Formula one, 2001 season European Grand Prix at the Nurburgring: Setting the scene the jpoc guide

After the Montreal race, McLaren went into "brave face" mode and said that they had still not given up on the constructors and drivers championships despite trailing Ferrari and Michael Schumacher by 42 and 18 points. They were at a loss to explain the cause of Coulthard's front suspension losing a nut at the start of the race.

The main test sessions in the run up to the European GP at the Nurburgring were at Silverstone in England. All but Minardi were present. Most of the teams kicked off the session with their test drivers as the main men were all a little jet lagged following their return from Montreal. Jordan and Jaguar had to press their drivers from the Canadian race into service right away. Frentzen, who did not compete in the Canadian race was resting so substitute driver Zonta was immediately pitched into the testing task and Jaguar of course had had all sorts of fun and games with test drivers and were short of experienced men to help out.

Trulli was fastest on the first day of the testing but that probably says more about his fitness as pretty well everyone else attending was a test driver or feeling the effects of having just flown back from Montreal.

Irvine soon had to join Frentzen in Matron's room waiting for a sick note. He was suffering from neck problems put down to an injury picked up in the course of the race at Monaco two weeks earlier. Sauber driver Nick Heidfeld also signed on for a sickie. In his case, he was feeling the effect of his Pink Floyd at Canada.

In the end Matron (that's professor Sid Matron to you) signed all three as fit for duty at the European Grand Prix. It was lucky that Frentzen was given the all clear as Zonta, his designated understudy, was in the wars having dislocated his shoulder in an "incident" which was alleged to have involved some of his team's engineers. They should realise that stretching the test driver on the rack does not make him give bettter feedback.

The second day of testing continued to be good for Honda as their engine was again the fastest. This time the BAR of Panis was doing the business. This should not have been taken as an indication that the engine, or the two teams had suddenly gained an advantage. Both teams knew that Honda would supply engines to just one squad in 2002 and so they were both out to impress the Japanese engine builder while the other teams present were either working on a setup for the British GP at Silverstone or developing components for the upcoming race at the Nurburgring.

Having a hard time at the test were Williams who were getting through BMW engines faster than Eddie Irvine gets through girlfriends and Benetton who were simply dead last miles back on the rest. They even tried out one of last year's cars which turned out to be rather faster than the 2001 version. The rest of us had already guessed that but sadly, the 2000 car could not be raced in 2001.

Williams problems could not have given the team much hope that they would make a significant improvement on their record of just four finishes out of sixteen starts in the first eight races of 2001. To put that into perspective: if they had managed to finish where they were running at all of the races in which they had retired, they would have been comtesting the lead in the constructor's world championship. As things stood, they were back in third, albeit in a comfortable third and with real prospects of having a go at McLaren for second spot at the end of the year.

One interesting development at Silverstone was that the F1 teams were testing a new innovation. Brake lights! The idea is simple: if Montoya was following Villeneuve out of a chicane, he would be able to spot when punchy was delivering a brake test on the Williams.

Of the new developments on the cars, Benetton announced that they would, for the first time, be running their launch control system at the Nurburgring. This just reinforces the depth of the hole into which the team had fallen. The trouble with a duff engine that is down on power and unreliable is not just that it causes problems in terms of performance. If every test session is spent trying out new engine bits that might give a little more power or run for a few more laps, when does a team get to apply some resources to making the chassis better? There is an even more pernicious effect than that. At the half way point in the season, the top teams are already beginning work on the car for the next year. In the middle of the 2001 season, Benetton/Renault were really about as far on with development as most teams were before the first race of the season. That hurts. Not only would they start work on the 2002 car later than they would have wished but also, when they were able to do so, they would be starting from a point further back than the other teams.

Benetton were promised a major new engine development but just not for the next race. Seemed that we had heard that one before too.


The whole 2001 season All the races and the behind the scenes games
GP of Europe at the Nurburgring June 24th Off track developments
GP of Europe at the Nurburgring June 24th Practice and qualifying
GP of Europe at the Nurburgring June 24th The starting grid
GP of Europe at the Nurburgring June 24th Race report
GP of Europe at the Nurburgring June 24th Results
GP of Europe at the Nurburgring June 24th Championship standings after the race
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