Coulthard wins the Austrian GP
13th May, 2001
David Coulthard took a commanding victory at the Austrian Grand Prix having withstood pressure from the two Ferraris, after gaining a slim lead following his
single pit stop at two-thirds distance. However, even a points finish in his 113th race
initially looked to be in doubt. The Scot, along with team mate Mika Hakkinen, suffered
their worst qualifying session since the 1999 French Grand Prix.
Four drivers, including Hakkinen, were left stranded on the grid - the likely victims of
unreliable traction control electronics - and it was extremely fortuitous that there were
no accidents. All except Frentzen managed to restart the race, following a brief safety
car period. After looking initially strong, both the BMW WilliamsF1s eventually fell into
retirement, leaving the way clear for a three-way battle, which proved to be one of the
most thrilling to date this season.
Coulthard gained the advantage after his pit stop, and was threatened by Barrichello for
thirty laps, the two drivers maintaining a gap which rarely went over a second. The
Ferraris crossed the line behind the Scot, Michael Schumacher, having trailed in third
place, being given the benefit of team orders to pass Barrichello on the line.
Sauber driver Kimi Raikkonen earned his accolade as rookie of the year by keeping in
contention, finishing in 4th place and 41 seconds adrift. Olivier Panis scored for BAR for
the second time this year, taking 5th place, and Jos Verstappen in 6th gained the first
points of the season for Arrows.
The start proved to be one of
the most incident-packed moments of the race, with four cars stalling as the lights went
out. From the second row, Ralf Schumacher made a neat pass alongside his brother to take
up second place, behind his partner, Montoya, who had made a brilliant start from the
dirty side of the track as they entered the first turn. With Barrichello covering
Schumacher's rear, Coulthard managed to jump a few places to take fifth place from
All but the McLaren managed to exit the grid, but not before the field swept round two
more times on the short Austrian circuit behind the safety car. Hakkinen, Heidfeld and
Trulli all managed to get away eventually, but several laps down. The Finn unfortunately
returned to the pits after attempting three laps.
"We don't know what happened," said a crestfallen Hakkinen, who also stalled on
the grid in Brazil. "The team will investigate it and try to understand what
happened. Whether it was the hydraulics or my mistake...it's too complicated. My
championship chance....well it doesn't look too promising does it?"
As the BMW WilliamsF1s asserted themselves at the front, Verstappen on a light fuel two
stop strategy began making ground up to the leading group, passing Coulthard. Raikkonen
was not far behind, again proving what a wise move that Swiss team owner, Peter Sauber,
made in signing the young driver to a long contract.
Challenges came thick and fast, R Schumacher trying to take on his team mate, but being
firmly refused the Colombian's hard fought lead. Panis tried a run at Eddie Irvine, who
fought unsuccessfully to hold him back. The Jaguar driver then became embroiled in a scrap
with Panis' team mate, Jacques Villeneuve, who in attempting to pass the Ulsterman, on lap
10 was sent into a spin losing three places.
The BMW WilliamsF1 team's jubilation soon turned to despair, as first R Schumacher pulled
out of the race - having slowed and pitted - then Montoya began to slow, his Michelin
tyres having reached a midpoint in their life when they were least effective.
Schumacher's attempt at passing Montoya, who was holding up the field by making has car as wide as possible, almost ended in disaster when two of the
strongest wills in Formula1 clashed. Montoya refused to give way into turn 2, but
over-braked. He went straight, forcing the German to do likewise, and they both took to
the gravel before rejoining the track. Montoya eventually retired on lap 41, having made a
partial comeback to 5th.
Schumacher dropped to 6th place, with Barrichello in the lead - followed by Verstappen and
Coulthard. Schumacher then began to make his comeback, taking Panis and Raikkonen to bring
him back to 3rd after Verstappen made the first of two stops.
It all became a matter of who could race the hardest after that. The leading three cars
were all on a single stop, and it was Schumacher who pitted first, the trio having closed
to within 2 seconds of each other. His 8.7s stop looked pretty quick but whether it was
cold tyres or the same problems that he had in Spain, he made two uncharacteristic
mistakes over the next two laps that gave Coulthard - by now running an extremely light
car and pushing for all he was worth - a minuscule advantage.
The McLaren took over the lead when Barrichello stopped, the Brazilian coming out ahead of
his team mate. It was down to the McLaren pit crew to turn their charge round in record
time. The stop was flawless some five laps later. Less fuel went in - the team gaining 0.7
of a second over Schumacher's stop - and he exited 1.6 seconds in front of Barrichello's
For the final
thirty-odd laps, Coulthard maintained his composure fighting off the unrelenting pressure
of both the scarlet cars whilst negotiating backmarkers ahead. He crossed the line with
two seconds in hand. But it had been a lot closer. Barrichello, acting on team orders, had
slowed to allow his partner to take second place but - in a gesture of harmless defiance -
less than 100 metres from the chequered flag.
It was Raikkonen who garnered the most praise, for having driven like a veteran, and
coming in for some uncustomary commendation from Schumacher afterwards for observing the
correct protocol when approached by a faster car - which was more than the champion said
about Montoya, with whom he was a little displeased.
"We were hoping that Rubens could have a go at Coulthard," Technical Director,
Ross Brawn said afterwards explaining why the team had to bring Schumacher forward,
"but in the end it was points that count. Montoya screwed Michael's race but we'll
recover. That's motor racing."
Coulthard's win will go some way to brightening a tragic weekend for McLaren, who suffered
the loss of Paul Morgan, co-founder of the Ilmor engine preparation company that builds
the team's Mercedes V10s. He died in a plane crash on Saturday near his home in
"The Grands Prix are going to be very close," Coulthard said at the press
conference afterwards. " Not only between ourselves and Ferrari, but Williams as
well. It's really going to come down to who gets the car and the tyres working well at
Monaco. I've gone well there in the past, so there is everything to play for."
After the race, BAR appealed against Raikkonen's fourth place because the Finn lapped a
car under yellow flags. The race stewards rejected the appeal, but BAR have seven days to
appeal the decision