The 2001 French Grand Prix (formally the Mobil 1 Grand Prix de France) was a Formula One motor race held at the Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours, Magny-Cours, Burgundy, France on 1 July 2001. It was the tenth race of the 2001 Formula One season and the 87th French Grand Prix. The 72-lap race was won by Michael Schumacher driving a Ferrari car after starting from second place. Ralf Schumacher finished second for the Williams team with Rubens Barrichello third in the other Ferrari.
The Grand Prix was contested by eleven teams with two drivers each. The teams, also known as constructors, were Ferrari, McLaren, Williams, Benetton, BAR, Jordan, Arrows, Sauber, Jaguar, Minardi and Prost.
Before the race, Ferrari driver Michael Schumacher led the Drivers' Championship with 68 points; McLaren driver David Coulthard was second on 44 points. Behind them in the Drivers' Championship, Rubens Barrichello was third on 26 points in the other Ferrari, with Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya on 25 and twelve points respectively. In the Constructors' Championship, Ferrari were leading on 94 points and McLaren were second with 53 points, with Williams third on 37 points.
In preparation for the race the Ferrari team conducted a six-hour and 45-minute shakedown session on 28 June at the Fiorano Circuit which their test driver Luca Badoer who drove 45 kilometres (28 mi) around the circuit and he also concentrated on practice starts using the F2001's launch control system.
Coulthard (who was the defending winner of the French Grand Prix) was optimistic about the race saying that he was looking forward to the event and hoped he would clinch a second consecutive victory in Magny-Cours.
Four practice sessions were held before the Sunday race—two on Friday, and two on Saturday. The Friday morning and afternoon sessions each lasted an hour. The third and final practice sessions were held on Saturday morning and lasted 45 minutes. Conditions were warm and sunny for the Friday practice sessions. Häkkinen set the fastest time of the first practice session with a lap of 1:15.889, one-tenth of a second faster than Michael Schumacher in second. Häkkinen's teammate Coulthard was third fastest, ahead of Barrichello. The two Williams cars were fifth and sixth (with Ralf Schumacher ahead of Montoya). Trulli, Panis, Frentzen and Villeneuve rounded out the session's top-ten drivers. Coulthard set the fastest lap of the day in the second practice session with a time of 1:14.935; Häkkinen finished with the second-quickest time. The two McLaren drivers were separated by Irvine and Villeneuve. Ralf Schumacher and Montoya duplicated their first session results in fifth and sixth and Michael Schumacher, de la Rosa, Trulli and Barrichello followed in the top ten.
Saturday's afternoon qualifying session lasted for an hour. During this session, the 107% rule was in effect, which necessitated each driver set a time within 107% of the quickest lap to qualify for the race. Each driver was limited to twelve laps. The one-hour session was held in dry and warm weather conditions; the air temperature ranged between 30–32 °C (86–90 °F) and the track temperature was between 43–45 °C (109–113 °F). Ralf Schumacher twice surpassed the track record held by 1992 World Champion Nigel Mansell to secure the first pole position of his career with a lap of 1:12.989 which was recorded on his second timed run. He was joined on the front row of the grid by Michael Schumacher who recorded a lap time ten hundredths of a second off Ralf Schumacher's pace and felt he could have gone quicker but was held up by Trulli. Coulthard qualified in third position on his fourth timed run and felt he could have set a faster lap as he ran over gravel scattered by Luciano Burti at turn 13 causing him to make a minor mistake. Hakkinen had minor engine vibrations throughout qualifying but secured fourth place. Trulli and Frentzen took fifth and seventh for the Jordan team. Trulli was pleased with the balance of his car and later apologised to Michael Schumacher for holding the Ferrari driver up. Frentzen was happy with the result although he complained that Olivier Panis held him up. The two were separated by Montoya in the slower Williams who was pleased with how his car felt but was annoyed with Alesi who blocked Montoya during his last timed lap in the final sector of the circuit. Barrichello managed eighth as his car developed handling problems and had to pit to allow his mecahnics to change his car's torsion bars as Barrichello rode his car over the kerbs before the pit lane entry. Heidfeld made minor adjustments to improve the balance of his Sauber and took ninth. Villeneuve used the first half of the session to adjust his front and rear flaps and secured tenth, although he lost time through turn one. Panis had heavy traffic on his final timed run which restricted him to eleventh.
The drivers took to the track at 09:30 CEST (UTC+2) for a 30-minute warm-up session, in warm and sunny weather conditions.
The race started at 14:00 local time. The conditions on the grid were warm and sunny before the race; the air temperature ranged between 25–29 °C (77–84 °F) and the track temperature was between 40–51 °C (104–124 °F). The hot weather meant there was an increased likelihood of mechanical attrition. Approximately 120,717 people attended the race. Häkkinen could not get off the grid at the start of the formation lap because an assembled component in his car's gear box had not fitted correctly. His car was pushed back into the pit lane where the mechanics were unable to rectify the problem and Häkkinen did not take the start. Pedro de la Rosa's throttle failed during the formation lap and drove back to the pit lane and started one lap behind the rest of the field. Ralf Schumacher maintained his pole position advantage going into the first corner, followed by Michael Schumacher who had a clutch problem. Coulthard maintained third position. Barrichello had an excellent gateway, rising from eighth to fifth by the end of the first lap. Kimi Räikkönen moved up four positions over the same distance. At the end of the first lap, Ralf Schumacher led by 0.3 seconds from Michael Schumacher, who was in turn was followed by Coulthard, Montoya, Barrichello, Trulli, Frentzen, Villeneuve, Räikkönen, Heidfeld, Irvine, Panis, Burti, Verstappen, Bernoldi, Fisichella, Button, Alesi, Marques and Alonso.
Ralf Schumacher extended his advantage to three-tenths of a second from Michael Schumacher with Coulthard close behind. Further down the field Panis passed Irvine to take over eleventh position, while Fisichella was overtaken by teammate Button for 16th. Villeneuve became the event's first retirement when his engine lost power on the sixth lap.Note: Only the top five positions are included for both sets of standings.