Adam Cooper's Monaco analysis

The 2000 Monaco GP ran true to form in that it continued an extraordinary run of races where the man on pole position failed to take victory. The streak is now up to 12, and the last time the pole sitter won was when Mika Hakkinen triumphed in Hungary last year. In fact this feat has only been achieved three times in the last 25 races - on all three occasions by Hakkinen.

Adam Cooper's Monaco analysis

The statistics reflect Michael Schumacher's poor record of converting poles into wins. The last time he did it was at Monza in 1998, and on that occasion it was hardly a light-to-flag display; he made a terrible start, dropped to fourth, and had to rely on the McLarens hitting trouble. In other words it was actually a more familiar win-from-behind performance - and if you leave that result aside, the last time Schumacher (and indeed Ferrari) won from pole was France 1997!

Since he did it at Monza in 1998 Schumacher has failed on seven occasions to turn a pole into victory. To be fair, in Malaysia last year he let title chaser Eddie Irvine past, but nevertheless it's a disappointing record.

I was doing TV commentary at Monaco, and like most of my colleagues I immediately jumped to the conclusion that Michael had clipped a barrier, and thus joined the lengthy list of drivers who have made a mistake while leading (don't forget he slid into the barrier on the first lap in 1996, having dropped from pole to second).

Of course we later found out that he was, perhaps, not to blame after all. An exhaust apparently broke apart and overheated the left rear pushrod, causing it to fail. A Ferrari insider told me that at 200deg the glue in a carbonfibre component starts to break down, and estimated that the part had had been blasted to 400deg. Michael had reported for two laps that he felt something was wrong with the engine, but he had no warning that the suspension was about to go. It was sheer good fortune that it failed as he accelerated out of the relatively slow final corner - had it occurred elsewhere, the consequences would have been much, much worse.

The team uses new exhausts for every race, and since the same fault appeared on Rubens Barrichello's car - although not quite to the same extent - it is thought that a rogue batch is the likely cause.
The only consolation for Michael and the team is that they have enjoyed a remarkable run. In his first year with Ferrari, 1996, Michael had six mechanical failures, plus that first lap crash at Monaco. His record since then is extraordinary, even allowing for the races he missed while injured last season:



Argentina '97 (collision with Barrichello)
Britain '97 (wheelbearing)
Luxembourg '97 (collision with Fisichella and Ralf Schumacher)
Europe '97 (collision with Villeneuve)

Australia '98 (engine failure)
Belgium '98 (collision with Coulthard)
Japan '98 (puncture)

Canada '99 (driver error)
Britain '99 ('brake related' crash at first start)

Monaco '00 (exhaust/suspension)

Every team and driver in the pitlane envies that record - not least Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard, both of whom have seen a string of potential wins slip away during that time. Of course the sad thing for Michael and his fans is that the Monaco failure curtailed a fabulous drive which would have earned his fifth victory in the principality.

Qualifying brought an unexpected result when Jarno Trulli took second place, and Heinz-Harald Frentzen fourth. Traffic problems for three members of the usual McLaren/Ferrari 'gang of four' helped, but so did the fact that Jordan went for the super soft tyres, along with everyone else bar McLaren, Ferrari, Jenson Button and Gaston Mazzacane, who preferred the softs - ostensibly for reasons of better balance.

One can speculate that the two top teams felt that they had so much in hand in terms of car performance that they could afford to use the slightly slower soft tyre and still qualify at the front. Coulthard, Hakkinen and Barrichello paid the price, and all lost three out to Jordans. As I said traffic played a part, certainly with Hakkinen, but then Trulli and Frentzen also suffered and lost quick laps. Interestingly, folk at McLaren and Ferrari both admitted that had not given the super softs serious consideration or done much running on them.

Bridgestone advised those on softs to start with new tyres, and those with super softs to use scrubbed rubber. That perhaps helps to explain the amazing first lap performance of Schumacher (new softs), who opened up 2.354s on Jarno Trulli (scrubbed super softs). But there was also a little Michael magic at work...

