Formula one, 2001 season Hungarian Grand Prix at The Hungaroring: Practice and Qualifying: the jpoc report

Hungaroring, Friday. Everyone was there. For this curcuit, dominated by slow corners and bereft of long straights, all of the teams brought along high downforce packages. These involved more elements in the wings, steeper angles of incidence and a proliferation of joke wings tagged onto odd parts of the bodywork. If you can try to imagine a formula 1 car getting dressed up to go to a fetish convention, you have got the idea.

Some teams said that they had new aero packages but really this is pretty meaningless. This type of setup is really only used here and at Monaco and, given that they are half a season apart and that everyone does development faster than that, nobody was arriving with an aero package that had been used at an earlier race. Apart from the aero stuff, Williams turned up with cooling chimneys and Minardi had a new titanium gearbox and rear suspension but these were only available for Alonso's car on the first day though a second set was made available to Marques on Saturday. Benetton would turn out with some special brew qualifying engines on Saturday.

On Friday's first session, it was two Ferraris followed by two McLarens at the front. As far as the championship contenders went, Michael Schumacher was fastest and Coulthard was fourth. If it stayed like that, it would be game over by Sunday. Behind them, Ralf Schumacher was the only Williams in the top ten and he was joined there by both Saubers, both BARs and Trulli's Jordan. Frentzen and Alesi were still getting used to their new cars at the back of the timesheets.

If the pressure was getting to anyone, it was getting to Coulthard as he ripped the floor out of his car on the kerbs at the chicane. Steady on there David. Coulthard's kerb may have been overdone as it was ground down for the Saturday sessions.

In the second session, there was no change in the front three places. Coulthard didn't turn a wheel as his car was not fixed from his floor ripping antics in the first outing. Irvine, Alesi and Fisichella all managed to raise some cheer by making it in to the top ten on the time sheets.

Coulthard was able to run on Saturday moning and he got back into fourth position but unless he could improve substantially the weekend was looking like a Schumacher benefit and the championship appeared to be all over.

The final session before Saturday afternoon's qualifying run saw a dramatic turning of the tables. Coulthard made it into fastest spot more than two tenths faster than second placed Michael Schumacher. It really looked as though this counted as the championship leader tried everything to better the McLaren driver and in the end he spun off onto the grass while trying to set a better time.

The Qualifying hour finally arrived and, while everyone else was busy being interviewed or just trying to get photographed in the pit lane, Minardi did their normal trick of getting a car out early and thus on the TV pictures. This weekend was the turn of Alonso and he did the business. All the way around, on the camera, no mishaps and safely back in the pits. After that, with three quarters of the hour left, Arrows sent Bernoldi out on the same mission. His effort was punctuated by the sound of McLaren firing up a Mercedes Ilmor engine. It was time for something to actually happen!

After Bernoldi set his time, slower than Alonso, Burti, Villeneuve and then Raikkonen each took a turn at setting the fastest time. Eddie Irvine bucked the trend by failing to set the fastest time and then Coulthard was out on his flying lap. It was no good though, he was quite grotesquely blocked by Frentzen in his Prost through the first two turns and his lap was toast.

Ralf Schumacher was next of the front runners to start a fast lap and he too had to find a way past the Frentzen block-a-thon but he got away with that and a locked wheel to set the fastest time so far in the session. Then, while everyone concentrated on Michael and Mika who were just about to start their flying laps, Jarno Trulli popped in a time just seven thousandths faster than Ralf Schumacher. He was a good one and a half seconds up on Alesi his new team mate.

Trulli's glory lasted no longer than it took Mika Hakkinen to complete his lap and he lowered the benchmark by a quarter of a second. Moments later though Michael Schumacher pummelled that time by a second and was the first man under the one and a quarter minute mark. That was some time indeed. Sixth placed man Juan Pablo Montoya was over two seconds down on that time and it looked as though the battle at the front might pose some problems under the 107% rule.

On his first flying lap, Rubens Barrichello made it a provisional Ferrari front row just half a second back on his team leader.

Coulthard, who had yet to set a fast time came out for his second run and, although he was four tenths down on the lead Ferrari, he did at least get past Barrichello for second spot. Any hopes that he might have had of getting pole were trashed by Michael Schumachers next run. He was almost half a second faster than before, he got out of the car, changed and went for a walk while the rest of the field were left a long way back. It was one of his most dominant qualifying sessions ever.

After that, it was all over. Schumacher had put Alonso outside the 107% limit but the Minardi man managed to do more than make it back and ended up 18th. Few of the top runners managed to improve their times after Schumacher set his pole lap and so the leading positions remained largely unchanged. Ralf Schumacher managed to get past Trulli for fourth.

Fifth was good for Trulli though. Ahead of a clearly struggling Mika Hakkinen. The rest of the top ten held two Saubers, the other Williams and Jacques Villeneuve in the first BAR. This time, Heidfeld was ahead of Raikkonen as was Montoya. In the second BAR, eleventh placed Panis missed out on the top ten by a tenth. Of the seat shufflers, Alesi was over a second down on Trulli and Frentzen was a similar distance ahead of Burti. What did that suggest? Mostly that Frentzen was getting rather more out of the Prost than had Alesi.

Alonso made good use of his modified Minardi to get ahead of both Arrows. It was a good thing that Marques was able to use the new spec car too as he was at least able to get below the 107% time.

The whole 2001 season All the races and the behind the scenes games
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 Setting the scene
Hungarian GP at The Hungaroring August 19th Prospects for the race
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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