Wednesday May 23rd, 2001
Mika Hakkinen stalled at the start of the Austrian Grand Prix because he made a mistake, his McLaren teammate David Coulthard said on Wednesday.
"My understanding is that he did the wrong thing, so it was a driver error," the Scot told a news conference before Sunday's Formula One race in Monaco. "That can happen at any time. I could make the same mistake, but hopefully not."
This was the second time Hakkinen had been stranded on the grid this season. The twice world champion has taken just four points in six races while Coulthard is second in the title race with 38. The Briton also stalled at the Spanish Grand Prix last month but rescued the situation to finish fifth after starting at the back of the grid.
His problem was diagnosed as a system problem with the new electronic launch control software but only after team boss Ron Dennis had publicly accused him of 'brain fade'.
Coulthard, who won in Monte Carlo last year, said he would be using the system again in Monaco despite fears raised by some drivers that there could be a repeat of the situation in Austria, where four cars were left behind at the start. But Coulthard was confident McLaren had overcome any problems.
"It's quicker, there's no question," said Coulthard of the system. "To rely solely on the traction control is a slower way of starting for us.
"I think that one problem we had in Barcelona was the only thing that we missed."
Coulthard said there was always a risk that someone would fail to get going at the start but was not concerned that cars might be running into the back of each other.
"OK, it's narrower here but ... the cars don't line up side by side anyway. There should be a gap to get through," he said. "In Brazil I had to miss Mika when he stopped there and then in Austria I had to miss (Italian Jordan driver) Jarno (Trulli). It's amazing, you just react.
"The only worrying thing is that whilst you are reacting to the car, you can't possibly know whether another car is alongside you. So I think that is probably the risk, that you turn into someone else rather than run into the back of the other car."
Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya, who has used the Williams launch control system to great effect since the electronics were allowed back in Barcelona after a seven-year ban, said he would also be using launch control.
"It's pretty reliable," he said. "We will definitely use it. It's a big advantage for the start. As long as people don't use it, it'll be good for us."
British American Racing team boss Craig Pollock said it would be up to his drivers, Canadian Jacques Villeneuve and Frenchman Olivier Panis, to decide on the systems. Neither driver used launch control in Austria.
"Some drivers feel more confident using it than others and I think the decision will probably be made on the morning of the race. It won't be me who makes that decision."
World champion Michael Schumacher, who started manually in Austria after problems with the Ferrari electronics, said the team had worked hard to resolve the problem.
"After Austria, I believe we have taken care of the launch control. We will test in Fiorano to develop further but not myself," Schumacher said.