|ATLAS F1 Volume 6, Issue 45||Email to Friend Printable Version|
|The 2000 Season|
End of Year Report
|by Mark Glendenning, Australia|
In 1979, I had no idea that Jody Scheckter had won the Championship for Ferrari. Even if I had known, I probably wouldn't have cared much. All I was interested in back then was turning up at birthday parties dressed as Darth Vader. I was five. It's an awfully long time ago, and sitting here thinking back on it helps place Schumacher's triumph into perspective.
No matter what happened this year, we were guaranteed of seeing something great happen. If Michael Schumacher could finally deliver the goods for Ferrari, the Prancing Horse would reign supreme for the first time since the days when I was running around wearing a space helmet made from an empty ice-cream container. If Hakkinen came through, he would become only the second driver ever to win three consecutive Championships.
There are always 'what ifs' at the end of any season, and it's tempting to wonder how the last few rounds might have shaped up had Hakkinen not suffered a slump in form earlier in the year. Consistency brings Championships, though, and Schumacher was nothing if not consistent this year.
There were other triumphs. The Williams pairing of Ralf Schumacher and Jenson Button had a year that far exceeded expectations; Jarno Trulli drove well for Jordan; Jos Verstappen and Pedro de la Rosa responded to the improvements at Arrows; and Jacques Villeneuve awoke from the nightmare that was the BAR 01. Others, for a variety of reasons, will want nothing more than to forget the 2000 season as quickly as possible.
After the French Grand Prix, we took the opportunity to evaluate the performance of each driver during the first half of the season. As the dust settles in the wake of the final Grand Prix of the year, it's time to look back at what happened between Austria and Malaysia.
The format will be the same as earlier reports: following each race, the drivers were each assigned a grade ranging between A+ and F for their performance. Following the final round, the grades were calculated to produce an average score for the whole period.
This report is intended to complement the Mid-Term Report that appeared earlier in the year; subsequently, the comments and grades are based only upon the final eight rounds of the season. I should also point out that I decided to exclude retirements when calculating the average finishing positions. Thus, the figure represents the average position a driver finished in when they were actually classified. Obviously, this is going to affect the average figure drastically for drivers who only finished a few races, but overall the averages seem to be fairly representative of a typical Grand Prix weekend.
MICHAEL SCHUMACHER A (Mid-Term Score: A)
There's little left to be said about Michael Schumacher this year. After five years of hopes, promises and disappointments, Schumacher delivered the World Championship the tifosi so desperately wished for, and joined the elite circle of triple champions in the process. Michael was brilliant in all conditions, and was often able to compensate for shortcomings in the car. When Hakkinen returned to form in the second half of the year, Schumacher rose to the challenge and responded with some brilliant displays of his skill, most notably at Suzuka.
RUBENS BARRICHELLO B- (Mid-Term Score: B-)
Rubens was responsible for one of the most memorable Grands Prix we have seen in years, when he drove from 18th on the grid to score his maiden victory at Hockenheim. The sight of Barrichello in tears on the podium while the Brazilian anthem was playing, for the first time since the end of 1993, was among the season's defining moments. German Grand Prix aside, though, Barrichello's year has been disappointing. Rubens can run with the best of them in adverse conditions, but he has been consistently unable to match the pace of the front-runners on most other occasions.
MIKA HAKKINEN A (Mid-Term Score: B+)
He might have been a little shaky earlier in the year, but Mika Hakkinen drove like the double World Champion that he is from Austria onwards. The Finn's performances were almost flawless during the second half of the season, and his conduct both in and out of the car was exemplary. The rapport that developed through the season between Mika and Michael added an extra dimension to the championship battle - here, for the first time in a long time, were two Championship contenders who actually seemed to respect one another. Hakkinen was also responsible for the single most incredible moment of the past few seasons, when he made a move to end all moves on Schumacher at Spa.
DAVID COULTHARD B- (Mid-Term Score: A-)
After a good start to the year, Coulthard slipped back into the sort of form that we saw throughout 1999. On the right day, the Scot was all but unbeatable; unfortunately, the 'right day' came all too rarely. Sometimes David would struggle to match the pace of his teammate, other times he simply failed to make the most of opportunities as they arose. On paper, third place in the championship is a reasonable achievement, but it's hard not to imagine that Coulthard will be looking back upon the year with a fair degree of frustration. Already, Coulthard is making noises about how much better prepared he will be in 2001, and time will tell whether his words carry any weight.
