Australian GP Race in Review

MELBOURNE, Australia, Sunday, March 12, 2000-Michael Schumacher and his new Ferrari teammate Rubens Barrichello finished first and second, respectively, in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix held on Melbourne's Albert Park circuit. ...

MELBOURNE, Australia, Sunday, March 12, 2000-Michael Schumacher and his new Ferrari teammate Rubens Barrichello finished first and second, respectively, in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix held on Melbourne's Albert Park circuit. Schumacher starts the season with a perfect 10 -- maximum points. His chief rivals for the title came away with nothing as both West McLaren-Mercedes drivers retired before the race was 20 laps old. Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard both stopped with identical problems with their engine's pneumatic valve systems. This was Schumacher's 36th career F1 victory but his first Australian Grand Prix victory in 10 years of trying. Afterward he said he had been taking it easy in the opening stages of the race in order to save the car. "I was already driving pretty easy from the beginning," he said. "I was saving my tires, saving my fuel, ready for the final moment when the pit stops came and I had to attack. That was my strategy, and it worked fine. Unfortunately the two (McLaren) guys in front of me broke down. I would have preferred to race them to the end, to prove how really good we are. But I think there will be plenty of opportunities for us to do this again all through this year." Pole sitter Hakkinen led from the start until coasting to a halt on Lap 19. By that time, his McLaren-Mercedes teammate Coulthard had already pulled off the track. Schumacher took over the lead and held it until his mid-race pit stop on Lap 30. Heinz-Harald Frentzen then led in his Benson & Hedges Jordan-Mugen-Honda until he made his stop on Lap 36. Barrichello got squeezed out by Frentzen at the start and then was stuck behind him in for the first half of the race until the Ferrari team decided to switch Barrichello to a two-stop strategy. Barrichello, who led one lap before his second stop, came home in second place to match his best F1 result. Ralf Schumacher gave BMW a podium finish in its return to F1 after he drove his Williams-BMW to third place and earned BMW's first points since the engine company withdrew from F1 at the end of 1987. After scoring no points in 1999, Jacques Villeneuve drove a gritty race to finish fourth in his Lucky Strike British American Racing-Honda. His teammate Ricardo Zonta also ended up in the points by placing sixth. Villeneuve held off a string of cars in the closing stages of the race and beat Giancarlo Fisichella by just 0.718 of a second. A mere 2.4 seconds covered fourth through seventh places. Winner Schumacher averaged 121.946 mph (196.254 km/h) to complete the 58-lap 191.117-mile (307.574-km) race in one hour, 34 minutes and 1.987 seconds. This marked the first time Ferrari had finished one-two in the Australian Grand Prix since Gerhard Berger and Michele Alboreto crossed the line in that order in 1987.

MICHAEL SCHUMACHER (Ferrari, winner): "Yesterday I remember seeing Mika (Hakkinen after qualifying) and thinking it was good for him to celebrating pole position because today I would be celebrating a victory. I was quite sure we could do it, and I am delighted to be able to prove how strong we are. Traditionally Ferrari has not been strong at the beginning of the season -- but now we are. Maybe now it will be for other people to think about fighting us, and not the other way."

RUBENS BARRICHELLO (Ferrari, second): "As Michael said, this car is unbelievably good. Unfortunately there are not many places to overtake here in Melbourne unless the car in front is really, really slow. I was stuck behind Heinz-Harald (Frentzen). With the other guys going away, I was working out fresh tactics with Ross (Brawn). He has been described as the maestro, and now I can say he really is the best. He changed my strategy (from one pit stop to two), and although I don't know what happened to Frentzen, I think we would have got him anyway. Ross and the whole team did a great job."

RALF SCHUMACHER (Williams-BMW, third): "It's really amazing! Just like last year, we came here again with no full race distance tests behind us. But the team has done a great job. This is the best car that I have ever had to drive, and BMW did a great job on the engine. It did the job, it is nice to drive, it was reliable, and we finished third. I thought that we would be in the points if we finished the race, but I never imagined we would be third. This was a great day for us."

