Round six of the 2001 Formula 1 Season was held at the 4.326KM A1-Ring in Austria, with Michael Schumacher heading into the event with an eight point lead in the championship having won three of the first five races for Scuderia Ferrari.
Twenty-two drivers took part in the qualifying session on Saturday, and it was Schumacher who took top spot, setting a best time of 1m09.562s, 0.124s faster than Williams-BMW driver Juan Pablo Montoya.
The second row saw Ralf Schumacher, a race winner earlier in the season in San Marino, line-up in the second Williams alongside the second Ferrari of Rubens Barrichello, with the top four drivers covered by just 0.224s.
Jarno Trulli qualified fifth for Jordan-Honda, ahead of Nick Heidfeld of Sauber Petronas, while the McLaren-Mercedes drivers struggled, qualifying seventh with David Coulthard and eighth with Mika Hakkinen.
Finnish driver Kimi Raikkonen qualified ninth for Sauber, with Frenchman Olivier Panis completing the top ten for BAR-Honda.
Schumacher got away slowly at the start from pole position, and fell to third behind the two Williams drivers, with Montoya ahead of Ralf Schumacher. Behind them however there was chaos, with four drivers being left stranded on the grid. Trulli, Heidfeld, Hakkinen and Heinz-Harald Frentzen all failed to get away, all struggling with the recently introduced launch control systems.
The safety car was deployed to clear the track of the stranded cars, with Frentzen retiring on the spot and Hakkinen calling it a day after one slow lap around the track.
Trulli rejoined the track first but was disqualified for going through the red light on pit exit as the train behind the safety car passed the pits. Heidfeld was the only driver to successfully return to the track, but the Sauber driver was never in contention for the rest of the afternoon.
Montoya continued to lead at the restart, followed by the Schumacher brothers and Barrichello, with Coulthard up to fifth ahead of Eddie Irvine in the Jaguar, Jos Verstappen in the Arrows, Raikkonen and Panis.
Verstappen soon found his way past Irvine, closely followed by Raikkonen and Panis, while BAR driver Jacques Villeneuve spun attempting to follow Arrows driver Enrique Bernoldi through past the Jaguar driver.
Ralf Schumacher retired on the tenth lap due to braking issues from second, but Montoya still held the lead, although his Michelin tyres were beginning to suffer graining.
Michael Schumacher was soon on his tail as well as Barrichello, with Verstappen now fourth after passing Coulthard also on the back of the Ferrari’s. The group grew still further with Coulthard and then Raikkonen moving onto the pack, with the six cars running nose-to-tail for a number of laps.
Michael Schumacher made an attempt to pass Montoya heading into turn two after a few laps of looking at the gearbox of the Williams, but the Colombian driver was forceful in his defence, with the two drivers running off track, narrowly avoiding a collision. Barrichello took the lead from Verstappen, Coulthard and Raikkonen, with Schumacher rejoining sixth behind Panis, with Montoya falling behind Bernoldi and into eighth.
Verstappen soon pitted from second, allowing Coulthard to challenge Barrichello for the lead, with the McLaren driver getting ahead during the pit stops. The Scottish driver was not as fast as either Ferrari driver in the final stint, but held on to take his second victory of the season, having won in Brazil.
Schumacher managed to fight his way back up to third ahead of Raikkonen, Panis and Verstappen, and was allowed to finish second on the final lap exiting the final corner by team-mate Barrichello, with Jean Todt calling the shots on the pit wall. The same switch would happen a year later with far more controversial ramifications.
Raikkonen finished fourth for his best result of his career up to then, with Panis fifth ahead of a two-stopping Verstappen. Montoya had climbed back up to fourth following his altercation with Michael Schumacher, but was unfortunately forced to retire due to a hydraulics problem on lap 41, meaning a double retirement for the Williams team that started the race so strongly.
Schumacher still led the championship but by a reduced margin of just four points from Coulthard, with Barrichello a further twenty points back in third.
2001 Austrian Grand Prix Race Result (Top 10)
|6||14||Jos Verstappen||NED||Arrows-Asiatech||+1 Lap|
|7||18||Eddie Irvine||GBR||Jaguar-Cosworth||+1 Lap|
|8||10||Jacques Villeneuve||CAN||BAR-Honda||+1 Lap|
|9||16||Nick Heidfeld||GER||Sauber-Petronas||+2 Laps|
|10||22||Jean Alesi||FRA||Prost-Acer||+2 Laps|