2001 Malaysian Grand Prix
The 2001 Malaysian Grand Prix (officially the III Petronas Malaysian Grand Prix) was a Formula One motor race held at the Sepang International Circuit in Sepang, Selangor, Malaysia in front of a crowd of 75,000 spectators on 18 March 2001. It was the second round of the 2001 Formula One World Championship and the third edition of the event as part of the series. The 55-lap race was won from pole position by Michael Schumacher, driving for Ferrari. His teammate Rubens Barrichello finished in second and David Coulthard came third in a McLaren.
|2001 Malaysian Grand Prix|
|Race 2 of 17 in the 2001 Formula One World Championship|
|Date||18 March 2001|
|Official name||III Petronas Malaysian Grand Prix|
|Location||Sepang International Circuit, Sepang, Selangor, Malaysia|
|Course||Permanent racing facility|
|Course length||5.543 km (3.444 mi)|
|Distance||55 laps, 304.865 km (189.435 mi)|
|Scheduled distance||56 laps, 310.408 km (192.879 mi)|
|Weather||Rain and Thunderstorms at start, dry later; Air Temp at start: 32 °C (90 °F)|
|Time||1:40.962 on lap 48|
The race was delayed and shortened from 56 to 55 laps because Giancarlo Fisichella of the Benetton team was out of position on the starting grid. When it did start, Michael Schuamcher maintained his startline advantage for the first two laps until the Ferraris were caught out by oil from Olivier Panis' British American Racing (BAR) and a tropical monsoon and ran into a gravel trap. Jordan driver Jarno Trulli took the lead for one lap until he and several drivers aquaplaned in the deteriorating weather conditions. Coulthard led after taking the lead through the pit stops for wet-weather tyres. He held it for 11 laps before Michael Schumacher passed him on lap 16. Schumacher held the position for the remainder of the race to take his second victory of the season and at Sepang International Circuit and the 46th of his career.
Michael Schumacher's victory was his sixth in a row from pole position, bettering a record jointly held by former world champions Nigel Mansell and Alberto Ascari (five). The result of the Grand Prix left him ten points clear of his teammate Barrichello and Coulthard in joint second in the Drivers' Championship. Heinz-Harald Frentzen of Jordan moved past Sauber's Nick Heidfeld for fourth. In the Constructors' Championship, Ferrari further extended its advantage over McLaren in second while Sauber fell to fourth behind Jordan with fifteen races left in the season.
The 2001 Malaysian Grand Prix was the 2nd of 17 scheduled single seater races of the 2001 Formula One World Championship and the 3rd edition of the event as part of the series. It was held at the 15-turn 5.543 km (3.444 mi) Sepang International Circuit in Sepang, Selangor on 18 March. A race sanctioned by the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), motorsport's governing body, had been held in Malaysia since the 1960s, with the first editions being run in Singapore, then part of the Malaysian Federation, before moving to the Shah Alam Circuit. With the arrival of the Formula One Grand Prix in 1999, the race was moved to the purpose-built Sepang International Circuit, where all editions were held until 2017.
After winning the season-opening Australian Grand Prix two weeks earlier, Ferrari driver Michael Schumacher led the Drivers' Championship with ten points, ahead of McLaren's David Coulthard (six) and Rubens Barrichello in the second Ferrari (four). Nick Heidfeld of the Sauber team was fourth on three points and Jordan driver Heinz-Harald Frentzen was fifth on two points. In the Constructors' Championship, Ferrari were leading with a total of fourteen points accumulated; McLaren were in second on six points. Sauber was in third place with four points and Jordan in fourth were the last classified team with two points.
Michael Schumacher was considered the favourite by the press and bookmakers to win the Malaysian Grand Prix, which his team Ferrari had won twice before: Eddie Irvine in 1999 and Schumacher in 2000. Some of the media attention focussed on the possibility of Michael Schumacher taking his sixth consecutive victory, which would have made him the first driver since the two-time world champion Alberto Ascari in 1952 to win six races in a row. However, he said he would not over relax after his victory in Melbourne, "Every year we say here at Ferrari that it is our best car ever and this time, like Rubens, I feel it is true. But we have experience and we know things can go up and down very quickly so we are not going to be complacent or over-confident. That is not our style."
