Benson & Hedges Jordan Honda scored three points at the end of an extraordinary race when the fortunes of the entire field was thrown to the wind by a rain storm in the opening laps Despite almost failing to make the start, Heinz-Harald Frentzen...
Benson & Hedges Jordan Honda scored three points at the end of an extraordinary race when the fortunes of the entire field was thrown to the wind by a rain storm in the opening laps Despite almost failing to make the start, Heinz-Harald Frentzen came through to finish fourth. Jarno Trulli, who led briefly, took eighth place, one lap down on the winner, Michael Schumacher.
The drama started for Benson & Hedges Jordan Honda when Frentzen's car began to misfire and he dropped to the back of the field during the parade lap. Fortunately an aborted start (caused by a Benetton wrongly positioned on the grid) meant Frentzen was able to take his place on the grid and have the engineers fix the electrical problem.
Within three laps of the start, however, a sudden downpour caused chaos and brought out the Safety Car, all of the drivers taking the opportunity to pit and change to wet tyres. At the restart, Frentzen found himself in second place but had to drop back because the car had a full load of fuel on board. After making a single stop on lap 21, rentzen became engaged in a tense fight and, after some enterprising overtaking, moved into fourth place, which he held to the end despite being low on fuel.
'We were very lucky today,' said Frentzen. 'I had a strange electrical problem and the engine wouldn't rev while I was on my way to the grid. Luckily there was a restart and that meant there was time to reset the electronics. I couldn't gain many places in the opening laps because the car was heavy with fuel. Then the rain came and cars were spinning everywhere. I found myself in second place after a stop to change to wet tyres but, for the same reason as before, I couldn't make any ground at the restart. In fact, I dropped back a few places.
'Unfortunately, from the first lap I also had a problem with the clutch which affected the downshift. This was especially difficult in the wet because, with the wheels locking, it made things very tricky. When the track began to dry I was involved in battles with Ralf Schumacher and then Mika Hakkinen and Jos Verstappen. I would say it was one of the most exciting races I have ever had! We were sideways; big slides everywhere!
'I was in the best position to see what was going on when Verstappen tried to overtake Hakkinen. They nearly collided and I was able to overtake the McLaren. Then I moved up another place when Verstappen had to made a second refuelling stop. I was going through with just the single refuelling stop and I had to take it easy towards the end while, at the same time, shifting down early because of the clutch problem. So, after all of that, it is very satisfying indeed to win some points.'
Trulli's race had been ruined by the rain, Jarno leading briefly after both Ferraris spun off, only for the Jordan Honda to spin. Trulli managed to recover but would feel the effects of the off-course excursion for the rest of the race.
'I had a good start,' said Jarno. 'I was third into the first corner but, from the first lap, had a problem with the cockpit warning lights. The car was going very well, however, and I kept pushing on. On lap three, both Ferraris left the track and I was leading. Then I came across some standing water on the pit straight and the engine cut out. I lost control and spun but managed to get the engine restarted and get to the pits where I changed to wet-weather tyres.
'We need to look at the data because, when I went off, I think I may have damaged the car as it was not handling as well as before. The engine didn't feel quite right, either.
'I finished eighth but, fortunately, Heinz-Harald scored three points and that's very good for the whole team.'
'Luck was on our side, no question about it!' said Eddie Jordan. 'It makes up for some of the bad luck we've had here in the past. It was a fantastic race and so good to have one of our cars, which qualified ninth, finish in the top four on a day when both McLarens and both Ferraris finished the race. We set ourselves a target of three points today, and we've achieved it. It's been a good start to the season. Now we've got to maintain this momentum.'
Michael Schumacher scored his sixth win in succession, the second this season. But he was lucky to do so. Despite pinning off in the rain, Schumacher also had to spend over a minute in the pits due to confusion during a tyre change for his team-mate, Rubens Barrichello. The Ferraris carved through the field at the restart after the Safety Car period, moving from 10th and 11th to the first two places in six laps.
The third round of the championship will be the Brazilian Grand Prix on 1 April.