Schumacher wins a stormy Sepang!
March 18th, 2001
Schumacher took his second win of 2001 and his sixth win in a row with a brilliant
performance in the wet and dry Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang today. Team-mate Rubens
Barrichello was over 23 seconds behind while David Coulthard managed third. Jordans
Heinz-Harald Frentzen took fourth place with Ralf Schumacher finally ending up in fifth
while a disappointed Mika Hakkinen scraped home to take the single point in sixth.
The Malaysian Grand Prix was full of drama before the lights had even gone out, as drivers
and machines endured a stifling 55 percent humidity on the grid. Michael Schumacher, who
had dominated all weekend, was forced to switch to the spare car just before the pit lane
opened. Frentzen in the Jordan had a misfire on his car during the warm-up lap and there
was utter humiliation for Giancarlo Fisichella as he lost his starting point on the grid
and did the only thing he could without suffering a heavy penalty by stalling his Benetton
and therefore blocking the start.
Juan Pablo Montoya, who had excelled himself to get on the third row in qualifying,
suffered a mechanical problem and had to make it back into the pits to pick up the spare
car rejoining the race from the back along side the Benetton.
The start of the race was thrown into chaos after
Ralf Schumacher tried to pass second placed Rubens Barrichello at the first corner. But
the two touched wheels, which sent the Williams car into a spin that allowed the rest of
the grid to bunch up and pass with David Coulthard and Jos Verstappen, who was starting in
18th place moving up to an incredible sixth place.
However, if the start was confusing, then what proceeded on lap three turned the Malaysian
GP into a lottery when both Ferraris went off in tandem, as without warning, the heavens opened bathing the entire circuit in
water, which resulted in cars spinning widely out of control all over the
track.Eventually, the safety car came out but not before a gaggle of drivers were forced
to retire including both BARs and the Saubers, Juan Pablo Montoya, Enrique Bernoldi
and Eddie Irvine.
As the water settled and the rain subsided, the race was restarted on lap 10 with David
Coulthard leading the grid with Frentzen in second, Verstappen in third and Mika Hakkinen
in fourth. Rubens Barrichello was in ninth with Michael Schumacher reduced to 11th place.
By lap 13, however, the German
driver was literally trying to outdo Moses as his red Ferrari parted the waves of cars
ahead of him, scything his way through into an incredible third place, hotly pursued by
his team-mate Barrichello, who had joined him in fourth place pushing Mika Hakkinen down
into fifth. By lap 15, the Ferrari driver, who appeared to have put a set of intermediates
on whilst the safety car was out, had retaken the lead from Coulthard. It was back to the
status quo on the very next lap with Barrichello taking up his role, riding shotgun in
remainder of the race turned out to be rather processional with Michael Schumacher at one
point having amassed over a minutes lead over his team-mate. However, the real
battle was back in fourth, fifth and sixth place as Verstappen fought to stave off
Hakkinen and Frentzen with Ralf Schumacher in the Williams mixing it with all three
The first three places may well have been predictable, but the contest for the remaining
points was encouraging for Williams, Arrows and Jordan. All of whom gave Hakkinens
McLaren Mercedes a thorough once over.
Nevertheless, it was the Ferraris who still set the standard in 2001.