Canadian GP 2000

Canadian GP, 2000

TO win World Championships one needs a bit of luck and in Canada Michael Schumacher had more than a little. David Coulthard looked threatening but the FIA Stewards demolished any chance that McLaren had of beating Schumacher. David's mechanics did work on the car after the 15 second limit before the parade lap. That was illegal but the punishment was a little harsh. David was bounced down the order and with Jacques Villeneuve doing an impersonation of a Dutch caravan in his BAR-Honda there was no chance for anyone else to get close to Michael, despite the fact that the leading Ferrari had a problem. If it had not been for the weather changing in mid-race, many insomniacs would have been cured on Sunday afternoon. In the end it was a good show. A jolly good show for Ferrari, even if team orders were applied to prevent Rubens Barrichello beating Michael in the closing laps...

When French explorers first arrived in Montreal back in the days before they had televisions to keep them at home, they found a cold but pleasant land full of furry critters. In the finest tradition of humankind they then blasted all the animals into little pieces and sold the fur and soon they had earned so much money that it made sense to build a little town in the shadow of a hill which they named Royal Mountain, in honor of their kings who would soon all be guillotined. Mont Real was left behind as a souvenir and boomed when the railways came and before long it was the second biggest port in North America after New York, shipping wheat from the Canadian prairies to points across the globe. Somewhere along the way Canada became an independent entity and because half of them spoke English and the other half spoke French it became like a big version of Belgium and everyone soon got down to quibbling over who should speak what. The French-speaking Quebecois shouted louder than everyone else and so everyone in Quebec had to learn to be understood in French, or rather in the local version of French which is so different to the original language that Frenchmen end up scratching their heads.

There was a time when the people in Quebec were big on the idea of becoming a separate country but it seems that they now understand that there are enough Third World countries in the world and so they have settled into life as America's next door neighbor. Whenever you meet a Canadian anywhere in the world they always have a Maple Leaf flag on their T-shirt, rucksack or forehead and so you get the impression that suggesting that Canada is like America's 51st state is probably not a good idea.

You are likely to get a similar reaction these days if you suggest that Jacques Villeneuve is not very Canadian. He was born there but the family moved to Monaco when Jacques was about eight and he grew up in the fairy-tale principality. He went to school there and in Switzerland and then went to race in Japan before returning to North America to make his name in Formula Atlantic and then in CART.

But it does not matter to the folks of Montreal. Villeneuve is a local boy and they love him, even if the car he is driving is not very competitive. The newspapers were packed full of Villeneuve throughout the week leading up to the Grand Prix but once the racing began it was rather more difficult because Jacques was not really making that much of an impact. It was all about Ferrari and McLaren, as usual.

On Friday David Coulthard continued his run of good showings by being faster than the two Ferraris and Johnny Herbert, but it meant little. On Saturday morning Coulthard was quickest again but Michael Schumacher was right with him and Barrichello was only a fraction away. Hakkinen was fourth. And so it came to qualifying and the fight was on, Hakkinen setting the ball rolling with fastest lap on his first run after 20 minutes. A couple of minutes later Coulthard chopped fourth tenths from Hakkinen's best. Michael Schumacher went for it but could not beat David and Barrichello slotted into third.

Ten minutes later Hakkinen and Coulthard were out again and the pattern was the same. Hakkinen took pole, Coulthard beat him and a couple of minutes after that Schumacher went second. Then Jos Verstappen squashed his Orange Arrows into a wall and out came the red flags. As soon as the session was restarted there was a rush and in the scramble Michael Schumacher came out on top and so we waited for the final runs as the session ticked away. Barrichello was the first to go on that final run and he hauled himself up to second place but Coulthard, Schumacher and Hakkinen were all behind him. Coulthard did not seem to be much of a threat but in the final sector he pulled out a couple of tenths and grabbed pole. Out on the track behind him was Schumacher and he was flying. But was he flying enough? The split times were inconclusive so, as the Ferrari accelerated down the start-finish straight for the last time, everyone was holding their breath. The timing screens flashed up the news. Michael had done it by a tenth of a second.

"That was very exciting," Michael explained. "I was told on the radio that Coulthard was quickest and I was told to keep pushing. I did not know what time I had to beat so I just went for it."

Coulthard admitted to being "slightly disappointed" having been fastest in the other sessions. "You don't score points in qualifying," he said.

Barrichello reckoned he had been a bit unlucky because he lost his second run due to the red flags and then had traffic trouble at the end of the session. "My time does not reflect the potential of the car because I could at least have been on the front row," he said.

Mika Hakkinen was fourth and he did not seem to be his usual speedy self. His qualifying was trouble-free but he said that he was losing time at the hairpin and did not seem to know why.

