Schumacher cruises to victory in Monaco
27th May, 2001
Michael Schumacher took a relatively uncontested victory at the Monaco Grand Prix, having 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
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.
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 reeled 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
"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."