ATLAS F1   Volume 6, Issue 44 Email to Friend   Printable Version

Atlas F1   The 2000 Drivers Review

  by Roger Horton, England

The 2000 season had too few unique winners, too few podium finishers and too few points scorers, courtesy of a vastly dominant pair of teams at the front. And yet, regardless of the Championship tally, some drivers excelled and some whithered. Roger Horton watched them all and gives his verdict on their performances

Michael SchumacherMichael Schumacher       1st, 108 points

This was, without question, Schumacher's best season in Formula One since he won his second title with Benetton back in 1995. His Ferrari was, over the whole season, as fast as the McLaren, and his car only let him down twice - at Monaco and France. His abilities in difficult wet/dry conditions are well known, and at both the Nurburgring and Suzuka he was superb. His value to Ferrari, in holding the team together over these last five years, has been immense, and without question, it would have been a task beyond any other driver currently in Formula One. It is still a pity, though, that he cheapens these huge achievements with occasional displays of crass driving tactics that should surely be beneath a driver of his ability.

Mika HakkinenMika Hakkinen       2nd, 89 points

In the end, the 19-point gap between Hakkinen and Schumacher was a fair reflection of the latter's superiority over the defending champion throughout the season. Hakkinen's mid season 'crisis', when he was temporarily overshadowed by his teammate, was as much to blame for him losing his title as his three engine failures - at Melbourne, Interlargos and Indianapolis. That said, his jump-start in Malaysia was the only driving error he made all year, and when he was on form, his driving was a total joy to watch. His comeback drive after his error at Spa-Francorchamps, and his breathtaking passing manoeuvre on Schumacher - after his previous lap rebuff - were perhaps the highlight of the season.

David CoulthardDavid Coulthard       3rd, 73 points

On paper, this was a better season than 1999 for David Coulthard. He won three races, one more than last year; he ended up 7-10 in qualifying against his teammate, an improvement from last year's 3-13; he finished third in the drivers' championship, again better than last year. But once again, I suspect, he will be rueing his lost opportunities as he ponders the year just ended. His problems on the grid at both Canada and Indianapolis blunted his challenge at a critical time, and he was outclassed by his teammate at the Nurburgring and Austria, and was unable to lend any support to Hakkinen when he needed it in Japan. True, he can point to McLaren's questionable pitstop strategy at both Spa and Hockenheim, but if he is ever to be a World Champion, he needs to find the improvement from within himself, and not from his team.

Rubens BarrichelloRubens Barrichello       4th, 62 points

Once again, a driver signed up as Michael Schumacher's teammate with high hopes that he would be able race against him, in his own team, on roughly a level playing field. By mid-season, Barrichello had ample proof that not only could he in no way match the pace and race craft of his German teammate, but whenever he got close he would be controlled by team orders, as he was in Canada. His maiden victory in Germany was a fitting reward for a great drive in awkward conditions, and his denial of crucial points to his teammate's title rivals was much appreciated by all at Ferrari. But, in most of the other races, he failed to ever finish ahead of a healthy McLaren, and his fourth place in the points' table has more to do with the car he was driving than his genuine place in F1's talent league.

Ralf SchumacherRalf Schumacher       5th, 24 points

Once outside the drivers in the 'big two' teams, evaluating the rest's relative performances becomes that much harder and more subjective. Three podium finishes attest to Ralf's now well-recognised ability to bring his car home with a helping of points on a fairly regular basis. He looked on course for a brilliant second place at Indianapolis until his engine let him down. The speed of his new young teammate, Jenson Button, provided a rude wake-up call to Ralf on occasions, and it was a reminder of the need for him to maintain his intensity throughout the season. Next year's FW23 could well prove to be at least good enough to win the odd race, and Ralf will need to be sure he is the driver to fully exploit its potential.

GiancarloGiancarlo Fisichella       6th, 18 points

Five points-scoring finishes in the first nine races, including a second place in Brazil, was a pretty solid first half of the season by any yardstick, especially given the overall competitiveness of Fisichella's B200 Benetton. But high-speed accidents in the morning warm up at Spa, and in testing the following week at Monza, unsettled him somewhat. Then, after being out-qualified by his teammate at Indy, he had a dramatic falling out with team boss Flavio Briatore, which can't have helped his state of mind, and his season drew to a close with some poor finishes - fourteenth in Japan and ninth in Malaysia. Fisichella is a driver that would benefit, perhaps, from a change of team.

