Sunday May 27th, 2001
By Alan Baldwin
David Coulthard stalled in Sunday's Monaco Formula One Grand Prix because of a problem with his car's electronic software, McLaren boss Ron Dennis said.
"None of the problems we had were down to the drivers," he told reporters. McLaren's double world champion Mika Hakkinen retired with a mystery technical problem after the Finn had been running in second place while Coulthard, currently second in the championship, stalled on the formation lap.
The Scot had qualified on pole position but was forced to start at the back of the grid instead. Although he finished fifth, the malfunction destroyed his chances of winning the race for the second successive year and taking the championship lead from Ferrari's race winner Michael Schumacher.
It was his second stall in two races and McLaren's fourth such incident this season. Hakkinen stalled in Brazil and in Austria, with the latter situation blamed on driver error.
"David's engine shut down. It was caused by a set of conditions input into the software which had not been provided for," explained Dennis. "Basically if the computer sees a set of conditions it doesn't expect to see, it will turn the engine off. That's what occurred.
"It is a repeat performance of Barcelona save for the fact that the actual programming cause was different and that is pretty frustrating."
Coulthard also started from the back in Barcelona, after qualifying third, when his car again stalled with the new electronic 'launch control' software being given its first race outing.
On the eve of the race, McLaren had expressed total confidence in their systems but that proved ill-founded.
"I activated the procedure but then there was another glitch that switched off the engine," said Coulthard on Sunday. Before this season, such complicated systems that ensure a quick getaway of the grid were illegal in Formula One.
After the Spanish incident, Dennis accused Coulthard of "brain fade" in the immediate aftermath before an investigation revealed an electronic software problem. Dennis said he was sure the McLaren computer engineers were feeling "pretty uncomfortable" now having gone through the software extensively before Monaco.
He said the team did not know what had caused Hakkinen's problems.Hakkinen said he had not hit anything but his car suddenly started pulling to the right, making it impossible to drive at full speed.
"He radioed in with a series of things that the car was doing and we really don't know exactly what was causing it," said Dennis, adding that the symptoms indicated some suspension damage but nothing had been found. When the driver again reported problems, the team decided to call him in for safety reasons.