NURBURGRING, Germany, Sunday, May 21, 2000-Michael Schumacher kept control of his Ferrari in tricky, wet conditions and won the incident-filled European Grand Prix in front of 142,000 cheering fans. "This is one of the best days of my ...
NURBURGRING, Germany, Sunday, May 21, 2000-Michael Schumacher kept control of his Ferrari in tricky, wet conditions and won the incident-filled European Grand Prix in front of 142,000 cheering fans. "This is one of the best days of my life," Schumacher said, "because it is the first time I have won in Germany with Ferrari. I have seen my fans sitting for three days in this bad weather, and I hope this win warmed their hearts. "I knew we were strong but that it would also be a tough fight. It was also interesting and enjoyable." The victory, his fourth of the season and the 39th of his career, allowed him to increase his lead in the Formula One World Championship over Mika Hakkinen. After six of 17 races, Schumacher, who is the only driver to have finished in the points in all six events, has 46 points. Hakkinen, who finished second today, has 28 points. David Coulthard won the pole in his McLaren-Mercedes for the first time since the 1998 Canadian Grand Prix, but he was slow off the line at the start of the 67-lap race. Hakkinen, who had gridded third, shot through to claim the lead ahead of Schumacher. Coulthard, who got away in third place, fended off Rubens Barrichello's Ferrari. The same pair would duel at the end of race, as well, but Coulthard managed to hold on to third place. This was the 11th consecutive race in which the pole sitter did not win. The last to achieve that was Mika Hakkinen in the 1999 Hungarian Grand Prix. Schumacher, meanwhile, closed in on Hakkinen and passed him for the lead on Lap 11. A light rain started to fall, but the drivers were reluctant to pit for wet-weather tires in case the rain stopped. Johnny Herbert pitted first, getting rain tires for his Jaguar on Lap 13. Once it became apparent that the drivers on rain tires were considerably quicker, all drivers still on dry-weather tires pitted. The rain continued for the rest of the race, and the blinding spray and slippery track created many incidents. In all, seven drivers retired because of accidents and spins. Out in front, Schumacher led over Hakkinen, and they both pitted on the same lap. But Hakkinen's stop was nearly four seconds longer than Schumacher 's due to problems with the right-rear tire. Schumacher made his second stop 10 laps before Hakkinen, allowing Hakkinen to get back out in front. After Hakkinen made his second pit stop, Schumacher regained the lead. Hakkinen lost more time when he got hung up behind a slower car before his second pit stop. He closed in on Schumacher but had to settle for second place ahead of Coulthard and Barrichello. Giancarlo Fisichella finished fifth in his Mild Seven Benetton-Playlife while Pedro de la Rosa scored the first point of the season for he and the Orange Arrows-Mecachrome team by coming home sixth. Although 12 cars were classed as finishers, only nine crossed the finish line. Among those to retire were Eddie Irvine and Jos Verstappen, who collided, and Ralf Schumacher, who hit the spinning Irvine. A three-way battle between Johnny Herbert, Jenson Button and Alexander Wurz ended when Wurz tried to pass Herbert and they tangled. Button, who had hit the back of Herbert's car earlier, retired because water seeped into the damaged nose of his car and caused the electrics to fail. Michael Schumacher averaged 111.561 mph (179.540 km/h) to complete the 67-lap, 189.664-mile (305.235-km) race in one hour, 42 minutes and 0.307 seconds. His margin of victory was 13.821 seconds.
MICHAEL SCHUMACHER (Ferrari, winner): "Everything was perfect, and the car worked well in the rain. The only critical point was when it started to rain. None of us in the front wanted to pit, as it was not clear if the rain was for real. As soon as we saw the others going faster on rain tires, I came in immediately."
MIKA HAKKINEN (West McLaren-Mercedes, second): "I made what was probably one of the best starts of my career to take the lead from third on the grid. I lost valuable time in my first pit stop when there was a problem with the right rear tire. However, I was able to open up quite a significant gap to Schumacher after that, but unfortunately on the last few laps before my second pit stop, I was held up by a back marker and lost too much time to stay ahead of him after the stop. Toward the end, I was catching Schumacher and would have been closer to him if I hadn't, once again, been stuck in traffic."
DAVID COULTHARD (West McLaren-Mercedes, third): "Whatever problem it was, I suspect it was mechanical rather than aerodynamic. My getaway itself wasn't too bad, but I missed the lights -- probably because I was too slow to react. Then straight away I was struggling with the rear of the car, which became even more difficult in the damp conditions and worse still when the track was fully wet. This was one of my most difficult races. In the circumstances, I count myself fortunate to have finished third."
RUBENS BARRICHELLO (Ferrari, fourth): "I could have done better than fourth. The race was difficult mainly because of the lack of visibility caused by the rain. The car was good except I had a small problem with my downshifts. The three-stop strategy meant that I had to overtake slower cars in poor visibility was not ideal, but it was definitely the quickest way to make up lost time."
Notes: Villeneuve wants that winning feeling: Jacques Villeneuve wants to win again and is searching for the team that will give him that opportunity next season. Although he has won 11 Grands Prix and the 1997 World Championship, Villeneuve has not won a race since 1997.
"I'm in here to fight and to win," he said. "This is the third season without winning, and that is quite enough." Villeneuve, who also victory in the 1995 Indianapolis 500 on his resume, says it is too early to decide where he will drive in 2001.
"It's a very difficult (decision)," he said, "and it's too early now anyway to have any in-depth conversations with anybody."
But Villeneuve insisted that for next season: "We need a winning combination, and to be in the position to be able to win races and fight for the championship. That is going to be very important for the future."
Fifty years: This year's European Grand Prix marked the 50th anniversary of the Formula One World Championship. On May 13, 1950 (fifty years and eight days earlier), Giuseppe Farina won the British Grand Prix in an Alfa. The 2000 European Grand Prix was the 652nd race since then. Only 98 drivers have won during that period, and only 27 of them became World Champion.
Improving safety: Allianz, the world's leading provider of insurance cover and risk management, has entered F1 in a unique partnership in which it will sponsor the Williams BMW team and work together with Williams and the FIA to improve safety both on the track and on the road. "For the first time, the FIA will work with a Formula One team and their sponsor to transfer Formula One expertise and experience for the benefit of the motoring public," FIA President Max Mosley said when the deal was announced Friday at the Nurburgring. "It is the objective of the new partnership to research and develop a Formula One inspired safety product, which will break new ground in levels of road safety performance."
World leaders visit: Gerhard Schroeder, chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, and Romano Prodi, president of the European Commission, attended the European Grand Prix. They handed out the trophies to winner Michael Schumacher and second-place driver Mika Hakkinen.
Did not start: Nick Heidfeld qualified his Gauloises Prost Peugeot 13th but was not allowed to start the race after officials found that his car had been 4.4 pounds (2.2 kilos) underweight in the qualifying session.
No jet setting: Jarno Trulli made the trip from Milan, Italy, to Frankfurt, Germany, by train because he is currently unable to fly due to an ear problem he suffered on a recent flight in a private plane. "It was not bad," Trulli said of the 10-hour train ride. "I slept a lot."
Second win of season: Bruno Junqueira won the incident-filled and accident-strewn FIA Formula 3000 race Saturday. Only nine of 26 starters were classed as finishers. Fabrizio Gollin finished second, and Andre Couto took third.