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The Season So Far - Part 1 - Williams catching fast  
Australia - Malaysia - Brazil   

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After every three races during the Formula 1 season, we will be taking a look back at the season so far. We hope that you'll enjoy this new feature. 

The way Ferrari stamped their authority at the Australian GP indicated that they were miles ahead of the rest - including McLaren. 2 races later and they appeared to be behind!

Australia - GP Page

The season started with the expectation that it will once again be a Ferrari - McLaren fight. At the first round, it looked like it was Ferrari who have done their homework during the winter while McLaren were simply not ready. Qualifying for the Australian GP saw a Ferrari front row with a McLaren and a Jordan sharing second row. The second McLaren was down in 6th!. 
It appeared that at least in qualifying trim, Ferrari were ahead while Jordan and Williams have caught up with McLaren. 
Apart from Montoya who qualified in 11th, the top 5 teams occupied the top 9 grid positions.
During the race, Ferrari continued to show their dominance and if Barrichello made a better start it would have been a Ferrari 1 - 2, still they finished 1 - 3. 
McLaren once again had reliability problems as Mika Hakkinen retires while David Coulthard starts his season on a high managing to finish 2nd despite starting from 6th. McLaren were closer to Ferrari in the race than in qualifying.
Jordan continued with their reliability problems as Trulli retired while Frentzen spins after Barrichello aggressively goes past him. Frentzen still manages to finish in 5th indicating that the Jordan is strong.
Williams had a car failure with Montoya who could have finished in the points in his first race while Ralf Schumacher was hit from behind by Jacques Villeneuve and also retired. Williams showed potential.
BAR appeared slower than Jordan in qualifying despite using the same engine. In the race though they appear to be more reliable. Villeneuve retired after crashing into Ralf Schumacher while Panis - after finishing 4th - was penalised for passing under yellow and was dropped to seventh. 

The Sauber team managed to capitalise on the problems the top 5 teams had and managed to finish both their cars in the points.
The Prost team didn't live up to their preseason testing pace while Benetton - as their preseason testing showed - were battling struggling at the back of the grid.

The Drivers' Championship: Michael Schumacher leads David Coulthard  - 10 to 6 points.
The Constructors' Championship: Ferrari lead McLaren - 14 to 6 points.

Malaysia - GP Page

The expectations for Malaysia were of Ferrari dominance with McLaren admitting that they were behind and would have to wait until the European races to close the gap. Qualifying confirmed this with another Ferrari front row but the biggest surprise was Ralf Schumacher in the Williams taking 3rd place ahead of both McLarens.
Williams appeared to have an advantage over McLaren here while Jordan and BAR appeared closer although Jordan were slightly better.
Ralf at the time played down their pace and indicated that they won't be able to keep up with McLaren and Ferrari in the race.
The top 5 teams occupied all 10 grid positions.

In the race, Ferrari stomp on the rest finishing first and second mainly due to their wet tyre choice and what some claim as 'legal' traction control. Coulthard manages once again to finish on the podium despite starting from a low 8th place while Hakkinen continues his struggle finishing in 6th.
The other top teams once again ran into problems. Jordan's Trulli led the race momentarily but spun eventually finishing 8th, Frentzen managed to finish again as 'best of the rest'. 
Ralf Schumacher had a first corner incident with Rubens Barrichello dropping him to the back of the grid but still managing to finish in 5th. Williams gave the strongest sign yet that they are on their way back to the top in Formula 1.
BAR had one of their worst races, Panis retiring with an engine failure while Villeneuve spinning in the wet and retiring.
Sauber had an equally bad race with Raikkonen retiring at the start while Nick Heidfeld spun in the wet and retired.

Jos Verstappen is worth mentioning as he drove brilliantly in the wet and had a brilliant start.

The Drivers' Championship: Michael Schumacher leads David Coulthard and Rubens Barrichello  - 20 to 10 points.
The Constructors' Championship: Ferrari lead McLaren - 30 to 10 points.

