The Formula One Insider

By Mitchell McCann, U.S.A.
Atlas F1 Columnist


At least in the pit-lane. Those who say that David Coulthard's reputation as a bonehead is undeserved have obviously only been watching Formula One since Monday. This may include Ron Dennis. I wonder if the McLaren boss has yet realized that unlike Ferrari, which has two number one drivers (or a #1 and a #1A anyway), he has a pair of number twos. I would love to have been a fly on the wall in the McLaren motorhome after the race. I'll bet DC is much better at pushing Ron's buttons than he is at pushing the ones on his steering wheel.

The rumor mill has been reporting that Coulthard has already signed his contract extension while Hakkinen (yes, he does still drive for McLaren) has not. If true, I'll bet that Dennis wishes he hadn't been quite so quick off the mark in this case. I wonder if he's tried getting Rahal to sign him too.

So after the last two dismal races for McLaren, I think we can safely engrave the silverware and ship it right back to Maranello. Its great to see the Williams team coming on gangbusters but maybe there's a rule in F1 that prohibits three teams from being good at the same time. Not only does McLaren now have the third best car on the grid but they quite obviously have something far less than the second best driver line-up in F1. Schumacher and a trained monkey would, quite literally, be a better team than McLaren. (Yes, Barrichello has scored 30 points more than the trained monkey would have done but Schumacher/Monkey would still be 21 points ahead of McLaren in the Constructors Championship). Maybe if McLaren employed some of their monkeys in a driving capacity rather than in the electronics department, the championship race might still be something more than a statistical uncertainty.


It wasn't so long ago that I wrote nostalgically about the drunken meandering that Michael Schumacher called starts. For a while it appeared that this had become a thing of the past given McLaren's inability to start or even make the start. But the reprieve proved to be short-lived. At the European Grand Prix, Ralf gave Michael a run for his money and the old instincts returned as Schu Senior introduced his little brother to the pitwall. "Ralf, Wall. Wall, Ralf. I think you two should get to know each other." Ralf, who perhaps should no longer be referred to as the stupid Schumacher brother, chose the tactically wise option of lifting but it could be that strategically that was a mistake. Michael has rarely met his match in determination but if Ralf is to compete with his brother for wins and championships next year, he will have to take a stand at some point. This may involve a wreck and, while I would not advocate that any driver should take out another, neither would I support the sort of maneuvers that are tantamount to high speed chicken.

Michael's start line moves may be within the letter of the law, although according to reports Ralf has not totally bought into this theory, but they are (a) contrary to the spirit of racing and (b) dangerous. And when you add to this the fact that Michael's move is allowed but Ralf was penalized for straying 2 feet over the pit exit line on the grounds that it's dangerous, well the whole thing is just ridiculous. The FIA should change this rule before somebody decides that there is only one other way to deter this sort of tactic. As Ralf looks like being a championship contender next year, I'm sure Mama Schumacher would approve.


Going back again to the European Grand Prix, one of the most absurd reports coming out of the paddock, besides the one about Button driving for Ferrari, was that Mika Hakkinen stated that he would not move over for Coulthard because he, Hakkinen, was still in the championship race. They must be using a different mathematical system over there in Finland. Now, the stories coming out of the paddock in France are that Hakkinen will not re-sign with McLaren. I wonder which of these stories is the chicken and which is the egg. Of course, it's all a moot point now as Hakkinen does have pretty much the same chance at the championship as Coulthard does.

The other side to the rumor of Hakkinen's impending departure is that Jacques Villeneuve is being tipped as Coulthard's team-leader next year. This should be a cause for great rejoicing. Firstly, it'll be nice to see JV in a decent car again. If McLaren can remember how to make one. Second, lots more face time for Jacques to put son pied dans sa bouche. Which is always good for a laugh. And last but not least, we can run a book on when Jacques will get that vein in Ron's forehead to burst.

And speaking of Villeneuve, did anybody notice that Olivier Panis has a typical French accent when speaking English except when he says Jacques, which he pronounces Jack. No, I don't know what it means. Just thought it was curious.


All indications are that the 2001 season is Jean Alesi's farewell tour. Following the French Grand Prix, Alesi was so thrilled by his 12th place (which would be worth a point in CART) that he did donuts on his in lap (which would not be frowned upon by CART). Was this Jean's way of bidding au revoir to his home crowd? (Presumably Alain Prost will now bill him for a set of tyres as well as two radios and the packet of polos he pinched last Wednesday).

If this is Alesi's final season, it will be the merciful end to a career which started out with so much promise but which has simply become painful to watch over the years. Clearly, the talent was always there, at least until the last few years, but his judgment both on and off the track has frequently been questionable.

I'm sure he'll have fun if he chooses to go to CART and can get a semi-decent ride. I may even start watching it a little closer.

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Print Version

Volume 7, Issue 27
July 4th 2001

Atlas F1 Exclusive

Interview with Gascoyne
by Roger Horton

Behind the Scenes of 'The Fast and the Furious'
by Fred Topel

French GP Review

The French GP Review
by Pablo Elizalde

Reflections from Magny Cours
by Roger Horton

Surprise Surprise
by Richard Barnes

Down with Downforce
by Karl Ludvigsen


The F1 Insider
by Mitch McCann

Season Strokes - the GP Cartoon
by Bruce Thomson

Qualifying Differentials
by Marcel Borsboom

The Weekly Grapevine
by the F1 Rumors Team

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