Formula one, 2001 season German Grand Prix at Hockenheim: Practice and Qualifying: the jpoc report

Friday morning's first practice session saw a Ferrari at the top of the timesheet but that was about the only non-surprise. It was not much of a surprise to see that the fastest Ferrari was the number two car of Rubens Barrichello. He won this race the previous year in what was perhaps the finest race drive of the post Senna era. Behind him, the rest of the normal top six were pushed back a place by the Jaguar of Pedro de la Rosa. His team mate, Eddie Irvine was back in eighth position. This good showing by the team was really the result of spending the Monza test sorting out qualifying settings which meant that the team arrived better prepared for setting a grid time than most teams. Just behind Irvine was Fisichella in a remarkable position for a Benetton. The three interlopers into the top ten meant, with the exception of Trulli, that Jordan, Sauber and BAR were all excluded from the coveted top ten slots.

Friday's second session showed that the Michelin runners had a lot to look forward to at Hockenheim. (As long as it stayed hot and dry at least.) Five cars shod with the French rubber were in the top ten. The Jaguars, which took first and sixth places for Irvine and de la Rosa, and the Williams, in second and tenth for Montoya and Schumacher minor, were joined by the Prost of Jean Alesi in eigth. Again, this meant that of the three traditional midfield teams, only Trulli took a top ten spot. It was another good session for Fisichella. While he was out of the top ten, he still managed 11th spot and this time, his team mate Button was in fifteenth rather than at the back. It appeared that the major modifications introduced, over the previous few races, by Jaguar, Benetton and Prost were finally starting to come good.

It was all back to normal on Saturday morning as the top six places were filled by their normal occupants. Two Ferraris, two Williams and then two McLarens. Both Schumacher borthers and Coultard got the better of their team mates. Behind them, Irvine was the only one of Friday's interlopers to stay in the top ten and that allowed both Saubers and the BAR of Villeneuve to squeeze in. It was the first time all weekend that Trulli had been outside the top ten and like him, the two Benettons and Alesi's Prost all dropped back to their normal positions. Button was unable to post a time as mechanical problems sidelined him on his out lap.

As the day wore on and the second session started, it was getting hotter and this allowed the Michelin tyres to come to the fore and two Williams set the fastest times. Behind them, there was little else going on. Button posted a time and was actually ahead of Fisichella, Alesi moved up to thirteenth and Trulli got back into the top ten and then it was time for qualifying.

Tarso Marques came out almost as soon as the session started and posted a time of 1.43.796. That was faster than he had gone all weekend and it was a fair indication that the track conditions were a lot faster in the afternoon heat than at any time earlier. He was replaced at the top of the time sheets by the two Arrows, then Burti and finally Villeneuve before the big guns came out and took over.

Coulthard was the first of the top six drivers and, like most other drivers, his first lap was his fastest so far and it put him one and a half seconds clear of Villeneuve. While Villeneuve, on his slowing down lap, was blocking his ex team mate and Jordan stand in Zonta, Trulli was giving some comfort to Eddie Jordan by setting second fastest time.

By now, Mika Hakkinen and Ralf Schumacher were out on the track for their first runs. Despite a sideways twitch at the last chicane, Mika beat his team mate's time by half a second but moments later, Ralf Schumacher showed us which were the cars to beat by going almost a second faster again.

Montoya and Michael Schumacher came out for their first runs on the twenty five minute mark and although he was a little down at the second intermediate, Juan Pable almost made it up in the stadium section to go second fastest. The lead Ferrari was a long way off the Williams pace and after his first run he was back in fourth but this did put him ahead of his championship rival so it was not a complete disaster. Moments later, Barrichello put in a time that was so convenient for the team that you wondered how they had planned it. He was just behind his team leader and just ahead of Coulthard.

There was quite a traffic jam as the leading cars headed out for their second runs. At one time there were five in a bunch on the striaght after the pit exit as everyone tried to get position for a clear run.

Coulthard failed to improve his time but Ralf Schumacher managed to post a time one third of a second faster than before. Michael Schumacher aborted his second run abd though Rubens managed to improve on his own time, it was not enough to gain a place. Mika Hakkinen achieved the same feat but his run was a joy to see. He was really on the limit, totally committed to all of the kerbs. It was great to watch, the Mika of old fired up by his win at Silverstone. Montoya was the last of the top men to make his second run and he was just a tenth down at the second intermediate time but, this time, he did enough in the stadium section to go one hundredth of a second faster.

The third runs saw the same pattern. Drivers going a little faster than before but failing to go faster than the man ahead on the provisional grid. Coulthard was an exception to that as he managed to get past Barrichello but the rest of the top six stayed in order.

With five minutes to go, the top men were getting ready for their final attempts when we suddenly had a new race to watch. Jarno Trulli's engine let go out in the woods and he had a huge race to get back to the spare car in the pits before the session closed.

Ralf Schumacher was the first to go, followed by his brother and then his team mate. They could do nothing though as Burti lost it and hit the barriers in the stadium section. Yellow flags meant that the two brothers both set slower times than before and Montoya didn't even need to complete his flying lap. He returned to the pit lane punching the air with delight at his first F1 pole position. In the final scramble Button's Renault engine let go.

Coulthard was unable to try a final run as he was running out of tyres. For some reason, his car was eating rear tyres and, after a single fast lap, the tyres were worn down to the carcass structures. The team was at a loss but they would have to pull something out of the bag if he was going to be able to finish the race without running out of tyres.

So it was an all Williams front row as it should have been on a track that suited both their tyres and their BMW engine which was the most powerful engine at a circuit where power was at a premium.

Lining up behind them the order was McLaren, Ferrari, McLaren, Ferrari which was not good news for Coulthard who was behind Michael Schumacher. The Saubers were best of the rest with Heidfeld happy to be ahead of Raikkonen on home territory. Pedro de la Rosa and Jarno Trulli made it one Jaguar and one Jordan in the top ten and Eddie Irvine almost made it two Jags just being bumped out of the top ten in the last minute.

Trulli's ninth spot was earned on his second run as he never made it back to the pits in time to go out in the spare car.


The whole 2001 season All the races and the behind the scenes games
German GP at Hockenheim July 29th Who drives what?
German GP at Hockenheim July 29th Which engine goes where?
German GP at Hockenheim July 29th Circuit developments
German GP at Hockenheim July 29th Business and politics
German GP at Hockenheim July 29th Teams and personnel
German GP at Hockenheim July 29th Setting the scene
German GP at Hockenheim July 29th The starting grid
German GP at Hockenheim July 29th Race report
German GP at Hockenheim July 29th Results
German GP at Hockenheim July 29th Championship standings after the race
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