Guido Cappellini celebrates his sixth F1 World title but thoughts are with Vivid Team Racing's seriously injured Latvian Victor Kunitch
Despite Italian Francesco Cantando finishing just ahead of Frenchman Philippe Dessertenne in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on October 19, the title remains firmly in the hands of fellow Italian, Guido Cappellini.
Cantando knew he would have win this final round of the Formula I series to alter the outcome but he would still need five-time world champion Cappellini to finish at least eighth of lower to erase his 16 point deficit. Knowing this, Cappellini drove tactically cruising home in a race marred by a horrendous four boat crash on the opening lap.
The start saw a gaggle of boats heading for the turn at the eastern end of the circuit when Victor Kunitch of the Latvian Vivid Team suddenly collided with British driver Andy Elliot. The pair then careered into Italian Franco Leidi and Emirates driver Awad Al Qubaisi.
Craft flew in all directions as those following tried to avoid the pile-up. Kunitch, stranded after the first collision, ended up facing the traffic approaching turn one. One of the competitors hit Kunitch’s Vivid Team Racing boat head-on, breaching the safety cell cockpit and inflicting serious head and upper body wounds on the 25-year-old Latvian. He was flown in a critical condition by helicopter direct to hospital and is most recently reported to be in a serious but stable condition.
Awad Al Qubaisi also went to hospital but was later released while Franco Leidi suffered facial cuts and a possible broken nose.
It took 45 minutes for the support ambulances to get back in their place and for the damaged boats to be removed from the course before the race could re-start. Saudi Arabian driver Laith Pharaon led away but his enthusiastic efforts were short-lived, being finally passed by the eventual winner.
Defending world champion Scott Gillman, lead driver of the Emirates Team, moved into second slot where he remained until retiring with a mechanical problem in the closing stages.
Frenchman Philippe Dessertenne finished a strong second followed by a fast closing Pharaon. Italian Massimo Roggiero returned another steady performance finishing fourth with Cappellini fifth after cruising at three-quarters throttle to ensure his sixth world championship title.
Jari Honkala from Sweden came home sixth putting himself in line for the ‘Rookie of the Year’ award while Portuguese driver Duarte Benavente ended his day seventh. Salem Al Khattal from Dubai came eighth in his Michael Werner prepared outfit with Malaysian K.Y.Loi collecting his first and only championship point of the season after coming tenth.
Guido Cappellini therefore takes his sixth world Formula I title on the strength of four straight victories in a boat that never failed him once throughout the season.
2001 World Formula I Championship
Final points standings1. G.Cappellini (ITA) – 119pts2. F.Cantando (ITA) – 116pts3. P.Dessertenne (FRA) – 95pts4. V.Kunitch (LAT) – 56pts5. L.Pharaon (SAU) – 49pts6. S.Gillman (USA) – 45pts