Jon spent summer 2001 as a visiting student at the Montanuniversität Leoben in Austria. Leoben is located 40 miles from Graz, the capital of Styria, but more importantly (at least to Jon), Leoben is located 25 miles from Spielberg, home of the A1 Ring (now Red Bull Ring) and the Austrian GP.
Jon did not attend the race; however it does not stop Jon from enjoying his first European F1 weekend! After long days at the research center Jon had a great time hanging out with his Austrian classmates. One night, there were some Sauber F1 mechanics in the bar; Jon’s friends acted as translators for Jon to get insider info from the mechanics about Kimi Räikkönen.
Back in 2001 Kimi was a bright young star racing for Sauber, and Jon had a feeling that one day he will be F1 World Champion. Looking back Jon may have a better chance to meet Kimi, had he hang out at an ice cream shop instead of a bar. 😛
Jon watch qualifying and the race at another local bar. David Couthard was the eventual winner of the race after Juan-Pablo Montoya and Michael Schumacher ran off-track while fighting for the lead. Schumi recovered to finish second after Barrichello gave up second place at the final corner of the final lap with under team order…even all the German speaking supporters in the bar booed!
While the fans were unhappy with Ferrari’s team order, the race finish seemed normal at the time. It was unimaginable that the same farce happened again in 2002 at the same race: Barichello reluctantly yielded to Schumi at the final corner of the final lap FOR THE WIN! This time the outcry was too much for the FIA, and team order was officially “banned”. (Of course in the coming years Red Bull had a Multi-21 race mode that didn’t always work; and yes, Felipe, Fernando is faster than you!)
On the Tuesday after the race, Jon (with Prof. Z and Dr. R) visited a company that manufactures mining and tunnel digging robots. They drove past the A1-ring in Dr. R’s VW Golf.
“It was a good race with a wild finish, and everyone in the bar booed when Schumi took second place from Barichello.”
“I thought you were at the race?”
“No it was too expensive. I didn’t budget for it”
“No problem, we’ll go there this afternoon”
After completing the business visit, Dr. R drove Jon to the race track. While Jon had attended the Canadian GP before, it was always General Admission. Sitting in an (empty) grandstand for the first time was still a great consolation prize.