Following the death of track marshal Graham Beveridge after he was struck in the chest by a wheel from the car of British American Racing (BAR) driver Jacques Villeneuve at the Australian Grand Prix, the organisers of the Malaysian race worked to ensure the safety of trackside personnel and drivers and they did not request assistance from Formula One officials. Circuit officials moved kerbs at turns five and six backward, and put guard rails at turns two and 15 back by 2 m (6.6 ft). Both modifications were approved by the FIA race director and safety delegate Charlie Whiting. Safety marshals were urged by the clerk of the course S.Subramaniam to be extra attentive while observing circulating vehicles and to maintain care for fellow marshals. This came as the executive director of the Malaysian Grand Prix and former driver Philippe Gurdjian presented a set of guidelines to all 700 circuit personnel (including track marshals, firefighters and paramedics), called a "code of behaviour", which was a six-point advisory plan to improve safety.
All cars ran with the same rear wing configuration as they did in Melbourne since the revised technical regulations on downforce caused aerodynamicists to reclassify the Sepang International Circuit as a "high-downforce track". After competing the season's first round without a spare vehicle, half of the personnel working for the Minardi team returned to its bases in Italy and the United Kingdom to assemble, test and transport a spare car to Malaysia so that its drivers Fernando Alonso and Tarso Marques had a back-up plan if either competitor had a problem. Ferrari, McLaren and Benetton ran some aerodynamic modifications to their vehicles while Williams, Sauber, Prost, Arrows and Minardi all ran to the same specification as in Australia. McLaren installed larger brake cooling ducts to their MP4/16s and Jaguar did the same to their R2s.
Four practice sessions were held before the Sunday race—two on Friday, and two on Saturday. The Friday morning and afternoon sessions each lasted an hour. The third and final practice sessions on Saturday morning ran for 45 minutes. Conditions for the opening duo of practice sessions on Friday were clear, hot and humid with several cars struggling for grip. Barrichello set the pace in the first practice session with a lap of 1 minute and 39.502 seconds, 0.621 seconds faster than his teammate Michael Schumacher in second. Jordan driver Jarno Trulli, Coulthard, Irvine, Heinz-Harald Frentzen of Jordan, McLaren's Mika Häkkinen, Olivier Panis for BAR, Jaguar's Luciano Burti and Nick Heidfeld of Sauber followed in positions three through ten. Williams driver Juan Pablo Montoya did not complete a lap time because of a fuel pump failure and the Arrows of Jos Verstappen stopped with an engine sensor issue at turn three. His teammate Enrique Bernoldi stopped at turn four with a clutch hydraulics problem about half a minute later.
In the second practice session, Trulli recorded the day's fastest lap at 1 minute and 38.846 seconds. He was 0.083 seconds ahead of Michael Schumacher in second and a further two-thousands of a second faster than Barrichello in third. Coulthard was fourth-fastest, ahead of Irvine in fifth and Frentzen sixth. Frentzen, Burti, Panis and Ralf Schumacher of the Williams team rounded out the session's top ten drivers. Early in the session, Frentzen confronted the Sauber team principal Peter Sauber, who was angered at comments made by the former regarding the fast acceleration of his team's vehicles exiting the corners in the Australian Grand Prix. Both engaged in a verbal argument that ended when Jordan team owner Eddie Jordan pulled Frentzen away from Peter Sauber. Battery problems sidelined Montoya and two fuel pump failures for Alonso limited his running to the final 20 minutes. His teammate Marques had an engine problem and Benetton's Jenson Button set his first lap times after sitting out the first session due to an overheating gearbox.
