Belgian GP race report

SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium, Sunday, Aug. 27, 2000 -- Mika Hakkinen spun and won the Belgian Grand Prix, a race in which he lost the lead to Michael Schumacher after spinning his West McLaren-Mercedes and then charged back and finally took the lead...

SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium, Sunday, Aug. 27, 2000 -- Mika Hakkinen spun and won the Belgian Grand Prix, a race in which he lost the lead to Michael Schumacher after spinning his West McLaren-Mercedes and then charged back and finally took the lead with a heart-stopping pass with just four laps to go. "It was incredible," Hakkinen said after scoring his first Grand Prix win on the challenging Spa circuit and the 18th victory of his career. "It was very difficult, with some unusual situations, including my spin, which were obviously not planned. But the curbs here at Spa are very, very difficult and slippery. When they catch you, there's really nothing you can do. "I was lucky to stay on the track and (to be able) to continue. Then I could start chasing Michael. It was a fabulous race to drive, very enjoyable, and the car was (getting) better and better all the time." Schumacher, who led twice in his Ferrari, ended up second after fiercely defending the lead. Hakkinen's second consecutive win and his fourth of the season helped him carve out a six-point lead in the World Championship. After 13 of 17 races, Hakkinen's total is 74 points while Schumacher has 68. David Coulthard's total is 61, and Rubens Barrichello is still in contention with 49 points.

Ralf Schumacher joined his brother on the podium for the second time this year after finishing third in his Williams-BMW. David Coulthard (West McLaren-Mercedes), Jenson Button (Williams-BMW) and Heinz-Harald Frentzen (Benson & Hedges Jordan-Mugen-Honda) rounded out the top six finishers. After two days of glorious sunshine, it rained Sunday morning during the warm-up. The track was still wet as the cars lined up for the start. Because of the damp conditions, officials decided to have the cars run the opening lap behind the Safety Car rather than have the usual standing start. Hakkinen quickly pulled away at the start from Jarno Trulli (Benson & Hedges Jordan-Mugen-Honda) and Button, who had qualified second and third, respectively. The first incident of the race occurred on Lap 5 when Button collided with Trulli at the La Source hairpin. Trulli had to retire. As the track dried, the drivers came in for dry-weather tires, but the curbs were still slick. Hakkinen lost the lead to Michael Schumacher after spinning because Hakkinen slid over the curbs at the Stavelot corner. After the second round of scheduled pit stops, Michael Schumacher led over Hakkinen, but the latter steadily closed in. On Lap 40 of 44, Hakkinen made a move to the inside as the pair headed up the hill toward the Les Combes corner at nearly 200 mph, but Schumacher moved over to protect his lead. Afterward, both drivers said that they wanted to review videotape before making a judgment on Schumacher's defensive move.

On the next lap, as Schumacher and Hakkinen came up the same hill at high speed, they encountered Ricardo Zonta's Lucky Strike British American Racing-Honda in the middle of the track. Schumacher went by Zonta's left while Hakkinen sneaked through on Zonta's right.

Hakkinen came out ahead of it all and went on to win. He averaged 129.535 mph (208.467 km/h) to finish the 44-lap, 190.520-mile (306.592-km) race in one hour, 28 minutes and 14.494 seconds. His margin of victory was 1.103 seconds.

QUOTEBOOK:

MIKA HAKKINEN (West McLaren-Mercedes, winner): "I went completely to the inside, and overtook the back marker (Zonta) at the same time as I overtook Michael. I (got a) tow also from the back marker, so that gave me some extra speed. It was a great overtaking maneuver. And I loved it. I am not sure if Michael did ..."

MICHAEL SCHUMACHER (Ferrari, second): "Obviously I was quite happy to see the back marker (Zonta) in front of me, because from what the team was telling me I knew I was a lot slower (than Mika) on straight-line speed. (With my car) being in the slipstream of the guy in front of me, I thought (Mika would not have) enough straight-line speed to catch me. Mika made a really outstanding maneuver to pass on the inside there. It was unexpected from my side, but, honestly, if he hadn't caught me there he would have caught me one or two laps later because he was too fast there. You are allowed to change your line once, and he would have taken me on the outside. I tried my best. It was not enough today, but we got six points, and we are keeping the championship alive even though we made it a little more difficult (for ourselves) today. But we will keep going for it. It is not the end now."

RALF SCHUMACHER (Williams-BMW, third): "We are definitely establishing ourselves as the third team in the championship, and this must be our target for the rest of the races."

