2000 French Grand Prix
|Race 9 of 17 in the 2000 Formula One season|
|Date||2 July 2000|
|Official name||LXXXVI Mobil 1 Grand Prix de France|
|Location||Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours, Magny-Cours, France|
|Course||Permanent racing facility|
|Course length||4.251 km (2.641 mi)|
|Distance||72 laps, 306.072 km (190.184 mi)|
|Weather||Sunny, dry, Air Temp: 27°C|
|Time||1:19.479 on lap 28|
The 2000 French Grand Prix (formally the LXXXVI Mobil 1 Grand Prix de France) was a Formula One motor race held on 2 July 2000 at the Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours, Magny-Cours, France. It was the ninth race of the 2000 Formula One season and the 86th French Grand Prix. The race, contested over 72 laps, was won by McLaren driver David Coulthard after starting from second position. His team-mate Mika Häkkinen finished second with Rubens Barrichello third for the Ferrari team.
Coulthard started the race alongside Ferrari driver Michael Schumacher who began from pole position. Barrichello began from third on the grid and overtook Coulthard going into the first corner. Michael Schumacher maintained his start line advantage and kept the lead after the first round of pit stops. During the course of the second stint of the race, Michael Schumacher began to struggle with tyre wear, allowing Coulthard to close the gap and passed him on lap 40. Coulthard maintained his lead through the second round of pit stops and won the race. Michael Schumacher retired on lap 59 with an engine failure promoting Häkkinen into second position. Barrichello took third, ahead of BAR driver Jacques Villeneuve in fourth.
The race was Coulthard's third victory of the season, his first at Magny-Cours, and the result meant that he reduced Michael Schumacher's points advantage in the Drivers' Championship to twelve points. Häkkinen remained third on 38 points, six ahead of Barrichello. In the Constructors' Championship, McLaren's one-two finish allowed them to narrow the gap to Ferrari to be six points behind, with eight races of the season remaining.
The Grand Prix was contested by eleven teams, each of two drivers. The teams, also known as constructors were, McLaren, Ferrari, Jordan, Jaguar, Williams, Benetton, Prost, Sauber, Arrows, Minardi and BAR. Tyre supplier Bridgestone brought two different tyre types to the race: the Soft and the Medium dry compound tyres.
Going into the race, Ferrari driver Michael Schumacher led the Drivers' Championship with 56 points, ahead of David Coulthard on 34 points and Mika Häkkinen on 32. Rubens Barrichello was fourth with 28 points while Giancarlo Fisichella was fifth on 18 points. In the Constructors' Championship, Ferrari were leading with 84 points, McLaren and Benetton were second and third with 66 and 18 points respectively, while Williams with 15 and Jordan with ten contended for fourth place. Ferrari and McLaren had so far dominated the Championship, winning the previous eight races. Championship competitors Fisichella and Barrichello had gained second-place finishes while Ralf Schumacher and Heinz-Harald Frentzen had achieved third place podium finishes.
Following the Canadian Grand Prix on 18 June, the teams conducted testing sessions at the Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours between 21–23 June to prepare for the upcoming French Grand Prix. Coulthard set the fastest times on the first day, ahead of McLaren test driver Olivier Panis. Arrows driver Jos Verstappen lost control of his car after suffering a mechanical problem and crashed into the barriers at turn two. Verstappen sustained neck strain and withdrew from testing. He was later passed fit to compete in the Grand Prix. Coulthard remained fastest on the second day. Fisichella damaged the underside of his car's chassis, limiting his testing time as Benetton made repairs to his car. Häkkinen was quickest on the final day of testing. Michael Schumacher stopped on circuit as his Ferrari engine failed, causing his team to fit a new engine into the chassis. Ferrari went to their private testing facility, the Fiorano Circuit, on 27 June where test driver Luca Badoer shook down three Ferrari F1-2000 cars and also took part in pit stop practices.
After a poor race in Canada, where he stalled on the grid before the formation lap before receiving a 10-second stop-go penalty as his mechanics worked on his car 15 seconds before the race started, Coulthard said that Ferrari could still be caught in the season's nine remaining races: "We have to look towards Magny-Cours and put this (Montreal) race behind us. The championship is not over yet and although we cannot change what happened in Canada, we can try to close the gap." Former World Champion and President of the British Racing Drivers Club (BRDC) Jackie Stewart backed Coulthard to clinch the title after Häkkinen's continuing run of poor results. Michael Schumacher came into the race confident that his car would perform well at the circuit. Benetton team principal Flavio Briatore played down his team's chances saying, "We need a miracle to finish on the podium."