Brazil - GP Page

Given the results from the first 2 rounds and the continued claims from McLaren that they are behind, everyone thought that Ferrari will dominate. Even Michael Schumacher was upbeat when he said after qualifying "We know from testing, from races, that our car is very competitive. Probably the best in the field, I'd say. If we don't do mistakes, if nothing unusual happens, then there is no reason why we shouldn't have the opportunity to win."
In qualifying Michael dominated but his team-mate was in 6th place!. Ralf Schumacher fought his big brother for pole but settled for 2nd and Mika Hakkinen was 3rd not very far behind. Juan Montoya appeared to start getting to grips with his Williams and managed an impressive 4th place. Some would go as far as saying that had he not crashed his race car in qualifying, he would have grabbed pole. 
Qualifying here was certainly a 3 team race between Ferrari, Williams and McLaren and all three teams appeared evenly matched. 
Jordan and BAR were left behind possibly due to lack of power from the Honda engines. The Sauber team managed to take 5th spot away from BAR in qualifying occupying the 5th row while BAR dropped to 6th.

In the race we saw how Ferrari's advantage disappeared. In a matter of a few laps Michael Schumacher was chasing a charging Juan Pablo Montoya with David Coulthard close behind the two. 
What was stunning was the fact that Juan Pablo Montoya managed to overtake Michael Schumacher even though he was carrying a lot more fuel than Michael. (Montoya was on a single stop while Michael was on two stops).
Mika Hakkinen retired on the grid while Ralf Schumacher for the second race in a row gets involved with Rubens Barrichello. Barrichello retires while Ralf is out of contention.
The drama didn't stop there. Montoya who was on his way to win his first GP in only his third attempt gets hit from behind by a backmarker. Jos Verstappen who was impressive in the rain one race ago now committed a mistake that was unthinkable as he took out Juan Pablo Montoya. 
The rain came down and the expectation was that Michael Schumacher, the rain master would now do his magic. It was David Coulthard who did the magic overtaking Michael Schumacher in the wet. 
David Coulthard once again very consistent started in 5th and won ending the 6 race winning streak of Michael. Michael Schumacher finished 2nd in what was ideal conditions for him while Nick Heidfeld demonstrated Sauber capability to be there when the front runners drop out.

Both Williams cars were out as a result of back end incidents. Jordan continue with reliability problems as Frentzen retires while running third. Trulli struggles and finishes 5th. BAR finally score some points although they could have done better and Benetton come from the back and manage to steal a point - impressive!.

The Drivers' Championship: Michael Schumacher leads David Coulthard - 26 to 20 points.
The Constructors' Championship: Ferrari lead McLaren - 36 to 20 points.

So what should we be expecting for the next few races ?
Certainly Ferrari don't appear as dominant as they appeared in Australia and Malaysia. They will be shocked by the result in Brazil and this will give them a reality check. They could still dominate on some tracks.
McLaren are catching up and they are working round the clock to close the gap to Ferrari. It does look like they will.
Williams are the surprise of the season so far. Their points tally in nowhere indicative of where they are. They will win races before mid season. On high speed tracks expect them to be superior and watch out for Montoya.
Jordan and BAR appear to lack power compared to the top 3 teams but Honda will not be just watching BMW pass them. Jordan needs to get more reliable but history tells us that they won't while BAR appear to lack a good chassis which the Reynard guys will be trying their best to sort out.
The rest of the field will do well if these teams fail. Sauber will be waiting for the opportunity.

Disappointing teams so far are Benetton who appear to be just about on par with Minardi. Sure they are developing a new engine but this bad!
Jaguar in their second year are still struggling. They still have internal problems that is affecting their performance. 
Prost should be on par with Sauber as they are using the same engines but they are way way behind.

So we head into Europe expecting to see more exciting races ahead as we have at least one new player rubbing shoulders with Ferrari and McLaren.

2001 F1 Drivers' Championship

2001 F1 Constructors' Championship

Drivers' Championship Table - Full

Drivers' Qualifying Table

The Season so far

Part 1
(Australia - Malaysia - Brazil)

Part 2
(San Marino - Spain - Austria)

Part 3
(Monaco - Canada - Europe - France)

Part 4
(Britain - Germany - Hungary - Belgium)

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