Coulthard wins in Brazil.
April 1st, 2001
David Coulthard won an incident packed Brazilian Grand Prix after losing the lead briefly to Michael Schumacher when the field pitted for rain tyres. However, two uncharacteristic mistakes from the German allowed the Scot to close up and force his way past on the following lap.
Schumacher led the race twice, losing the lead initially to Juan Pablo Montaya before Coulthard took over. Nick Heidfeld took his first ever podium finish behind the German, and claims 4 points for the Sauber team.
By winning the Brazilian Grand Prix, McLaren driver, David Coulthard, was the man who finally broke Michael Schumacher's dominance which has gripped Formula1 for the past seven months. A surprising series of events in a race that was interrupted by rain midway, allowed the Scot to take the lead on lap 49, benefitting from a mistake made by the current World Champion.
Schumacher made a reasonable start, but the expected duel between himself and his younger brother Ralf never materialised. The Williams driver was passed first by his team mate, Juan Pablo Montaya, then the Scot and Jarno Trulli in a Jordan. Mika Hakkinen was left stranded on the grid, his race over before it had started. Montaya passed Michael Schumacher and maintained his lead until he was run off the track by Jos Verstappen on lap 39, having just lapped him. This gave the lead to Coulthard.
However, the Scot missed his opportunity to pit when the rain came, handing the top slot back to Schumacher who changed to intermediates first. However, two brief spins from the Ferrari gave the McLaren pilot the opportunity he needed to approach and pass in a bold move that set the seal on the best race of the year so far.
Nick Heidfeld took the remaining podium place having stayed with the action in his Ferrari powered Sauber with Olivier Panis in the BAR, grabbing points from both Jordan's to take the best place for Honda. Jarno Trulli came in fifth, inheriting a place when his team mate Heinz-Harald Frentzen retired with seven laps remaining. Much to Benetton's relief, Giancarlo Fisichella opened up their account with a single point.
The drama preceded the race at Interlagos when Rubens Barrichello suffered a mechanical fault on his installation lap and was forced to run back to the pits in the 30 degree heat to start in his spare car, with less than a minute before the pit lane closed. There was a sea of scarlet around Barrichello's Ferrari as the clock ticked down to the start time and mechanics struggled to convert the spare car to his requirements. The Brazilian, constantly courted by a cheering crowd whenever he appeared, looked more than tense three rows back.
Mechanics were still present around the Jaguar of Eddie Irvine as the clock ticked down to the formation lap, and triggered an automatic 10-second penalty, which immediately put the luckless Ulsterman at a disadvantage.
Once the race was underway the safety car was deployed as the pack came through to complete their first lap, threading gingerly past Hakkinen's McLaren still motionless opposite the pit wall. The excitement started when the race resumed a lap later, with Montaya making a brave move on a surprised Schumacher at the first uphill turn, to take the lead. The first three drivers circled the track almost as one, Montaya's lead never increasing to more than 8 tenths of a second whilst Coulthard stayed at about a second and a half behind the Ferrari.
By lap 3 Montaya had already begun to set fastest laps and it was a while before Schumacher could respond. As Montaya eked out a comfortable lead he could not know what lay in store for him along the road. However, Barrichello and Ralf were first to go out when they collided, to the acute disappointment of the fans.
But Schumacher, having settled for intermediates as many of the teams did, lost control of his car, not once but twice. The first mistake enabled Coulthard to move within a second of the lead, and later he passed the unwitting Tarso Marques in the lapped Minardi on the inside of the first turn forcing Schumacher to take the long way round.
Coulthard pulled out a 19-second lead to comfortably cruise to the finish - opening up McLaren's racing scorecard for the year. Nick Heidfeld, benefiting from some late retirements, finished a well-deserved third, a lap behind the leading pair and a positive bonus for the much improved Sauber team.
The Schumachers brothers' manager, Willi Weber, had said at the start of the race that he didn't care who won as long as his name was Schumacher, but much to McLaren boss Ron Dennis' delight that surname was Coulthard.