Hungarian GP 2001
AUGUST 19, 2001
Hungarian GP, 2001
Lock, stock and two barrels...
MICHAEL SCHUMACHER and the Ferrari team took home just about everything at the Hungaroring. Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello finished 1-2 in front of an enthusiastic pro-Ferrari crowd. It clinched Schumacher his fourth Drivers' World Championship and puts him on a level with Alain Prost. Only the great Juan Manuel Fangio won more titles. It gave Michael his 51st Grand Prix win which means that he is now equal to Prost's record of success. His next win will make him the most successful driver in F1 history. Barrichello's second place meant that Ferrari won its 11th Constructors' title ® a record ® and Rubens up to within five points of David Coulthard in the Drivers' championship standings. Another couple of good results and Rubens may end the year as the runner-up in the World Championship ® and with Michael there to help him in the last four races that will probably be possible...
But if there was dancing on the streets of Maranello, the roads of Woking would have been rather quiet on Sunday night. It was as bad a result as McLaren could have imagined in the circumstances. The cars finished and both were in the points but while that might please Prost, Arrows or Jaguar, McLaren has higher aspirations.
The rout of McLaren was somehow completed by Mika Hakkinen's need to go into the pits with just a handful of laps remaining. It looked like the team had screwed up on fuel. That was not the case at all but somehow that final pit stop was a sign of the defeat. In fact it had come as the result of a calculated risk. Hakkinen was fifth and wanted to be fourth. He could not find a way to pass Ralf Schumacher and so the team decided that it would bring him in for a very quick second stop and get out ahead of the Williams. That would allow Hakkinen to lap fast enough to get to have the time needed for an extra splash-and-dash. But it all went wrong because Ralf Schumacher was still ahead after his second pit stop. And so Mika was stuck behind Ralf and had to stop again.
In fact it made no difference because he was still fifth at the finish but it somehow highlighted the story of the day. Hakkinen ended up with the fastest lap but track position was the only thing that mattered in Budapest ® and McLaren lost out.
By the end of it all there was no mistaking the fact that it was Michael Schumacher's day. And even if one does not like aspects of the man and his history in F1 ® and not everyone in the paddock fawns over him ® one cannot help but admire what he has achieved and the talent that it has taken to achieve what he has achieved.
One can argue that after the death of Ayrton Senna, Schumacher was the only giant but that is not fair to Michael nor to his rivals. He could do nothing to alter the chronology. And he delivered the wins. Now he is wrapping up most of the other Formula 1 records available. Fangio's five World Championships could be equalled. It might even be beaten. Michael will pick up Prost's total of World Championship points by the end of this year or perhaps early next year.
The only record that Michael may struggle to get in his career is to beat Ayrton Senna's record of pole positions. That will take at least two years even if he takes pole at every race ® and that is not going to happen.
"I have worked with a lot of drivers," said one engineer who works with Michael, "and he really is amazing. When you hear him on the radio, describing the car, discussing what to do. He made the team. He is the team."
Michael does not seem to agree. After the race he paid great tribute to the team of men and women at Ferrari and you could tell that he really meant it ® which is not always the case with some of his utterances. But this time he meant it and it was nice to see.
"It has been a beautiful weekend," he said. "We did everything we could have done. I came here with not such a good feeling, for whatever reason but we got pole position, we got the victory, I obviously equalled the 51 wins with Alain. And I got my fourth championship so, it's a bit too much for me right now to take it all in. I simply want to say that, it's a great achievement but the way it has been done what makes it so fantastic, because the team around us, Rubens and myself you can't believe how wonderful the guys are, how much we stick together, in good times, in bad times. We have such a great crew, such a good team that I'm really in love with all of them. It's their achievement."
Being there and experiencing the emotion of the crowd and the joy of the Ferrari team was one thing, but for the millions of television viewers around the world the Hungarian GP of 2001 will not be remembered as a classic. It was not even close. In fact it was quite dreadful. One of the dullest races for years. After the first couple of corners there were only three overtaking maneuvers in the entire race ® and two of them did not really count because Jenson Button was making up lost time after being penalized for jumping the start. He overtook the two Minardis. The only real passing move, therefore, came on lap 10 when the irrepressible Jean Alesi squeezed his Jordan through a keyhole and emerged in 12th place ahead of Pedro de la Rosa's Jaguar.
So, Ben Hur it was not. And all one can do is to blame the Hungaroring for being a daft racing circuit. Monaco may be difficult for drivers to overtake but at least the place has a bit of style. The Hungaroring is stuck in a dusty sand bowl in the middle of nowhere. Overtaking on this track is simply impossible. You can blame the cars if you like but the fact is that the Hungaroring has always been the same, except one year when there were turbo engines and Nigel Mansell was being rather inspired. In recent years the only hope for a good race has been that a team might pull out a good strategy and upset the apple cart but when the fastest man is in front and he has his wingman protecting his rear there is no strategy which will work.
Everyone likes visiting Budapest but if there is to be a Grand Prix in the future it might be an idea if the organizers collected some of the money that the Grand Prix brings to the city and bulldozed parts of the track to build one which offers more opportunities.