RALF SCHUMACHER A- (Mid-Term Score: B+)
If the lack of a really experienced driver was a problem for Williams as they embarked upon their first year with BMW, it didn't show. Ralf was a solid performer throughout the year, rewarding his team with a good result as often as the car would allow. Reliability was a bit of a problem for Williams in 2000, but Schumacher still managed to finish a well-deserved 5th in the championship. His pairing with Juan Montoya next year will be one of the most intriguing aspects of the 2001 season.
JENSON BUTTON A- (Mid-Term Score: B)
Jenson Button was the revelation of the season. Third on the grid in Belgium on his first visit to Spa was an amazing effort, and he was frequently able to run quickly enough to scare his more experienced teammate. It's also worth noting that Frank Williams, a man notorious for his ability to keep his enthusiasm for his drivers under control, was greatly impressed by Button's performance. Benetton, and all the things that are associated with the team, should ensure that Button has an interesting season in 2001.
GIANCARLO FISICHELLA C (Mid-Term Score: B+)
Fisico had a great start to the year, but it all started to go bad in the second half of the season. Giancarlo's confidence, already shaken after two substantial shunts only a few days apart, was further damaged after he received a public sledging from team boss Flavio Briatore following a poor performance in qualifying at the US Grand Prix. There's no denying his fundamental ability, though, and hopefully he'll be back to his earlier form when he lines up on the grid in Melbourne next March.
ALEXANDER WURZ D+ (Mid-Term Score: D+)
Wurz's year was an absolute shocker that only brought reward when he was able to take advantage of the first corner accident at Monza to bring the Benetton home in fifth place. He has had very little support from his team through the season, and it showed in his performances - as Fisichella's second-half results suggest, being out of favour with the powers-that-be at Benetton must make the team garage a very chilly place to be. Taking a year away from active racing, Wurz will serve as McLaren's 'third' (read: 'test') driver in 2001; a job he should do well, considering his reputation for providing strong technical feedback.
BRITISH AMERICAN RACING
JACQUES VILLENEUVE B+ (Mid-Term Score: B)
2000 could only be an improvement upon the previous year for Villeneuve, and so it proved. Jacques is the driving force beneath the soap opera that BAR is rapidly turning into, and throughout the year he has never given less than 100%. That's not to say that it has all been smooth sailing - far from it. Villeneuve's career has been dotted with great achievements marred by small errors, and that was evident throughout the second half of the season. Nevertheless, the speed and commitment that delivered a World Championship in 1997 is still very evident, and there are few drivers more deserving of some podiums in 2001 than the Canadian.
RICARDO ZONTA C- (Mid-Term Score: C-)
Another driver who is taking a hiatus from racing in 2001 to move into a testing role, Zonta will be remembered more for his involvement in a number of on-track incidents - some were his responsibility, others were not. By and large he was rarely able to get close to Villeneuve and did not always appear able to extract the maximum available performance from the car.
HEINZ-HARALD FRENTZEN B (Mid-Term Score: B-)
Hopes were high for Frentzen this year following his strong performance in 1999, but the temperamental Jordan quickly put paid to any dreams of seeing Frentzen repeat his dark horse role in the championship battle. The German put in some great performances, all too many of which amounted to nothing as a result of the reliability problems that have plagued the team all year.
JARNO TRULLI B+ (Mid-Term Score: B)
It may not be evident from the points table, but there is much that Trulli has gained from this season. Some fine performances, particularly his qualifying effort at Belgium, were interspersed with mechanical problems and a number of on-track altercations with other cars. Also, he has proved himself capable of taking the fight to a more experienced and well-regarded teammate. If the Italian continues to develop like this, the future of Formula One would appear to be in reasonably safe hands.
PEDRO DINIZ D+ (Mid-Term Score: C-)
Diniz looked set to score a point at Indianapolis, before making an unscheduled pitstop to investigate a mechanical problem. Aside from that, he was a regular feature in the DNF lists at the end of each race, and he made little impact during the second half of the year. Whilst not a Mika or a Michael, Diniz is a better driver than he is often given credit for. There has been little evidence of it this year, however.