On 19 June, eleven days before the events first free practice sessions took place, it was announced that Benetton would use Renault engines for the 2001 season. The Jordan team confirmed ten days later that their cars would use Honda engines for the following year replacing previous engine supplier Mugen. On 30 June it was announced by McLaren that Coulthard had signed a one-year extension to his contract with the team, ending rumours that his seat was in imminent danger.
Practice and qualifying
Four practice sessions were held before the Sunday race—two on Friday, and two on Saturday. The Friday morning and afternoon sessions each lasted an hour. The third and final practice sessions were held on Saturday morning and lasted 45 minutes. The Friday morning and afternoon practice sessions were held in dry and hot weather conditions. Michael Schumacher set the fastest time in the first practice session, a 1:16.474, two-tenths of a second quicker than Häkkinen. Prost driver Nick Heidfeld was third fastest, ahead of Ralf Schumacher. The two Jaguar drivers were fifth and seventh, Eddie Irvine ahead of Johnny Herbert. The pair were separated by Fisichella in sixth. Jean Alesi, Pedro de la Rosa and Jenson Button completed the top ten fastest drivers in the session. Four drivers did not set lap times: Coulthard's car developed an mechanical fuel pump problem, Barrichello drove one installation lap to conserve tyres and both Jordan drivers decided to sit out the session. In the second practice session, Coulthard had a trouble-free session and was fastest with a time of 1:16.253; Häkkinen finished with the second fastest time. The Ferraris were second and fourth, Michael Schumacher was faster than Barrichello. Sauber's Mika Salo was fifth quickest, ahead of Fisichella. Trulli, Heidfeld, Ralf Schumacher and Frentzen followed in the top ten.
The weather remained dry and hot for the Saturday morning practice sessions. Coulthard set the fastest time of the third practice session, a 1:15.965. Häkkinen was second fastest, almost two-tenths of a second off Coulthard's pace. The two Jordan drivers were running quicker; Trulli in third and Frentzen in fourth. Both Jaguars continued to be quick with Irvine fifth and Herbert eighth. The two were separated by Michael Schumacher and Button. Barrichello and de la Rosa rounded out the top ten. In the final practice session, Coulthard was unable to improve his time because of an engine failure though he remained fastest. Häkkinen managed to set a quicker time and remained with the second quickest lap. Barrichello ran quicker and was third fastest, in front of Ralf Schumacher. The Jordan drivers remained fastest–Trulli was fifth and Frentzen sixth–their best times two thousands of a second apart. Irvine was seventh quickest, ahead of Michael Schumacher who concentrated on qualifying set-up. Button and Herbert completed the top ten ahead of qualifying.
Saturday's afternoon qualifying session lasted for an hour. Each driver was limited to twelve laps, with the grid order decided by the drivers' fastest laps. During this session, the 107% rule was in effect, which necessitated each driver set a time within 107% of the quickest lap to qualify for the race. The qualifying session was held in dry and hot weather conditions. The air temperature ranged between 27–28 °C (81–82 °F) and the track temperature ranged from 33–35 °C (91–95 °F). Michael Schumacher clinched his fourth pole position of the season, his third at the circuit, with a time of 1:15.632. He was joined on the front row of the grid by Coulthard with his fastest time was 0.102 seconds slower and used his team's spare monocoque while the McLaren mechanics fitted his race car with a new fuel pump. Barrichello secured third having changed his car's set-up during the session which garnered confusion over changes in the ride height. Häkkinen took fourth and was pushed down to his position by Barrichello with the Finn struggling in the slow speed corners. Ralf Schumacher qualified fifth and was happy with his starting position. Irvine was pushed down by Ralf Schumacher to sixth in the closing stages of qualifying. BAR driver Jacques Villeneuve managed seventh. The Jordan drivers of Trulli and Frentzen took seventh and eighth positions respectively although both drivers were disappointed with their performance. Button rounded out the top ten fastest qualifiers. Herbert, who took eleventh, missed out in qualifying in the top ten by nearly three-tenths of a second. Salo captured twelfth on the grid with his fastest time set when air and track temperatures were lowered by cloud cover. He was ahead of de la Rosa in the faster of the two Arrows. Fisichella started from 14th position, nearly one-tenth of a second in front of Benetton team-mate Alexander Wurz; both drivers complained that their cars had balance and grip issues. The two were split by Pedro Diniz in the other Sauber and Heidfeld. Alesi followed up in 18th. Ricardo Zonta set the 19th fastest time and used BAR's spare car when an engine failure on his race car occurred. Verstappen and the two Minardi drivers Marc Gené and Gastón Mazzacane qualified at the rear of the grid, covering positions 20 to 22. After the qualifying session, but before the warm-up period, the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) safety delegate, Charlie Whiting announced that he had banned practice starts at the pit lane exit after observing the drivers' behaviour in the area during the Saturday free practice sessions.
