Before the start talk was of pre-race agreements between Sauber and Ferrari. The Sauber of Alesi was directly ahead of Michael Schumacher. Remember, both have Ferrari engines... At the start, it mattered little, as Hakkinen made a blistering...
At the start, it mattered little, as Hakkinen made a blistering start and got into the lead by the first corner, Schumacher didn't do as well. Meanwhile a Sauber, a Tyrrell and a Minardi collided. Further around Salo, Coulthard and a Tyrrell also colided. The safety car came out.
The first incident started with Takagi spinning at the end of the pit straight and collecting the others. The second set of collisions was prompted by a pair of spinning Arrows collecting the unfortunate Coulthard. Coulthard had to pit for a new front end and fell to the back of the field.
At the restart Hakkinen kept the lead, with Schumacher close behind. What followed was a wonderful series of laps with a wonderful collection of attempted overtaking manoevres from Schumacher, the pair effectively matching each other for lap after lap. At more than one point the pair looked like colliding, most notably at the end of lap 7 when Schumacher tried to go around the outside, fell back and almost touched the gearbox of Hakkinen.
The battle lasted for some time, but finally someone had to give, and that was Schumacher, who made a colossal mistake, went off the track and bounced into the gravel trap removing the wings and bargeboards from the font end just on the entry to the pit straight. Result was a long, long lap back to the pits for a new nose. At almost the same time Frentzen's Mecachrome let go with a huge lick of flames.
Hakkinen, now with the pressure off, settled into an unharried lead. Schumacher made it around the pits and had a new front end fitted. Fisichella now pitted from second place, rejoined still in second, but at the first corner Alesi took the place, Fisi was not having it and tried the closing inside. Fisichella went out on the spot, Alesi span it around and promptly stalled it. Alesi then returned to put the car in neutral, whilst the marshalls battled to get the car off the track. Thankfully the safety car didn't have come out again.
David Coulthard in the process was now up to third and catching Irvine! An amazing recovery for the Scot. Behind these were Ralf Schumacher, Trulli, and Villeneuve. Schumacher was now up to 10th place. Irvine made his stop, and in the process Coulthard moved up to 2nd. Hakkinen was also soon in, and briefly (1 lap) Coulthard was in the lead. This was good tactics, as the McLaren had hit a huge gaggle of back markers. Coulthard soon was also into the pits, returning Hakkinen back into the lead.
The race settled down for a while after the pit stops were done. The highlight of this section being a beautiful battle between Ralf Schumacher and Michael Schumacher, as Michael tried to take 4th from Ralf. It was not an easy place for Schuey to take, and when he did he had a bigger problem ahead... Meanwhile, further back, Villeneuve had a reoccurence of the filler cap problem.
Irvine was now some 15 seconds ahead of Schumacher. How do you reduce a 15 second lead, and let your team leader by without breaking the rules? Irvine's Ferrari mysteriously developed a problem with the brakes for enough laps to let the German by, but then mysteriously seemed to get better again once he was by. The places were now settled, and Hakkinen took the win easily from Coulthard.
1. Mika Hakkinen 2. David Coulthard 3. Michael Schumacher 4. Eddie Irvine 5. Ralf Schumacher 6. Jacques Villeneuve 7. Damon Hill
-- Stephen M Baines
"[The Autosport sticker] started to peel off in the middle of Eau Rouge and it distracted me. In fact it was the first thing to hit the barrier" Tiff Needell - Jaguar XJR-15 Challenge - Interview with Autosport