The arrival of the 21st Century and the new millennium signaled the start of unprecedented periods of domination and saw many records smashed, not to mention an almost complete take-over by the manufacturers and the decline of the privateers while safety standards were now at an all-time high. The 2000 season brought relatively little in terms of change in the rules and the pecking order as the McLarens of Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard and Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher were still as quick as ever. BMW and Honda returned (having not been represented in F1 since 1987 and 1992 respectively) to Formula 1 as engine suppliers to the Williams and B.A.R teams respectively while Ford went one step further, buying out the Stewart team and renaming them Jaguar after the legendary British Sportscar marque, also reviving the Cosworth brand and retaining Johnny Herbert. At the same time, Eddie Irvine and Rubens Barrichello switched teams with each other while Williams paired Ralf Schumacher with British newcomer Jenson Button and Jarno Trulli joined Heinz-Harald Frentzen at the impressive Jordan team. The other high-profile rookie of 2000 was Germany’s Nick Heidfeld the reigning F3000 Champion, driving for Prost alongside Jean Alesi but that team was heading for disaster. As in 1999, the McLarens dominated qualifying and the race in Australia before both cars retired thus allowing Michael Schumacher to lead his new team-mate Barrichello to a Ferrari 1-2, followed by his brother Ralf. B.A.R scored their first points thanks to Jacques Villeneuve and Ricardo Zonta after Mika Salo’s Sauber was disqualified. After strong performances in 1999, Jordan and Jaguar were both in for a very difficult season. Michael Schumacher proceeded to win the Brazilian Grand Prix after his team-mate and Hakkinen retired. To add insult to injury for McLaren, Coulthard came 2nd only to be disqualified, promoting Giancarlo Fisichella of Benetton to his best result since Canada the previous year and a 3-4 for Jordan. The main beneficiary was 20 year old Jenson Button, scoring his 1st point at his 2nd attempt surpassing the late Ricardo Rodriguez as F1’s youngest point-scorer, having performed so strongly on his debut in Melbourne despite starting on the back row. The McLarens held together at Imola but could not stop Michael Schumacher from winning 3 in a row even after a brief contact with his brother Ralf who was fighting with Barrichello. The next race unusually was the British Grand Prix, held 3 months earlier than usual and while the weather proved to be a nightmare for the spectators, the race was the opposite as David Coulthard led a McLaren 1-2 to score his 2nd home win in as many seasons. Button marked his 1st home grand prix with a 5th place. Mika Hakkinen’s hopes of becoming the first driver since the legendary Juan Manuel Fangio to win 3 titles on the trot were looking shaky at this point and the Finn really needed a win. The Spanish Grand Prix was Hakkinen’s lucky day as he led McLaren’s 2nd 1-2 in as many races with Michael Schumacher relegated to 5th after running over his pit crew. Michael Schumacher sought revenge at home at the Nurburgring for the next race and proceeded to win from Hakkinen and Coulthard while poor Heidfeld suffered the ignominy of being excluded from his home race. David Coulthard was the main beneficiary of a suspension problem for Schumacher at Monaco as Hakkinen faded to 6th while Eddie Irvine scored Jaguar’s first points with 4th. A very wet Canadian Grand Prix saw Schumacher lead another Ferrari 1-2 with Fisichella beating Hakkinen to the final podium position as Coulthard failed to score. After that, Schumacher proceeded not to score in the next 3 races, an engine failure after a heated battle with Coulthard sidelined the German in France and then first-corner carnage in Austria and a collision with Fisichella at Hockenheim. The first two of those races also saw embarassing collisions between the Prosts of Alesi and Heidfeld. Coulthard led Hakkinen to the honours in France with their positions reversed in Austria but both lost out to Rubens Barrichello in Germany. The Brazilian was aided by changing weather conditions and a track invader to score his 1st win at his record-shattering 124th attempt after starting 18th. Hakkinen ruled the roost in Hungary, leading Schumacher and Coulthard before coming out on top in a thrilling battle with Schumacher to win the Belgian Grand Prix, aided by a spectacular overtaking manouevre round the outside of the German and Ricardo Zonta. Jarno Trulli and Jenson Button made contact at the first corner after starting 2nd and 3rd. The Italian Grand Prix marked a return to form for Schumacher though as he narrowly came out on top over Hakkinen but the race was marred by a massive pile-up at the 2nd chicane which eliminated Coulthard, Barrichello, both Jordans and Pedro de la Rosa’s Arrows in a spectacular roll. No one was hurt but an errant wheel struck fire marshall Paolo Ghislimberti on the head, killing him. It was the first fatality of any kind in F1 since Ayrton Senna’s death 6 years earlier and Schumacher understandably broke down after the race having equalled Senna’s tally of 41 wins. The next race marked F1’s return to the United States for the first time since 1991, thia time at a purpose built circuit around the infield at Indianapolis where the legendary Indy 500 had graced the F1 Calendar from 1950 to 1960. There, Michael Schumacher took advantage of a penalty for David Coulthard after jumping the start and an engine problem for Mika Hakkinen to lead another Ferrari 1-2 despite a brief excursion of his own. The race was also notable for Argentine rookie Gaston Mazzacane running 3rd on merit briefly in his Minardi to the chagrin of Hakkinen. All Schumacher needed to do now to clinch the title was win the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka and win he did to claim his 3rd driver’s title and his first with Ferrari. It was the first time a Ferrari driver had become World Champion since Jody Scheckter in 1979, the defeated McLarens of Hakkinen and Coulthard came 2nd and 3rd. Schumacher proceeded to win again in the season closer in Malaysia, equalling Nigel Mansell’s record of 9 wins and 108 points in a season. Coulthard came 2nd followed by Barrichello and a recovering Hakkinen after a jump-start. The likes of Johnny Herbert and Pedro Diniz announced their retirements after both endured a pointless season.
