At the start of the race there was an 80% chance of rain during the afternoon. For one man, however, the race was not going to happen, as Nick Heidfeld's Prost was disqualified from the race due to it being underweight. The race started dry, and...
At the start of the race there was an 80% chance of rain during the afternoon. For one man, however, the race was not going to happen, as Nick Heidfeld's Prost was disqualified from the race due to it being underweight.
The race started dry, and Coulthard go away well, but not as well as Häkkinen who leap-frogged into the lead, or Schumacher who crept up to 2nd. Villeneuve, however, made the star start, and moved from 9th to 5th via the outside of the track. For Trulli the race was already over, as he later said he was touched by the Benetton of Fisichella. Schumacher was already pushing Häkkinen hard, and looked for a way around the car, but failed to do so. By lap 2, Jordan's bad luck was completed, with Frentzen suffering a major engine blow-up, and retired from the race.
Further back, the Sauber of Diniz was already having cross-country moments, whilst the Benetton of Fisichella looked a much happier car, and was pushing Villeneuve hard for 5th place, after the Italian found a way past Ralf Schumacher's car in 6th. By lap 8, Fisichella had dispatched of the BAR, and was up to 5th place. Pedro de la Rosa was now up to 7th, and pressurising Villeneuve for his 6th place.
Schumacher was now right on the tail of Häkkinen, and the Finn let the German through without much of a fight. The skies were now starting to open, and the cars started to tip-toe around the circuit whilst they weighed up whether to pit or not...
The Saubers and Arrows were first in to switch to wets, whilst Marc Gene was into the pits for a new front wing. Pedro Diniz continued to have an exciting afternoon, spinning his Sauber and managing to keep it going. Coulthard was the first of the front runners who came in for wets, and was turned around in just 9.5 seconds, whilst Jaguar also joined in the wet-tyre action. Schumacher pitted, and was turned around in 12.1 seconds, whilst Häkkinen's McLaren had a slight delay, when the right rear appeared to stick, lengthening his stop to 16 seconds. Coulthard's pitting a lap earlier was paying dividends, as the Scot was now right on the tail of the German. The gap soon lengthened, as Button let the German through cleanly, but didn't let Coulthard through quite so quickly. Barrichello now pitted from the lead, and was turned around in a very short 7.2 seconds, and also Ralf Schumacher made his stop.
Lap 16: Schumacher, Coulthard, Button, Häkkinen, de la Rosa, Fisichella
Alexander Wurz then had a cross country moment, whilst the Williams of Button pitted, and de la Rosa moved up to 4th place... Barrichello was having a hard time of it further down the pack, trying to take the Arrows of Jos Verstappen. The Dutchman did an impressive job of keeping the Brazilian behind. Ralf Schumacher, meanwhile, had a little problem and found himself slithering off the track. Barrichello took a while to get by the Arrows, but finally did on the entry to the pit straight. Mika Salo, meanwhile, spun off in his Sauber, and out of the race.
Ralf Schumacher's race was now over, as Eddie Irvine tried to take Jos Verstappen, the Jaguar touched Verstappen, and spun across the track. Ralf spun through excessive braking, or simply lifting, but the result was the same - the Jaguar was out, and the Williams was now minus a rear wing, and soon retired. Jos survived for a while, but was next seen minus the wheels and other furniture on the right-hand side of the car. A shame, as the Arrows had been very impressive over the weekend.
On lap 32, Barrichello dispatched of Fisichella, and found himself up in 4th place. Ferrari were now ready for another stop, and the Brazilian was turned around in 7 seconds. Alesi was next seen in the pits, being held for 10 seconds - presumably a stop/go penalty, but it was not clear whether this was the case or not. Schumacher came in for a lengthy 12 second fuel and tyre stop, and Häkkinen now had the lead. Coulthard was up to 3rd, with Fisichella behind, with de la Rosa, Barrichello, Herbert, Villeneuve, Button and Wurz filling out the top 10.
With 28 laps to go, Benetton and Williams were ready for stops, with Fisichella being turned around in 9 seconds, whilst the Williams was a more lengthy 11 seconds. Jenson rejoined the race in front of Schumacher, who quickly was let by. Häkkinen was not so lucky, being held up by the Benetton of Fisichella. Alesi was being very brave on the track, and took Wurz in a near-moment. Häkkinen was having yet more bad luck on the track, being held up by the Villeneuve/Fisichella battle, Villeneuve soon let him by, and a lap later, Fisichella did the same. That delay cost Häkkinen valuable track time.
On lap 43 McLaren were now ready for another stop, and Häkkinen was turned around in 8.9 seconds, and lost the lead to Schumacher.
Schumacher, Häkkinen, Coulthard, de la Rosa, Barrichello, Fisichella
Coulthard was now in for his stop, and lost position to both de la Rosa and Barrichello. On lap 47, Jacques Villeneuve was in for a new nose at the very least, and was soon out of the race. The Sauber-Prost battle further down the field was hotting up, whilst the Barrichello-de la Rosa battle also livened up. de la Rosa pitted from 3rd position, and rejoined ahead of Schumacher on the track, but not for position. Further down the field, Marc Gene pulled his Minardi off the track to retire.
Behind the top 6, there was a thrilling Herbert-Button-Wurz-Zonta train. Zonta soon left it as he came in for a stop, where he misjudged position, and lost valuable time.
Ferrari were now ready for another stop, and it had to be Barrichello who had had a very short stop earlier on in the race, and so it was, and the Brazilian was turned around in 7 seconds. Coulthard managed to gain a position in the process and drop Barrichello down to 4th. Zonta's efforts in the BAR were for nothing as he went off and got stuck in the gravel. The car was quickly retrieved under waved-yellows. Alexander Wurz, meanwhile, had a cross country moment, but managed to rejoin the race. For Barrichello there soon came the ultimate insult - he was lapped by his team-mate. Häkkinen was now gaining rapidly on Schumacher, but with Barrichello in between.
Lap 61, and Wurz was having a good look at Button, who was having a look at Herbert. Coulthard was unlucky enough to have the trio in front of him, with Barrichello bearing down on him. Schumacher made very short work of lapping the back markers, whilst Häkkinen had a slightly more tricky job of it. Schumacher wasn't quite as lucky getting by Button, who held him up for a few corners, and in the process the Englishman lost position to Wurz. Wurz made a dive on Herbert that really wasn't on, and caused both to spin as they drifted wide. Herbert managed to collect his Jaguar, whilst Wurz was well and truly out. Over the last couple of laps, Barrichello pushed Coulthard hard for 3rd, but never quite looked serious enough to attempt anything, allowing the Scot to keep his third at the flag.
1. Schumacher 2. Häkkinen 3. Coulthard 4. Barrichello 5. Fisichella 6. de la Rosa
-- Stephen M Baines-