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The 2001 F1 Season
The Spanish GP was the fifth race of the 2001 season and one which did not have a clear leader in the drivers’ championship at the start. The exciting part was that Coulthard was emerging as the chief contender for the title against Michael Schumacher for the 2001 season. The battle was so close that both the drivers were on twenty-six points and either could take the lead in Spain.
Mika, the two-time world champion and the chief contender for the title for the past three seasons appeared a shade of himself with the best result of fourth place until the Spanish GP. Of course, Mika’s car was plagued with reliability issues causing him to retire twice already.
The Ferrari seemed to have adapted to the new traction control system better than the McLarens, and that was visible in the lead that Ferrari had taken in the constructors’ championship. It was still early days and the season could go in favour of either team, but the current focus was to find how the Spanish GP would play out.
Could Michael win the Spanish GP or will it be Mika’s maiden win of the season?
Let’s find out.
The 2001 Spanish GP Qualifying
The Spanish GP once again saw a tussle to the top spot between the Ferraris and the McLarens. However, the BMW-powered Williams and Honda-powered Jordan and BAR appeared competitive. It was Schumacher’s pole to be taken with a tough challenge from both Mika and David in the McLarens.
Rubens Barrichello in the other Ferrari was also quite fast, which caused a constant reshuffle in the top four. As the end of the session neared, Michael did what he did the best and got the pole. The top four was a tight squeeze with all of the cars spaced within four-tenths of a second. Here is the qualifying time.
Michael Schumacher [Ferrari] : 1:18:201
Mika Hakkinen [McLaren] : 1:18:286
David Coulthard [McLaren] : 1:18:635
Rubens Barrichello [Ferrari] : 1:18:674
The McLarens split the two Ferraris, and Mika was quite close to Michael at P2. Knowing the propensity of the Flying-Finn to have a blistering start, it was Ferrari which had to watch out. It would make for an interesting contest and one that Ferrari and Michael would love to meet.
Let’s proceed to the race-day.
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The 2001 Spanish GP – Race Day
The race start proved to be less than spectacular for the McLarens with David stalling at the front. Schumacher’s main rival would, therefore, start from the back of the grid. Mika, though, was still strong at the front.
At the second start, Micheal and Mika got away cleanly and so did the rest of the pack. However, McLaren’s hope of David clearing the field received another set back as he lost the nose cone in a collision. David, therefore, made one more stop and was relegated quite a distance from the last of the racing cars.
Michael, on the other hand, pulled away with Mika in tow. The two cars were racing in a league of their own with Michael ever so gently opening up a lead over Mika. The top two remained so by the end of the first pitstop too. However, the second pitstop changed things. What changed?
Let’s take a look at the summary to know more:
The second pitstop handed the lead to Mika, and he grabbed it with both hands. At this point, Mika’s car appeared to be relatively faster than Michael’s Ferrari, and he started to pull away. Later, it was known that Michael had vibrations after the second pitstop causing him to slow down and nurse the car to the finish line.
The race was well and truly Mika’s, and he was motoring towards the chequered flag lap-after-lap. Then disaster struck. Just when everything appeared in place, Mika was left with a blown engine on the very last lap, handing over the win to Michael in second place. It was pretty evident that Mika was a tad unlucky and none other than Michael radioed those sentiments back.
Take a look at the last lap, Michael’s radio and Michael meeting Mika in the pitlane.
Mika held a 37-seconds lead, and by 1:25 minutes on the video, you would notice the car slowing down and the apparent disbelief in the McLarens camp. By 2:17 minutes you can see Michael coming up to lap the stricken McLaren. At the 4:00 minute mark, Michael radios his car’s problem and Mika’s disappointment. And finally, at 6:25 minutes, Michael rushes to talk to Mika before heading to the podium for the post-race celebrations.
Mika got to piggyback on David’s car, who also did an excellent job to finish the race at fifth place. The day, in the end, belonged to Michael, lucky or otherwise.
Back to the Pits
For the first time in the season, there appeared a visible first-placed driver in the driver’s table. Michael opened up a lead of eight points over David Coulthard by the end of the Spanish GP. Considering the season would have eleven more races, the lead was slender, and both Michael and Ferrari had to keep working on their performance, race after race.
The Next Win..
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