JACQUES VILLENEUVE (British American Racing-Honda, fourth): "It feels great. I knew we could score points today, and after the struggle of last year, it is good to finally achieve this. To do it in our first race with Honda is really good. I had hoped to get onto the podium, but Ralf (Schumacher) passed me in the pit stops, although I really don't think the Williams would last the distance. This is a great start to the season and gives us something to build on."

GIANCARLO FISICHELLA (Mild Seven Benetton Playlife, fifth): "I had a bad start as there was a problem with the clutch, and I lost a couple of places. Then someone either touched me or something in the rear of my car broke because it really became loose, and I had massive oversteer. I couldn't drive the car like I did in warm-up. But once I had learned to control it, I was able to be fairly competitive but just couldn't risk going off line."

NORBERT HAUG (Director of Mercedes-Benz motorsport): "The same problem on the engine's pneumatic valve system, which caused failures on Saturday, stopped us in the race. We have to fix that rapidly in order to not only be quick but to finish races."

MIKA HAKKINEN (West McLaren-Mercedes, defending World Champion, out Lap 19): "I'm disappointed to leave the first race of the season without any points, particularly since I didn't score any points here last year either. I was very happy with the car until I was forced to retire."

<pre> FINAL RESULTS:

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Results Sunday from the Australian Grand Prix, with starting position in parentheses, driver, home country, make of car and laps completed over the 3.295-mile Albert Park circuit:

1. (3) Michael Schumacher, Germany, Ferrari, 58. 2. (4) Rubens Barrichello, Brazil, Ferrari, 58. 3. (11) Ralf Schumacher, Germany, Williams, 58. 4. (8) Jacques Villeneuve, Canada, BAR Honda, 58. 5. (9) Giancarlo Fisichella, Italy, Benetton, 58. 6. (16) Ricardo Zonta, Brazil, BAR Honda, 58. 7. (14) Alexander Wurz, Austria, Benetton, 58. 8. (18) Marc Gene, Spain, Minardi, 57. 9. (15) Nick Heidfeld, Germany, Prost, 56. Not classified 10. (21) Jenson Button, Britain, Williams, 46, engine 11. (19) Pedro Diniz, Brazil, Sauber, 41, transmission 12. (22) Gaston Mazzacane, Argentina, Minardi, 40, gearbox. 13. (5) Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Germany, Jordan, 39, gearbox hydraulics. 14. (6) Jarno Trulli, Italy, Jordan, 35, engine. 15. (17) Jean Alesi, France, Prost, 27, hydraulics. 16. (1) Mika Hakkinen, Finland, McLaren 18, pneumatic valve system. 17. (13) Jos Verstappen, Netherlands, Arrows, 16, front suspension. 18. (2) David Coulthard, Britain, McLaren, 11, pneumatic valve system. 19. (12) Pedro De La Rosa, Spain, Arrows, 6, front suspension/accident. 20. (7) Eddie Irvine, Britain, Jaguar, 6, spin. 21. (20) Johnny Herbert, Britain, Jaguar, 1, clutch 22. (10) Mika Salo, Finland, Sauber, disqualified, illegal front wing.

Time of race: 1 hour, 34 minutes, 1.987 seconds. Margin of victory: 11.4 seconds. Winner's average speed: 121.946 mph. Lap leaders: Hakkinen 1-18; M. Schumacher 19-29; Frentzen 30-35; M. Schumacher 36-44; Barrichello 45; M. Schumacher 46-58.

POINTS:

Drivers: 1. M. Schumacher 10; 2. Barrichello 6; 3. R. Schumacher 4; 4. Villeneuve 3; 5. Fisichella 2; 6. Zonta 1. Constructors: 1. Ferrari 16; 2. Williams-BMW 4; 3. British American Racing-Honda 4; 4. Benetton-Playlife 2.

</pre> NEWS and NOTES:

First out: Ricardo Zonta accelerated his BAR-Honda out of pit lane just few seconds after 11 a.m. local time Friday. He was the first driver out on the track for the start of the 2000 Formula One season.

Mumm's the word: Moet & Chandon champagne has been a fixture of Formula One victory celebrations for years and, officially, since the 1972 Italian Grand Prix. That all changed with this year's Australian Grand Prix as Mumm Cordon Rouge has been named the official supplier of champagne to the winner's podium.

