2001 Formula One season
|2001 FIA Formula One World Championship season|
|Previous: 2000||Next: 2002|
|Index: Races by country | Races by season|
The 2001 Formula One season was the 52nd FIA Formula One World Championship season. It commenced on March 4, 2001, and ended on October 14 after seventeen races. Michael Schumacher won the title with a record margin of 58 points, after achieving nine victories and five second places.
2001 was a year of beginnings and ends in Formula One.
In the form of Minardi’s Fernando Alonso and Sauber’s Kimi Raikkonen, two future world champions were taking to the grid for the very first time at the season opener in Melbourne. Exciting Colombian talent and two times CART champion Juan Pablo Montoya was also making his F1 bow at Williams.
There were new beginnings for French companies Renault and Michelin. After four years out of the sport, Renault returned to supply engines to the Benetton team, while Michelin’s comeback as a tyre supplier would provide Bridgestone with competition for the first time since Goodyear left the sport at the end of the 1998 season.
On the other hand though, the sport was to lose some memorable characters at the end of the year. Double world champion Mika Hakkinen would initially announce his intention to take a one year sabbatical; but eventually, as expected, this became full-time retirement.
Also racing for the last time was Jean Alesi, who passed the 200 race mark shortly before his final Grand Prix in Japan. It was the end for commentator Murray Walker too; for so long the beloved ‘voice of F1’ in the UK. He gave his final commentary at the United States Grand Prix (which would also turn out to be Mika Hakkinen’s last victory in the sport).
The Prost and Benetton names would disappear from the sport at the end of 2001; Prost folded due to a lack of finances while Benetton was rebranded as Renault after the French manufacturer bought the team outright.
The championship was won with ease by Michael Schumacher, who finished a mammoth 58 points clear of David Coulthard in second place. However, while Schumacher may have taken the lion’s share of victories over the course of the season, his Ferrari team were not the only constructor capable of scoring wins in 2001.
Williams drivers Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya would both score their maiden wins in the sport, at San Marino and Italy respectively. The younger Schumacher would also add victories in Canada and Germany, giving the team four wins in total. After three years in the doldrums, this was a much better return for the Oxfordshire based team.
On the other hand McLaren would not enjoy as much success as they had in recent times, but they would still do enough to also secure four wins. These were shared equally amongst their drivers; Hakkinen winning in Britain and America, Coulthard triumphing in Brazil and Austria.
But it was not enough to stop the rampant Schumacher, whose haul of 123 points was more than enough for his fourth world championship (equalling the achievements of Alain Prost). With Rubens Barrichello performing solidly in the second car, Ferrari also won the Constructor’s Championship at a canter.
Drivers and constructors
The 2001 season featured several driver lineup changes prior to the season, and more changes during the season proper.
Before the season opener in Australia, the following lineup changes had occurred:
- Olivier Panis left his test position with McLaren to take up a full time drive with BAR.
- Ricardo Zonta lost his BAR drive to Panis, and took up the position of test driver with Jordan.
- Although still on contract to Williams, Jenson Button was "loaned" to Benetton for the 2001 season.
- Button replaced Alexander Wurz at Benetton. Wurz had fallen out of favour with team boss Flavio Briatore and moved on to become test driver at McLaren.
- Button's place in the Williams was taken over by Juan Pablo Montoya. (Montoya had been in a relationship with Williams since 1998, and had been "farmed out" to the CART series in 1999, where he took the title in his first attempt, and also a victory in the 2000 Indianapolis 500.)
- Marc Gené lost his seat at Minardi due to sponsorship problems. (Telefonica had been backing Gené financially and therefore helped fund the struggling Minardi team.) Gené signed a contract to become test driver at Williams where he remained until the end of 2004.
- Gaston Mazzacane also moved away from Minardi for 2001, and started the season with the Prost team where he took over for the Sauber-bound Nick Heidfeld.
- Minardi's first signing of the new season was Fernando Alonso, who took over from Marc Gené.
- Tarso Marques returned to Minardi to fill the second seat there after several seasons racing in America. (Marques had driven for Minardi in 1996 and 1997.)
- Nick Heidfeld left Prost to join the Sauber team for 2001. He replaced Mika Salo who signed up with the Toyota team to perform development work.
- Pedro Diniz did not return as a driver for Sauber, but instead purchased 40% of the Prost team and served in a management role there in 2001. (Diniz and Alain Prost had a major falling out during the season. Diniz then sold his share of Prost and returned to South America where he became a motorsport promoter.)
- Kimi Räikkönen was signed to Sauber for a full drive from near obscurity. He had performed some testing for Sauber in late 2000 after dominating the British Formula Renault series, and so impressed Peter Sauber that he was given the full time drive next to Nick Heidfeld. (There were concerns that Räikkönen was too inexperienced for F1, and his superlicence granting was somewhat controversial during the off season.)
- Johnny Herbert decided to leave the Jaguar team in an attempt to secure a drive in American Champ Cars. The deal did not work out, and he was forced to sign on with Arrows as a test driver for 2001.
- Luciano Burti stepped up from test driver to fill Herbert's slot at Jaguar.
- Pedro de la Rosa lost his drive at Arrows to Enrique Bernoldi and signed on as a reserve drive with Prost.
During the season even more changes occurred:
- Management at Prost quickly reached the conclusion that Gaston Mazzacane was not right for their team and he was released.
- Luciano Burti left Jaguar to take over Mazzacane's seat at Prost.
- Pedro de la Rosa then left his reserve seat at Prost for a full drive at Jaguar.
- Jean Alesi quit his Prost drive. This left Prost with none of their starting drivers from the season opener.
- Heinz-Harald Frentzen suffered injuries after a crash and was replaced for the Canadian GP by reserve driver Ricardo Zonta.
- After returning from his injuries, Frentzen's contract was terminated by Jordan after the French GP. The split was not a happy one, and the matter ended in court before the season's end. Zonta took over Frentzen's drive for the German GP.
- Frentzen was then signed to Prost to take over from Alesi.
- Alesi was also signed by Jordan to take over from Frentzen. This meant the Prost and Jordan had simply swapped drivers mid-season.
- Alex Yoong was granted his FIA super-licence during the 2001 season, and replaced Tarso Marques in the Minardi starting lineup. Marques moved into a reserve/test role for the rest of the season.
- Luciano Burti suffered serious injuries during a crash in the Belgian GP. He was forced to sit out the rest of the 2001 season and was replaced by Czech driver Tomáš Enge for the remaining races. This left Prost in the incredible position of having five starting drivers during 2001.
- Tomas Scheckter was sensationally fired from his testing position at Jaguar after being convicted on charges of "kerb crawling". This left Jaguar with no test drivers for 2001 after Burti's earlier departure.
There were no team changes from 2000.
Results and standings
|1||Ferrari||F2001||Ferrari 050 V10||B||179||9||24||11|
|2||McLaren-Mercedes||MP4-16||Mercedes Benz FO110K V10||B||102||4||13||2|
|3||Williams-BMW||FW23||BMW P80 V10||M||80||4||9||4|
|4||Sauber-Petronas||C20||Petronas 01A V10||B||21||1|
|5||Jordan-Honda||EJ11||Honda RA001E V10||B||19|
|6||BAR-Honda||003||Honda RA001E V10||B||17||2|
|7||Benetton-Renault||B201||Renault RS21 V10||M||10||1|
|8||Jaguar-Cosworth||R2||Ford Cosworth CR-3 V10||M||9||1|
|10||Arrows-Asiatech||A22||Asiatech 001 V10||B||1|
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