The tire situation was interesting because everyone was on the softer tires available. These proved to be too hard for the circuit and a lot of teams were complaining of understeer and balance problems. The best solution appeared to be to use old tires on the front of the car and new ones at the rear.

Fifth on the grid belonged to Heinz-Harald Frentzen in his Jordan-Mugen and he was quite happy with that while Jarno Trulli was not overjoyed with being seventh, complaining of a lack of grip in qualifying. He was frustrated. Villeneuve qualified sixth which was a good effort. The performance was greatly helped by a change of brake pad material. Jacques reckoned that his best lap "wasn't very good" but he was still happy to be sixth. Fifth would have been better but beyond that would have been impossible. Ricardo Zonta did a good job too, despite the fact that he had more mechanical trouble on Friday. Saturday gave him a clear run and he delivered, ending up eighth on the grid.

While one must applaud the effort it must also be said that Williams, Benetton and Jaguar all seriously underperformed so the BAR result was maybe a little flattering. That is as maybe, a result is a result. With the BAR starting system being very good the team had a right to hope that Sunday would bring good things if the cars were reliable and if accidents could be avoided. Canada is a curious track in that there is very little run-off and it is very easy to be involved in someone else's accident. The BAR folk were crossing their fingers that all would go well.

Pedro de la Rosa gave Arrows a bit of a boost with ninth place on the grid but once again this was in part due to the lack of performance of others as much as to the speed of the Arrows. De la Rosa was delighted. Jos Verstappen attracted rather less praise having stuck his car into the barriers. He went to the spare and ended up 13th on the grid.

Giancarlo Fisichella was tenth in his Benetton but it was not a great showing. Fisichella complained of a lack of grip in qualifying trim. Alexander Wurz was again overshadowed, finishing up 14th on the grid, losing one of his runs as a result of the red flag and complaining that he was twice stopped for weighing. This meant that he ran out of time to make changes. He also felt that his engine was not as good as Fisichella's.

Jaguar also underperformed quite dramatically after Herbert's good showing on Friday. On Saturday the team seemed to lose its way completely and so Herbert ended up 11th with Eddie Irvine a mystified 16th. Both men were hoping that steady races would bring results.

Williams also made a bit of a mess of the weekend. To begin with the team was running a rather strange rear wing arrangement on Friday. This made the cars fast in a straightline but lousy in the corners. The result was an embarrassing 16th and 21st for Jenson Button and Ralf Schumacher (in that order). Ralf did not seem to be troubled by his leg problems but he was still limping quite badly when he forgot to try to disguise the limp. On Saturday he was able to get ahead of Button to qualify 12th with Jenson 18th but this was not really a clear picture because Jenson had problems with fuel pick-up on his fast laps and could not go as fast as he would have done. He also lost one of his fast runs because of the red flag.

All in all it was very disappointing for the team and not at all what had been expected.

Sauber was as disappointing as usual with the same problem of a lack of grip. Mika Salo was 15th and Pedro Diniz 19th, the Brazilian not helping his cause when he went sideways on his fastest lap.

Alain Prost had talked whimsically about getting a car into the top 10 after Jean Alesi was 11th fastest on Friday but on Saturday there was an outbreak of reality in the Prost garage with two Peugeot engines popping like cockroaches and Alesi ending up 17th and Nick Heidfeld (who gave a chassis a working out with the wall on Friday) 21st. This meant that Minardi succeeded in getting a car off the back row of the grid with Marc Gene 20th and Gaston Mazzacane 22nd. The Argentine had a lively time in qualifying, smashing his car up and then going to the spare. This had an engine problem and so Mazzacane had to wait until Gene was finished and the car switched over before he managed to qualify. For a while his involvement in the race looked to be in some doubt.

THE morning warm-up brought good news for Ferrari with Michael Schumacher ahead of Rubens Barrichello. Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard were third and fourth. There was bad news for Ricardo Zonta who suffered a major blow-up on his first lap out of the pits while Villeneuve had a spin when his rear brakes seized.

The morning was very cool and the weather was decidedly uncertain as the start time approached. There was talk of rain at two o'clock. The grandstands were packed with enthusiastic Villeneuve fans. There were no major problems until the last seconds before the parade lap began when David Coulthard's McLaren stalled. The McLaren mechanics went back to the car to restart it and were still working on it in the 15-second period before the cars went off. In fact they got the car going and David accelerated away with the rest of his rivals. Many times in the past we have seen crews working on cars as the field goes away but normally this means that the car has to start from the back of the grid which the stewards seem to think is penalty enough. In this case, however, McLaren - and the race - would pay a much heavier penalty. More of that later.

