The race started with Panis' car breaking on the grid, and him having to leg it to the pits to get the spare. The cars went off on the warm-up lap, and got to the grid uneventfully. The lights went out, and Hakkinen was away well, with two cars...
The race started with Panis' car breaking on the grid, and him having to leg it to the pits to get the spare. The cars went off on the warm-up lap, and got to the grid uneventfully. The lights went out, and Hakkinen was away well, with two cars stranded on the grid. The red flags went out, the race was stopped, and then Schumacher had some sort of problem with his car, as it lunged off the track. Replays showed that the steering or brakes had failed, resulting in the car steering off the track uncontrollably, and head on into the wall. Schumacher was conscious and tried to get out, and then obviously hurt didn't try any more. The medics arrived, and for what seemed like a lifetime, they worked to get him out safely. He was took to the medical centre, where word came that he had broken his right tibia. Early reports suggest he could be out for up to 6 weeks.
The restart happened relatively uneventfully, with Hakkinen getting away well. Frentzen got away very well, as did Irvine who bravely took Coulthard, not knowing what the problem was that caused Schumacher to crash so heavily. Ralf Schumacher, with commendable guts and bravery, got on with the race in style, despite not knowing exactly what had happened to his brother. Initially it was for nothing, as de la Rosa was stranded on the grid, and the safety car was pulled out. It was quickly brought in again, and the race effectively restarted.
Coulthard had an early charge at Irvine, but Irvine kept his place. By the end of lap 2, the positions were Hakkinen from Irvine, Coulthard, Frentzen, Ralf Schumacher and Hill. Shortly after this, the computer timing went AWOL, resulting in first Coulthard disappearing from the timing screens, before everyone did likewise. A confusing time for the pits and commentators alike. Badoer was into the pits very early for a new nose, only to have another incident somewhere on the track. Before his incident, he had been around Gene and Villeneuve. Further up the field, Alesi was pushing Barrichello hard for 7th place.
Lap 10: Hakkinen, Irvine, Coulthard, Frentzen, R Schumacher, Hill, Barrichello, Alesi, Herbert, Diniz, Zanardi, Fisichella
By lap 20 the pit stops were getting ready, and Sauber decided they were getting nowhere on track trying to get by Barrichello, and pulled Alesi in early. Others to do likewise were Gene, Fisichella, and Takagi. When Wurz pitted, the crew appeared to adjust something at the front of the car as well. Zanardi and Hill also came in, whilst the latter definitely had something adjusted (probably the wing) during his stop. By lap 23, the top 6 was much the same - Hakkinen, Irvine, Coulthard, Frentzen, R Schumacher and Barrichello. The next flurry of stops now happened....
Coulthard was turned around in an excellent 7.6 seconds. Frentzen and Schumacher pitted together, with much better team work from Williams turning Ralf around ahead of Frentzen. Trulli made an extremely spectacular stop in 7.0 seconds with tyres lit up and smoking on exiting the pits. Then came Hakkinen's stop... The team had a major problem with the left rear wheel, and was out in 9.2 seconds. Hakkinen could tell something wasn't right as he "wobbled" the car to check it out. He was soon in on the next lap for a 30 second service. At Ferrari, things weren't going too well either. Irvine overshot his mark, and his stop was a tardy 12 seconds. This allowed Coulthard to take the lead.
By lap 28, things had settled down again. The order was Coulthard, Irvine, Ralf, Frentzen, Hill and Barrichello, with Villeneuve up to 7th, with Alesi, Herbert, Diniz and Hakkinen behind. Then came the drama - the left rear wheel of his car came off, just by the pit entrance. Hakkinen was able to manhandle the car into submission, and pull it into the pit lane. They put a new wheel on and sent him out again. On the track, Jacques Villeneuve had another car failure, pulling off on the pit straight. It was considered dangerous, out came the safety car. Jacques face was like thunder.
The teams pondered strategy, as it was now roughly half distance - could they stop during the safety car period and now get the stop out of the way? Ferrari and McLaren played with the idea, but the lights went out on the car, and that idea was scuppered.
The race restarted with Coulthard leading Irvine by less than half a second, with Ralf 3 seconds behind. Frentzen, Hill and Barrichello rounding off the top 6. Barrichello soon made a good move on Hill and took the place from him. Alesi's Sauber was in trouble, as he pulled in for a stop, went out and came back in the following lap. On lap 36, Hakkinen pulled into the pits and retired - the team sensed some fundamental problem with the car and pulled it on safety grounds. A praiseworthy thing to do.
The next flurry of stops now came, with Ralf in from 3rd, Herbert and Irvine. Irvine was turned around in 7.1 second. He rejoined the race behind Alesi, who soon let him by, Meanwhile, Coulthard pitted and was turned around in 6.3 seconds, and with it he kept position over Irvine by a second or so. Zonta completed BARs bad day with his retirement from the race. At the front, meanwhile, Frentzen was in the lead until he pitted, allowing Hill to lead the British Grand Prix for a lap before his own stop. Hill later said he didn't realise he was leading.
When Hill rejoined from his stop, he didn't fair as well as Frentzen - joining with Barrichello in between, who then got a puncture, allowing the Briton to get by and up to challenge his team mate, who in turn was harrying Ralf very hard. Johnny Herbert, who for once was still running in the last quarter of the race, got a 10 second stop/go penalty for overtaking whilst the safety car was out.
Irvine continued to pursue Coulthard, but he was having none of it. Frentzen continued to harry Ralf, but he likewise was resisting all moves. Hill made progress on Frentzen, before settling for 5th at the flag.
1.Coulthard 2.Irvine 3.Ralf Schumacher 4.Frentzen 5.Hill 6.Diniz 7.Fisichella 8.Barrichello 9.Trulli 10.Wurz 11.Zanardi 12.Herbert 13.Panis 14.Alesi +1 lap 15.Gene +2 laps 16.Takagi +3 laps
-- Stephen M Baines http://www.motorsport.org.uk