Formula one, 2001 season Canadian Grand Prix at Montreal: Practice and Qualifying the jpoc guide


When the teams rolled out for qualifying at Montreal, there were few early surprises. The Michelin tyres seemed to be off the pace when the circuit was completely green but that was no real indication of later form and, with high track temperatures forecast, those teams using French tyres had reason to expect that things would come good. Indeed, by the time that the second untimed session came round and some rubber was down on the tarmac and the track temperatures were up, the Michelin runners saw the benefit and it was little surprise to see that the Williams drivers had made it up from the outskirts of the top ten into fifth and sixth places. Montoya was just ahead of Schumacher.

Much more of a surprise was fellow Micelin user Eddie Irvine who put his Jaguar up into third behind the two McLarens.

Heinz-Harald Frentzen had a surprise of the unpleasent kind when he hit the barriers had at turn three. This was exactly what the Jordan driver did not need just twelve days after his knock on the head at Monaco. This was to bring about a return of the dizzy spells that kept him out of the car during the teams test sessions between Monaco and Montreal and at the end of Friday, Jordan withdrew him from the event and opted to replace him with Ricardo Zonta their test and substitute driver. I cannot remember a driver ever before being replaced at a race meeting after he had driven in the practice sessions on the first day.

One rather silly incident on the first day occurred between Montoya and Villeneuve. The Canadian accused the Colombian of blocking him and in turn Montoya accused the BAR driver of giving him a brake test. Whatever the truth of that, from outside the cars, Villeneuve appeared to have problems passing the Williams and then moments later, he was struck from behind by the same car when he slowed after the chicane. Jaques came off the worst from that as he crashed soon after suspecting that something had been broken at the back of the car when he was struck by Juan-Pablo.

This all boiled over at the subsequent drivers briefing when the pair got into a heated argument which then became a scuffle and they had to be pulled apart. Very clever of them and no doubt influced by their hours spent watching American cable TV but they should grow up and twig that this is the real world and not WWF make believe. While Villeneuve struck the first blow, it was said by those who observed the fracas that the trigger was a remark by Montoya that Villenevue had already killed one person this season. That was well out of order and I cannot remember another driver being so sickeningly crass since 1994 when we had to endure Mika Hakkinen playing the Imola post race press conference for laughs in the wake of the deaths of Ratzenberger and Senna. Montoya becomes the reigning F1-F-wit. Both drivers picked up a warning from the F1 authorities and it was reported that Frank Williams warned Montoya that he faced the sack for a repetition.

Saturday morning's first session resulted in a business as usual look to the top five with the McLarens and Ferraris being followed by Ralf's Williams. Eddie Irvine was still doing a good job though and had sixth spot and great news for the team was that Pedro de la Rosa was there too just two places back. Stand-in Zonta was on the pace right away in thirteenth just two spots back from Trulli in the other Jordan. Meat in the Jordan sandwich was Alesi another man showing that his Monaco form might be repeated.

None of those drivers looked so good in the final untimed session however as all but Trulli dropped down the order. Up front, Michael Schumacher restored what he would call business as usual with fastest time while some element of surprise came from the two Saubers who lined up behing the big four.

All of this gave a number of teams something to hope for if the could repeat their best form in the timed qualifying session. The brothers Schumacher both saw their hopes fulfilled as they took the first two places on the grid. It was Michael Schumacher's sixth consecutive pole at Canada and his sixth pole in 2001. He was in a class of his own on the circuit, half a second clear of his brother. The session delivered one of those last moment bursts that F1 occasionally deals out. Nick Heidfeld crashed with just a couple of minutes left on the clock and the session was red flagged. When it resumed, there was barely time to complete an out lap before the chequered flag was due to fall and the front runners, bar the pole sitter all lined up at the end of the pit lane. There was so little time to spare that there was no chance for anyone to drop back from the man ahead to get clean air and so a train of cars hurried around to get in one last flying lap. Under the circumstances, it was no surprise that nobody managed to challenge the fastest time but David Coulthard managed to get himself up into third. He was helped by a bit of smart thinking by which he was able to nip past Barrichello in the pit lane as the Ferrari man prepared to go out in the spare car. The stewards judged that the Ferrari was holding everyone else up in the pit lane and imposed a fine of ten thousand dollars. It is worth remembering that, as the cars prepared for the session to resume, there was only a little more than one and a half minutes remaining and Schumacher Senior was on pole. It could hardly have harmed Ferrari's interests for Barrichello to get out into the pit lane and then to have some problems that would delay all of the other cars.

Rubens was in the spare as he had hit the wall exiting the chicane leading onto the start finsh straight. He got airborn over the kerbing on the final apex and that was it. Heidfeld's crash was at the same spot and was quite a bit harder. His helmet whacked the head protection bump stops hard first on the right as he went sideways on into the wall and then on the left on the rebound. It looked very uncomfortable indeed.

So which of the other drivers had reasons to be cheerful after the grid positions were settled? Jarno Trulli did his reputation no harm by getting onto the second row. His temporary team mate was four rows back but under the circumstances it was nothing to be ashamed of. In sixth and seventh were Panis and Raikkonen three and four places ahead of their team mates. Of the other drivers in the two big teams, Barrichello and Hakkinen were four and five places down which was at least better than Juan Pablo who, eight places back from the front row Williams, just managed to scrape into the top ten a place behind his sparring partner Jaques Villeneuve. The two could look forward to glaring at each other on the grid.

Further down the order, the Jaguars failed to match their earlier promise and just scraped into the top fifteen and the Prosts didn't even manage that. Jenson Button was in his normal place, ahead of both Minardis but behind the rest. Irvine was just behind Jaguar team mate de la Rosa and the latter had to apologise to his team leader for an incident at the chicane in which he spoiled the Ulster man's best lap.

At the end of the session, Michael Schumacher expressed surprise that the rest were no closer to him. This is Schumacher speak for "Everyone else seems to have had problems or messed up somehow" and he was right.

The whole 2001 season All the races and the behind the scenes games
GP of Canadian at Montreal June 10th Setting the scene
GP of Canadian at Montreal June 10th Off track developments
GP of Canadian at Montreal June 10th The starting grid
GP of Canadian at Montreal June 10th Race report
GP of Canadian at Montreal June 10th Results
GP of Canadian at Montreal June 10th Championship standings after the race
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