At the start of the race, a Benetton made a good start, with Hakkinen and Coulthard leading, with Irvine 3rd. Then at the second corner, Coulthard and Hakkinen touched - off went the McLaren of Hakkinen. He managed to get going and joined back in...
At the start of the race, a Benetton made a good start, with Hakkinen and Coulthard leading, with Irvine 3rd. Then at the second corner, Coulthard and Hakkinen touched - off went the McLaren of Hakkinen. He managed to get going and joined back in at the back of the field. On the replays, Coulthard made a very brave move on the inside of the corner, the door was open, but it never looked especially likely. The field behind had a few hassles, with the Stewart of Herbert getting nerfed by Salo. Salo damaged his front wing, whilst Herbert lost his rear wing. Herbert lost 4 laps getting the car fixed, whilst Salo came in after 3 laps for a new wing which took around 20 seconds. Hakkinen, meanwhile, didn't have any real damage and was able to start an entertaining charge through the field.
By lap 7, Hakkinen was up to Damon Hill in 13th place, he tried to get by at turn 1, but didn't quite make it. He did manage it, however, at the next turn. Ralf Schumacher, meanwhile, was having his first bad race of the year, getting beached on the kerbs. He was trying to get by Diniz, locked his brakes in the process, and span off. Further down the pack, Hakkinen was battling with Trulli. Trulli, for once not being lapped by the McLaren, was enjoying the battle, and didn't want to let him by. Hakkinen wasn't helped by the yellows being out for Ralf's stranded Williams. Once the yellows went, the McLaren made easy pickings of it.
Lap 15 came, and Hakkinen was now up to Alesi, Alesi was having none of it, and overtook Zonta instead. Hakkinen then tried to get by Zonta, eventually did it, and started his pursuit of Alesi again. Alesi yet again had other ideas, and was after Fisichella. Alesi took him, leaving Hakkinen to get by Fisichella before being able to chase after Alesi in an elaborate game of kiss-catch. Alesi, still was having none of it, as now he was up to Villeneuve, and left Hakkinen yet again having a car between him and the Sauber. Eventually he got by. The Ferrari of Salo, meanwhile, was tooling around at the back of the field making no progress whatsoever.
Lap 21: Coulthard, Barrichello, Irvine, Frentzen, Diniz, Alesi, Hakkinen, Villeneuve, Fisichella, Wurz, Trulli, Hill, Zonta, de la Rosa, Takagi, Zanardi, Gene, Panis
Diniz turned out to be the first of the two stoppers, and was turned around in 9.9s, Alesi pitted the next lap in 8.1s, giving Hakkinen a breather, and chance to chase Frentzen in 4th. Takagi, meanwhile, was in trouble, and toured to retirement. Hakkinen harried Frentzen, and made an unbelievably brave move on the German, and forced his way through on the inside. Villeneuve, meanwhile, was having yet another bad race for BAR, pulling into the pits to retire.
Zanardi was having a very poor race - he was the only driver, apparently, on hard tyres, and also on steel brakes. Zanardi also then retired by touring very slowly. Reports from the pit lane suggested he had ignored requests to pit, and ran out of fuel. Barrichello, meanwhile, had a mare of a pitstop, with another driver coming into the pits, delaying his exit. Coulthard was now up to lap Salo, and followed him for a while, not finding his way through. In the end, the best solution was to pit, and that's what the McLaren boys did.
de la Rosa got stuck in the gravel and retired from the race. Hakkinen pitted soon after Coulthard, and on lap 44 Irvine pitted and was turned around in just 8.6s. Enough to give Irvine the lead from Coulthard. Coulthard now started to charge hard, and try and catch the Ferrari, and for a while Salo looked set to play a role, as Irvine came up to lap him, and put him in a position to buffer Coulthard from him. It was thought that maybe the Finn would be used until the blue flags were waved at him three times, but it didn't seem to come to that, as Coulthard got by. Hakkinen, from last on the first lap, was now fourth and fighting Barrichello. He made another daring move, and got by and into third place.
The race got into the final thirding, as Diniz pitted, while Eddie Irvine pulled out a slight lead from Coulthard: Irvine, Coulthard, Hakkinen, Barrichello, Frentzen, Wurz, Fisichella, Diniz, Trulli, Hill, Zonta, Salo. Barrichello's race was soon over as the new series 3 engine let go. Fisichella, meanwhile, had an off track excursion, but rejoined the race. Coulthard was now charging hard after Irvine, and had the gap down to 2 seconds, and around 0.5 seconds a lap faster than Irvine. The pair came up to the Prost of Trulli - Irvine got by relatively easily, but it took longer for Coulthard to get by. The gap came down to 1.8 seconds, then 1.4, then 1.2. Ricardo Zonta, meanwhile, completed BARs woes by retiring. The gap between the Ferrari-McLaren coupling came down to a second, then 0.6 seconds with just a couple of laps to go. Fisichella's engine let go in a fiery blast, whilst Coulthard continued to harry Eddie to the last corner. Eddie just held it, and won from Coulthard in one of the closest, tightest finishes we have seen for some time. -- Stephen M Baines http://www.motorsport.org.uk