DAVID COULTHARD (West McLaren-Mercedes, fourth): "I'm disappointed because I came here to win. I lost too much time in the early stages of the race when everybody changed to dry tires. It was quite frustrating to be stuck behind (Heinz-Harald) Frentzen for so long, but I got him in my second pit stop."

JENSON BUTTON (Williams-BMW, fifth): "After the contact with Trulli's Jordan, my car's steering was quite heavy. In the dry conditions, the car wasn't as good as it was in the wet."

HEINZ-HARALD FRENTZEN (Benson & Hedges Jordan-Mugen-Honda, sixth): "For me, the race ran without any incidents -- it was typically Spa-like, starting in the wet and finishing in the dry. I had a good fight with David (Coulthard) and Rubens (Barrichello), but otherwise I simply drove my race."

JACQUES VILLENUEVE (Lucky Strike BAR-Honda, seventh): "It was a boring race for me. The car had terminal understeer today. I don't know why. All weekend we had some oversteer, mostly on old tires. We raced hard, and we were just out of the points, so it is a useless day."

RICARDO ZONTA (Lucky Strike BAR-Honda, 12th): "I saw Schumacher and Hakkinen in my mirrors, so I slowed and just stayed in the middle of the track to give them room. It was an amazing view as they went by me on either side."

NEWS and NOTES:

Meeting planned: Formula One team principals and FIA President Max Mosley planned to meet in London on Aug. 30 to discuss the future direction of Formula One.

*** Minardi landmark: This race marked the 250th Grand Prix start for the Minardi team, which made its F1 debut in the 1985 Brazilian Grand Prix.

*** Salo's decision: Mika Salo, who has signed a three-year contract with Toyota to work on its new Formula One project, said that his decision was a difficult one. Toyota will enter Formula One in 2001.

"My decision to test instead of race next year was not taken lightly or easily," Salo said, "but having seen how much effort is going into the Toyota F1 project, I am happy to take this step in the knowledge that my F1 experience will contribute significantly to the development of the team. "There can be no illusions; we have a very steep hill to climb. There will be heartache and disappointments, but I welcome the challenge of helping in the birth of a new F1 team. Sometimes it is more satisfying to be more than just a race driver."

*** Ferrari not courting Newey: The Ferrari team has denied stories that it is trying to hire Adrian Newey, whose contract as technical director with West McLaren-Mercedes is up.

"The last time Ferrari had discussions with Newey was in 1995," Ferrari's sporting director Jean Todt said, "and since then there have never been any contacts with him.

"I am very proud of the team we have. The best thing for Ferrari would be to keep this team together and try to win races. We do not have any other intentions, and this is all speculation."

***

Driver pairing sets record: Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard have now started their 78th Grand Prix together. That beats the record of 77 starts as teammates held by Jean Alesi and Gerhard Berger. While the latter pair were teammates at Benetton and Ferrari, Hakkinen and Coulthard have been together at McLaren Mercedes since 1996.

***

New champion: Brazil's Bruno Junqueira is the new FIA International Formula 3000 champion. He finished out of the points in his Petrobras (Williams) Junior Team car in the season finale but still clinched the championship as his only rival, Nicolas Minassian, needed to win to have any hopes of taking the title. Team Astromega's Fernando Alonso scored his first F3000 win, while his teammate Marc Goossens finished second. Minassian was second in the championship, Mark Webber ended up third, and Alonso was fourth.

*** Petrobras renews: Brazilian petroleum company Petrobras has renewed its contract to supply fuel and sponsor the Williams-BMW team for another two years. *** Panis valued: Olivier Panis, who will drive for Lucky Strike BAR-Honda next season, will be missed by the West McLaren-Mercedes team, which valued his expertise as its test driver this year.

"This is the first time we've had a test driver with (such extensive) experience," David Coulthard said of Panis, "and the first time we've been able to look at his results and listen to his feedback knowing that we can be confident that that's what happening. "Younger guys may have the pace, and they're developing their experience, but sometimes you have the feeling that you should test (whatever's new) yourself, in order to be entirely sure."

-IRNLS/IMS-

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Jarno Trulli , Jenson Button , Ralf Schumacher , Michael Schumacher , Heinz-Harald Frentzen , Rubens Barrichello , Mark Webber , Jean Alesi , David Coulthard , Mika Hakkinen , Olivier Panis , Ricardo Zonta , Bruno Junqueira , Nicolas Minassian , Fernando Alonso , Gerhard Berger , Mika Salo , Marc Goossens , Jean Todt , Adrian Newey
Teams Ferrari , Mercedes , McLaren , Williams , Benetton , Minardi , Jordan