Jacques VilleneuveJacques Villeneuve       7th, 17 points

No less than four fourth place finishes is proof that, at last, the BAR-Honda team is making serious progress. Villeneuve's press-on style was still very much in evidence as he strove to make the most of his improved speed and reliability to score some much-needed points. Sometimes he tried too hard, and a spin together with an ill-timed overtaking manoeuvre at Indianapolis almost certainly cost his team their first podium finish. In Malaysia, a recovering Mika Hakkinen rather too easily pressured him into giving up his position, which was a surprise, especially after his performance in Canada, where he held him off for so many laps. But, if his team can control their seemingly endless internal politicking, then just maybe all the time he has invested with Craig Pollock's team might soon start to pay off.

Jenson ButtonJenson Button       8th, 12 points

No new driver has entered F1 in recent years amid more hype and expectation, than the 20 year old from South West England who made his debut this year in the BMW-Williams team. At first glance, Button's best finish - a fourth place in Germany - might not support the claim for him to have emerged from the year as The major new talent in Formula One. But his breathtaking qualifying performance at Spa, and the speed with which he has learnt the circuits, has impressed his F1 hardened team bosses at Williams no end, and these are not people who are easily impressed. His qualifying performance 6-11 against teammate Ralf Schumacher is no disgrace, especially as he ended the season by shading Ralf by three to two in the last five races. The challenge of his second year at Benetton will test not only his driving skills in the cockpit, but his character out of it as well.

Heinz Harald FrentzenHeinz-Harald Frentzen       9th, 11points

It was perhaps inevitable that this season would be an anti-climax for Frentzen, following such an unexpectedly strong showing last year. His EJ10 let him down far too often to be a regular points scorer; Monaco was typical of his season, where a gearbox problem pitched him into the Armco when in a strong second position. And Hockenheim, where he was matching Barrichello for pace whilst recovering brilliantly from a seventeenth starting position on the grid, until his electrics quit - again. He showed great mental strength to finish third at Indianapolis, after a difficult few days following the tragedy at Monza, where he was unfairly accused of causing the accident. Frentzen is still a winning driver, but will his Jordan ever again be a winning car?

Jarno TrulliJarno Trulli       10th, 6 points

Few drivers have driven so well throughout any season and ended it with so little to show for their efforts, as did Jarno Trulli. Front row starting positions at both Monaco and Spa showed that when the Jordan was working well Trulli was a driver that could exploit it to the full. But for a gearbox failure at Monaco he could well have won, and what a boost to his season this might have been. To finish 8-9 to his more experienced teammate in the qualifying stakes was an indication that he has plenty of raw speed. With Honda power next year, Jarno Trulli should be in a strong position to build on what was still a strong year, despite his lack of points.

Mika SaloMika Salo       11th, 6 points

After his high-profile duties last year as super-sub at BAR and Ferrari, Salo had a pretty anonymous season with Sauber. Two intelligent drives into fifth place finishes at Monaco and Germany were the highlights of his year. His decision to take a break from racing duties and concentrate solely on a testing role with Toyota is a wise move, as clearly the Sauber team is never going to move up the grid in its present form.

Jos VerstappenJos Verstappen       12th, 5 points

The sight of Verstappen slicing through the field at Monza, including overtaking the Williams of Ralf Schumacher for third position, showed just what he was capable of, when running on a circuit that suited his car and when he was in the right mood. Losing out to his teammate by the huge margin of 6-11 in qualifying was a disappointment, especially given his greater experience. Still trying to establish himself in F1, despite making his debut way back in 1994, he did a reasonable job, given the equipment at his disposal.

Eddie IrvineEddie Irvine       13th, 4 points

From almost winning the World Championship last year to a perennial bit-player this season at Jaguar must have been some adjustment for the loquacious Irvine. It was, however, his choice to move, and if he had any regrets he never showed them. Few could criticize his on-track efforts, especially in qualifying, where he consistently wrestled his Jaguar into the top ten on the grid. The jury is still out on whether he has the patience, maturity and leadership qualities required for the long rebuilding programme ahead for this Ford-owned team. With a new and inexperienced teammate next year, the demands on Irvine will be tougher still.

Ricardo ZontaRicardo Zonta       14th, 3 points

Being number two in Jacques Villeneuve's team was always a struggle. Zonta sometimes showed flashes of brilliance, like a sixth place on the grid in Austria ahead of his teammate, but only to ruin it all by making a mistake at the start. He matched Villeneuve's pace at Hockenheim, only to make contact with him as he attempted an overtaking manoeuvre. Perhaps he will be most remembered this season for being the 'third car' in the memorable Hakkinen/Schumacher passing manoeuvre at Spa. Now he will try and resurrect his career with Jordan as the team's test driver, so keeping open his links to Honda, which might still provide a way back to a race seat in the future.