The conditions on the grid were dry before the race. The air temperature ranged from 27–28 °C (81–82 °F) and the track temperature was between 38–39 °C (100–102 °F); conditions were expected to remain consistent throughout the race. The drivers took to the track at 09:30 CEST (UTC+2) for a 30-minute warm-up session. Both McLaren cars maintained their good pace from qualifying; Häkkinen had the fastest time of 1:19.329. Coulthard was second in the other McLaren car. Michael Schumacher set the third fastest time with Trulli rounding out the top four. Michael Schumacher drove the spare Ferrari car and his race car, making adjustments to the changeable weather conditions.
The race started at 14:00 local time. All drivers started on the Extra Soft dry compound tyres. Coulthard managed to achieve a better start of the front runners off the line, though Michael Schumacher moved into the McLaren driver's path to defend his lead. Coulthard then moved to his right allowing Barrichello to pass him for second position. Salo made the best start in the field moving from twelfth to ninth by the end of the first lap, while Irvine lost four positions over the same distance as Ralf Schumacher dropped from fifth to seventh. At the completition of the first lap, the order was Michael Schumacher, Barrichello, Coulthard, Häkkinen, Villeneuve, Frentzen, Ralf Schumacher, Trulli, Salo, Irvine, Button, Herbert, de la Rosa, Heidfeld, Alesi, Fisichella, Verstappen, Zonta, Diniz, Wurz, Gené and Mazzacane.
Michael Schumacher began to pull clear from the rest of the field and set consecutive fastest laps. Barrichello began to hold up the McLaren drivers to allow his team-mate to extend his lead. Further down the field, Trulli passed Ralf Schumacher to take seventh position on lap two. Heidfeld was overtaken by Alesi for 14th on the same lap. On the following lap, Ralf Schumacher retook seventh position from Trulli. Heidfeld lost a further position to Fisichella on lap four. Ralf Schumacher started to challenge Frentzen for sixth position on the fifth lap. At the front of the pack, Michael Schumacher was in control, extending his lead over Barrichello to five seconds by lap ten. Button took tenth position from Irvine on lap twelve, while Heidfeld collided with Alesi, sending his team-mate into a spin who rejoined down in 18th. Button moved into ninth place when he passed Salo on lap 13. Zonta, who was running 17th, suffered brake problems on lap 17 and collided with the tyre barriers which caused him to retire from the Grand Prix.
By the 18th lap, Michael Schumacher had extended his lead over Barrichello by 6.2 seconds, who in turn was continuing to hold up Coulthard in third. Häkkinen was a further 1.4 seconds behind his team-mate but was drawing ahead of Villeneuve in fifth. Herbert made an unscheduled pit stop due to a gearbox issue and retired two laps later. Meanwhile, on the same lap, Alesi became the first driver to pit for tyres on the same lap. Trulli became the first front runner to pit on lap 21, followed by Villeneuve, Frentzen and Ralf Schumacher. Coulthard managed to take Barrichello on lap 22 for second place at turn five. Häkkinen, Button, Michael Schumacher, Coulthard and Barrichello all pitted over the following three laps. Verstappen pulled onto the side of the pit straight to retire with gearbox problems on lap 26. Coulthard was able to close the gap on Michael Schumacher to under a second by lap 32, having set the fastest lap of the race in the process, a 1:19.479 on the 28th lap. He attempted to overtake his rival two laps later but the Ferrari driver defended his position. Coulthard lifted off the throttle to avoid a collision and made a hand gesture towards Michael Schumacher. The manoeuvre allowed Häkkinen to close up on the two leading drivers. On the previous lap, Mazzacane spun off at the third corner and retired.
