The Formula One Insider

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


Everybody's talking about the shock dismissal of Jordan driver Heinz-Harald Frentzen but nobody knows what really happened in that motorhome after the British Grand Prix. The truth is actually very simple. Frentzen was practicing an English slang expression he'd picked up and told Eddie Jordan "to keep his wig on". Eddie fired him.

Actually, you have to feel some sympathy for both parties in this affair. Frentzen certainly should feel aggrieved for being sacked just weeks after his contract was extended. Sure, Frentzen was consistently out-qualified by teammate Jarno Trulli and was a massive 3 points behind the Italian in the driver's championship but let's face it, Frentzen is no Jarno Trulli. On the other hand Trulli is no Michael Schumacher and Zonta is barely even two-thirds of a Frentzen.

From Eddie's point of view, the pressure has to be mounting given that he's now playing with the big boys and he hasn't even got his first pair of long trousers yet. The only saving grace is that Jordan are ahead of similarly powered BAR. Oh wait a minute. That was BEFORE he fired Frentzen. Not that that had anything to do with it of course. I'm sure Frentzen is just as capable of driving into the back of somebody else as Zonta is. (Especially if that somebody is Verstappen and his cargo of Oranjeboom).

I like Frentzen and Jordan and I hope that both end up benefiting from this move, although if you had to wish the sticky brown end of the stick on one or the other it would have to be Eddie. In a sport where plans are developed months or years in advance, the inability to decide whether to re-hire or fire in the space of a few days shows a worrying lack of forethought. Or maybe it was just the Guinness.


No, that's not a joke. In a sport where money is the trophy-wife, and entertainment and competition are the children that we love to speak about but don't ever want to see, it should come as no surprise that one of the most exciting races of the season was closely preceded by an announcement that the track would be re-designed. As the FIA refuses to address the design problems that hinder passing and Bernie's sole factor in any decision is green, it is left to the vagaries of chance and the arcane art of track design to give us the occasional race where passing is possible. (Apparently, track designers have lost the formula for creating tracks with passing opportunities. HINT: fast, straight, straight (that's not a mis-print, its an adjective and a noun), slow corner - I'll let them figure out the correct order of these features for themselves. It's a little known fact that the designer of the Hungaroring actually had the correct formula but simply forgot the part about the straights).

So Hockenheim produced some great racing including 4 cars trying to pass each other at the same time in the same camera shot! (For those of you who don't remember, the Ferraris and the McLarens all headed into the Jim Clark chicane two by two - kind of like Noah hosting a swingers party on the ark. In NASCAR this would be referred to as "four-wide". Or rather "FOUR-WIDE!!!!") For once, pit-stops contributed to an on-track pass instead of preventing it when Rubens Barrichello was forced to pass David Coulthard several times. At least, it probably seemed like several times to the Flailing Scotsman who now looks distinctly like the second best number two in F1. If that.


It's a good job that the Williams lived up to their pre-race billing because the Crawl for the Championship certainly didn't. As was widely expected, Williams or, more accurately, BMW were the class of the field at this venue. Montoya proved to be the fastest of the Yuppies in both qualifying and the race and Ralf proved to be the least graceful with his contention that he let Montoya go because he was driving too fast. Maybe Ralf is not entirely clear on the concept of racing or maybe it's me, but I believe that it is generally accepted in most sports that are tests of speed that fast is good. Nevertheless, Ralf played his tortoise role to perfection and fired another warning shot across the bows of perennial championship contenders Michael Schumacher and....well, Michael anyway.

Things got off to a roaring start with Schu Senior's complete failure to do so. At least on this occasion, a slow Schumacher start was not immediately followed by the customary drunken lunge towards the nearest thing with four wheels. Nevertheless, a few seconds later and the closest thing with four wheels actually had considerably less than that number, due in no small part to the fact that Enrique Bernoldi was wearing one as a hat. Obviously, this was a complete accident and there is no blame to assign to either Schumacher or Luciano Burti. In fact, Burti should be praised for his attempt to bring more overtaking to F1.

To nobody's surprise, the immediate exit of Schumacher from the German GP led to a red flag. And to everybody's surprise I'm sure, I am not about to jump on the conspiracy bandwagon. Apart from the fact that this race, along with the remaining five, would likely have little impact on the outcome of the championship, it seems a little ridiculous to me to claim that repeatedly driving 100 rubber tires over thousands of pieces of razor-sharp carbon fiber would be a perfectly safe and reasonable thing to do. In defence of my position, I cite Jacques Villeneuve's contention that I'm wrong as clear and damning evidence. (The fact that DC agrees with the Canadian means they must be picking on Michael).

A much more reasonable conspiracy theory is the one that has a certain BMW team member siphoning the gas out of Montoya's re-fueling rig.

As we now know, all these conspiracy theories came to nothing when Montoya and Michael Schumacher retired with mechanical problems. (Along with Coulthard, Hakkinen, Irvine, Raikkonen, Uncle Tom Cobblers and all).

Despite some wonderfully entertaining racing, no driver on the podium (or in the points for that matter) earned their position on merit. Ralf got four bonus points for not getting the dodgy engine, Barrichello drove a great race but was no better than third or fourth on merit and Villeneuve....Well, I think they just mis-counted how many laps he completed. Of course, DNFs are a part of motor-racing and avoiding them is part of the team's raison d'etre. And once in a while its nice to see the established order shaken up a bit which is why it would've been nice if JPM could've notched his first win. He's deserved a couple of them but so far has nothing to show for it. Oh well. With Spa, Monza and Indy to come, I dare say he'll break his duck before the season's out.

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Print Version

Volume 7, Issue 31
August 1st 2001

Atlas F1 Exclusive

Interview with Montoya
by Biranit Goren

The Frentzen Affair: A Question of Trust
by Biranit Goren

German GP Review

The German GP Review
by Pablo Elizalde

A Glimpse of Things to Come
by Richard Barnes

Winner Walkinshaw
by Karl Ludvigsen


Qualifying Differentials
by Marcel Borsboom

The F1 Insider
by Mitch McCann

Season Strokes - the GP Cartoon
by Bruce Thomson

Rear View Mirror
by Don Capps

The Weekly Grapevine
by the F1 Rumors Team

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