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The 2001 F1 Season
Unlike the 2000 season or the two seasons before that, the competition now involved more than two teams. At the start of the 2001 season, it became pretty apparent that the Williams team could also be in the fray for the championship. Although they never really looked menacing in the first few races, they started to grow potent after that.
While the Ferraris remained more or less consistent, the McLarens saw a dip in their performance. The Williams team, on the other hand, unleashed a power boost in their outings. From being competitive, they jumped ahead to win races, and it was none other than Michael’s younger brother Ralf who crossed the finish line first at the previous race, the 2001 Canadian GP.
So, Michael had to watch out for not just the McLaren duo but also the Williams team of Ralf and Juan Pablo Montoya. Their phenomenal rise would mean that there could be more fireworks in the remaining races of the season. The Ferrari team would, therefore, have to up their game and see to it that not only Michael but also Ruben finished on the podium to retain their constructors’ trophy.
But closer to home (quite literally), could Michael win the European GP at Nurburgring, his home circuit? Let’s find out.
The 2001 European GP: Qualifying
Breaking away from the regular McLaren-Ferrari battle, the qualifying session witnessed the strength of the BMW engine as the Williams team put up some remarkable laps. The Ferraris were the only teams being able to do better while the McLarens were off the pace. The circuit’s long straights worked in favour of the Williams set-up, and therefore, they could lay claim to the front row.
Well, the hypothesis of Williams being fast wasn’t wrong, as they set up some blistering laps and took provisional pole more than once. Not only Ralf Schumacher but also Juan Pablo Montoya were putting up some fabulous laps. Near the end, though, it was Ralf who set up one of the fastest laps and took provisional pole. As expected, Michael responded.
Here is Michael’s response:
Michael was the only driver to break the 1:14 minute mark. That sealed the deal for the Ferrari on P1. The Williams drivers, Ralf and Montoya, were on P2 and P3, respectively, while Ruben Barrichello put his Ferrari on P4. The McLarens of David Coulthard and Mika Hakkinen took P5 and P6 to round up the top six.
With more teams in the fray, the season was starting to turn out exciting. Fans couldn’t wait for the race day.
The 2001 European GP: Race Day
The race day kept the fans at the edge of their seats. The Nurburgring was one circuit where the starts mattered, but the long straights provided plenty of opportunities to overtake. So, the race was never over before it was over.
The start of the race saw Michael getting ahead but being challenged tooth-and-nail up to the first corner by Ralf Schumacher. The Williams cars had a good start. Ralf looked quite sharp and never faded in Michael's rearview mirror. To add to the challenge Montoya too was decently close in third place. Michael was continuously fending off the Williams duos.
Take a look at the race summary:
Not only was Ralf faster but he kept his car within a second of Michael’s Ferrari. Soon it was time for the pitstop, and that is what would have been on everybody’s mind. In Canada, here’s where the advantage was lost to the Williams teams as Ralf won followed by Michael.
But this time the pit strategy worked quite well, and even though both the lead cars came in at the same time, Michael could stay ahead. While rejoining, Michael got a clear track while Ralf joined behind David Coulthard who was yet to stop. The positioning played in favour of Michael as he pulled away.
It was a matter of laps as both Michael and Ralf found themselves renewing the battle. But then, Michael stayed put and soon took the win. It was his forty-ninth career victory, and he had solidified his position in the championship with a 24-point overall lead over Coulthard.
Back to the Pits
Michael got yet another victory, and the 2001 season appeared in the kitty. But then with the Williams performance and a possibility of a McLaren comeback, nothing could be predicted. The famed Ferrari strategy and Schumacher’s raw power would be tested in the remaining races.
The Next Win..
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