The race started with Zanardi and Takagi only just getting on the track on time, at the last second both dived into the pits and took the spare car to the grid. As the lights went out, Takagi and Zonta were both stranded at the back, whilst at...
The race started with Zanardi and Takagi only just getting on the track on time, at the last second both dived into the pits and took the spare car to the grid.
As the lights went out, Takagi and Zonta were both stranded at the back, whilst at the front, Coulthard took the lead from Hakkinen, whilst Frentzen was third, Irvine 4th, and Schumacher and Zanardi completed the top 6, with Hill down to 7th. A report came through that an incident involving car 1 (Hakkinen) was under investigation. Also, the replays of the start showed that the tussle between Hakkinen and Coulthard was very close - as close as it could get with the slightest bit of contact between the two drivers. Thankfully neither car was damaged, and they both continued onwards.
The top 6 stayed pretty static, with little in the way of fighting for position, just a gradual spreading out of the field. This was not a classic at Spa by any stretch of the imagination. By lap 10, the most exciting event to have happened was the battle between Panis and Wurz for 13th place... The Frenchman won the battle. Shortly afterwards Panis made a very early stop indeed, as did Luca Badoer - were these to three stop?
Alesi was the first of the two stoppers, whilst Herbert and Wurz battled it out, allowing Wurz to move up to 12th. Yes, this really was a fairly turgid race... The pit stops happened, and the order changed until everything shook out when everything was much as before. The front runners came in, as did everyone else, and due to the field spread there was little chance of much in the way of change. Pedro Diniz then had a heavy crash. Alesi, Barrichello and Wurz (thank goodness for Wurz this race!) battled it out on the circuit, and even went as far as three- abreast into the corners...
Schumacher, Fisichella and Ralf Schumacher pitted very late, and it was thought they could all have been running a 1 stop strategy. Certainly the Williams' were soon confirmed as having taken that route. Villeneuve then pitted and was a definite 1 stopper. Herbert then went of the circuit, regained the track only to have the car snap away sharply and over the gravel and out of the race. Again.
On lap 29, the order was Coulthard, Hakkinen, Frentzen, Irvine, Salo, Ralf Schumacher, with Zanardi, Alesi, Hill, Barrichello, Trulli and Fisichella rounding of the top 12. The next round of pit stops arrived and everything happened without drama - bar the two Ferrari's joining McLaren in having their drivers almost taking each other out when Irvine rejoined just behind Salo who had yet to make his second stop. On lap 35, Ricardo Zonta had an off, kept the car going, and made his way back to the pits to retire. The sister BAR of Villeneuve, for the first time this season, finished the race - in 15th place.