SAO PAULO, Brazil, Sunday, March 26, 2000 - Michael Schumacher's victory in the Brazilian Grand Prix, his second consecutive win of the season, gave him a solid lead in the Drivers World Championship after just two races. Schumacher already has...
SAO PAULO, Brazil, Sunday, March 26, 2000 - Michael Schumacher's victory in the Brazilian Grand Prix, his second consecutive win of the season, gave him a solid lead in the Drivers World Championship after just two races.
Schumacher already has 20 points while his nearest rival in the standings, Giancarlo Fisichella, has eight points. Just as in the season opener in Australia, West McLaren-Mercedes teammates Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard hit troubles. Hakkinen retired with engine problems while leading on Lap 30. Coulthard, who lost second and third gears during the race, finished second but was later disqualified when officials found the front wing of his McLaren to exceed the tolerances allowed by the rules by 2 mm (.0788 of an inch).
It was not the type of birthday present Coulthard, who turns 29 on March 27, had hoped for.
Team McLaren, claiming that the parts of the car had suffered structural damage because of the bumpy circuit, has filed an appeal. The appeal date has yet to be set.
Every driver who has won the Brazilian Grand Prix since 1994 has gone on to win the World Championship. But Schumacher didn't want to hear about any predictions.
"I was told that who ever wins the first race wins the championship," he said. "Now you tell me who ever wins in Brazil wins the championship. With that prediction I can go home and there is no need to drive for the rest of the year. So I don't care about statistics, as they have been proven wrong too many times."
But these statistics are facts: Schumacher now has three wins in Brazil and 37 career Grand Prix victories. In his nine appearances in the Brazilian Grand Prix, he has never finished lower than fifth.
Ferrari leads the Constructors Championship with 26 points to Benetton-Playlife's eight.
Fisichella finished second in Brazil in his Mild Seven Benetton-Playlife ahead of Benson & Hedges Jordan-Mugen-Honda teammates Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Jarno Trulli. Another pair of teammates, Williams-BMW drivers Ralf Schumacher and Jenson Button, rounded out the top six. Rookie Button had finished seventh but was elevated to sixth after Coulthard was disqualified and thus scored his first championship point.
Hakkinen started on the pole, for the 23rd time, but lost the lead on lap two after a torrid battle with Michael Schumacher. The latter, on a two-stop strategy, pulled away from Hakkinen, who then had to fend off Rubens Barrichello's Ferrari. Barrichello, also on a two-stop strategy, got by Hakkinen on Lap 15. And much to the delight of his hometown fans, Barrichello even led for two laps before making his first pit stop.
Unfortunately for the sell-out crowd, Barrichello's Ferrari started to experience hydraulics problems and he pulled into the pits after 27 laps. Hakkinen, on one-stop plan and back in the lead, retired with engine problems three laps later.
Winner Schumacher averaged 124.524 mph (200.403 km/h) to complete the 71-lap, 190.083-mile (305.909-km) race in one hour, 31 minutes and 35.271 seconds. His margin of victory was 39.898 seconds.
MICHAEL SCHUMACHER (Ferrari, winner): "The race was entertaining and enjoyable. With different strategies from the leading teams, at least there were some overtaking opportunities, which I think we used quite well. In the past, as you may remember, we could not overtake the McLarens, regardless of their strategy. Now we are looking a lot more competitive, which is where we wanted to be, and the season could hardly have started better than it has."
GIANCARLO FISICHELLA (Mild Seven Benetton Playlife, second): "Already yesterday I could see how good the car was, and I knew there was a possibility of being on the podium. We did a very good job today, but with so much fuel on board at the start, the car was difficult to drive. I had understeer, and sometimes even snap oversteer, but after 15 or 20 laps it was much better. The balance and the grip improved, so I could start to push hard."
HEINZ-HARALD FRENTZEN (Benson & Hedges Jordan-Mugen-Honda, third): "I was unable to follow Fisichella in the middle of the race. My rear tires took a lot of wear, and I had to come in on an early pit stop."
JARNO TRULLI (Benson & Hedges Jordan-Mugen-Honda, fourth): "To move from 12th to finishing in the points is fantastic. I had a good start, and the first stage of the race went perfectly. Unfortunately, after my pit stop I found the car very heavy, but then in the last stage of the race it got better."
RALF SCHUMACHER (Williams-BMW, fifth): "I had quite a bad start as my engine nearly died. During the race I was quick but not quite quick enough. After struggling the whole weekend to find a good setup, the race was quite hard."
