The most iconic picture of the 2001 Malaysian Grand Prix
The Malaysian Grand Prix: Round 2 of 17 in the 2001 Formula One World Championship. Heading into the race, Ferrari driver Michael Schumacher lead the Drivers’ Championship with 10 points, ahead of McLaren driver David Coulthard 6 points in second place and his team mate Rubens Barrichello in third on 4 points.
In one of the most interesting qualifying sessions of the 2001 season, Michael Schumacher qualified on Pole Position (his 6th in a row) ahead of his team-mate Rubens Barrichello. Behind the two Ferrari’s was not a McLaren that many expected but it was instead the Williams of Ralf Schumacher who was only 0.3 seconds behind his brother.
Ralf Schumacher in Qulaifying for the 2001 Malaysian Grand Prix
It would seem that the Williams drivers and their car appears well suited to the demands of the Sepang circuit and it would seem that the Michelin tyres are helping but it is not the only reason for their pace.
McLaren driver Mika Hakkinen was 4th ahead of Jarno Trulli and Juan Pablo Montoya. The pace of the McLaren’s is certainly a surprise with both Coulthard and Hakkinen struggling throughout the session. It was only on Hakkinen’s final run that he was able to move into 4th. Jacques Villeneuve, David Coulthard, Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Olivier Panis finished the top ten in Qualifying.
Outside the top 10, Nick Heidfeld finished the session in 11th place with Eddie Irvine qualifying in 12th place. It must have been disappointing for Irvine as he looked stronger during practice. Meanwhile, Jean Alesi did well to finish in 13th place while Kimi Raikkonen qualified in 14th place while Luciano Burti ended the session in 15th place.
It must be very hard for Benetton to be in 16th and 17th places with Ginacarlo Fisichella and Jenson Button as they are positions that they are simply not used to be in. The Arrows pair of Jos Verstappen and Enrique Bernoldi make 18th and 19th ahead of Gaston Mazzacane who is ahead of the Minardi’s of Tarso Marques and Fernando Alonso.
However after qualifying was finished, Enrique Bernoldi’s time was deleted after his car was found to have a front wing dimensional infringement. He qualified in 19th place but will now start from the back of the grid.
On race day, Jordan driver Heinz-Harald Frenzten slowed during the parade lap due to a computer-hardware error. It was thought he would fail to make the start. However, Benetton driver Giancarlo Fisichella bought him some time when he lined up on the incorrect side of the grid and failed to take his correct grid point after attempting to cross the grid. This caused an aborted start, allowing both the drivers to take the restart.
That was not the end of the dramatic start however: Juan-Pablo Montoya’s Williams then broke down and refused to fire. He was forced to take to the T-Car and start from the pitlane.
The start of the 2001 Malaysian Grand Prix
When the race finally got going, Ferrari driver Michael Schumacher had a great start from pole position to maintain a large gap after the first corner. Meanwhile his team mate Rubens Barrichello did not have such a start and had slipped from second to fourth by the approach to the first corner. Barrichello managed to overtake Jordan driver Jarno Trulli on the outside, but immediately after tapped the back end of Ralf Schumacher’s Williams.
Ralf Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello spinning on Lap 1 of the 2001 Malaysian Grand Prix
This forced Ralf into a spin which put him from second to the back of the pack, after he had started fourth. McLaren driver David Coulthard had a great start, going from eighth to fourth within the first two corners. Sauber driver Kimi Raikkonen a driveshaft failure which left him stuck on the grid. Also, Arrows driver Jos Verstappen had a superb start, moving from eighteenth on the grid to sixth position after one lap.
On the third lap, rain began to fall and both Ferraris ran wide across the gravel allowing Trulli to take the lead. This may have been caused by the oil leak from Olivier Panis’s BAR– Honda which retired on lap 1. Schumacher ran further across the gravel than Barrichello which meant he fell behind his teammate. Thus, the order became on Lap 3: Trulli, Coulthard, Barrichello, Frentzen, Verstappen, Villeneuve, Schumacher and Hakkinen.
The safety car came out on Lap 4 to cope with the downpour which had suddenly occurred. Race Leader Trulli went off the track and slipped down the order soon after this. Barrichello pitted and endured a one minute twelve second pit-stop, with Schumacher queueing behind.
