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Home > Formula 1

Schumacher cruises to victory in Monaco
27th May, 2001

Michael Schumacher took a relatively uncontested victory at the Monaco Grand Prix, havingThe top 3 after the race. lost his main challenger David Coulthard on the dummy grid before the formation lap. For the second time in three races the Scot's car remained steadfast on the grid as the field threaded by. The McLaren was the only car to fall foul of the new launch control electronics.

The resultant start gave Schumacher an easy run into the first corner followed by the second McLaren of Mika Hakkinen, Rubens Barrichello and the two BMW WilliamsF1s of Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya.

But Hakkinen's stay in the race was to be a short one, a steering problem forcing his retirement on lap 18. The two BMW WilliamsF1's both retired from the race, Montoya hitting the barriers and Ralf Schumacher, retiring in the pits on lap 59 with hydraulics trouble.

This put a well performing Eddie Irvine into contention for a podium finish, which he duly achieved for his Jaguar team maintaining his high scoring record in the Monte Carlo street race.

Jacques Villeneuve overcame his Monaco gremlins to take a well deserved fourth. A few more laps and it might even have been the Canadian spraying the Champagne, such was his late charge up to the Irishman.

Coulthard, benefiting from a high attrition rate which resulted in only 10 cars crossing the line, came in a mightily relieved 5th having been stuck behind a frustratingly slow Arrows of Enrique Bernoldi for 45 interminable laps. A long first stint enabled him to pit on lap 66 for a 'splash and dash' overtaking Jenson Button for 6th place and then Jean Alesi for 5th, when the Frenchman took an unexpected second stop. The Prost took the remaining point and their first of the season.

Barichello,Schumacher and Irvine at the podium with the Monaco royal family in the background.Coulthard's anger was more than visible when his car failed to move. He shook his head pummelled the steering wheel and waved his arms in a demonstration of sheer despair as the realisation that his hard fought pole position had been thrown away by another software glitch, similar to that which had cost him certain points in Spain.

At the opposite end of the field, Schumacher took an almost leisurely stride down to Sainte Devote powering uphill to the Massenet curve with Hakkinen hanging on behind. Within the short space of a couple of laps the top five cars had pulled out a lead of several seconds over the 6th placed Irvine.

But the attrition had begun with Nick Heidfeld putting his Sauber into the barriers at the exit to the Grand Hotel hairpin on the first lap. Then Montoya, having set the first fastest lap, promptly slapped the barriers at the swimming pool complex on lap two, taking himself out of a race in which he professed he would have liked to excel.

"I made mistake when I went back on the power and I hit the kerb on the right hand side and went into the wall," he said afterwards. "It was a silly mistake and one which I shouldn't have made."

Coulthard meanwhile had made up two places by passing two cars to 18th but then came upon the immovable forces of the Arrows of Jos Verstappen and Enrique Bernoldi. The Dutchman passed his team mate but the young and inexperienced Brazilian inadvertently stopped any excitement that Coulthard may have generated in a fairly processional race, by maintaining his track position to stay ahead of the McLaren.

However, despite being some four seconds a lap slower he had every right to be where he was, the narrow track making his job a little easier by giving Coulthard hardly any opportunities to overtake.

Schumacher who had been pulling out a steady gap over Hakkinen, found himself being reeledSchumacher shaves the barriers during the race. in by Hakkinen who had found a little more speed. But the Finn's eventual demise was signalled when both Barrichello and Ralf Schumacher passed him on lap 13, the Finn veering his car wide at the Nouvelle Chicane. Two pit stops later and he was out of the running, an as yet undiagnosed steering fault making his car impossible to drive.

"It was pulling heavily on the right and I thought that it was too risky to continue," Hakkinen, who was extremely calm after the fourth retirement of the season said. "I know that I didn't hit anything and I'm sure the engineers will find out soon what it was. It's a pretty unusual problem." By lap 24 there were 16 cars running and Schumacher had lapped the back markers up to his rival's McLaren. Coulthard immediately gave way to the German hoping to find a way past Bernoldi as he in turn moved aside for the leader. As with later incidents in which Coulthard did the same for Barrichello and Schumacher, the Arrows moved aside for the leaders, but promptly closed the door on Coulthard each time.

It was a testament to the McLaren driver's patience that he didn't bully his way past risking the destruction of a front wing which would have been quicker to replace than losing time behind the Asiatech powered car. Bernoldi's eventual stop on lap 45 gave Coulthard the free air that he needed to show what he might have been able to achieve, had his luck not turned sour at such a crucial moment. His lap times decreased immediately by four seconds, a fastest lap on lap 67 of 1.19.42 being some two seconds faster than Hakkinen's in 2000.

The race order following Ralf Schumacher's retirement with a hydraulic problem on lap 59 changed briefly as the two Ferrari drivers changed positions during their pit stops on laps 55 and 60, Irvine justifiably finding himself in a potential podium situation. A midfield skirmish between Jarno Trulli, Villeneuve and Giancarlo Fisichella amounted to little when both Trulli and Fisichella removed themselves from the race. The Jordan went out with an engine fire on lap 32 and the Italian's Benetton, having a second attempt at destroying the Armco at Saint Devote and succeeding, on lap 44.

It was a bad day for team boss Eddie Jordan who also saw Heinz-Harald Frentzen lose it on the exit to the tunnel on lap 51. "From the apex (of the tunnel) onwards I had bad understeer and I slid off," Frentzen said later. "It was uncomfortable I must say and I banged my head. It's difficult to understand why it happened and we will have to look at data."

As Schumacher proceeded unhurriedly towards his fifth Monaco victory, Coulthard managed to gain the first points place from Jenson Button by staying out for 66 laps. His short stop enabled him to get out in front of the young Brit, and continue the charge to 5th placed Alesi some 28 seconds ahead. A second stop from the Frenchman saved Coulthard the trouble and he settled for 5th slot, Irvine being over a lap ahead.

Schumacher having slowed almost to a standstill to allow his Brazilian team mate to make up the 9 second gap for the world's cameras, crossed the line, his hand raised in the air.

The podium was icing on the cake for Irvine, Jaguar's first points of the year instantly elevating them to 7th in the Championship. Along with Prost - who took the final point behind Coulthard - guaranteed the team travel and appearance money for next season.

Schumacher whooped and grinned as he was besieged with congratulations from his adoring team. But he found time to give his former team mate a congratulatory hug, no doubt in memory of old times when the podium was a more familiar place to the Irishman.

Coulthard looked shattered and unnerved. Clearly he had put everything into one of the most frustrating drives of his career. But for the legitimate obstinacy of Bernoldi, who knows where the Scot may have finished. But another 8 points adrift of his main rival in the title challenge is not insurmountable. However, with the double for Ferrari, it means McLaren are now a distant 32 points behind in the constructors' table.

"Basically the engine was switched off," was all Coulthard was prepared to say about his start line disaster. "It was a technical problem that the team will explain." There was no comment from team boss Ron Dennis as there was in Spain which provoked a barrage of criticism. The more detailed explanation was apparently that the launch control software received an unexpected "parameter" which switched off the engine.

"I can only do my best and I think I have done that this weekend," Coulthard said finally. "It's now down to the racing Gods. At the moment Michael gets the luck but in Montreal maybe it will be my turn."

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