At the start everyone went away without too much trouble. Coulthard was a little faster than Schumacher but the Ferrari driver came across the road as is now the vogue and blocked his rival. They were nose-to-tail as they went down to the notorious first corner. Hakkinen was also quite slow away and had Barrichello right behind him and Villeneuve looking to be a hero on the outside. Mika kept his cool but as they braked for the corner with Villeneuve and Hakkinen side by side, Barrichello had to stand on the brakes to avoid the rear of the Finn's car.

Villeneuve had the advantage for the second part of the corner and he made sure of it by running a little wide at the exit, which pushed Hakkinen out. Barrichello tried to have a look on the inside of both men but Villeneuve swung back across in front of the Brazilian. Jacques was third, and those behind would come to regret those frantic few seconds as they watched Schumacher and Coulthard disappearing up the road ahead of them. The BAR was clearly slower than the Ferrari and the McLaren trapped behind it but being there is one thing, overtaking quite another. The Villeneuve convoy would soon be joined by de la Rosa's Arrows (obviously running with a light fuel load) which had made quick work of the two Jordans.

Coulthard was able to stay with Schumacher easily and could close up when he pleased, suggesting that if he had been ahead he would have been pulling away, but he was not and so it was an irrelevant point. The two cars were never more than a second apart in the first 10 laps and they shared the fastest laps between them. Everyone else was out of the running, Villeneuve had seen to that.

The Ferrari team told Schumacher that he should not worry too much about Coulthard but he said it made no difference.

"David was not close enough to attack me," he said. "I just went for my style."

After 11 laps the stewards decided that rules are rules and Coulthard (and the race) must suffer. He was given a 10-second stop-go penalty. Of course a stop-go penalty is really half a minute when you add in the time lost going into and out of the pitlane. By the time David rejoined he was lost in the midfield. He tried to battle back up the order but when rain drops began to fall he went off while trying to avoid a spinning Jos Verstappen and dropped even further down the order. It was just not his day.

With Coulthard gone and Villeneuve continuing to play the role of champagne cork, the race seemed to be over and everyone got ready to curl up and a have a big of a snooze while Michael reeled off the necessary laps. "After David was gone I took it a bit easier," said Michael, "just to make sure I didn't make any mistakes."

It was not all plain sailing because something was amiss in the back end of the Ferrari. "We don't know what it is," Michael said. "It may just have been a sensor failing and giving us the wrong information. But because I had such a gap, we took things safe and I came in earlier than planned."

The stop took place on lap 34. Team members had a close look at the rear of the car but nothing was visible and Michael was soon on his way again, although he emerged behind Barrichello and was unable to keep up with the Brazilian. Rubens stopped on lap 43 but the timing was just too early and when the rain came he went back to the pits two laps later. He arrived just as Schumacher was leaving and the team was not really ready. But Rubens decided that he would take his chances.

"At the Nurburgring I missed my pit stop by one or two laps," he explained later. "This time there was a radio conversation between me and Ross Brawn. If I had put the wets on at the right moment in Germany I would probably have won the race."

So Rubens came in and waited. He lost around 17 seconds as the team members got themselves sorted out. Schumacher was in the pitlane for 29 seconds, Barrichello was there for 46. He was half a minute behind Michael by the time everyone was back up to speed and he began to close more and more.

In the closing laps he backed off a little to protect Schumacher and the two cars crossed the line almost side by side. "I have no problem with backing off to protect Michael when I was asked to do so by the team. I trust the team and I am sure that if I am in front of Michael I will be allowed to win." We shall see.

The mid-race rain storm was to have a profound effect on the result with Fisichella, who had been running around in the midfield, leapfrogging the opposition with a clever (and one must say somewhat fortunate) piece of strategy. The Italian had started the race with a heavy fuel load so as to go as far as possible before having to stop. He was due to pit when the rain began and Giancarlo radioed in to ask for rain tires. The result was that while most of his rivals had to make two stops, Fisichella got away with one and so vaulted from what had become seventh position to second place. As he has sometimes done in the past Fisichella then made a mistake which allowed Barrichello through into second.

Alexander Wurz also benefitted from the quick strategic thinking and so went from 11th to sixth. He seemed to get pretty excited about this because in the laps that followed he went off a couple of times and banged into Verstappen while battling with the Dutchman. Once Jos was ahead Alexander could do nothing and in the final laps he drifted back to fight with Coulthard. The pair collided on the penultimate lap and both went off. This meant that Wurz had to pit which dropped him from seventh to ninth.

All in all, however, it was positive result for Benetton - which had not been expected after the lackluster qualifying.

