Schumacher wins first race of the year
March 4th, 2001
Michael Schumacher's strong season opening win was
marred by the tragic death of a track marshal in Melbourne this afternoon. Schumacher led
from the start of the event, which was run under yellows for the first 15 laps following a
colossal accident involving BARs Jacques Villeneuve and Williams Ralf
Schumacher. David Coulthard drove a committed race to finish second and made the most of
an opportunity to pass the second Ferrari of Rubens Barrichello when the Brazilian was
halted slightly by Minardis Fernando Alonso who was exiting pit lane. Coulthard had
to carry the flag for McLaren, with team-mate Mika Hakkinen exiting proceedings with a
major spin and collision into the tyre barriers following a worrying suspension failure.
Barichello battled to pass Ralf Schumacher in fourth and then clashed with Heinz-Harald
Frentzen's Jordan while pushing for third. Barrichello clipped the back of the Jordan and
sent Frentzen into a spin on lap 2 to take third place.
The first significant action of the race came on lap 5 as British American Racing's
Jacques Villeneuve crashed into the back of the BMW-Williams of Ralf Schumacher.
Villeneuve and his car were launched through the air at high speed and spun 180 degrees
before hitting a wall at turn three.
Ralf Schumacher and his car stopped on the adjacent grass but the race was run under the
safety car as a result of the accident. Both Villeneuve and Schumacher were unhurt, but
the safety car stayed out for 10 laps.
Earlier in the race, Gaston Mazzacane had retired on the first lap in his Prost after Juan
Pablo Montoya in a BMW-Williams and Jaguar's Eddie Irvine had suffered offs at turn one
and two respectively but recovered.
Arrows new driver Enrique Bernoldi went out on the second lap as he hit a wall close to
the Villeneuve crash, while Minardi driver Tarso Marques, who had been given special
dispensation to race after failing to qualify inside the required time, retired on lap 3.
Montoya's race ended on lap 40 as his BMW engine blew and left him stranded on the track.
The man he replaced at Williams, Jenson Button, was the last driver to retire as he
stopped four laps from the finish in his Benetton.
Schumacher kept a safe distance of around seven or eight seconds to Coulthard in the
closing laps as he secured the first win of the season in Australia. Barrichello was
third, Olivier Panis fourth in his BAR, Nick Heidfeld fifth for Sauber and Frentzen sixth
to make up the points finishers. The win was his fifth consecutive victory from pole,
after four successive wins at the tail-end of last season. It was also Schumacher's 45th