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The 2001 Season Review  
30 December 2001 Volume 3 - Issue 33  

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Before getting stuck back into the routine of trying to second guess what will happen from the meagre information that the teams and drivers are prepared to let us have I feel that there is some (even if very little) benefit in looking at the past season.

There is no denying that the combination of Schumacher and Ferrari managed to dominate almost all of the season. Early in the season it looked as if the battle will be between McLaren and Ferrari but towards the end of the season it was definitely Williams that were their major competitor. Even if both McLaren's (102) and William's (80) points are combined they barely exceed Ferrari's points (179) and if you combine Coulthard's points (65) with Barrichello's (56) it still comes to less than Michael's 123.

Michael Schumacher did not only dominate the year but he also reinforced his domination as No 1 driver for Ferrari. Barrichello tried but it was as if the car was built for Michael only - lets face it, it was.
Ferrari did not seem to get it all right, they made mistakes and had problems too. They were just consistently better than the other teams when it counted and Schumacher, like always, delivered when it mattered.

By comparison McLaren, who looked so dominant the year before, seemed to be caught out with a car that was not as fast or reliable. Halfway through the season Hakkinen lost all chances of winning another championship title and Coulthard found himself in the same position four races before the end of the season.
Initially the McLaren was fast enough to stay ahead of Williams but that only lasted for three races. Ralf Schumacher won in Imola ahead of Coulthard and after that Williams looked stronger than McLaren for the rest of the season, if a touch less reliable.

In the Williams team it was Ralf Schumacher who was in for a shock. Just as his car was getting competitive and reasonably reliable his team mate Juan Pablo Montoya gets it together and seriously threatens to become the number one driver for Williams in his first season.
Montoya may have finished behind Ralf on points and he also proved his ability to stress test his car with more retirements but there is no doubt in my mind that he will do well. Ralf, I suspect, will not shine in the near future. He may have some of his brother's ability but is not showing the same determination.

I expected Sauber to do well in the early part of the season because they were using the previous year's Ferrari engine which was fast and reliable and although the leading teams all had new, faster, engines, reliability and teething problems would give Sauber a chance. I am amazed at their outstanding performance towards the end of the season.
Some of it was certainly due to the drivers. I rate both Heidfeld and Raikkonen high but must confess that I am very impressed with Raikkonen's maturity and consistency this early in his career.
Regardless of the ability of the drivers in today's racing world they cannot do well without a very good car. The Sauber may have been down on power but the chassis and aerodynamics must have been brilliant to finish that well.

Benetton struggled through the season. It was obvious that they had decided to put their efforts into the 2002 season and were just trying to do the best they could with a very uncompetitive car.
Fisichella is a driver that has been very fast in the past and given a better car has the ability to compete in the front. He did finish on the podium in Belgium but for the rest of the season he had to struggle with a car that did not have it.
Button, who showed so much promise with Williams last year, never looked either fast or comfortable in the Benetton this year. If he does not fare better next year he may disappear from the scene.

Yet again BAR had a very disappointing season. They may have built a car that was more reliable but it was slow and appeared to be almost impossible to drive.
Villeneuve spent another year investing (or hiding) his talent and potential at this team and has signed up for at least another season. Does he know something we don't? Or is he just an optimist?
Panis is another driver that I would like to see in a reasonable car again. He was very fast while testing for McLaren beating both Coulthard and Hakkinen so until he gets a decent drive the jury is still out.

Jordan built a car that was easier to drive but not much faster than BAR. The common denominator is the Honda engine. It has to be better next year.
Trulli is another driver that has not had a chance to show what he is made of and Alesi deserved a better drive (or at least an engine) in his last year.

Verstappen and Bernoldi are both capable but this year the Arrows was not the car to win races in. The Asiatech engine was neither reliable nor powerful. Between Verstappen and his car though they seemed to have amazing starts!.

I was very disappointed in the performance of Jaguar. With their budget and the promise that the team was showing before Ford bought them I expected much more. Internal politics and instability made them lose ground.

With an annual budget comparable to a single race budget for some of the leading teams we cannot expect Minardi to perform better. They seem to be happy to train rookie drivers, which they do very well, and struggle to avoid finishing dead last. They often do well because they are more reliable than most.
Alonso did very well in the Minardi showing both Marques and Yoong that the Minardi wasn't too slow. He certainly has the potential to go all the way.

Prost, who is now in receivership, went through a stage where I thought that they may even show some improvement and then the money ran out. It happens.
H H Frentzen was very fast in his time, even though he always seemed to be very tentative when overtaking. He may be fast again, but my guess is that it will not be in a Prost. Burti is another driver that has not had a chance to show how good he may be. He might get his chance at Ferrari in 2003 ? 

The tyre war was also interesting. Michelin were definitely faster on hot dry tracks, but only after the tyres were well worn (one must wonder how close they were to slicks by then). Their wet tyres were much slower than Bridgestone.

Bridgestone seemed fast from the start (even if the tyres were not scrubbed) but deteriorated slowly and not that slowly on very hot tracks. A drop of rain or a cold day and Bridgestone looked good.

Although Ferrari, and specifically Schumacher, dominated the year it was Williams that emerged as the team to watch. They may not have had a chance of winning either championship but they were certainly faster than Ferrari, if the weather suited their Michelin tyres, on the high speed circuits.

Michael Schumacher has beaten all the major records in F1 except two: Ayrton Senna has had more pole positions and Fangio has won more championships. Senna's pole record can't be reached by Michael in 2002 but he could equal Fangio's record. Will Ferrari be fast enough for him in 2002?

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