It continued to be clear, hot and humid for the two Saturday morning practice sessions. With a time of 1 minute and 36.814 seconds, Coulthard was fastest in the third practice session, followed by Barrichello in second and his Ferrari teammate Michael Schumacher in third. Häkkinen placed fourth, Ralf Schumacher fifth and Heidfeld sixth. Frentzen, Montoya, Panis and Irvine were in positions seven through ten. In the final practice session, Barrichello led with a lap of 1 minute and 36.188 seconds. Second went to Ralf Schumacher and Häkkinen was third. Fourth was Michael Schumacher, Coulthard fifth and Frentzen improved to sixth. Trulli, Irvine, Panis and Sauber's Kimi Räikkönen completed the top ten ahead of qualifying. Benetton driver Giancarlo Fisichella ran into a gravel trap beside the circuit and Alonso stopped with smoke bellowing from the rear of his car because a high amount of debris accumulation overheated his engine.
Saturday's afternoon qualifying session lasted for an hour. Each driver was limited to twelve laps, with the grid order decided by the drivers' fastest laps. During this session, the 107% rule was in effect, which necessitated each driver to set a time within 107% of the quickest lap to qualify for the race. Weather conditions were hot and sunny. Michael Schumacher completed two timed laps with new tyres and another two on used front wheels though he lost two-tenths of a second on his first attempt. Nonetheless, he took his sixth consecutive pole position, becoming the first driver since Häkkinen in 1999 to do so, his third at the Sepang International Circuit and the 34th of his career with a time of 1 minute and 35.220 seconds. He was joined on the grid's front row by his teammate Barrichello who recorded a lap 0.099 seconds slower though he lost time in the first two turns due to a strengthening wind. Ralf Schumacher was the initial pace setter and he traded pole position with the Ferraris before falling to third. Häkkinen had a car balance problem that qualified him fourth, while Trulli in fifth had a lack of acclimatisation time due to an electrical fault and could not fine-tune his car's setup. Montoya used his Saturday track acquainting to start sixth though he pirouetted. Driver errors on his fastest lap put Villeneuve in seventh. Coulthard, eighth, admitted to over-driving in the middle sector during his final attempt, losing him time. Too much understeer put Frentzen off the track and he began from ninth. Panis rounded out the top ten after losing four-tenths of a second on his last timed lap.
Heidfeld was the fastest driver not to qualify in the top ten after driving with scrubbed tyres on his first two timed laps and had new front tyres for his third attempt. He was followed by Irvine in 12th who had understeer going into the second corner and was baulked by Villeneuve on the run to the final corner. Jean Alesi was the faster of the two Prosts in 13th and spoke of his belief that the team made progress from its pre-season testing form. After a change of left-rear suspension wishbone, Räikkönen took 14th though he ran wide due to an understeer and was prevented from doing a fourth lap because he was called to the weighbridge. A light fuel road and a changed car balance put Burti 15th. Fisichella switched to the spare B201 setup for his teammate Button due to a minor chassis technical issue on his race car and he took 16th. An oversteer in the fast-speed corners before a setup alteration to improve his car's balance qualified Button 17th. A lack of engine power and understeer put Verstappen in 18th. His teammate Bernoldi was blocked by Räikkönen during his final timed lap and was provisionally 19th. Gastón Mazzacane in the slower Prost had his setup changed and improved his best time to be 20th-fastest. Understeer in his first two attempts and setup improvements to correct it qualified Marques 21st. His teammate Alonso could not drive his race car because its gearbox and engine was replaced and he took the spare Minardi for provisional 22nd.
31 minutes into qualifying, all of Bernoldi's lap times were deleted by the stewards because the FIA technical delegate discovered that the dimension of the Arrows A22's front wing and parts of its bodywork lying on the step plane were less than a respective 100 mm (10 cm) and 50 mm (5.0 cm) above the plane of reference. The penalty promoted Mazzacane to 19th, Marques to 20th and Alonso to 21st.
