Features - Year in Review
NOVEMBER 20, 2001
Tom Walkinshaw believes that his TWR Arrows empire has the stuff on which to build the foundations of F1 success. Yet Arrows has been promising much and delivering precious little over the past few seasons and, in that respect, 2001 was no exception. The team's Asiatech-engined machines shone occasionally thanks largely to ambitious and imaginative low-tank race strategies and to lead driver Jos Verstappen's unquenchable enthusiasm. Yet they failed to make any sort of sustainable performance breakthrough.
Objectively, the statistics did not look good. They dropped from seventh in the 2000 Constructors' Championship to tenth this season with only a single point to their credit. Yet there were certainly occasions when they could have scored had they finished, so it really was a year of lost opportunities.
Arrows also paid a high price for changing engines yet again, this time from Supertec to Asiatech, these being the old Peugeot V10s redeveloped thanks to a budget of around $90m from Asian investors. The Pug V10 was still developed at its French HQ but with former Williams engineer Enrique Scalabroni in charge of liasing with Mike Coughlan and his team at Leafield, Arrow's UK headquarters.
The Asiatech V10 was not a poor engine by any means, although it was heavier than the Cosworth CR3 which Arrows will use next season. Over the winter, improvements boosted its power by 15bhp to an alleged 805bhp. Promising, but not enough to do battle with any of the big guns. The engine also initially required bigger radiators than were ideal as it operated at 105-degrees at the start of the season but piston ring development helped raise its optimum operational temperature by about 15-deg during the course of the year. Yet the V10 was quite thirsty, compromising Arrow's decision to build a relatively small fuel tank into the A22 equation which in turn meant that Verstappen and his team-mate Enrique Bernoldi often had to make two refuelling stops to their rivals' one.
Jos Verstappen could certainly be a solid and reliable performer, but his new team-mate Enrique Bernoldi was also certainly no slouch by any means. At Monaco Bernoldi attracted criticism from some quarters by staying ahead of David Coulthard's pole position McLaren-Mercedes for many laps after the Scot had been obliged to start from the back of the grid following another glitch with his launch control mechanism.
There were two distinct schools of thought on this occasion. Some, including McLaren boss Ron Dennis, felt that Bernoldi was being uneccessarily obstructive and should have given way to a man who was a World Championship contender. Others felt it was McLaren's problem if they couldn't get their launch control system operating properly and that Bernoldi was simply doing his job as a racing driver.
Nobody gave Bernoldi his deserved credit for keeping his cool in a high pressure situation on his first visit to Monaco at the wheel of an F1 car. They preferred instead to castigate him for simply trying to get as much TV coverage for his team and its sponsors in a what was a distinctly unusual situation.
The critics could have been right. In many ways, Monaco was the high water mark of the Arrows season. But who could have blamed either the team or Bernoldi for claiming their moment of glory? Precious few of them came Arrows's way during the 2001 season.