Formula one, 2001 season Monaco Grand Prix at Monte Carlo: Practice and Qualifying the jpoc guide
When the teams assembled at Monaco for the GP, there were many topics of interest. Most particularly, how would Jaguar, Benneton and Prost get on with their new aero packages and what would happen at the start. If anything, it was more interesting to speculate on who might have launch control problems than on who would make it to pole.

Weather also loomed as a factor with cloud forecast for pretty well the whole meeting and rain a strong possibility for Saturday qualifying. Even without rain, cloud still has a randomising factor as it can make for sudden and substantial changes in air and track temperaures.

Jordan for one made a public statement to the effect that they would not use launch control for the start despite also claiming that they have identified and fixed the problem that left both cars on the grid at the start of the Austrian Race two weeks earlier. Those teams and drivers who spoke about it seemed to take the approach that if their system worked and they trusted it, they would use it and, if not, they would turn it off. This seemed like a suggestion that rationality had broken out in the F1 paddock and, as I could not believe that, I assumed that they were all making it up as they went along.

Ron Dennis for one was being staunchly confident and said that his drivers would use the system and that they would both get away without problems.

All of this was thrown into confusion by a new ruling to the effect that the drivers were to be allowed to make one launch control practice start at the end of each of the five untimed sessions before the race. These starts would be made from the grid area itself which is better for the teams than starting from the pitlane which will normally have different tarmac and less rubber on the top.

When the cars finally made it onto the track for the first practice runs, the main point of interest was the new Arrows development which appeared to involve putting a clothes rail on the front of the car. I guess that it would give the driver somewhere to hang his socks but it was such a silly looking idea that it was almost certainly bound to be found to infringe F1's rule about not looking like Monty Python's Forumla One team.

Of course, the times in the opening sessions of an F1 weekend mean little. Especially at a street circuit where there is no regular race use to lay down a film of sticky rubber on the track surface. At least, that's what Jenson "five seconds slower than Schumi" Button will have been telling his boss Falvio Briatore.

Little changed for the second untimed session, Jordan joined the joke wing club with what looked like a groin mounted satellite dish for driver Trulli and Button closed to within just four and a half seconds of fastest man Hakkinen. This led to boy wonder saying that he was pleased that the team is making progress. Well, there is nothing wrong with optimism but fantasy is something else.

At the end of the first day the FIA exercised their rule about nothing being allowed if it would make the viewers laugh and banned the novelty wings seen on the Arrows and Jordan cars.

It was not until the final untimed session on Saturday morning that the timesheets seemed to be telling a true tale and there were a few real anomalies which, if they were a sign of things to come were interesting indeed. Chief anomaly was Eddie Irvine who had managed to set fifth fastest time in the Jaguar and another good showing was from Jean Alesi who had set a top ten time in the Prost. Both drivers were clear team leaders with their team mates' cars well back. That accounted for two of the three teams arriving with major new developments so what of Benneton? They had not done so well but, getting the cars into 13th and 14th places will have been encouraging indeed.

When the qualifying hour finally came around, the result was close to recent form at the front of the grid with the two world championship contenders on the front row. Coulthard pipping Schumacher by two tenths after the German put his car into the barriers in a bid for pole. Behind them were the other McLaren and Ferrari and then Ralf Schumacher in the first Williams but after the top five, the surprises began.

In sixth lay Eddie Irvine, the new aero and suspension tweaks obviously having come good. Irvine, one second down on pole, was just ahead of Juan Pablo who was doing a fine job to be just two places (albeit almost three quarters of a second) down on his team mate. The Colombian was no doubt helped by his experience at the track from his F3000 days. Next up were the leading Jordan and BAR followed by the next surprises as Fisichella got his Benetton into the top ten and in eleventh place was Jean Alesi in the first Prost. So all three of the teams arriving with major new developments had seen a dramatic leap up the qualifying order. This at Monaco where grid position is so important.

The slower Jaguar, Benetton and Prost cars were all someway back from their team leaders and the only other significantly away from its normally position was the Minardi of Fernando Alonso who was eighteenth ahead of both Arrows and the second Prost as well as his team mate.
The whole 2001 season All the races and the behind the scenes games
GP of Monaco at Monte Carlo May 27th Setting the Scene
GP of Monaco at Monte Carlo May 27th Off track developments
GP of Monaco at Monte Carlo May 27th The starting grid
GP of Monaco at Monte Carlo May 27th Race report
GP of Monaco at Monte Carlo May 27th Results
GP of Monaco at Monte Carlo May 27th Championship standings after the race
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