The race was not a good one for Barrichello. The Brazilian, with the whole of the country watching him in his home race, had his car fail on the way to the start. He made his way back to the pits, and the spare was hastily modified from ...
The race was not a good one for Barrichello. The Brazilian, with the whole of the country watching him in his home race, had his car fail on the way to the start. He made his way back to the pits, and the spare was hastily modified from Schumacher's settings to the Brazilians. The start of the race was to be a problem for the Jaguar team, as Eddie Irvine failed to get away from the formation lap. He did eventually get way from the grid, and rejoined in his position on the grid. The stewards quickly announced that the Irvine was to be investigated...
The cars were lined up, the lights went out, and the field was away, except for one car, whose driver was frantically waving on the grid - the car was that of Mika Häkkinen. His race was over. Ralf Schumacher found himself dropping down to 4th, whilst Montoya was up to 2nd place, with Coulthard in 3rd. The safety car was ready to come out, as the McLaren was stranded on the grid and not moving. It came out briefly, and the McLaren was cleared.
The race restarted, and Montoya made a beautiful move on Schumacher, and squeezed Schumacher and into the lead. Rubens Barrichello continued his impressive record of taking out a German at every race by driving straight into the rear of Ralf Schumacher - Rubens was instantly out whilst Ralf somehow managed to limp back to the pits. Later on Rubens was to unconvincingly claim that Ralf had braked far too soon and had caused the crash.
Lap 3: Montoya, Schumacher, Coulthard, Trulli, Frentzen, Villeneuve
The stewards announced their decision regarding Irvine, and awarded the Jaguar driver a ten second penalty. Villeneuve and Frentzen were having a prize battle, with the French-Canadian taking the German, who quickly took it back. Villeneuve was soon in the pits, though, with a suspected puncture. His team mate, Panis, was up to 4th after taking Trulli. Meanwhile, at the front, Montoya continued to lead with a quite impressive display over Schumacher.
It was suspected that both the Ferrari and the Williams were running a two stop strategy. The Ferrari of Schumacher pitted on lap 25, whilst Montoya stayed out... and out... and out... The front tyres of the Williams were very worn, with the left-front showing high wear on the inside, whilst the right-front was worn all over. A few laps later Panis pitted from 3rd, whilst it was becoming apparent that not only was the Williams a match for the Ferrari, it was superior in this race, as it was only running a single stop. The Williams-BMW-Michelin combination looked mighty in Montoyas hands. Jenson Button continued to have a torrid time at Benetton, with his car pitting and then stopping, and having a 4 lap investigation before finally rejoining the race. Villeneuve's race wasn't getting much better, either, as he went off the track, cut the grass for the authorities, and then rejoined the track.
The Williams of Montoya continued on its way, and was scything its way through the field, and went past the Arrows of Verstappen, who moved over to let him by. Inexplicably, the Arrows then moved in behind the Colombian and straight up the back of him, pitching the Williams out of the race. Coulthard now had the lead of the race. Heidfeld was having problems with his stop, as the fuel nozzle remained on the car as it left the pits.
Coulthard finally pitted on lap 39 in 9.8s, and just managed to keep the lead from Schumacher. The car looked a handful, but the Scot managed to keep things together.
The next set of people pitting seemed to have a recurring problem. Fisichella had a fuel nozzle problem, as did Jacques, as did Trulli. Only Frentzen seemed to manage a clean stop.
It was at this point that it started to rain. Schumacher was the first to pit, and went onto Intermediates. It appeared that Coulthard and McLaren had made a major mistake, as the team lost lots of time over that lap, with Coulthard going onto inters a lap later, allowing Schumacher to take the lead comfortably. Then Schumacher made his next mistake of the race, spinning on the wet track, he rescued it and got it going again, but it was enough for Coulthard to catch up. Then came a blinding move from Coulthard. Schumacher was up behind a Minardi, and was unsighted, as Coulthard - unsighted by both - went on the inside of the Schumacher-Minardi pair and left the Minardi not sure which way to go, and Coulthard took the lead.
Schumacher then made another mistake as he went off via the gravel trap, narrowly avoiding the wall and rejoining the race. Irvine also spun, and almost collected Irvine in the process. Ralf Schumacher, a long way back in the field, also went off and got back on track again. Raikkonen went off after losing it big time in turn 5.
57: Coulthard, Schumacher, Frentzen, Trulli, Heidfeld, Panis, Alesi, Fisichella.
Ralf then went off again at the same point as Raikkonen did, and back onto the track. The marshals managed to clear the track under waved yellows. Schumacher seemed now to be having problems, as he was struggling to get by the Jordan of Trulli, but finally did it. Frentzen was in trouble, and slowed and pulled off the track - not a good day for the Jordan team, especially as Panis then made short work of Trulli to take 4th place. Coulthard now kept a comfortable lead over Schumacher, and held it well together to the line.
-Stephen M Baines