27 May 2001
Monaco GP 2001 - Ferrari streets ahead.
Michael Schumacher led home a Ferrari one-two in Monaco, as problems for both McLarens limited the Woking team to a bit part and two points.
The race was effectively decided before the start, as both McLaren struck problems on the dummy grid. Mika Hakkinen, already stranded on the line twice this year, had experienced trouble with his launch control in the morning warm-up, but the team decided to proceed with it into the race - to its cost.
While Hakkinen was eventually able to get going and retake his third position on the grid, team-mate - and pole sitter - David Coulthard was left thumping the steering wheel in frustration as his MP4-16 failed even to lurch before stopping. The Scot later related that the engine was dead on the grid but, whatever the problem, it scuppered his hopes of back-to-back Monaco wins.
It also left Schumacher with a relatively easy run to Ste Devote where, remarkably, the entire field got round unscathed. The next potential flashpoint - the Grand Hotel hairpin - also passed without incident, before Jos Verstappen and Nick Heidfeld touched entering the first part of Portier, to the Sauber's detriment.
With no red flag to help him regain his front row place, Coulthard was left to struggle at the back of the grid, trying to find a way past the assorted Minardis, Prosts and Arrows on the narrowest track in the schedule. It was to be a frustrating afternoon.
Back at the front, Schumacher was gradually easing away from the rest of the pack, with Hakkinen, running a heavy fuel load, unable to keep pace with the fleet Ferrari. Rubens Barrichello had emulated his team leader's getaway to lie third entering lap two, with the two Williams line astern in fourth and fifth.
The second of the blue-and-white cars had come closest to causing an incident at Ste Devote, as Juan Montoya made another rocket start to pass Eddie Irvine and try his luck up the inside of Ralf Schumacher. Sensibly, he got off the power in time to prevent a pile-up, but was soon back on it as he set the first fastest lap of the race on lap two.
Sadly, the need for speed got the better of the Colombian next time around, as he understeered into the first part of the Swimming Pool complex, bounced off the kerb and slammed into the outside barriers. As with Heidfeld's accident, however, the efficient marshals had cleared the wreckage by the time the leaders re-appeared, allowing Schumacher to continue on his majestic way.
With Montoya out, the German promptly began setting fastest lap times, opening out the gap over Hakkinen, as Barrichello closed in to give the Finn problems. Whether Hakkinen succumbed to the pressure or not may never be revealed but, exiting the tunnel on lap 13, he pulled to one side and allowed Barrichello through into second. A pit-stop yielded much testing of the rear suspension, and Hakkinen rejoined, but was soon back in - and out of the race - complaining that the car was pulling to one side under power.
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