French GP notes, quotes and news

DAVID COULTHARD (West McLaren-Mercedes, winner): “I have to say that, in the end, both Rubens (Barrichello) and Michael (Schumacher) were very fair. Hard, but fair. And it was a good race. I have to apologize for my hand gestures, which were...

DAVID COULTHARD (West McLaren-Mercedes, winner): “I have to say that, in the end, both Rubens (Barrichello) and Michael (Schumacher) were very fair. Hard, but fair. And it was a good race. I have to apologize for my hand gestures, which were not at all in keeping with the sport. But as you can understand, my emotions were running high. I knew that I needed to win here today in order to be in a position to battle for the championship. That is what I am trying to get done, and I felt that I had a clean run on Michael on the outside. Equally, I felt that he drove me wide. Now you might say that he had a right to do that because he had the track position. But it made me very angry (to see he was prepared) to drive someone wide on a line which he would not normally take. That is why I made the unsporting gesture. Ultimately I was able to able to get (past him) on the inside, and although I expected him to close the door again, he realized I was far enough alongside.”

MIKA HAKKINEN (West McLaren-Mercedes, second): “I have to admit that everything went well, and I had a very good start. But you can only fit two cars across the road at the first corner, and there were already two cars there, so I didn’t want to put my nose in there. It was interesting to be following these guys and running fourth in the race, but there was nothing to do except to follow them and get the best out of the situation. I am very confident and very happy about the result today. This is a really fantastic day for the team, for David (Coulthard) and for me. Everyone has done some fabulous work in getting over the unbelievable difficulties we have experienced this weekend. You probably don’t know everything that’s been going on, but there has been a lot of work for them. Winning is a big plus for them.”

RUBENS BARRICHELLO (Ferrari, third): “Coulthard was very fast on the straight and was putting me under pressure under braking and eventually got past me when I ran wide at Turn 3. My first pit stop was just slow, while the second one gave us a problem with the right front wheel. That dropped me back 10 seconds (from the McLarens). I heard that Mika also had a so-so pit stop, which would have allowed me to get past him (if my stops had not gone wrong). Today we were not the happiest team when it came to making quick stops.”

JACQUES VILLENUEVE (Lucky Strike BAR-Honda, fourth): “The start was so good that I even surprised myself. I settled into fifth and was also surprised that the first four didn’t pull away from us. We were running throughout the race with more fuel than necessary to give us flexibility over when to make our stops. I had a good battle with Ralf (Schumacher) toward the end. He was better in the corners, but I was quicker on the straights.”

RALF SCHUMACHER (Williams-BMW, fifth): “At the start I lost two positions to (Jacques) Villeneuve and (Heinz-Harald) Frentzen. I had the feeling that I could have been faster than Frentzen, but it was impossible to overtake. Luckily, the team had a good pit stop strategy so I could overtake him at the first stop. I got close to Villeneuve but didn’t want to risk too much in the last laps. I slowed down a bit to save the two points which are very valuable for the team.”

MICHAEL SCHUMACHER (Ferrari, retired from second place, Lap 59): “The tires on my car seemed to suffer a drop in performance earlier than on the others. This problem was the worst after the first pit stop. At first I could control the situation, but then my tires went off and I tried to look after them knowing that there was still a lot of laps to go. Then I started to slow, and (David) Coulthard managed to get past me. Finally on Lap 59, I had an engine problem, and I had to stop. I’ve said that the championship wasn’t over, and today I was proved right.”

News and notes: McLaren confirms driver lineup: Team West McLaren-Mercedes has signed David Coulthard for the 2001 season. Mika Hakkinen, in the middle of a long-term contract, will also be back with the team next season.

McLaren director Ron Dennis said that this would help both drivers concentrate on trying to win the championship.

“There is a long way to go,” Dennis said. “Nine races, and we think one of the most constructive things we can do to make that task a little easier is to get focused and make sure the drivers know where they stand for the balance of not only this year but also for next year. That will extract just that little bit more from both of them.” Coulthard agreed: “Where there are doubts, however small, it is an area of your mind, which isn’t complete. So I have no doubt now that I will have the rest of this season to try and battle and get ahead of Ferrari in the championship, and we have next year as well.” The 2001 season will be Coulthard’s sixth with McLaren and Hakkinen’s eighth.

“Our philosophy,” Dennis said, “is that if the drivers sitting in the cars are doing the job and giving us the results we expect, then there is absolutely no reason to change them. Our history has shown that we are reluctant to change drivers unless they just haven’t been doing the job. And these two guys have been doing a great job this year.

“There is total harmony in the team, certainly between them. I can see no reason, quite honestly, that they don’t retire in the West McLaren Mercedes team.”

Tire deals signed: Michelin, which will re-enter F1 next season (it supplied tires to the series from 1977 to 1984) has signed deals with Jaguar and Williams, as well as Toyota, which will enter F1 in 2002. Bridgestone has contracts with Arrows, Ferrari, McLaren and Jordan for next year.

The rules state that if two tire companies are involved in F1, each must be willing and capable of supplying at least 60 percent of the field. “Maybe we will take another two teams,” Bridgestone’s Hiroshi Yasukawa said, “because although there are still only 11 teams, by 2002 there will be 12. And it is only fair to share them 50-50.”

Safety campaign: The FIA launched a new road safety policy campaign at the French Grand Prix. Called Formula Zero, it is a strategy for reducing fatalities and injuries on the track and road. “Safety is an absolutely priority for the FIA,” said Max Mosley, president of the FIA. “As the governing body of world motorsport, as the representative of more than 100 million motoring consumers worldwide, it is clearly the FIA’s role to campaign for the most demanding safety standards on the road as well as the track.” In Formula One, the FIA has a “zero tolerance” approach that has resulted in a reduction in fatalities and injuries per accident of more than 90 percent since the early 1970s. Now the FIA wants to achieve on the roads what it already has on the track. The Formula Zero campaign will focus on three areas: passive car safety, road improvements and driver education.

Porsche Pirelli Supercup winner: Altfrid Heger won the Porsche Pirelli Supercup race Sunday at Magny-Cours. Stephane Ortelli and Emanuel Collard rounded out the top three.

The Porsche Pirelli Supercup series will be a support race at the inaugural SAP United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis on Sept. 24.

Formula 3000 winner: Nicolas Minassian led all 49 laps to win his second FIA Formula 3000 race of the season. Sebastien Bourdais, who started on the pole for the first time in his Formula 3000 career, ended up second ahead of David Saelens.

Championship leader Bruno Junqueira, who had scored points in each of the first five rounds, finished 13th after a spin.

Contract extended: Magny-Cours has extended its contract to play host to the French Grand Prix for another five years. This year’s race was a sellout with more than 111,000 spectators.

-IRNLS/IMS-

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers David Coulthard , Mika Hakkinen , David Saelens , Bruno Junqueira , Nicolas Minassian , Stéphane Ortelli , Sébastien Bourdais , Altfrid Heger , Hiroshi Yasukawa
Teams Ferrari , Mercedes , McLaren , Williams , Jordan