Giancarlo Fisichella in the early laps of the 2001 Malaysian Grand Prix
After the chaos of the safety car period and all the pit-stops which it included, the order had changed to: Coulthard, Frentzen, Verstappen, Häkkinen, Trulli, Alesi, Fisichella and Ralf Schumacher when the race restarted on Lap 10. Also, several drivers retired on this lap including Jacques Villeneuve, Nick Heidfeld, Juan Pablo Montoya, Eddie Irvine and Enrique Bernoldi.
The two Ferraris had dropped to tenth and eleventh, and Barrichello was soon overtaken by Schumacher. Frentzen lost places to Verstappen, Häkkinen, and Ralf Schumacher to fall to fifth within the next few laps. It was not long before the two Ferraris were on the back of Frentzen, and Schumacher pulled an overtaking move around the outside.
Schumacher was going quickly and overtook Häkkinen, again around the outside of the final corner. Barrichello soon overtook both Frentzen and Häkkinen too. Schumacher then overtook Verstappen and Coulthard to take the lead on Lap 15 as the track began to dry.
Michael Schumacher leads David Coulthard and Ruben Barrichello in the early stages of the 2001 Malaysian Grand Prix
As the circuit dried out Schumacher put five seconds a lap between himself and Coulthard for the next four laps with Barrichello riding shotgun midway between them. The demolition job continued until lap 25, when Coulthard joined the many pitting for new dry rubber but by that stage Schumacher had lapped everyone up to seventh-placed Frentzen, and although he was on treaded tires on a dry circuit Schumacher – as at Indianapolis last year – continued to stay out and building his lead.
Finally on Lap 30 Schumacher pitted and was over a minute clear of his team mate Barrichello. This being his only stop for fuel, this saw Schumacher drive out to complete the remaining laps at his leisure, although Barrichello did narrow the gap as best he could, smarting from Schumacher’s earlier dismissal of him behind Trulli.
Jos Verstappen defending from Mika Hakkinen in the final stages of the 2001 Malaysian Grand Prix
A long, long way behind Giancarlo Fisichella parked the Benetton with no fuel pressure on Lap 31 and retired from the Grand Prix. Also towards the latter stages of the race, Hakkinen was putting pressure on Verstappen for the final point of the race. This ended up Hakkinen taking the final point away from Verstappen in the final few laps of the race.
Michael Schumacher wins the 2001 Malaysian Grand Prix ahead of his team mate Rubens Barrichello in second place and David Coulthard in third place
Many drivers then pitted for fresh tyres during the race, but Schumacher stayed out and stretched his lead to more than a minute over Barrichello and lapping at three seconds faster a lap on occasion and won the 2001 Malaysian Grand Prix ahead of his team mate Barrichello and finishing 23.6 seconds down the road.
David Coulthard completed the podium by finishing in third place. Ralf Schumacher overtook Häkkinen and Verstappen to take fifth place before the pair started a battle of their own which allowed Frentzen to overtake then both at once at the final corner; Verstappen just managed to edge back in front on the straight. Verstappen would however, slip down to seventh, when Häkkinen took the final point position of sixth place.
Two laps down were Button suffering from spins and Mazzacane whose lack of pace was compounded by refuelling problems while the Minardis finished three and four laps behind and were glad to have two cars home especially after last man Marques had a Michelin lose its tread in much the same way Jenson Button’s did in practice in Australia. Even again this is considering that Marques didn’t pit until Lap 43 for fresh tyres!
The 2001 Malaysian Grand Prix will also be remembered as the race where only the top seven finishers ended the race on the same lap. This is due to Verstappen pitting for a third time on Lap 43 to get to the end of the race in seventh with Trulli, Alesi and Burti coming home behind.
Also, this was the sixth consecutive win from Pole Position for Michael Schumacher and showed once again why he was a three time world champion of the sport and he drove a great race to win in the mixed conditions that the Sepang circuit threw at him during the race.
And as the 2000 World Championship leaded towards the next round in Brazil at the Interlagos circuit, Schumacher was still leading the Driver’s Championship by 20 points ahead of Barrichello in second place with 10 points and Coulthard in third place with 10 points.