"Undertaking this strong commitment in the most prestigious of motorsports has been all but a natural step for Champagnes Mumm to take," a statement from the company said. "The high international profile given to F1, particularly with the return this year of the U.S. Grand Prix at Indianapolis, ties in perfectly with the brand's strategy geared to establishing its prestigious standing in its key markets worldwide."

The driver who started the tradition of spraying champagne after winning a race was Dan Gurney, who sprayed the bubbly after he and A.J. Foyt won the 1967 Le Mans 24 Hours in a Ford Mk IV.

Celebrities visit: Among the celebrities in Melbourne for the race were Jacques Villeneuve's fiancee, Dannii Minogue, the pop singer/actress who hails from Melbourne, Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, motorcycle aces Mick Doohan, Wayne Gardner and Barry Sheene, and ex-Beatle George Harrison.

Gorne to concentrate on BAR: Rick Gorne has left Reynard to concentrate on his duties at British American Racing. Gorne has worked with Reynard since 1982 as special projects manager and sales director. Gorne will still be linked with Reynard - through both Adrian Reynard and the company Reynard via their association with BAR's F1 effort.

"It was a difficult decision to make," Gorne said, "as Reynard has been a major part of my career. However, I found it increasingly difficult to give the company the attention it deserved. So I feel that it's best to move aside and let the capable management team already in place take the company forward."

M. Schumacher hungry for title: "I am very hungry," Michael Schumacher said about winning the World Championship this season. "I missed out on a good opportunity last year. We are better prepared this year, and that makes me hungry, optimistic and motivated. We have a good preparation and feel confident. But we had good preparations last year and look what happened there. "The world will not go under if race wins and championships do not happen. If it does not happen, you have to try better. The target has been there for me for three years, and the pressure is no different even after what happened last year."

Webber to test:

Australian Mark Webber will be the Arrows F1 test driver this year. He will also compete in a full season of Formula 3000. Winning in F1 is tough: This was the first Grand Prix for Neil Ressler in his new role as chairman of Jaguar Racing. He is also chairman of Cosworth Racing and, in the United States, his title at Ford Motor Company is chief technical officer. Asked what percentage of time he spends working inside racing, Ressler said: "Well, it is a far larger percentage than my boss knows! These are both tough jobs, a lot tougher when you are trying to do them than they look. Even back in the Eighties, when we were still with Benetton, I spent some time behind the scenes. I have continued to do the same through the Nineties. But I now see it as a tougher job. And as Ron (Dennis) and Jean (Todt) say, it is a really tough job to win in F1. I do not underestimate the size of the challenge." By purchasing the Stewart-Ford team, Ford has now combined both the chassis and engine sides into the same operation. "There is an opportunity here to marshal the resources of Ford Motor Co to provide more assistance (in this task) than there has been in the past," Ressler said. "But we are still at the beginning of that trip, not at the end. I am expecting more behind-the-scenes involvement of Ford's technical resources, together with greater financial support both for the team and for Cosworth. If we're good, we'll win. If we're not, we won't."

McLaren's quick change artists: The McLaren crew worked wonders Saturday morning when they changed Mika Hakkinen's engine and, almost simultaneously changed David Coulthard's engine. Both jobs were finished in 42 minutes.

-IMS-

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Eddie Irvine , Giancarlo Fisichella , Jarno Trulli , Jenson Button , Ralf Schumacher , Gaston Mazzacane , Jos Verstappen , Johnny Herbert , Michael Schumacher , Heinz-Harald Frentzen , Rubens Barrichello , Mark Webber , Jean Alesi , David Coulthard , Mika Hakkinen , Jacques Villeneuve , Nick Heidfeld , Ricardo Zonta , Marc Gene , Gerhard Berger , Alexander Wurz , Mika Salo , Dan Gurney , Michele Alboreto , Wayne Gardner , Mick Doohan , A.J. Foyt , Pedro Diniz
Teams Ferrari , Mercedes , Sauber , McLaren , Williams , Benetton , British American Racing , Minardi , Jaguar Racing , Jordan