On the formation lap Berger pulled into the pits - not the best start to his home Grand Prix - with a warning light on. The team sent him by without even stopping at the pits. He would have to now start from the pit lane and fight his way ...
On the formation lap Berger pulled into the pits - not the best start to his home Grand Prix - with a warning light on. The team sent him by without even stopping at the pits. He would have to now start from the pit lane and fight his way through.
At the front, Villeneuve led away, but Hakkinen was soon in the lead with Trulli in second place. Villeneuve was already down to third and falling back further as Barrichello also got by. Not the start the Canadian wanted, especially as Magnussen was also harrying him for fourth place now. By the end of the first lap Hakkinen was out, slowing as he reached the pit straight. The engine apparantly gave up the ghost, so now Trulli was in the lead. And he made the most of it.
For lap after lap Trulli commanded the race, setting fastest lap after fastest lap. By the end of lap 6 he had a 2.1 second lead over Barrichello, who had Villeneuve another second behind. The top six settled on Trulli, Barrichello, Villeneuve, Magnussen, Frentzen and Michael Schumacher. On lap 13, Alesi took Irvine with Ralf Schumacher following on. A change occured on lap 20 when Fisichella set the fastest lap, clearly hurt Trulli set the record straight again the following lap. On lap 24, Villeneuve got by Barrichello on the inside of turn 2 and set to work on Trulli's 10 second lead. The order was now Trulli, Villeneuve, Barrichello, Frentzen, Magnussen and Schumacher. It was a rather unusual sight to see the Williams' being pushed by the Stewarts. It soon became clear that they were on a different race to the rest, stopping for the first of two stops on lap 27 & 28. The order was now Trulli, Villeneuve, Frentzen, Schumacher, Coulthard and Hill.
It then settled again until the main pit stops started. It started with Berger on lap 32, who had a problem with the fuel nozzle going on first time (this really wasn't Bergers race). Diniz was also soon in, followed by Nakano. The Williams team were ready for Frentzen, then the refueller was ready for Villeneuve, then everyone was ready for Villeneuve, then everyone put their stuff away. Trulli now pitted from the lead, and this was to be the deciding moment of the race, as Trulli rejoined the race straight into traffic. Villeneuve now had the lead from Frentzen. Alesi and Irvine collided, the Irishman gave the French-Sicillian enough room, but Alesi wanted more. Result? One launched Benetton out on the spot, and the Ferrari limping its way back to the pits, only to retire. Morbidelli in the Sauber was lucky to avoid being involved, actually stopping on the track before resuming his race.
At Williams they were ready for a stop again. Schumacher made easy work of getting by Frentzen (though this would have repercussions later, as he did this under waved yellows.....). Villeneuve made his stop, and got out ahead of Trulli. Villeneuve had the advantage now. The order was now Schumacher, Frentzen, Coulthard, Villeneuve, Trulli and Ralf Schumacher. Schumacher and Frentzen pitted together, along with Ralf. The order was now Coulthard, Villeneuve, Trulli, Ralf, Fisichella and Michael. Coulthard pitted the next lap, and got ahead of Frentzen on the track. Fisichella then made a move on Trulli, but he had still to stop. It was now that Schumacher was awarded a 10 second stop/go penalty for passing under waved yellows. It would drop him way down the field. Barrichello now made his second stop, and rejoined in front of Schumacher in the pit lane, and further hinder Schumachers championship challenge.
On lap 52, word came that Trulli didn't get enough fuel and may have to come in again to get some more, or else lean-off the engine. Coulthard was now very close on Trulli's tail, who was backing off somewhat. Suddenly a Prost had it's engine let go in a very big way, and dropped it all over turn 2. Luckily it was not Trulli, but Nakano. Unfortunately on the same lap Trulli's Prost did exactly the same thing, dumping its sump over the following Coulthard. Coulthard was now up to second. Word later came the problem was due to the Prost's losing contact with the ground over bumps, and so over-revving the engines.
Schumacher was now pushing very hard to get into the points, and fought tooth and nail with Barrichello and Hill. Coulthard was now catching Villeneuve, but it soon became clear that the Canadian was mearly backing off a little. Who needs to win by a country mile? Schumacher pushed Barrichello very hard, and soon the Stewart was off the track and out of the race. A few laps later Schumacher made a rather bullying move on Hill to take the sixth place. The race ended with Villeneuve the victor from Coulthard, Frentzen, Fisichella, Ralf Schumacher and Michael.
The star of the show, however, had to be Trulli. It will be a crying shame that he probably will not be racing next week (as Panis is due to return to Prost), but Nakano who made no impression in the same car in this race will.
-- Stephen M Baines
"[The Autosport sticker] started to peel off in the middle of Eau Rouge and it distracted me. In fact it was the first thing to hit the barrier" Tiff Needell - Jaguar XJR-15 Challenge - Interview with Autosport