Wurz locked his brakes going into turn 15, causing him to beach his car in the gravel trap and retired on lap 36. Button became the first driver to pit twice on lap 39. Coulthard replicated his manoeuvre into turn five on Michael Schumacher on lap 40, with the Ferrari driver pushed to the side of the track by Coulthard who took the lead. Michael Schumacher's right front wheel made slight contact with Coulthard's left front tyre in the process. Michael Schumacher then immediately withstood Häkkinen's attempts to overtake him. Frentzen and de la Rosa became the next two drivers to make pit stops on the same lap. Michael Schumacher and Häkkinen pitted for the second time on lap 43 and both emerged in third and fourth respectively. Barrichello's pit stop on the 44th lap saw him drop to fifth after his team had issues with fitting his right front tyre. Coulthard and Ralf Schumacher pitted over the next two laps. At the completition of lap 48, with the frontrunners completing their pit stops, the order was Coulthard, Michael Schumacher, Häkkinen, Barrichello, Villeneuve, Trulli, Ralf Schumacher, Frentzen, Button, Fisichella, Salo, Diniz, Heidfeld, Irvine, Alesi and Gené.
At the tail-end of the field, Gené and Alesi made contact on lap 52 and both drivers were sent spinning sideways. Both drivers continued in their respective positions. Further up, Ralf Schumacher passed Trulli to clinch sixth position at turn five. Häkkinen, meanwhile, was less than one second behind Michael Schumacher by lap 53 and continued to battle the Ferrari driver for second position as his tyres degraded quicker than the McLarens. Irvine overtook Diniz for twelfth position two laps later. Michael Schumacher pulled over to the side of the track with an blown engine on lap 59. Häkkinen was promoted to second place as a result of Michael Schumacher's retirement. Coulthard crossed the finish line on lap 72 to take his third victory of the season in a time of 1'38:05.538, at an average speed of 116.330 miles per hour (187.215 km/h). Häkkinen finished second 14.7 seconds behind, ahead of Barrichello in third, Villeneuve in fourth, Ralf Schumacher in fifth and Trulli rounded out the points scoring positions in sixth. Frentzen, Button, Fisichella, Salo, Diniz and Heidfeld followed in the next six positions, with Irvine, Alesi and Gené the last of the classified finishers.
The top three drivers appeared on the podium to collect their trophies and in the subsequent press conference. Coulthard described his race weekend as "exhausting" because of the problems his team encountered during the event. He also apologised for the hand gestures he made towards Michael Schumacher after his first overtaking manoeuvre on the Ferrari driver. Häkkinen stated that he was happy with his second-place result and praised his team's efforts. He also spoke of how he watched Michael Schumacher's racing lines and believed he would have passed him had he not retired with an engine failure. Barrichello revealed that he was ordered by Ferrari to reduce his pace in the race's closing stages as he held a large gap of 35 seconds to Villeneuve.
After Ferrari's victory at the previous race, their team principal Jean Todt, said that "we seemed to be in a strong position but, of course, it is the order at the finish that counts", while Michael Schumacher said that his car's tyres dropped in performance after taking his first pit stop. McLaren technical director Adrian Newey said that the pit stop strategy was crucial in winning the race: "The tyre wear did not spring any surprises on us and we were able to trust our estimations and co-ordinate the pit-stops to our best advantage." Villeneuve was happy with his strong finish and was surprised by his good start. Heidfeld, who made contact with his team-mate Alesi during the race, apologised for the collision. Ralf Schumacher said that he reduced his pace to secure his fifth position. Trulli described his race as "difficult" because of the hot temperatures though he praised his mechanics for their work.
The overtaking manoeuvres made by Coulthard on Michael Schumacher received much media attention after the race. Coulthard accused the Ferrari driver of unsporting behaviour and dangerous driving, saying: "I had a clean run at Michael on the outside and equally I felt he drove me wide. You could say he had the right to do that because he had the track position, but I think it was a deliberate gesture in trying to run someone wide like that and I was very angry." Michael Schumacher later denied any wrongdoing and citied an similar incident at the 1999 Japanese Grand Prix where Coulthard pushed him wide although no objections were made. He also admitted that he did not see Coulthard's hand gesture. Coulthard sought clarification with the FIA over such overtakes with a source from Formula One's governing body noting: "It was hard racing -- they are racing drivers aren't they?" GrandPrix.com said that Coulthard's overtake meant that "He is ready to stand up to Michael and he is not afraid of what will happen if Michael does not lift."
The race result meant that Coulthard narrowed the gap to Michael Schumacher in the Drivers' Championship to twelve points. Häkkinen remained in third place, six points ahead of Barrichello. Fisichella behind them maintained fifth position. In the Constructors' Championship, McLaren's one-two finish reduced the lead of Ferrari to six points. Williams made up two points on the Benetton team, although they were still one point behind. Jordan retained fifth on eleventh points, with eight races of the season remaining.
Standings after the race
- Note: Only the top five positions are included for both sets of standings.
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2001 French Grand Prix