The drivers took to the track at 09:30 Malaysian Standard Time (MST) (UTC+2) for a 30-minute warm-up session. It took place in hot and humid weather conditions though on a saturated track created by a tropical thunderstorm, prompting most teams run the intermediate tyres on their cars. A dry line appeared towards the session's end and the top three runners set their fastest times this way. Barrichello paced the session with a lap of 1 minute and 49.763 seconds. He was followed by Coulthard, Trulli, Räikkonen, Verstappen, Frentzen, Michael Schumacher, Heidfeld, Panis and Villeneuve. Alonso stopped on the start/finish straight with a fuel pump failure and he took the spare car originally setup for his teammate Marques. Irvine's engine cut out, causing him to utilise the spare Jaguar. Fisichella spun twice and his teammate Button was observed driving on the dry compound tyres for three laps towards the end of warm-up.
The race took place in the afternoon from 14:00 MST and in front of a crowd of 75,000 spectators. Weather conditions at the start were overcast but hot and humid. The air temperature ranged between 32 to 33 °C (90 to 91 °F) and the track temperature was between 41 to 44 °C (106 to 111 °F); forecasts four days earlier predicted conditions to be consistent and in sunny weather conditions. Every driver, except for Burti, began on the soft compound tyres. Five minutes before the pit lane was officially closed, Michael Schumacher's race car had an oil leak, prompting him to drive the spare Ferrari that was setup for his teammate Barrichello. He avoided a pit lane start because he exited the area one minute before it closed.
On the formation lap, Frentzen's engine misfired due to a computer-hardware error that limited his rev limiter to 4,000 rpm though he drove away from his starting slot. Just before the five red lights on the starting gantry were about to illuminate, Fisichella was out of position because he missed his starting slot of 16th and was stranded in the middle of the grid. He drove to his original starting position and was perpendicular across the track with not enough steering lock and rolled between the car ahead of him and the one behind him. Because the 2001 Formula One Sporting Regulations barred drivers from reversing, this resulted in an aborted start. A new start time of 14:10 MST was planned and the race was shortened from 56 to 55 laps. On the second formation lap, Montoya ran to his garage to take the spare vehicle because his race car had an engine problem.
Michael Schumacher, from the pole position, made a brisk getaway to maintain his startline advantage going into the first corner. His teammate Barrichello made a slow start and fell from second to fourth as Trulli was to the left of him and Ralf Schumacher on the right of the driver. Ralf Schumacher twitched going into turn one and he defended his position at the corner. That caused the left-front corner of Barrichello's Ferrari and the rear of Ralf Schumacher's Williams to connect, causing the latter to pirouette through 180 degrees in front of the pack, and sent him to the rear of the field. In doing so, Irvine was sent into a half-spin by Verstappen as Räikkönen drove near the pit lane wall with a broken transmission. Elsewhere, Häkkinen slowed to avoid piling into Ralf Schumacher. He fell from fourth to eighth as his teammate Coulthard moved from eighth to fourth after going into the grass to avoid the incidents. Verstappen made the best start in the field, advancing from 18th to sixth by the end of the first lap, while Ralf Schumacher fell from third to 20th over the same distance. At the end of the first lap, Michael Schumacher led by 1.3 seconds over his teammate Barrichello in second, with Trulli a further 1.8 seconds behind in third.
As the two Ferraris pulled away from the rest of the field on lap two, Panis' engine failed, pitching his car backwards into the gravel trap through fire erupting from its rear due to an oil leak that ignited on his hot exhaust and laid on the track's centre. Fisichella overtook his teammate Button for 11th while Ralf Schumacher moved from 20th to 14th. An unexpected monsoon shower began to fall on lap three. The two Ferraris continued to further their advantage over the rest of the field as they became aware of the rain but not of Panis' deposited oil. Both drivers slid into the gravel trap though they circumnavigated back onto the track in third and seventh. Hence, Trulli took the lead with Coulthard in second. None of the leaders made pit stops to switch to wet-weather compound tyres immediately because half of the track was dry but the final hairpin was flooded. On lap four, Montoya, Bernoldi, Heidfeld and Villeneuve aquaplaned into a gravel trap and retired. Race officials deployed the safety car on the lap though several cars, including Trulli, Coulthard and Barrichello, aquaplaned into the turn 15 hairpin.