From then on Michael extended the gap at 1s a lap with extraordinary accuracy; he was 10.8s clear after 10 laps, 20.8s after 20 laps, and 34.2s after 36 laps. On the odd lap he fell behind schedule, but he always got back on almost straight away. I thought at the time that he might be backing off now and then to give his tyres a rest, but in fact his 'slow' laps (1s off his normal pace) usually co-incided exactly with yellow flags at the treacherous first corner.

The complexion of the race changed when Trulli retired on lap 37.
Coulthard moved up to second, but on that lap he actually lost an extra 3s to Michael, presumably because the crippled Jordan suddenly slowed in front of him before pulling into the pits.
The leader's advantage thus peaked at 37.2 on lap 37, but DC now had a clear track ahead, and the chance to make positive use of the frustration built during the laps he was stuck behind Trulli. In four laps he brought the gap down to 33s, at which point Michael responded. Over the next seven laps, DC was not able to make any inroads into the lead. The fact that Michael was able to pick up his pace and match the unhindered Coulthard at this stage confirms his engineer's assertion that he was by no means on the limit when opening up the lead on Trulli.

On lap 48 Michael was still 33.5s clear, and then at the end of the following lap he headed into the pits. He had to take a set of scrubbed tyres. He had saved two brand new sets for the race, but the red flag meant that he had only one fresh set for the rest of the afternoon, and he had to use them at the second start. He only needed fuel for 29 laps, so it was a quick stop, and the whole process only cost him 22s on that lap 49, plus around 4s on lap 50 as he headed out of the pitlane and got up to speed.

Now we had an interesting situation, with Michael on a relatively full load, and the compromise of scrubbed tyres, while David had a lighter car and well used rubber. With the stop safely out of the way Michael could relax in the knowledge that Coulthard had his stop still to come, so there was no need to push to the limit. However, he didn't really want the McLaren driver breathing down his neck.



Lap 48: 33.5s
Lap 49: 11.1s (Michael in-lap and stop)
Lap 50: 7.6s (Michael out lap)
Lap 51: 6.3s (DC held up by Villeneuve)
Lap 52: 6.1s (DC passes Villeneuve)
Lap 53: 5.2s
Lap 54: 4.2s (David sets his fastest lap of the race)
Lap 55: 1.5s (Michael's suspension breaks shortly before timing line)
Lap 56: Coulthard pits

Partly because DC came up behind Jacques Villeneuve, the gap did not really shrink until laps 53-54 - at which point Michael was busy reporting that something was wrong (ie the exhaust was broken). Then the Ferrari's suspension failed, and it was all over.
David came straight into the pits on lap 56.

He had stayed out for seven laps longer than Michael. So, assuming that both men stopped pretty much at the end of their personal 'fuel windows' (and we can't know for sure), the Scot had to carry seven laps more fuel load than Michael throughout the first part of the race.

Evidence that Michael had reached the end of his window is the fact that Rubens Barrichello had to come in behind Frentzen on lap 53, but said later that he had wanted to stay out and do another lap and try and sneak ahead. Thus it's possible that both Ferraris went to their pre-ordained limits, Rubens having started with a little more fuel than Michael. The alternative scenario is that Michael still had a few laps of fuel left in the car when he pitted, and therefore wasn't that much lighter than Coulthard after all. Tricky business, untangling strategy... One thing is certain - DC was the last driver to make a scheduled stop.

Rival engineers may now be able to deduce that the McLaren fuel tank is big enough to allow the car to do 56 laps of Monaco - but they will never know for sure if it was full to the brim at the start, or if it was empty when he stopped! The other factor is that when he was stuck behind Trulli, David had the option of driving in fuel-saving mode, which may have won him back an extra lap or two. Eddie Irvine admitted he'd done exactly that when behind team-mate Johnny Herbert early on.

The 22 laps after his stop passed without incident for David. At first he kept the gap to second man Frentzen at a constant 16s, and after the German crashed on lap 71, he was able to relax. His lap times dropped from 1m22s to 1m24s, and new second man Barrichello cut the gap from 24s to 15s by the flag. The only danger was that by slowing, his concentration would fade, and he would make a mistake. But David was equal to the task, and took a well-deserved win.

The question that will never be answered is what might have happened had David (or indeed Hakkinen) had a clear, Jordan-free run at Schumacher from the start. But then that all comes back to qualifying...

For Autosport.com's full race report, click here.

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