Alexander WurzAlexander Wurz       15th, 2 points

Aided by the first corner mayhem at Monza, Alexander Wurz managed a fifth place finish, his only points-scoring position in what has been an entirely forgettable year. All year he struggled with the uncompetitive B200 in a team environment that was not always as supportive as it might have been. At the last race of the season, he was allowed to use the team's qualifying car and promptly placed it fifth on the grid, suggesting, perhaps, that his talent is still intact. Next year, he will get a chance at McLaren to rebuild his confidence behind the wheel of one of the best cars in F1, albeit only in a testing role.

Pedro de la RosaPedro de La Rosa       16th, 2 points

Fifth on the grid at Hockenheim, running in the top three in Austria, and a superb sixth place finish at the dry/wet European race were amongst the highlights of Pedro's season. The Arrows A21 was often the fastest car through the speed traps and was a genuine contender in the Spaniard's hands more often than the bare results show. He was lucky to escape uninjured from a horrific accident at Monza, the low point of his season. Now confirmed at Arrows for another year, he has surely done enough to secure his long-term future in F1.

Johnny HerbertJohnny Herbert       17th, 0 points

In the end it was good that Herbert chose to leave F1 on his own terms. He will be remembered for much more than this last pointless season, when he struggled with the Jaguar R1 in race after race. At Indianapolis he took the brave decision to start on dry weather tyres, and was heading for a possible podium position before a bad pitstop delayed him. There were many sighs of relief in Malaysia, when he emerged unhurt from his last high-speed F1 accident. In the end, Herbert will be remembered as a driver that was often better than his cars made him look.

Pedro DinizPedro Diniz       18th, 0 points

It's hard to find much to report about Pedro Diniz's season - he managed only five top-ten finishes, half as many as his Finnish teammate, and there were clear signs that his relationship with team boss Peter Sauber had all but broken down by the end of the season. It is likely that his Father's wealth will again ensure his continued presence in F1, but almost certainly with a team at the very slow end of the pitlane.

Marc GeneMarc Gene       19th, 0 points

If you are a Minardi driver, driving a car around 100 horsepower down on the leading teams, you can only live in hope that circumstance in at least one race will allow you to get a sniff of some points. So it was no surprise that at the Austrian Grand Prix, where so many cars were eliminated early on, Marc Gene finished eighth, his most competitive result. At Indianapolis he managed to hold off David Coulthard's McLaren for a number of laps, before the more normal order was restored, which must rate as a highlight of sorts.

Nick HeidfeldNick Heidfeld       20th, 0 points

Few drivers have entered F1 with a more impressive resume, only to almost sink without trace in their first season. Fortunately, the Prost team was so bad, and their problems so obvious, that the unlucky drivers in the cockpits were mostly excluded from blame by the Formula One paddock. The Nurburgring was typical of Heidfeld's season; he qualified a promising thirteenth, only to be excluded from the race when his car was found to be 2kg underweight. A move to the Swiss Sauber team will offer a better opportunity to evaluate Heidfeld's F1 future.

Gaston MazzacaneGaston Mazzacane       21st, 0 points

Like his teammate, Mazzacane had his brief moment in the spotlight when he spent five laps fighting for position with a McLaren at Indianapolis. He was usually out-qualified by his Spanish teammate and was often inconsistent in the races. As always after a season with Minardi, it is not easy to evaluate a driver's true worth, but it would seem that Mazzacane's future participation in F1 depends mostly on his ability to raise the necessary budget.

Jean AlesiJean Alesi       22nd, 0 points

Only once in the entire season did we get to see the real Jean Alesi, and then courtesy of the Prost team's awful reliability, only for a while. At Spa, on a drying track, Alesi managed to run at the front on a circuit that allowed him to compensate somewhat for the many deficiencies of the AP03. Mostly, though, he struggled from race to race, suffering all kinds of problems that no driver could have overcome. This season was a sad waste of his talent, and it would appear that no other team is prepared to offer him a lifeline.

Luciano BurtiLuciano Burti       23rd, 0 points

Jaguar's test driver Luciano Burti made just one race start, at the Austrian Grand Prix, when Eddie Irvine withdrew due to illness. He qualified 21st on the grid and finished eleventh, two laps down, after one of the more spectacular spins of the season. He will be better evaluated next year, when he races alongside Irvine in the Jaguar team.

Roger Horton© 2000 Kaizar.Com, Incorporated.
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