The 2001 Season looked set to be another tight battle between defending Champion Michael Schumacher and Mika Hakkinen, in theory that is. As it turned out, Schumacher and Ferrari were slowly but surely becoming the dominant force of Forumla 1. At the same time, the Williams-BMW combination was slowly becoming a force to be reckoned with as well, retaining Ralf Schumacher but replacing the impressive Jenson Button with Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya, already a former Champ Car Champion and Indy 500 winner. Button replaced Alexander Wurz at Benetton to join Giancarlo Fisichella. After BMW and Honda’s return the previous year, 2001 saw the return of Renault for the first time since 1997 with an experimental wide-angled V10 engine for Benetton while Honda supplied both B.A.R and Jordan, ditching the Mugen brand after 9 seasons. Of all the driver changes, the most notable was by far the youthful line-up of Nick Heidfeld and Formula Renault Champion Kimi Raikkonen at Sauber. The Finn had contested just 23 car races since stepping up from karts while another relatively young prospect, Spain’s Fernando Alonso was signed by Minardi despite the Italian team coming dangerously close to folding during the off-season. The opening round in Australia was blighted by a frightening collision between Ralf Schumacher and Jacques Villeneuve’s B.A.R and led to the death of fire marshall Graham Beverage, Mika Hakkinen had a nasty accident of his own later in the race. Michael Schumacher won from David Coulthard and Rubens Barrichello while the Saubers of Heidfeld and Raikkonen scored their first points, after the returning Olivier Panis in the B.A.R was penalised. A very wet Malaysian Grand Prix followed and it was also highly dramatic. Giancarlo Fisichella caused the first start to be aborted after missing his grid slot and then Montoya went and stalled his Williams. In the race itself, Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello went on to score a 1-2 despite both of them running wide into the gravel early in the race and dropping into the midfield. It was Schumacher’s 6th win in a row, only the legendary Alberto Ascari had won more consecutive races. Coulthard came 3rd while Ralf Schumacher and Mika Hakkinen scored their first points of the season. Brazil saw the rise of Juan Pablo Montoya, chasing down and passing Michael Schumacher for the lead and seemingly on his way to his first win when his Williams was hit by Jos Verstappen’s Arrows after lapping the Dutchman. Coulthard however also managed to catch and pass Schumacher and went on to win for McLaren with Schumacher 2nd while Heidfeld scored his first podium and Sauber’s first since 1998. Mika Hakkinen stalled on the grid and was out on the spot while Barrichello collided with Ralf Schumacher. To prove that Montoya’s Brazil form was no flash in the pan, Ralf Schumacher in the other Williams went on to score his first win, Williams’ first since 1997 and BMW’s since 1985 in his 70th race in Imola, narrowly beating David Coulthard, followed by Barrichello and Hakkinen. Jarno Trulli and Heinz-Harald Frentzen scored a 5-6 for Jordan. As the older Schumacher, he was sidelined by a suspension problem. Michael Schumacher was back on top in Spain but so was Mika Hakkinen and it was only after the Finn was sidelined by a clutch failure on the last lap whilst leading that Schumacher claimed the honours. Montoya finallly scored his first points with 2nd while Villeneuve scored the first podium for B.A.R. This race also saw the controversial return of traction control and launch control for the first time since 1993 and it instantly proved problematic for some teams, especially McLaren as David Coulthard stalled on the grid in Spain, relegating him to 5th in the race. David Coulthard did win the next race in Austria from 7th on the grid but 2nd placed Barrichello was controversially ordered to surrender his position to team-mate Schumacher on the last lap and the Brazilian obliged on the run to the finish line, Schumacher having survived a collision with Montoya early on in the race. The start of this race saw no less than 4 cars stall on the grid including Hakkinen and both Jordans due to the troublesome launch control system.