and rejoined comfortably ahead of both Ferraris.

We have seen Schumacher defeat his rivals time and time again with a combination of perfectly timed pit stops and the ability to put in a series of very fast laps as just the right time. To see the master being bested by Coulthard with the same technique was refreshing indeed.

Soon after this, we lost De la Rosa who pulled off and then Villeneuve suffered a ten second penalty for speeding in the pit lane but the real action was still at the front. Schumacher ran wide pushing very hard and Barrichello was locking up under braking as he tried everything to close on Coulthard.

Renault's misery continued as Jenson Button joined his team mate in retirement. Button appeared to suffer a siezed engine as he headed off the track with a ball of flame erupting from the rear of his car.

By the last lap, there were less than two seconds between first and third. Schumacher was trying hard even to the point of locking up his inside front on the last lap as he tried to close on Barriachello. We could almost imagine that the latter was not going to give way willingly but that was not to be. Rubens slowed at the last corner to allow Schumacher past as Coulthard took his second win of the year.

This allowed him to close to within four points of Schumacher in the championship but Ferrari matched McLaren's ten points to hold things steady in the constructor's championship.

Raikkonen, Panis and Verstappen made up the top six. They had all featured throughout the race so they deserved their points but BAR appealed against the result alleging that Panis overtook Burti under a yellow flag. Thus, the results remain provisional.

There were just five more runners left at the end. Irvine, Villeneuve and Heidfeld headed the Prosts of Alesi and then Burti. The French team will have been happy to get both cars to the finish but they were behind Heidfled who had stalled on the grid so they should not feel too proud.

At the podium ceremony, Coulthard left his champagne alone out of respect for Paul Morgan, head of his team's engine builder Ilmore. Morgan died at the weekend when his Sea Fury aircraft overturned as he landed at Northanpton airfield.

Barrichello made no bones about being unhappy at being told to slow for his team leader but surely that is his job. The rest of us would happily drive slowly for that money.

We all waited for Ron Dennis to show equal treatment for his drivers but he never accused Mika of brain fade so clearly the equal treatment story is a myth.

Also of note in the race aftermath were Michael Schumacher's bleats about his incident with Montoya. Everyone else thought that it was a hard fought but fair moment while Schumacher senior called Montoya silly. Sorry Michael but the rest of the world likes to see racing.

The whole 2001 season All the races and the behind the scenes games
GP of Austria at the A1-Ring May 13th Setting the scene
GP of Austria at the A1-Ring May 13th Off track developments
GP of Austria at the A1-Ring May 13th Practice and qualifying
GP of Austria at the A1-Ring May 13th The starting grid
GP of Austria at the A1-Ring May 13th Results
GP of Austria at the A1-Ring May 13th Championship standings after the race
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