JENSON BUTTON (Williams-BMW, sixth): "It was a bit hectic right after the start, and my start was probably the worst I have ever made! I dropped from ninth to 14th position. The best part of the race was overtaking Jos Verstappen. Getting used to passing in a high-speed car obviously takes a bit of time."
MIKA HAKKINEN (West McLaren-Mercedes, retired while leading on Lap 32): "Obviously the word disappointed can't describe how I feel. We have been quick throughout the weekend, so I'm not happy to leave Brazil without any points. We have some work to do before the start of the European season."
RUBENS BARRICHELLO (Ferrari, retired Lap 28): "There was a problem with the hydraulic system that affected the steering wheel and then spread to the throttle. I think I showed I could keep up with Michael (Schumacher) thanks to a very competitive car. I want to thank everybody who came to Interlagos to support me. I am sure I will have the opportunity to repay them with a victory. I couldn't do it here, but I don't think I will have long to wait."
JACQUES VILLENEUVE (Lucky Strike British American Racing-Honda, retired on Lap 17): "I knew there was something not quite right with the gearbox, but I thought I could still get it to the finish. I was having trouble selecting gears, and then it just gave up. It's a shame because we didn't have a problem all weekend, and we have shown that we are capable of setting competitive times. We could easily have come away from Brazil with some more points. *** FINAL RESULTS:
NEWS and NOTES:
USA vital for BMW: Team Williams engine partner BMW welcomes the return of Formula One and the inaugural United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis on Sept. 24.
"We are already racing in America in the American Le Mans Series with our sports cars," said BMW's motor sport technical director Dr. Mario Thiessen. "The United States is the most important foreign market for BMW. It certainly is very important for us to be there in motor sports. American BMW customers are very excited and aware about motor sports, so it is a very good move for us to go to Indy.
"I am looking forward very much to going to Indianapolis. I have never been there. There will be many spectators there, and it should be a fascinating atmosphere."
Star presenter: Legendary soccer star Pele presented the trophy to winner Michael Schumacher on the podium. Schumacher, an avid soccer fan, greeted Pele warmly.
Safety first: Team Red Bull Sauber Petronas withdrew both its cars from the race after they suffered a series of rear wing failures in practice. "While we are at the track it is not possible for us to analyze the cause of the problem to our satisfaction," team owner Peter Sauber said. "Our prime commitment has always been to the safety of our drivers and to the other drivers in the race."
Benetton has new owners and new management: This was the first race for Benetton since the announcement that Renault bought the team for $120 million. Former team director Flavio Briatore is back as manager of the team and replaces Rocco Benetton.
"Benetton Formula now has a new board," Briatore said, "consisting of Mr. Patrick Faure, myself and Mr. Christian Contzen, the managing director of Renault Sport. Rocco Benetton has now resigned (as chief executive), and the Benetton family has sold 100 percent of its shares (to Renault)."
Briatore said the F1 is extremely important to Renault.
"The picture of the future is becoming quite clear already," he said. "You have BMW, Mercedes, Fiat-Ferrari and Jaguar already. In the end there will be six or seven manufacturers, worldwide.
There is nothing better than being part of F1, and Renault's decision was the same. We wanted to be a big player, and there is nothing but F1 that could offer us that. F1 offers incredible exposure, together with the sort of technology that can be transferred to everyday cars. That means it is not just a sport: It is technology, a big event, image and everything."
Chaotic qualifying: Qualifying had to be stopped three times Saturday because sections of advertising billboards fell on to the track.
New surface still bumpy: Although the entire track surface and pit lane had been resurfaced, the drivers still complained about the bumps, especially on the pit straight.
"When I went around the circuit in a road car before practice I thought they had done a very good job," Pedro Diniz said. "But when I tried it today in the F1 car I changed my mind! I still think they did a good job, but although the track overall is better, it is still very bumpy on the pit straight."
Avid fans: The line of spectators waiting to get in the track on race morning was three people wide and 1.5 miles (2.5 km) long.
Wait for the green: Ralf Schumacher and Heinz-Harald Frentzen often have an unofficial race to see who can be the first out on the track for Sunday morning's warm-up. Both left the pits just before the lights turned from red to green, and officials fined both drivers $5,000.
Get in shape: Tom Walkinshaw, owner of the Orange Arrows-Supertec team, is sending his drivers in for some intensive physical training. Pedro de la Rosa and Jos Verstappen will train with the Gloucester Rugby Club, an English-based team also owned by Walkinshaw.