The other man who made a huge gain from the rain was Verstappen. It was clear early on that both men were running with very light fuel loads. The cynics said that there was no tactical value in such a strategy and that it was about getting the cars on television, but Tom Walkinshaw had an explanation.

"We knew it was going to rain," he said, "so we ran a higher downforce than normal and we split the cars with different strategies in the hope that one of them would catch the weather window."

As all their rivals were running with heavy fuel loads the two Arrows men looked very good as de la Rosa overtook Zonta and Trulli at the start and then got past Frentzen on the second lap. He then tagged along with the Villeneuve gang until lap 20 when he pitted and dropped right back to 13th. He made little progress and was only 11th when he had to stop again, which dropped him to 15th. He went off, which did not help, and then had to pit again for wet tires, and by the time all that was done he was 13th. He started charging back and overtook Pedro Diniz on lap 47 but next time round he was pushed off very rudely by Diniz. "I was next to him and he pushed me onto the grass," explained Pedro later. "I think it was a very dangerous move from him."

Verstappen's strategy worked out better. He too made an impact in the early laps, jumping ahead of Herbert and Ralf Schumacher at the start and then passing Fisichella. He then held station until lap 24 when he went off while battling with Coulthard and so pitted immediately, dropping from eighth to 19th despite a very fast stop. Things did not look great. By lap 44 he was running 11th (thanks entirely to the departure of others rather than overtaking manoeuvres). At his stop, however, he was able to take on fuel and wet tires and as everyone apart from the Benettons stopped again Jos found himself in eighth place despite another quick off along the way. Villeneuve did him a favor by stalling during his pit stop and losing six seconds and then losing another five seconds on the next lap by going off, and so Jos was seventh and ahead was Wurz. When these two run together on a race track there is a certain edge to the contest as both always seem to be on the verge of an accident. The war raged between them for 11 laps with one point at which they both went off without hitting one another and another when they made contact and Jos got ahead. He then blasted ahead of Trulli to take fifth and, having done that, had nothing else to do because Hakkinen was so far ahead on the road. It was a great result for the team and evidence that a risky strategy can sometimes pay off.

Hakkinen's fourth place was a really dreary result for the Finn. He had lost all chance of making much of an impact while stuck behind Villeneuve and Barrichello in the early laps. He made one big attempt to pass Rubens but it did not come off and so he settled back to wait. Barrichello finally got ahead of Villeneuve but it then took Mika another 11 laps before he dealt with the BAR. Once free he set a couple of fastest laps but he was 11 seconds and a pit stop behind so there was never any real hope of success. He pitted on lap 42, two laps before the rain, and by the time he had been and gone again, he was fallen from a close third to a distant fourth, 52 seconds behind Michael. If he had stopped two laps later he might have been able to win the race but instead he was fourth.

One had to feel a little sorry for Coulthard because after the stewards had worked him over he was 10th and stuck in the traffic jam behind Zonta. He had to take avoiding action when Verstappen had one of his moments and so dropped back another two places. He pitted on lap 43, just before the rain, and went onto slicks. Two laps later he was back and went on to wets and when all that was finished he was ninth in another train of cars. Villeneuve helped him out by completing a completely mad overtaking manoeuvre which resulted in the BAR going past Coulthard and straight into the side of Ralf Schumacher's Williams. David then set about trying to find a way to get ahead of wobbly Wurz. On lap 68 he tried a little too hard and the pair of them bumped each other off over the grass at the first corner. It achieved the desired effect because the Benetton went into the pits but David was still only seventh. Of McLaren's 500 Grand Prix starts this one will not be remembered as one of the classics.

Trulli's sixth place was not very exciting either and he had to work for it. At the start he was squeezed out and dropped from seventh to ninth. This meant that he was stuck behind Zonta until it spat with rain on lap 24 and the BAR became a real handful. Once clear of the BAR Jarno put his head down and charged and his lap times came down dramatically and he closed right up on Villeneuve. He stopped early, hoping to get ahead of the next BAR during the pit stop sequence, but when the rains came he had to go back into the pits and so made no ground at all. There was nothing he could do to hold off Verstappen in the closing laps because the car was handling badly in the wet and so sixth was a good result.

Frentzen's race was along similar lines with a slow start meaning he dropped from fifth on the grid to seventh by the end of the second lap. Nothing much happened to him then until Trulli overtook him on lap 27 by which time Heinz-Harald had some brake troubles which caused him to retire from seventh place at the end of the 33rd lap.

