Schumacher pulls close to points lead at Italian GP

MONZA, Italy, Sunday, Sept. 10, 2000 -- In a day of contrasting emotions, Michael Schumacher won the Italian Grand Prix in his Ferrari and closed to within two points of Mika Hakkinen in the World Championship. Two accidents at the start of the...

MONZA, Italy, Sunday, Sept. 10, 2000 -- In a day of contrasting emotions, Michael Schumacher won the Italian Grand Prix in his Ferrari and closed to within two points of Mika Hakkinen in the World Championship. Two accidents at the start of the race ended the day for two other championship contenders-David Coulthard and Rubens Barrichello-as well as five other drivers. Unfortunately, fire marshal Paolo Ghislimberti suffered fatal injuries when hit by debris from the second accident. "I am very sad to hear about the death of a track official," Schumacher said when he heard about the fatality several hours after the race. "Under these circumstances, what happened in the race is only a secondary importance." The sell-out crowd of 110,000, most of them Ferrari fans, cheered and celebrated as Schumacher led nearly every lap to earn the 41st Grand Prix victory of his career. Schumacher has now equaled the number of victories scored by the late Ayrton Senna. They are tied for second in the record books behind Alain Prost, who has 52 wins. Hakkinen finished second, while Ralf Schumacher finished third to share the podium with his older brother. Asked if this particular win was special, Michael Schumacher said, "Yes, it does mean a lot to me..." He then was overcome with emotion and could not continue. Later, he explained why this win meant so much to him. "We are here in Italy," he said. "We obviously were in some difficulty in the last races where we haven't been as competitive as we wished to be for whatever reason, and we are back on the road, which I think we showed very obvious over all weekend. It's my 41st victory, and the crowd just has been amazing. I mean, it's much more than it has been (when I won here) in '98. It came a lot more close to me, and it's different. It's difficult to put into words." Schumacher had started on the pole alongside Ferrari teammate Barrichello. As the field entered the first chicane, Eddie Irvine and Mika Salo collided, and Pedro Diniz had to take evasive action. As the remainder of the cars headed into the second chicane, Heinz-Harald Frentzen ran into the back of Barrichello, and in the ensuing accident, Jarno Trulli, Coulthard and Pedro de la Rosa all crashed out of the race. Johnny Herbert, who had slowed for the accident and was then hit by de la Rosa, made it back to the pits but then retired. Diniz, Ricardo Zonta and Salo all pitted for repairs. In all, seven cars were eliminated in that first lap, and Jenson Button crashed just before the Safety Car, which had been out from Lap 1 through Lap 11 while workers cleared away the debris, pulled off. Schumacher took the lead during the restart and held it for the entire race except for the three laps Hakkinen led during the pit stops. With the handling of his West McLaren-Mercedes not to his liking, Hakkinen couldn't match the pace of Schumacher and settled for second. For the third time this season, Ralf Schumacher brought his Williams-BMW home third. Michael Schumacher averaged 130.665 mph (210.286 km/h) to finish the 53-lap, 190.614-mile (306.764-km) race in one hour, 27 minutes and 31.638 seconds. His margin of victory was 3.810 seconds. The championship battles are close indeed as the Formula One teams head to America for the inaugural SAP United States Grand Prix on Sept. 24 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Hakkinen is still ahead, 80-78, over Schumacher in the Drivers Championship. It is equally close in the Constructors Championship, where McLaren-Mercedes has 131 points to Ferrari's 127.

MICHAEL SCHUMACHER (Ferrari, winner): "I have no vocabulary to express my feelings except that I am happy but exhausted. I am still not in front of the championship, but this win is a big relief. There are 500 people working with us, and all of them are part of this victory."

MIKA HAKKINEN (West McLaren-Mercedes, second): "We made some modifications to the car during the pit stop, and it made the balance of the car better. But it was obviously not enough, and the gap to Michael (Schumacher) was too much. It was impossible to catch him, and the back markers (made it even more difficult). There were a couple of Minardis who were quite a pain. They wouldn't let me overtake very easily, and I lost two or three seconds because of that. But at the end of the day, that is not an excuse. I believe that Michael had no reason to push any more."

RALF SCHUMACHER (Williams-BMW, third) (About major accident on Lap 1): "I just saw a lot of dust and car parts flying around. Jacques (Villeneuve) and I managed somehow to get around."

