Zonta's car was smoking on the line, and things didn't look too promising for BAR. As the cars left on the formation lap, several were left behind, but they managed to rejoin. The McLaren of HÃ¤kkinen led into the first corner, but Coulthard ...
Zonta's car was smoking on the line, and things didn't look too promising for BAR. As the cars left on the formation lap, several were left behind, but they managed to rejoin.
The McLaren of Häkkinen led into the first corner, but Coulthard wasn't in second. The Ferrari of Schumacher had already got by, and was pushing Häkkinen extremely hard for the position. Barrichello was doing likewise to Coulthard. Eddie Irvine had managed to get his Jaguar up into 5th place. As the leading pair reached the timing beam, Schumacher took Häkkinen for the lead, and almost in perfect synchrony Barrichello did the same to Coulthard.
Häkkinen dropped back from Schumacher, as the German tore into the distance. The Finn now had the problem of falling back into the claws of Barrichello. On lap 7, Trulli got by Fisichella, and took the Jordan into 6th place. The Ferrari of Schumacher was in a different league in the early lap, taking up to 2 seconds a lap from Häkkinen. On lap 8, Wurz's Renault-derived engine let go. Eddie Irvine's Jaguar appeared to have a job keeping the Jordan of Trulli behind him. Heidfeld's Peugeot engine let go, and the Prost was forced to retire.
Verstappen in the Arrows was now up to 7th, whilst Alesi had hauled his Prost up to 9th, only for the car to fail him. Barrichello, meanwhile, at the front took Häkkinen for 2nd place quite easily. The McLaren was powerless to hold him back.
By lap 16 the Ferrari mechanics were out - and the Ferrari strategy started to fall into place... Schumacher was on a two-stop strategy, with a long middle stint. Briefly, Barrichello had the lead in Brazil. Eddie Irvine, meanwhile, had problems with his Jaguar, which led him to go off - possibly a repeat of the loose rear end he had in Australia.
Barrichello came in for his stop - the same as Schumacher's - and gave the lead to Häkkinen. Barrichello's Ferrari engine, though, let go, and he toured into the pits, only for there to be a small fire in the pits, where the mechanics had to dowse it with a fire extinguisher. Häkkinen was soon into the pits, via a slow tour - the McLaren had failed him again, and his campaign for 2000 is having a very bad start. Schumacher now had the lead back again.
31: Schumacher, Coulthard, Verstappen, Fisichella, Frentzen, Trulli, R Schumacher, de la Rosa, Button, Herbert
David Coulthard was matching Schumacher's times, but being some 9 seconds adrift this wasn't much help to the team - due to a lack of 3rd gear it later emerged. Ralf Schumacher was now also pushing hard, and trying to wrest 5th place from Fisichella when Verstappen pitted. McLaren, meanwhile, brought Coulthard in, and turned him around in 8.8s. Reports were coming in that Häkkinen had left the circuit, and wasn't talking to anyone. For 4-6th the battle was fierce, with the Trulli- Ralf-Button train going around looking for ways past. The Williams team brought Button in for his stop.
The race settled down a bit, and whilst no-one seemed happy with their positions, for a while little in the way of passing occurred. By lap 50, Jenson Button was fighting Verstappen hard for 7th place. Then Fisichella came in for his first stop - in the 50's! The Italian did, though, manage to keep his third from Trulli. Johnny Herbert pulled into the pits to retire. The battle between Button and Verstappen intensified, and Button made an audacious move on Verstappen, only for the Dutchman to fight back and retake it, and have Button force the move again - both driver's stock went up in this race.
With 10 laps to go, the Ferrari of Schumacher suddenly was losing pace - as much as 4 seconds a lap! Coulthard pushed hard, but the Ferrari found some speed again, and the gap whilst falling, didn't get small enough to bother the German. Frentzen, meanwhile, was fighting Fisichella but didn't quite manage it by the flag.
6. R Schumacher
Stephen M Baines http://www.motorsport.org.uk/me