Race report: Coulthard win narrows the gap

David Coulthard moved to within four points of world championship leader Michael Schumacher with victory in the Austrian Grand Prix. The McLaren driver was made to fight hard by Rubens Barrichello in the closing laps, but a series of ultra-quick laps before his one and only pit stop provided the slimmest of cushions for the Scot to hang on, post-pit stop, until the chequered flag

Race report: Coulthard win narrows the gap

Ferrari finished second and third, with Schumacher coming home behind Coulthard after being let through by Barrichello on the final corner of the final lap. Before that somewhat artificial helping hand, the German had had to fight back up the order following a clash with early leader Juan Pablo Montoya's Williams.

Coulthard's win, his second of the season, came from seventh on the grid, and although he was helped somewhat by the Montoya/Schumacher incident, it was a flawless performance - and one based on the gamble of starting with a heavier fuel load to maximise the tactical options.

"From where I was, it was important to start with a heavy fuel load and give myself options. The safety car period after the start definitley helped us," said the Scot, who declined spraying the champagne following the tragic death of Mercedes engine-maker Ilmor Engineering's co-founder Paul Morgan in a plane crash on Saturday.

Montoya and his team mate Ralf Schumacher had scorched into a one-two lead at the start, with Schumacher senior slotting into third after a tardy start. But behind them, chaos reigned as Mika Hakkinen's McLaren-Mercedes, both Jordan-Hondas and the Sauber of Nick Heidfeld all failed to get off the line. It seems that there's still work to be done as the teams work to perfect their launch and traction control systems...

"We simply don't know what it was yet," said Hakkinen. "We'll investigate tonight and see if it was a driver problem or a car problem."

Recalling his start, Schumacher said: "We had some sort of problem. It didn't start in the way it should and basically I had to do a manual start. These systems are still very new and I'm sure that others will get surprises too."

All bar Heinz-Harald Frentzen were finally able to get moving again, but Hakkinen managed only a couple of lacklustre tours before driving into his garage for good.

On his title chances, the Finn simply shrugged that, "it doesn't look too promising, does it?"

After a safety car period to move various stranded machines, the Williams pair continued to lead, until Ralf Schumacher pulled into the pits and into retirement with a rear suspension failure.

Just a handful of laps later, Montoya's Michelins began to wilt mid-stint and the chasing pack closed up, leading to the clash between the Colombian and the reigning world champion on lap 16. Schumacher went down the inside on the kink before turn three, but that turned into the outside line for the right-hander itself. But Montoya left it too late on the brakes and pushed both cars wide, dropping them to sixth and seventh.

"I was a little bit upset," recalled Schumacher. "No way was he going to make that corner. It wasn't ideal and you can be sure I'll be having a word with him later."

Schumacher fought back to third, behind Coulthard, but it was Barrichello in the lead and looking reasonably comfortable before the Ferraris pitted on lap 46 (Schumacher) and lap 47 (Barrichello).

Coulthard, however, stayed out until the end of lap 50 and pushed hard in those critical extra laps on his light fuel load. He reappeared ahead of Barrichello and, despite occasional problems with traffic in the closing laps, managed to pull out a gap of over two seconds by the time the cars entered the final lap.

But with Schumacher Ferrari's main hope for the title, the signal was given to Barrichello and the Brazilian somewhat reluctantly (and unsurprisingly) pulled wide on the final corner.

Afterwards, his terse comments made it clear that Rubens was a relatively unhappy participant in the plan.
"The team asked me to do that," he grimaced when questioned, before adding: "But I'm mostly unhappy because I was leading for almost the whole Grand Prix before David went longer on his first stint and won the race."

Ferrari technical director Ross Brawn explained that on this occasion it hadn't been a tactical victory for McLaren - just an ability to go further on a tank of fuel.

"It wasn't a voluntary choice," he said. "We went as far as we could go. Montoya obviously screwed Michael's race."

On the subject of team orders, he was equally unabashed, adding: "We've got a championship to think about. We were hoping Rubens would have a go at David, but it wasn't to be."