JOS VERSTAPPEN (Orange Arrows-Supertec, fourth): "I had a very bad start, the same as Pedro (de la Rosa), and maybe that was good for me as I avoided the accidents. I was alongside Pedro in the second chicane but managed to miss all the debris. After that, the car was brilliant. The top speed that we had meant that we could pass people."

JACQUES VILLENUEVE (Lucky Strike BAR-Honda, retired Lap 15): "The car just stopped. It was a real shame because today was the last realistic opportunity we had for the rest of the season to get a podium finish."

DAVID COULTHARD (West McLaren-Mercedes, retired Lap 1): "I'm extremely disappointed with the outcome of my Monza race - particularly as I was an innocent victim in the incident that which place behind me. I made a good start, which saw me move from fifth to third-but it was all over at the second chicane."

HEINZ-HARALD FRENTZEN (Benson & Hedges Jordan-Mugen-Honda, retired Lap 1): "I was trying to overtake (Rubens) Barrichello, and he changed line and braked unexpectedly early, so we collided."

PEDRO DE LA ROSA (Orange Arrows-Supertec, retired Lap 1): "I just saw the yellow flags and braked and then saw pieces of cars all over the place and lots of tire smoke. And after the smoke cleared, there were two cars traveling really slowly, and I just couldn't slow my car down enough. I hit one on the rear wheel, and this launched me into the air. Then I just barrel-rolled until the car stopped.

RUBENS BARRICHELLO (Ferrari, retired Lap 1): "(Heinz-Harald) Frentzen braked too late and hit me, provoking an incident which involved a large number of cars. My car was good, and I was sure I could have had a good race. Now I am already thinking about the next one in two weeks time in the USA."

WEST McLAREN-MERCEDES TEAM STATEMENT: "The West McLaren-Mercedes team's thoughts are with the family of the fire marshal who lost his life while fulfilling his duties at the time of the accident at the second chicane."

JEAN TODT (Sporting director, Ferrari): "This result has been saddened by the death of a track official. He was one of a group of people without whom there would be no motor racing. I dedicate this victory to them."

NEWS and NOTES:

Getting ready for Indy: The Formula One drivers will all be racing on the new road course at the Brickyard in the inaugural SAP United States Grand Prix in two weeks. How will they prepare for a track they have never raced on before?

Rubens Barrichello, "I drive the track on the PlayStation."

Ralf Schumacher: "I will go there (Indianapolis) as early as possible, and do a lap on a bike or what ever car I can get to see and memorize the corners. That is all you can do."

Jenson Button: "Because I don't know a lot of the circuits this year, I've tried a few things. The best thing is to arrive as soon as you can, walk or ride around the circuit. Then in practice get out as soon as possible, which I'm sure everybody else will, too."

Jean Alesi: "In the past I did one lap (of the Indianapolis oval) in a (tour) bus. I hope to be faster this time!"

*** The Road to Indy: The F1 teams all have a demanding schedule as they prepare for the SAP United States Grand Prix.

The teams based in England planned to drive their transporters non-stop back to their factories and arrive by Monday night, Sept. 11. They then will have only three days to rebuild and prepare all their cars and equipment before it is due at the airport on Thursday evening, Sept. 14, to be loaded on the cargo jets for the flight to Indianapolis.

***

Honda's 200th: This race marked the 200th Grand Prix start for Honda, which has participated in Formula One from 1964-68 (as a constructor of both the chassis and the engine), and from 1983-92 and from 2000 onward as an engine partner. In that time, Honda won six Constructors Championships, five Drivers Championships, 71 Grands Prix and 74 pole positions.

"The 200th race is a significant milestone, and as a company we are proud of our F1 achievements," said Takefumi Hosaka, F1 project leader and managing director of Honda R&D. "Racing is Honda's DNA. We have always aimed high, and through the years F1 has represented the greatest challenge to our engineers."

-IRNLS/IMS-

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Eddie Irvine , Jarno Trulli , Jenson Button , Ralf Schumacher , Pedro de la Rosa , Johnny Herbert , Michael Schumacher , Rubens Barrichello , Jean Alesi , David Coulthard , Mika Hakkinen , Ricardo Zonta , Mika Salo , Alain Prost , Ayrton Senna , Pedro Diniz
Teams Ferrari , Mercedes , McLaren , Williams , Minardi , Jordan