McLaren accuses Bernoldi of unsporting behaviour.
27th May, 2001
After the Monaco Grand Prix, McLaren team boss Ron Dennis was reported to be unhappy about the fact
that Arrows driver Enrique Bernoldi held up David Coulthard for half the race. The
Scotsman had an electronics problem on the grid at the start of warm up, which resulted in
him losing pole position and starting the race at the back of the grid. Hence he landed up
challenging Bernoldi for track position. But Bernoldi was not a backmarker - they were
racing. The young Brazilian was instructed by his team to hold position, and many believe
that this was perfectly fair. A marshal was even seen (mistakenly) waving a blue flag at
the Arrows car.
Only when Bernoldi pitted on lap 45, was Coulthard able to pass and started to gain track
position and places. It was reported that Dennis and Mercedes' Norbert Haug went over to
Arrows and had words with Bernoldi.
"Ron and Norbert came up to me after the race in the pit-lane and they were both very
aggressive," said the rookie driver. "They told me if you continue to drive in
that sort of way again, you are not going to be in F1 for very long. I was very scared,
they were very aggressive." But the McLaren boss had a different view of the
situation. "That's rubbish. I said nothing of the sort. I have no influence over his
career at all. It was quite a while after the race when I talked to him and I was cool,
calm and collected. and I wasn't angry.
"I just told him that in my opinion it was unsporting behaviour, as every time David
made an attempt to overtake, he cut him off. You could argue it's motor racing but in 15th
position it's different when you're hampering a driver who is clearly faster and has the
World Championship at stake.
"I told him I felt his behaviour was unsporting and not reflective of an attitude a
young developing driver should be putting into his career. His response was he had been
instructed to do so by the team. If that team is so desperate for television it has to
resort to those strategies then you can question the behaviour of the team as a
Arrows team boss Tom Walkinshaw is reported to be furious. He denied that Bernoldi was
told to hold position because of TV exposure and questioned Dennis' logic. He said he was
happy with Bernoldi't performance, particularly the fact that he managed to keep Coulthard
behind him, despite the pressure.
It's a pity that the controversy surrounds, what was eventually a strong drive for
Coulthard who managed to salvage fifth place and two points. Arrows were also in trouble
with Sauber. Team boss Peter Sauber blamed one of the cars for hitting Nick Heidfeld and
putting an end to his race on lap one.