HOCKENHEIM, GERMANY, July 29, 2001 -- When you celebrate your birthday, there is every reason to expect one or two surprises, but European Minardi F1 driver, Fernando Alonso, who turned 20 today, experienced more surprises during the German Grand...
HOCKENHEIM, GERMANY, July 29, 2001 -- When you celebrate your birthday, there is every reason to expect one or two surprises, but European Minardi F1 driver, Fernando Alonso, who turned 20 today, experienced more surprises during the German Grand Prix than he could ever have anticipated.
It began on the grid, when his car and that of team mate, Tarso Marques, had to be removed before the start of the race after petrol began leaking from the refuelling valves of both PS01 chassis. Alonso was then switched to the spare chassis and Marques to Alonso's chassis, which had been repaired, with both drivers starting the race from the pit lane.
Unfortunately, a major accident at the first corner led to the event being red-flagged at the end of the opening lap. Alonso's car was quickly back at the team's garage with a driveshaft problem, however, and his mechanics hastily readied Marques' chassis.
Both drivers took the re-start and soon settled into their race rhythms, Marques on a one-stop strategy for fuel and tyres and Alonso on two stops. As other competitors fell by the wayside, the two steadily climbed through the field. Sadly, however, Marques' run came to an end on lap 27, when a gearbox problem forced him to retire. Alonso pounded on to the finish of the gruelling race, however, claiming 10th place and a memorable birthday present.
"It has been a really tough afternoon because at the second start I was in Tarso's car, which was logically set up for him and totally different from mine. I therefore didn't feel at all comfortable. Frankly, it was more than I could ever have expected to take the chequered flag today. Tenth is my best result so far in Formula One and today is my birthday, so what more can I ask for?"
"It is frustrating to retire after all the efforts made by the lads to sort out the car when we had a problem on the grid just before the start. The team did a great job, managing to get both Fernando and myself on the grid again for the second start. It was a miracle because the car I drove, which was Fernando's original race car, was really good. I had a few problems under braking, as I generally use the right foot while Fernando's brake pedal is set for the left foot. Apart from that, though, I was really happy with the performance of the car and it was therefore a great shame that a few laps after my pit stop the gearbox broke."
Paul Stoddart, Team Principal
"What a race! Whoever says Formula One is boring has to be crazy! At the end a German Grand Prix that provided non-stop action from beginning to end, European Minardi F1 is ecstatic with Fernando's hard-earned 10th-place finish on this, his 20th birthday. The whole team showed true grit and determination, particularly considering both cars had to be removed from the grid due to a fuel valve problem, and Fernando then took the restart in Tarso's race car and Tarso in Fernando's after the spare car suffered a driveshaft problem on the first lap of the aborted race. We really feel for Tarso, who drove an excellent race, only to retire with a gearbox-related problem. To have Fernando arrive at the chequered flag in 10th place, though, is just reward for the effort the whole team put in today."