With Jordan basically out of the picture and Hakkinen too, that allowed a couple of lesser lights to shine. Jos Verstappen's low-fueled Arrows held second in the early stages, before peeling off for the first of its two stops, while rookie sensation Kimi Raikkonen put in another blinder for Sauber. In the end, the Finn was fourth, with Olivier Panis and Jos Verstappen completing the top six.

In the world championship standings, Schumacher now has 42 points, with Coulthard on 38 and Barrichello third on 18 points. Best of the rest is Schumacher Jr with 12, followed by Nick Heidfeld on 8. Amazingly, Hakkinen sits a lowly equal 10th, still with just those four points to his name.

In the constructors' standings, the gap remains the same as it was, with Ferrari moving on to 60 points and McLaren up to 42. Williams is third with 18.

For full race results, click here.

Schuey nonplussed by Montoya's driving

Previous article

Schuey nonplussed by Montoya's driving

Next article

Unhappy Rubens to talk team orders with Ferrari

Unhappy Rubens to talk team orders with Ferrari
Load comments
The floundering fortunes of F1’s many Lotus reboots Plus

The floundering fortunes of F1’s many Lotus reboots

Team Lotus ceased to exist in 1994 - and yet various parties have been trying to resurrect the hallowed name, in increasingly unrecognisable forms, ever since. DAMIEN SMITH brings GP Racing’s history of the legendary team to an end with a look at those who sought to keep the flame alive in Formula 1

Why the 2021 title fight is far from F1's worst, despite its toxic background Plus

Why the 2021 title fight is far from F1's worst, despite its toxic background

OPINION: Formula 1 reconvenes for the Russian Grand Prix two weeks after the latest blow in ‘Max Verstappen vs Lewis Hamilton’. While the Silverstone and Monza incidents were controversial, they thankfully lacked one element that so far separates the 2021 title fight from the worst examples of ugly championship battles

How F1’s other champion to emerge from 1991 thrived at Lotus Plus

How F1’s other champion to emerge from 1991 thrived at Lotus

Mika Hakkinen became Michael Schumacher’s biggest rival in Formula 1 in the late-90s and early 2000s, having also made his F1 debut in 1991. But as MARK GALLAGHER recalls, while Schumacher wowed the world with a car that was eminently capable, Hakkinen was fighting to make his mark with a famous team in terminal decline

Formula 1
Sep 21, 2021
The forgotten F1 comeback that began Jordan’s odyssey  Plus

The forgotten F1 comeback that began Jordan’s odyssey 

Before Michael Schumacher – or anyone else – had driven the 191 (or 911 as it was initially called), Eddie Jordan turned to a fellow Irishman to test his new Formula 1 car. JOHN WATSON, a grand prix winner for Penske and McLaren, recalls his role in the birth of a legend…

Formula 1
Sep 20, 2021
The squandered potential of a 70s F1 underdog Plus

The squandered potential of a 70s F1 underdog

A podium finisher in its first outing but then never again, the BRM P201 was a classic case of an opportunity squandered by disorganisation and complacency, says STUART CODLING

Formula 1
Sep 18, 2021
The other notable Monza escape that F1 should learn from Plus

The other notable Monza escape that F1 should learn from

OPINION: The headlines were dominated by the Italian Grand Prix crash between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton, who had the halo to thank for avoiding potentially serious injury. But two days earlier, Formula 1 had a lucky escape with a Monza pitlane incident that could also have had grave consequences

Formula 1
Sep 17, 2021
How Monza only added more questions to F1's sprint race conundrum Plus

How Monza only added more questions to F1's sprint race conundrum

With two sprint races under its belt, Formula 1 must now consider its options for them going forward. While they've helped deliver exciting racing on Sundays, the sprints themselves have been somewhat lacking - creating yet another conundrum for F1 to solve...

Formula 1
Sep 16, 2021
Who should Alfa Romeo sign for 2022's F1 season? Plus

Who should Alfa Romeo sign for 2022's F1 season?

OPINION: With Valtteri Bottas already signed up for 2022, all eyes are on the race for the second seat at Alfa Romeo next year. Antonio Giovinazzi is the current incumbent, but faces a tough competition from appealing short and long-term prospects

Formula 1
Sep 15, 2021