During the safety car period, several drivers made pit stops for rain tyres. Although he had radio communications trouble to his pit wall, Coulthard exited the pit lane leading while Ferrari had a fraught stop. The team's technical director Ross Brawn called Michael Schumacher in first and not his teammate Barrichello as the two had an incorrect intermediate tyre allocation. Barrichello was stationary for 1 minute and 12 seconds because Ferrari were missing his front-right wheel and debris was removed from his sidepods. Michael Schumacher was behind Barrichello and the duo emerged in 10th and 11th. Rain stopped falling by lap seven although there was a large amount of standing water as the safety car remained on track for the next three laps. Coulthard led from Frentzen and Verstappen at the lap-11 restart. He began to pull away from the rest of the field as Verstappen slipstreamed Frentzen on the back straight and out-braked him for second at the turn 15 hairpin. On lap 12, Frenzten fell to fifth when Häkkinen and Ralf Schumacher passed him. During the lap, Michael Schumacher, on a light fuel load, went onto some dirt to pass his teammate Barrichello, who went to the left of Trulli at turn five and was blocked by him.
Michael Schumacher continued to move up the order, overtaking Frentzen, Ralf Schumacher and Häkkinen off the racing line on the 13th lap. He closed up to Verstappen in second on the next lap though he could not pass due to Verstappen twice defending his line. Further back, his teammate Barrichello got past Ralf Schumacher and Häkkinen and moved into fourth. On the 15th lap, Verstappen was overtaken by Michael Schumacher on the inside for second and the latter began to draw closer to Coulthard. He passed Coulthard in the right for the lead on the start/finish straight linking the final and first corners on lap 16. That lap, Barrichello overtook Verstappen and Coulthard to advance to second as Michael Schumacher began to pull away by five seconds. It appeared at this point that Ferrari would win the race comfortably barring a mechanical issue. Häkkinen and Ralf Schumacher were the first two drivers to enter the pit lane and switch from the full wet compound tyres to the dry compound tyres on lap 17. Barrichello made his second stop four laps later, emerging in fourth. Coulthard fell to 40 seconds behind the Ferraris by the time of his second stop on the 25th lap. He rejoined the race in third, more than 20 seconds behind Barrichello.
In the meantime, Ralf Schumacher passed Frentzen for fifth after a short duel on lap 24. Four laps later, he overtook Häkkinen for fifth. On lap 27, Mazzacane delayed Häkkinen who was in the act of lapping him. When Häkkinen got past, Button followed through for 14th. Light rain began to fall again on lap 28 though it was not heavy enough to affect the race. Michael Schumacher led by 67 seconds when he made his second pit stop on lap 30 for fuel to complete the race and a front wing adjustment. He rejoined with a half a minute advantage over his teammate Barrichello in second. Further back, Verstappen lost fourth to Ralf Schumacher on lap 31. Fisichella in ninth became the Grand Prix's final retiree with no fuel pressure at the pit lane entran the lap after. Around this time, Häkkinen duelled Verstappen for fifth though he could not pass him and allowed Frentzen to gain on the pair. Verstappen defended fifth by out-braking Häkkinen at the turn 15 hairpin on lap 38; the manoevure put Häkkinen wide and enabled Frentzen to overtake him for sixth. Barrichello made his third (and final) pit stop three laps later and he remained in second. Verstappen entered the pit lane for the third time on the 43rd lap to take on enough fuel to complete the race.
