As the lights went out, Hakkinen got away well. Unfortunately for Coulthard, he did not, and stalled. Further behind there was a lot of jostling for position throughout the field. By the end of lap 2, Hakkinen had pulled out 1.5 second over ...
As the lights went out, Hakkinen got away well. Unfortunately for Coulthard, he did not, and stalled. Further behind there was a lot of jostling for position throughout the field. By the end of lap 2, Hakkinen had pulled out 1.5 second over Barrichello in second, who in turn had a further 1.5 seconds over Michael Schumacher. David Coulthard, under the new stall procedure, was being restarted in the pit lane. He would finally get away with a 3 lap deficit on the field. Just as Coulthard rejoined the race, Barrichello took the lead from Hakkinen. Hakkinen was having some sort of intermittent problem with his car, and as a result suddenly slowed down. Barrichello then proceeded to lead the race from Michael Schumacher, who also took Hakkinen.
The top 6 stayed fairly consistent for a long time, and by the end of lap 7 the positions looked as follows:
Barrichello Schumacher Hakkinen Irvine Fisichella Frentzen 7 laps +3.445 +3.993 +8.773 +12.123 +13.280
Further down the pack, Takagi was having a little moment and went wide. Wurz also went off and rejoined during a major jostle in the midfield - which saw the Jordan's, Sauber's, Benetton's and Williams' all trying to become the least embarrassed. This would lead to Hill coming into the pits to retire his Jordan with steering related problems. Hill later went on to say that he was "not pleased" with Wurz's driving...
Coulthard (remember running 3 laps adrift) had been lapping around the same part of the track as Schumacher and Hakkinen for quite some time, and finally had to yield to them, after the marshals waved blue flags at him. Further down the field Zanardi was pitting and having new tyres fitted.
Barrichello Schumacher Hakkinen Irvine Fisichella Frentzen 12 +2.796 +3.199 +12.052 +17.835 +20.105
A little further down the field, the team mate of the leader - Johnny Herbert - was battling with Jean Alesi, and made a beautiful passing manoeuvre on him. It was all for nothing, as shortly afterwards he retired with hydraulics failure, leading to him coasting around the track with no gears and no throttle. Hakkinen's car was continuing to have its problems, as it gained time on Schumacher, then almost as quickly started to fall back again. Alex Wurz, having something off an off day - in more than one way - found himself wandering off the track again, and rejoining again.
Back at the front, Barrichello continued to lead, and Mika Hakkinen's McLaren had recovered its composure for long enough to mount a serious assault on the Ferrari. Mika had a serious attempt at Schumacher after both lapped de la Rosa. Unfortunately for the Finn, it didn't happen. The sister McLaren was having an odd time - the car came wandering into the pit lane, then rejoined, then finally he pitted. The mechanics - all two of them - looked thoroughly bewildered, only for him to stop and then set off again, and finally pulled off the track - in reverse - to retire. A strange way to end his race.
On lap 28, Barrichello pitted from the lead. The big question was was it an early one stop, or a late 2 stop? It was a good clean stop and he rejoined the race in 4th, just 4 seconds behind Irvine. Schumacher now had the lead, with Hakkinen a mere 0.8 seconds behind. Wurz continued to have his bad day, holding up Schumacher and Hakkinen who were trying to lap him. Schumacher got by, and Hakkinen tried to follow, only to have Wurz cut him off - not a nice move from Wurz. A little later around the lap the pair took Villeneuve, only to then come across de la Rosa at the same place, who promptly did exactly the same, letting Schumacher through cleanly, only to shut the door on Hakkinen. At this point in the race, Hakkinen must have wondered what he had done wrong to offend everyone.
Barrichello was making good progress on Irvine, and was now within 3 seconds of Irvine. Further down the field, the Minardi of Sarrazin had a massive off losing a wheel and spinning on full throttle up to 9 times before finally stopping on the pit straight. A truly scary accident. Whilst this was happening, Barrichello continued to harry Irvine and was right on the gearbox of Irvine and made one of the most beautiful passing manoeuvres on him. Barrichello was now back up to third.
On lap 37, Ferrari were preparing for a stop, and finally brought in the Ferrari of Schumacher. Hakkinen now had the lead, and a chance to pull out a gap over Schumacher on the track before his own stop. And try Hakkinen did. He went over curbs and anywhere he could to try and eke out enough of a lead to keep the lead after his own pit stop. A little further down the field, Fisichella was pitting, had his stop then suddenly found himself without gears as he tried to pull away. Brazil was definitely a place for hydraulics problems... Irvine then had his stop, and rejoined the race on the track ahead of Hakkinen, but in the race a lap down. Irvine did a good job for Ferrari of slowing down the McLaren, but McLaren realised it was a lost cause, and pulled Hakkinen in for his stop. He managed to be turned around fast enough to rejoin in the lead by around 1 second.
Barrichello's hopes of being able to regain the lead went up in smoke - literally - as his engine gave up. A sad end to what had been a very promising drive from the young Brazilian. Pedro Diniz, meanwhile, had an off after trying to take an Arrows on the inside, and - rather elegantly - spun off on the inside of the track, grounding the front wing on the curbs. Exit one Sauber. The Arrows of Takagi, meanwhile, was holding up the Minardi of Gene, who in turn was holding up the McLaren of Hakkinen. It now looked like the Ferrari of Schumacher would catch the Finn. Hakkinen muscled by, and Schumacher had caught up a lot of ground, only to find himself also having to muscle his way by. It probably ended up with no real gain to either driver.
BARs Brazilian GP continued to be a disaster, as Villeneuve - who had hoisted the car up into the top 6 - coasted to the pits to retire with suspected hydraulics failure (surprise!). The Arrows of de la Rosa, meanwhile, also retired, and pulled off by the pit wall. News then came that Irvine had a problem with his Ferrari and would be called in to the pits. He was indeed called into the pits, where the car stopped whilst someone pointed an air hose at a radiator for a few seconds... Irvine rejoined the race, but now down in 5th place.
Behind the top 6 of Hakkinen, Schumacher, Frentzen, Ralf, Irvine and a splendid drive from Panis, were Wurz, Takagi and Gene. By lap 62, worries now centred on the McLaren, or rather its driver. Hakkinen's head was seen to be resting on the protective foam nearly all the way around the circuit. It passed the time anyway, as the teams continued to the flag, with a minor bit of excitement of whether Irvine would catch Ralf Schumacher - which he did - and pass him - which he didn't. Hakkinen then set a fastest lap on lap 70, just in case anyone was drifting off, and went on to win the race.
Final results Hakkinen Schumacher Frentzen R Schumacher Irvine Panis Wurz Takagi Gene -- Stephen M Baines http://www.motorsport.org.uk