Being there was all very well. The noise and the spectacle kept the spectators amused but for TV viewers around the world the whole thing must have been very tiresome. And F1 cannot afford that sort of thing...
Schumacher's dominant performance was made all the more dominant by the fact that Barrichello managed to get ahead of Coulthard at the start. Once that was done the hopes of any real battle were gone and after a few laps when Rubens and David stayed with Michael (or within reach of him) Rubens suddenly slowed for no obvious reason and so David had to slow as well. What this meant was that Michael was able to get a gap which would otherwise probably not have been there. Such strategic work (and it was because Rubens later managed to find his speed again) is allowed in modern F1 and so one has to say "Bravo, well played" rather than "Poor show" but it was not sport in the purest sense of the word.
Once that was done it was all over for David. He was able to outrun Rubens and get ahead at the first pit stop but then after a few laps of charging after Michael in the middle stint he found that he could not close the gap. At the second pit stop Coulthard was two seconds slower than the first in the pitlane. That was enough to allow Rubens to get ahead again and that was that. David stayed behind Rubens all the way to the flag.
The frustration of it all was highlighted by Hakkinen's fifth place. He was running fifth but unable to overtake Ralf Schumacher's Williams-BMW. They were a very long way clear of their nearest challengers and the McLaren strategists concluded that they had a place to gain and nothing to lose by trying to do a quicker second pit stop to get ahead of Ralf because Mika could have run much faster and made up enough ground to have a quick splash and dash at the end. But the gamble did not work. Hakkinen came out of the pits at the second stop still behind Ralf and there he stayed until the last laps when he had to come in for fuel. It was just rather sad. Mika set the lap record, indicating that the McLarens were rather better than the results suggested. But at a track like the Hungaroring...
Williams picked up three points from Ralf but the team was never really on the pace. Michelin had no experience of the Hungaroring and the cars were not handling very well. Schumacher and Montoya qualified fourth and eighth and finished fourth and eighth. This is not to say it was a cruise and afterwards Ralf described it as "the toughest race of the year" because he had to spend many laps holding off Hakkinen who had a much faster car.
Montoya's race was spoiled by bad handling but he was desperate to finish to give his mechanics something after a hard weekend. Eighth was not much but it was something.
Juan Pablo's pain was Sauber's gain and the two Swiss cars were pretty much on the pace all weekend. Nick Heidfeld qualified seventh and finished sixth while Kimi Raikkonen was ninth on the grid and seventh at the finish. Raikkonen might have done better because he made a great start but then Heidfeld and Trulli had a brush at the first corner and he had to lift to avoid a collision. After that he was stuck in a queue until the pitstops. In the middle of the race Kimi was actually ahead of Heidfeld but he had a slightly slower second stop and so fell behind his team mate again.
Beyond these four teams everyone else was two laps down at the flag.
Ninth place went to Jacques Villeneuve who finished ahead of the only other Honda driver to make it to the finish Jean Alesi. There was not much to report. Villeneuve raced the spare car which did not have all the trick bits and pieces. He had qualified better than Panis but was overtaken by his team mate on the first lap. Olivier stayed ahead but eventually went out with an electrical problem.
Jordan had a similar story. Trulli had done a good job in qualifying and was fifth on the grid. He held on to the position at the start and all looked fine until the first stop on lap 29 when the refuelling stop went wrong when the fuel nozzle stuck on the car and his pit stop was five seconds longer than it should have been. And that put Jarno down to 12th. In Budapest you never recover from a problem like that and Jarno was running around in 10th when a hydraulic problem nailed him on lap 54.
Jean Alesi spent the weekend learning the car and working with a hand clutch. In the circumstances he did a good job, pulling off the only real passing maneuver of the day.
Jaguar Racing managed to get Pedro de la Rosa home in 11th place but this was really nothing to write home about. Things might have been better if Eddie Irvine had been around but he went off of his own accord at the first corner. "It was my fault completely," he said.
The team said all the right things but one can only wonder what they think about the salary checks going out to Irvine. If, as expected, axes are going to fly at Jaguar in the days ahead Irvine may need to watch out because going off at the first corner and charging that much money to do it will not impress the bean counters in Detroit.
Arrows managed to get Jos Verstappen home (or perhaps vice versa) but three laps down was hardly an impressive result. It was as though the Dutchman had an imaginary caravan towing along behind him. "A lot of work for nothing today," said Jos.
Enrique Bernoldi saved himself the trouble of the hard work by spinning off early on.
Benetton retired both cars but it did not really matter. The whole weekend was miserable. Prost also sent its two cars to the area marked "Parking". This was pretty dreadful and both drivers spun off. There were lots of excuses on the press releases but no-one bothered to read them.
And Minardi had a bad day too. Marques was pushed off by Frentzen on the first lap but then he started to have mechanical trouble and eventually stopped when the engine went wrong. Alonso ran out of brakes and eventually spun off. It was a drab day out.
And that was about it really... Except that everything went right for Ferrari.