MIKA SALO B- (Mid-Term Score: B)
Good drive at Hockenheim saw Salo just pipped for fourth place by Jenson Button. Other than that, though, we saw little of him during the latter half of the year. Like Wurz, it is also the last we'll be seeing of him, at least for the moment. Next season, the Finn takes a year away from racing to help Toyota prepare for their Formula One debut in 2002.
PEDRO DE LA ROSA B (Mid-Term Score: B-)
De la Rosa was lucky to walk away unscathed from the terrible first lap accident at Monza. Elsewhere, though, he was able to take advantage of the strong low-downforce performance inherent in the Arrows A21, to produce a series of strong drives that were all too frequently cut short by some kind of mishap. Nevertheless, 2000 was a strong foundation upon which the Spaniard can hopefully build for the 2001 season.
JOS VERSTAPPEN B- (Mid-Term Score: B-)
Like his teammate, Verstappen was frequently quick to make the most of conditions that agreed with the Arrows, with Monza standing out as the most obvious example from the second half of the season. Jos is still a little inconsistent, however, and he allowed himself to be completely dominated by a far less experienced teammate in qualifying. Ultimately, though, it was an encouraging year for a driver who has spent the last few years in the wastelands.
EDDIE IRVINE B (Mid-Term Score: B-)
Last year, Irvine was fighting Hakkinen for the championship. This year, he was fighting to drag the Jaguar across the finish line. To his credit, he handled the difficulties far better than one may have expected, and never stopped trying to wrench whatever he could out of the car. A good performance was rewarded with a points finish in Malaysia. Nevertheless, Jaguar are a long way from being consistently competitive, and Irvine is not getting any younger. Is there still time for Eddie to make a return to the sharp end of the grid?
JOHNNY HERBERT C+ (Mid-Term Score: C-)
Everyone held their breath as Herbert's Jaguar tore itself to pieces in Malaysia following a suspension failure. Herbert has had an extraordinarily unlucky career, beginning with the F3000 crash that caused permanent damage to both of his feet. Like his teammate, he did the best he could with a fairly ordinary piece of equipment, but the car turned around and bit him far too often for the Englishman to make any real headway. Hopefully he'll find a little more joy in the next stage of his career.
LUCIANO BURTI B- (Mid-Term Score: n/a)
It is obviously difficult to evaluate Burti on the strength of one race, but he seemed to adapt reasonably well in his Formula One debut. Despite suffering a series of problems in practice, Burti managed to qualify just outside half a second behind Johnny Herbert and had a fair crack at the race despite having to start from the pitlane. He was also using the spare car, which was set up for his teammate. All things considered, it was a decent effort, though we'll have to wait until next year to get a true impression of his abilities.
MARC GENE B (Mid-Term Score: B-)
It's a bit hard to make an impression in a Minardi, but Gene still did his best to make the most out of any opportunities that may have arisen during a race. None of them would have any impact upon the points table, but Marc at least managed to dominate his teammate, race on close terms with a few driver/car packages that really should have been a little further up the grid, and will take a lot of valuable experience with him into the next season.
GASTON MAZZACANE C (Mid-Term Score: C+)
Again, it's not easy being a Minardi driver, especially one who is in his first year of Grand Prix racing. Even so, Mazzacane had very little impact upon the season - even within his own team. He was rarely on equal terms with Gene, in either qualifying or the race, and struggled to find consistency from one Grand Prix to the next.
JEAN ALESI B (Mid-Term Score: B-)
At the Belgian Grand Prix, Jean Alesi managed to haul his AP03 as high as fourth place before a fuel leak put him out of the race on lap 32. That was the one standout moment in an otherwise forgettable season for the hugely experienced French driver. The Prost was one of the cooler-looking cars on the grid, but it was absolutely horrendous in virtually every other respect. Instability within the team didn't help much either. On the upside, things can presumably only get better. Alesi is getting older, though, and one suspects that a final shot at the serious end of Formula One may have slipped him by.
NICK HEIDFELD C (Mid-Term Score: C-)
Heidfeld was among the most promising new prospects to enter Formula One in the past few years, which makes his miserable debut season all the more sad. The myriad of problems that plagued the Prost team throughout the season afforded the young German with little opportunity to come to grips with Grand Prix racing; aside, perhaps, from the fact that he at least got to see what the circuits were like (even if it was from the back of a motor scooter as he returned to the garage following another retirement). Best he forgets it ever happened and start fresh with Sauber next year.
|Mark Glendenning||© 2000 Kaizar.Com, Incorporated.|
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