Motorsport.com - Mika Hakkinen was the tortoise that beat the Ferrari hare at the United States Grand Prix this afternoon, taking victory over Michael Schumacher, in spite of the red cars running away from the at the start. Hakkinen had started...
Motorsport.com - Mika Hakkinen was the tortoise that beat the Ferrari hare at the United States Grand Prix this afternoon, taking victory over Michael Schumacher, in spite of the red cars running away from the at the start.
Hakkinen had started from fourth position on the grid after having had his top qualifying time disallowed for a pit lane violation during the morning warmup. The Finn swallowed his anger, though at being moved backwards on the grid, and channeled it to driving an all-out race at the famed Indianapolis track.
"I went through the red light this morning, and the stewards decided to give me a penalty for that," Hakkinen recalled. "After the frustration, winning the Grand Prix is just incredible."
The second Ferrari driver, Rubens Barrichello, was eventually the one who would put up the greatest challenge to the two-time World Champion, as he returned to the track from the second of his two pit stops. However, the Brazilian's Ferrari engine let go in a big way just two laps from the end, putting a stop to his hopes of catching and passing the Finn.
With Barrichello's challenge evaporated, Hakkinen was able to claim a comfortable 11-second victory over Schumacher, with his teammate David Coulthard a further second back in third place.
With Hakkinen behind both Williams cars, Team McLaren had decided to go long on the first stint on the track, putting in as much fuel as the McLaren-Mercedes would hold. As a result, the fuel-heavy McLarens of Hakkinen and Coulthard dropped back quickly at the start, and Hakkinen's gap to Schumacher was over 11 seconds as the race neared its midway point.
At that point, Hakkinen still looked like an also-ran, though, as the real challengers appeared to be the Williams-BMW twins of Juan Pablo Montoya and Ralf Schumacher. Montoya had been attacking Schumacher, clamoring for the lead ever since Barrichello ducked in for his stop.
Montoya appeared to be the man of the day, as he leveraged his oval racing experience, and took advantage of the hole Schumacher's Ferrari punched in the air on the oval segment, catapulting himself past the German as he braked unimaginably late into the first corner.
"He was quite far away at turn 11," Schumacher recalled. "But then I saw him coming, flying past me on the straight."
Montoya's joy was not to last for long, though. Only a few laps later, he stopped for fuel and tires, and managed to return to the track still in the lead and ahead of Schumacher -- only for his gearbox to let go as he completed his 38th lap.
His teammate, the younger Schumacher, had already dropped out of the race on the preceding lap, spinning out of contention into a gravel trap, as he miscalculated his approach into Turn Six.
Michael Schumacher, then, looked to be in control of the race, but, as the race unfolded, this turned out not to be so. As the race went on and the McLarens got lighter, Hakkinen began to nibble at Schumacher's lead and pull ever closer.
And when the defending World and US GP Champion pulled into the pits for his single stop, Hakkinen kept going, reeling a fast lap after another. When he finally pulled into the pits on the 45th lap, he was over 30 seconds ahead of Schumacher -- enough that the quick McLaren pit stop put him back on track just ahead of the German.
After that, Hakkinen clearly had Schumacher's number, and gradually pulled away, only being threatened by Barrichello in the late stages.
The Finn was clearly moved after the race, having taken his 20th victory, in what may be the penultimate race of his eleven-year Formula One career.
"That was definitely one of the highlights of the season for me," said Hakkinen after the race. "The British GP was one I really wanted to have in my book, and Indianapolis was the other one."
Further back, behind the McLaren-Ferrari-McLaren sandwich was Jarno Trulli, finishing ahead of Eddie Irvine's Jaguar and bringing two critical World Championship points home to Eddie Jordan after a solid race.
Behind them, the single point that Nick Heidfeld earned for finishing sixth was a bitter pill for the Sauber team, as it enabled Jordan to close within two points of the Swiss team in the fight for fourth place in the Constructors' Championship. Sauber now needs to keep Heidfeld and Kimi Raikkonen ahead of the Jordans at the final round of the Championship in Japan.
In the end, the second United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis had drama, passing, tension, excitement - all the elements that the crowd of 175,000 could have expected, and exactly what was needed to bring off a successful Formula One race in the aftermath of the tragedy of September 11.