The BAR story looked to be pretty good early on thanks to Villeneuve's aggressive attack at the start but both he and eighth-placed Zonta were slowing up the cars behind them. When it rained briefly on lap 24 each man dropped a place but the problems of others and the mid-race stops meant that for a glorious moment the pair were running third and fourth. They needed to pit, of course, and while the team could be forgiven for getting it wrong with Zonta (a lap before the rain came), there was no real excuse for Villeneuve who was in at the same time as Fisichella was picking up his wets. Jacques's car stalled and when he rejoined he found it was pouring and so the pair of them came back to the pits on the next lap, Zonta losing six seconds because of the congestion. By the time that had all been sorted out the two cars were down in seventh and 11th place. Villeneuve then went off and dropped to 10th and there they stayed. Towards the end Villeneuve seemed to go slightly bonkers and on lap 64 tried a wild overtaking manoeuvre at the hairpin, sailing past Coulthard and then overshooting and dropping behind him again. On the next lap he did the same again and this time drove straight into the side of Ralf Schumacher's Williams. He apologized and (one must presume) went to have a lie down in a dark room.

Zonta finished eighth.

It was not a great day for Sauber, Salo going out with an engine problem on lap 42 while running in the midfield. Diniz (behind him) then had a monster moment with de la Rosa and seemed unperturbed about bouncing the Spaniard into the barriers at very high speed. "I just took my normal racing line," he said. This was true but there was a car in the way... Later on he went off again in the wet but he kept it all going and finished 10th.

It was a pretty grey day for Williams as well with both drivers losing a place at the start. Early on Button's car began to sound rougher than a tattooed biker and he had to battle with Prosts and Minardis. He pitted before the rain came and made a mistake and needed a new nose when he came in for wet tires. In the wet he was quick and caught Gene, the Spaniard going off and letting Jenson up to 11th.

Ralf Schumacher's day was little better. The car was all right in the dry but when the rain came Ralf was in big trouble. "It was almost out of my control," he said. He would have made it to the finish in eighth place if Villeneuve had not lost his marbles with five laps to go. Jacques apologized and Ralf did not bear a grudge. It was not a day for grudges. Given that Button was fastest in the Monza test before Canada one must assume that the Montreal event was just one error leading to another. If not, Williams and BMW may not have to worry about taking on Juan-Pablo Montoya because he will want to stay in America next year.

Minardi's race was much as normal, Gene fell off and Mazzacane was 12th.

Jaguar barely deserves a mention because Irvine's race was ruined at the start and there was never a chance that he would catch up with anyone. In the wet the car was "like a skateboard" and so Eddie went off a number of times, tending the trackside lawns. Herbert's race ended after 14 laps with a gearbox problem.

And while we are in glossing over mode, a quick mention for the Prost-Peugeot team.

Drone, drone. Boom! Boom!

End of story.

Michael Schumacher Ferrari  69 1h41m12.313  1m18.439 
Rubens Barrichello Ferrari  69 0.174  1m18.801 
11 Giancarlo Fisichella Benetton-Supertec  69 15.365  1m19.932 10 
Mika Hakkinen McLaren-Mercedes  69 18.561  1m18.985 
19 Jos Verstappen Arrows-Supertec  69 52.208  1m20.107 13 
Jarno Trulli Jordan-Mugen Honda  69 1m01.687  1m19.581 
David Coulthard McLaren-Mercedes  69 1m02.216  1m17.537 
23 Ricardo Zonta BAR-Honda  69 1m10.455  1m19.742 
12 Alexander Wurz Benetton-Supertec  69 1m19.899  1m20.113 14 
10 16 Pedro Diniz Sauber-Petronas  69 1m29.544  1m20.692 19 
11 10 Jenson Button Williams-BMW  68 1 Lap  1m20.095 18 
12 21 Gaston Mazzacane Minardi-Ford  68 1 Lap  1m21.680 22 
13 Eddie Irvine Jaguar-Cosworth  66 3 Laps  1m20.500 16 
14 Ralf Schumacher Williams-BMW  64 Accident 1m20.073 12 
15 22 Jacques Villeneuve BAR-Honda  64 Accident 1m19.544 
16 20 Marc Gene Minardi-Ford  64 5 Laps  1m21.058 20 
18 Pedro de la Rosa Arrows-Supertec  48 Accident 1m19.912 
17 Mika Salo Sauber-Petronas  42 Engine 1m20.445 15 
14 Jean Alesi Prost-Peugeot  38 Engine 1m20.512 17 
15 Nick Heidfeld Prost-Peugeot  34 Engine 1m21.680 21 
Heinz-Harald Frentzen Jordan-Mugen Honda  32 Brakes 1m19.483 
Johnny Herbert Jaguar-Cosworth  14 Gearbox 1m19.954 11