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Again Michael ?  
18 May 2001 Volume 3 - Issue 14  

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I could not believe what Michael Schumacher said about the incident with Montoya at the post race press conference. I can understand that he must have felt frustrated but to publicly accuse another driver of deliberately driving him off the track before verifying the facts was at best arrogant and unwise. And then, in front of several million viewers, to arrogantly state that he will be talking to him. . . . . . as if Montoya was humbly standing by to be reprimanded.

A brief look at the TV coverage of the race will show that Montoya is definitely at fault. He left his braking far too late in an attempt to fight off an overtaking manoeuvre and could not make the corner, taking both himself and Michael off the track from which Montoya was slowest to recover and therefore paid the biggest penalty.

Montoya is there to win. He is aggressive and pulls no punches. Occasionally he makes a mistake and this time both lost a lot of ground. Tough luck Michael, if you did not want that result you should not have tried to overtake. At least both cars and drivers survived the incident.

Did we not have a similar situation when Coulthard slowed down in the rain during the 1998 race at Spa.? There Michael accused Coulthard of trying to kill him, but again it turned out as an unintentional incident; Coulthard actually slowed down to allow him through.

The incident with Montoya certainly cost Michael a win. He tried hard to make up for it during the pit stops but, for once, the Ferrari strategy did not work and Michael had to settle for 3rd where he stayed until the last lap of the race before Barrichello let him through into second place.

Although I know that team orders are a direct consequence of teams, Ferrari's constant support of Michael Schumacher, in almost every decision they make, often leaves a bad taste in the mouth. It must have been hard for Barrichello to give up his second place after staying out of trouble and driving at an impressive pace for a whole race.

I could also not understand why he waited until the last corner of the last lap to allow him through. Barrichello was obviously not in a position to challenge Coulthard and Schumacher may have been. At least by letting him through sooner he would have been able to try after all he was fast enough to catch up.

Maybe team orders should be outlawed for the first three quarters of the season. Maybe it should be outlawed altogether.

With sponsors and manufacturers spending substantial sums of money on F1 (that varies enormously from team to team) we are unlikely to ever see a field that is closely matched. The three-team battle that is happening this year is already unusual most years only one or two teams are dominant.

If team orders are added we are denied the spectacle of close competition between two drivers with essentially the same equipment.

If a driver knows that he will only be allowed to win a race if the lead driver in the team retires or is so far behind that he cannot catch up, is it small wonder that he invariably becomes disillusioned and demotivated?

I suspect that Barrichello is not in the same class as Michael Schumacher but even if he thinks that he is, he will never be allowed to prove it.

Williams may have had trouble with traction control before but they certainly have overcome it. Not only are they fast enough to compete with Ferrari and McLaren, they are fast enough to beat them!

They absolutely do not have any trouble with the launch control of their cars. Both cars came off the grid as if they were stolen. Ralf (who started on the second row on the clean side of the track) almost beat Montoya (starting on the front row on the dirty side of the track) into the first corner, but both of them beat Michael Schumacher who started from pole.

Once clear of the pace car (that came out as a result of four cars stalling at the start, including Hakkinen) both Williams drivers easily demonstrated that they were certainly fast enough to pull away from the rest.

I am still amazed at how fast Williams and BMW got these cars up to speed.

Ralf retired on lap 10 with "brake problems". Montoya made it to lap 44 when he retired with "hydraulic problems". There is of course a chance that both problems were related as brake failure is often caused by a problem in the hydraulics. At least that indicates that their problems are restricted to a single area. If not, one must wonder how reliable they are.

David Coulthard wins and it again looked as if Mika Hakkinen lost heart after stalling at the start.

I am starting to wonder if Mika will overcome this lethargy. In the past he always recovered his drive and enthusiasm in the first half of the season, but I have not seen him leave it this late before nor has he been this bad in the past.

If McLaren follow Ferrari's lead and introduce team orders this early in the season, they will have little option but to give Coulthard the preferential treatment. That could be enough to permanently stall Hakkinen who finds it hard to keep on racing when not in or near the lead. In fact he could retire.

Raikkonen is a young driver worth watching.

He drove a consistent and mature race. It is hard to believe that this is only his 6th F1 race.

Again the contrast between Sauber and Prost, who use the same engine, is startling. Raikkonen finished in 4th and Heidfeld came 9th after stalling at the start and falling a lap behind. Prost did not stall at the start but still finished behind Heidfeld with both cars.

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