The track was entirely dry on lap 47 as Coulthard reduced the deficit to Barrichello by 4.5 seconds. One lap later, Häkkinen set the race's overall fastest lap, at 1 minute and 40.962 seconds, as he closed up to Ralf Schumacher in fifth. However, he did not have enough traction exiting the corners to pass Ralf Schumacher, who had a straight-line speed advantage on the main straights due to a more powerful engine but a large amount of carbon brake dust was emitted each time he braked into the heavy braking zones. Michael Schumacher maintained the lead to take his second victory of 2001 and at the Sepang International Circuit in a time of 1 hour, 47 minutes and 34.801 seconds at an average speed of 170.030 km/h (105.652 mph). It was also the 46th of his career and he broke Nigel Mansell's and Ascari's joint record of five consecutive victories from pole position with his sixth. Barrichello was 23.660 seconds behind in second and Coulthard came third. Frentzen's two-stop strategy meant he finished fourth and Ralf Schumacher in fifth held off Häkkinen in sixth. Outside of the points-scoring positions, Verstappen, Trulli, Alesi, Burti, Button and Mazzacane followed in positions seven to twelve. The Minardis were the final finishers, Alonso ahead of Marques; the latter was delayed by a right-rear puncture.
The top three drivers appeared on the podium to collect their trophies and spoke to the media in a later press conference. Michael Schumacher called the race "exciting" and said it reminded him of his victory at the 1996 Spanish Grand Prix, "It was probably the same story, but honestly it's great being somehow dominant, but we know that won't be the case for every coming race now. It was special conditions, special circumstances, and we used them well for us." Barrichello revealed that he made an extra pit stop to have debris removed from his car, adding, "I think we have a good car, a fantastic car actually, the best car I have ever driven, like I have said. Once I came on the radio to say that I saw some bits of the car flying, and that's basically was some of the barge boards and maybe the brake duct or something." Coulthard said he was not surprised at the one-second pace advantage of the Ferraris, "They clearly have a car advantage at this time, very similar to the sort of advantage we probably had in '98, and that allows you, if you make the right calls, to really drive at the pace you want to relative to others. So it's quite clear to everyone that they're the class of the field at the moment and we have a lot of work to do to catch up."
Ralf Schumacher said he felt the first lap collision with Barrichello prevented him from finishing on the podium and noted that it was the second collision that the latter had with a German driver in the past two races, "He should learn the rules. It is a racing accident but it difficult to understand how it happened because the car in front usually has the priority in the corner." Barrichello argued that Ralf Schumacher had not provided him with enough space to negotiate through, "If he comes around the outside, he leaves some room for a line. But I had no room or line and I had to let the car roll. He was in front and suddenly he shut the door and that was where we touched." Ron Dennis, the McLaren team principal, said he was certain the decision to run his cars on the wet tyres was correct and felt Ferrari lucked into the victory, "They were lucky too because both of their cars went off the track and nearly hit the barriers, and they also had an extraordinary pitstop when the safety car was out." Brawn responded to Dennis' comments by stating Ferrari had information from testing at the Fiorano Circuit that the intermediate tyres operated efficiently in deep standing water, "We knew there were dry parts of the track and we knew there were wet parts of the track and we knew the tyres were very good in the morning [warm-up] as well. That was what we ran this morning. We knew it was very good and we knew it would go into the dry."
Fisichella immediately apologised to the Benetton team over the radio for missing his starting position that caused the start to be aborted. He explained that he was heavily focused on ensuring his car was setup to his liking and only saw the vehicle ahead of him, "When I realized the mistake, it was too late to make any maneuver. Did Briatore scold me? Nah, after the race he even congratulated me because I managed to climb back up to seventh position before retiring. The team understands and appreciates the effort that we drivers are making to grow a car that is still unripe." The result meant Michael Schumacher with 20 points extended his lead in the Drivers' Championship to 10 points over Barrichello and Coulthard in equal second place. Frentzen moved past his fellow compatriot Heidfeld for fourth. In the Constructors' Championship, Ferrari further increased their advantage McLaren to 19 points while Jordan moved ahead of Sauber for third and Williams in fifth registered their first points of the season with Ralf Schumacher's fifth-place finish with fifteen races left in the season.
Championship standings after the raceEdit
- Note: Only the top five positions are included for both sets of standings.
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2001 Australian Grand Prix
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2001 Brazilian Grand Prix
2000 Malaysian Grand Prix
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2002 Malaysian Grand Prix