Formula one, 2001 season Hungarian Grand Prix at The Hungaroring: Setting the scene: the jpoc report

Normally, in the summer, F1 observers have a lot of fun trying to work out who will drive for which teams in the following season. In 2001, there was an additional layer of speculation as it looked likely that three teams would face a driver change in the remaining races of the year.

Speculation about the occupant of the second Jordan seat continued in high gear after the Hockenheim race. Japanese F2 ace Takuma Sato was rumoured to be in the frame as a move to please engine supplier Honda. Of course, it was also inevitable that teen idol Jenson Button was also proposed for the position but really anyone suggesting that was mostly trying to gain attention or circulation sales. Button himself denied the rumours. He was getting a lot of practice at that. Sato is not so experienced and so it was up to his entourage to deny the rumours.

After those two drivers had been taken out of the frame, all attention focussed on Prost driver Jean Alesi. On the face of it this could be good for Prost and Alesi. For Prost the main benefit would of course be financial if they could get some money from Jordan for the driver's contract but, if it all went sour in the courts, there would be no money for anyone but the lawyers. For Alesi, the benefits of moving from Prost to Jordan were clear. Seen from Jordan's point of view, on the plus side, Alesi is quick when he is fired up and he has driven for Jordan in the days before either party made the transition into F1. On the downside, there is probably nothing worse for an F1 team than having Alesi throw a tantrum or a sulk.

Once the Alesi-Jordan deal was done, we had a new question: who would drive for Prost? Who could Alain afford or whould he take a pay driver? In the end, perhaps because nobody could bother to be really Machievellian in the August heat, Prost accepted Frentzen as a part exchange. At heart, F1 team bosses are all used car dealers. It's just that they do it with human beings for millions of dollars. That aside, it does day some interesting things about the deal. Prost were pretty much bereft of cash and Jean Alesi had complained that he was not being paid. The team was unlikely to be able to pay Frentzen and, by not taking a pay driver, they were turning down a potential couple of million dollars. So, where did the money come from to swing the deal in Frentzen's direction? Perhaps from Jordan in the form of a buy out of Alesi's contract or the payment of Frentzen's fee for the rest of the year. Perhaps we would see some of Heinz-Harald's sponsors coming over to the team. The most likely option though might have been the long expected cash injection from Pedro Diniz. Of course, nobody was actually going to spill the beans.

Alesi being Alesi, as soon as the ink was dry he went onto the offensive and started slagging off Prost saying that he wanted to quit for weeks before the Jordan deal was done. Nice one Jean. That must be why you were doing all of those doughnuts and dancing with joy with your team mechanics every time that you scored a point. What about all of those protestations that Alain was your best mate too?

The third team looking to change its driver line up was Minardi. The team had been very unhappy with the back of grid performances of Tarso Marques and were looking for a way to replace him. They announced that the Malaysian Alex Yoong would drive for them as soon as he was able to receive a superlicence. Tarso Marques looked to be safe for the Hungaroring but after that, his fate was in the hands of the FIA. Eventually, Minardi team chief Paul Stoddart said that Yoong would not be ready until September at the earliest and so Marques was safe in his seat for the Hungarian race. Immediately after the Hungaroring event, Minardi planned a final test session for Yoong which everyone, bar Marques, hoped would be the last before the Malaysian's first race drive in F1.

If Jordan and Prost were looking to take new drivers to the Hungaroring, Benetton at least were actually bringing some new parts for their cars. While they were still way down on power, their performance at the Hockeinheimring at the previous race indicated that at least they were getting some sort of reliability. New for the Hungarian race would be a revised aerodynamic configuration. Benetton also hoped to be able to give Jenson "limp wrists" Button the benefit of power steering.

Another team to plan on bringing new parts to the Hungarian race were Minardi. They hoped to have some new aerodynamic compmnents and a revised gearbox. These parts would only have limited testing prior to the race though as the three week gap after the German GP was F1's official summer holiday and the teams were only allowed limited testing.

The whole 2001 season All the races and the behind the scenes games
Hungarian GP at The Hungaroring August 19th Who will use the sexiest rubber products?
Hungarian GP at The Hungaroring August 19th Who drives what?
Hungarian GP at The Hungaroring August 19th Which engine goes where?
Hungarian GP at The Hungaroring August 19th Business and politics
Hungarian GP at The Hungaroring August 19th Teams and personnel
Hungarian GP at The Hungaroring August 19th Circuit news
Hungarian GP at The Hungaroring August 19th Prospects for the race
Hungarian GP at The Hungaroring August 19th Practice and qualifying
Hungarian GP at The Hungaroring August 19th The starting grid
Hungarian GP at The Hungaroring August 19th Race report
Hungarian GP at The Hungaroring August 19th Results
Hungarian GP at The Hungaroring August 19th Championship standings after the race
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