A hard-fought but ultimately unsuccessful European Grand Prix in the Nurburgring heat for Honda's partner teams saw all but one of the four Honda-powered drivers retire from the 67-lap race, as Jacques Villeneuve finished ninth. His Lucky Strike...
A hard-fought but ultimately unsuccessful European Grand Prix in the Nurburgring heat for Honda's partner teams saw all but one of the four Honda-powered drivers retire from the 67-lap race, as Jacques Villeneuve finished ninth. His Lucky Strike BAR Honda team-mate Olivier Panis was first to retire with an electronics problem, followed by Benson & Hedges Jordan Honda's Jarno Trulli, who suffered a gearbox problem, and his team-mate Heinz-Harald Frentzen, who spun off after a traction control failure.
Michael Schumacher took victory aboard his Ferrari at his home grand prix to strengthen his lead in the drivers' world championship over David Coulthard, who finished third in his McLaren. Juan Pablo Montoya ended a spell of non-finishes by taking his Williams to second place. His team-mate Ralf Schumacher came home in fourth while the second Ferrari and McLaren of Rubens Barrichello and Mika Hakkinen completed the points scorers in fifth and sixth places respectively.
Under clear blue skies and a summer sun the race got underway as all 22 cars cleared the grid without incident. On the run down to the first corner polesitter Michael Schumacher firmly fended off an attempt by his younger brother on his inside to lead the race at the end of lap one with the two Williams of Ralf and Montoya in pursuit, followed by Coulthard, Hakkinen and Trulli, who had enjoyed a good start to pass Barrichello. Conversely Frentzen had dropped to 10th, with Irvine and Villeneuve close behind but Panis had suffered an even worse getaway, slipping to 17th. The lead built up by Michael was trimmed by Ralf by lap 20 and the pair entered into a close battle while Trulli pushed hard, attacking Hakkinen.
On lap 23 Panis exited the race as he spun off, an electronic problem causing his gearbox to lock as he selected second gear. The first pitstops began a few laps later, race-leading Schumachers both pitting on the same lap. Michael was first out but it was Ralf's exit of the pitlane that was the first real change of the race's complexion, as he crossed the white dividing line between the pitlane and track and received a 10-second stop-go penalty, dropping him out of contention. Both the Jordan Hondas, running a two-stop strategy, came in for their scheduled first stops, Frentzen on lap 30 and Trulli one lap later. Trulli rejoined the race to find himself chasing the BAR Honda of Villeneuve for sixth, who was on a one-stop. The two battled it out until on lap 42 Villeneuve peeled off into the pits for his stop but just two laps later Trulli's gearbox seized following a loss of oil pressure, ending his race. Only a handful of laps later, Frentzen's Jordan Honda was by the side of the track, the Jordan Honda driver having spun off when his traction control system failed in mid-corner.
By now, Michael Schumacher looked secure at the head of the field but Montoya was pushing hard to catch the Ferrari, both pitting together on lap 50. His Williams team-mate had climbed back to third but with Coulthard on a one-stop strategy this was short-lived, the McLaren passing Ralf while he sat in the pits making his second stop on lap 53. While Montoya chased to the end, Schumacher looked secure as he strode home to claim victory in front of an enthusiastic crowd.
Jacques Villeneuve Position: 9th
"The team did a great job today - I drove hard, we had a good strategy, a good pitstop, just a great team effort all round. Everything went well for me generally but after all that I was only able to get 9th place. The car was good during the race - the balance was good and the car was very driveable; I could do pretty much what I wanted to with it. What hurt us was the fact that we were unable to get the best out of the tyres. The best we could have done was to be behind the Williams, McLarens and Ferraris - so 7th - but ninth was all that was possible. I drive hard and tried not to make any mistakes but we just couldn't have gone any quicker today."
Kazutoshi Nishizawa - Technical Director, Honda Racing Development
"No-one will be happy with today's performances. There were points available and Jarno in particular looked as if he could have scored some but we've come away empty-handed. The important thing now is to look at what we can improve and use this in our continuing efforts. The next race is just a week away so there will be a lot of hard work for everybody."
Craig Pollock, Team Principal and Managing Director, BAR Honda
"The team has done a fantastic job all weekend. That was very clear today and, all in all, I thought Jacques drove an excellent race; he was absolutely solid throughout and did all the right things. I'm very disappointed for Olivier - we obviously still need to look at what happened but clearly we had a problem that needs to be solved. From here we have to make sure we have very good preparation for Magny-Cours and ensure we can get the best out of the car."
Eddie Jordan, Chief Executive, Jordan Honda
"It is clear that we are not realising our potential. The problems seem to be different at each race which is hugely frustrating, and means we have to have ongoing analysis to establish the causes for each retirement. In the meantime, with the top three teams opening up their lead, the battle for fourth remains open." <pre> Race results 1 M.SCHUMACHER Ferrari 1h29m42.724s 2 MONTOYA Williams BMW + 0m04.217s 3 COULTHARD McLaren Mercedes + 0m24.993s 4 R.SCHUMACHER Williams BMW + 0m33.345s 5 BARRICHELLO Ferrari + 0m45.495s 6 HAKKINEN McLaren Mercedes + 1m04.868s 9 VILLENEUVE BAR Honda 1 lap
World Championship standings (after 9 of 17 rounds)
Drivers' 1 M Schumacher Ferrari 68 2 Coulthard McLaren Mercedes 44 3 Barrichello Ferrari 26 4 R Schumacher Williams BMW 25 5 Montoya Williams BMW 12 6 Hakkinen McLaren Mercedes 9 7 Heidfeld Sauber Petronas 8 8 Trulli Jordan Honda 7 9 Villeneuve BAR Honda 7 11 Frentzen Jordan Honda 6 13 Panis BAR Honda 5
Round 10 of the FIA Formula One World Championship is the French Grand Prix on Sunday 31 June.