</pre> MONTVALE, N.J. (Aug. 27, 2000) -- Defending Formula One World Champion Mika Hakkinen scored his fourth victory of the year -- the seventh in 13 races for the two-car West McLaren Mercedes team -- at the Belgian Grand Prix, recovering...
</pre> MONTVALE, N.J. (Aug. 27, 2000) -- Defending Formula One World Champion Mika Hakkinen scored his fourth victory of the year -- the seventh in 13 races for the two-car West McLaren Mercedes team -- at the Belgian Grand Prix, recovering from an early spin to pass Michael Schumacher in dramatic fashion and claim his 18th career win.
The triumph, from Hakkinen's 26th career pole position, extends the Finn's lead in the Drivers' Championship over Schumacher to six points (74-68). Teammate David Coulthard's solid fourth-place finish was key in helping the West McLaren Mercedes team increase its lead over Ferrari in the Constructors' Championship standings to eight points (125-117). With four races remaining, the battle for both championships promises to be a tight one as Hakkinen seeks to become the first driver to win three consecutive driving crowns since Mercedes' own Juan Manuel Fangio accomplished the feat in the 1950s.
Hakkinen certainly showed his mettle at the legendary Spa-Francorchamps circuit. The race began in wet conditions, as the field took the start in single file behind the Mercedes-Benz CL 55 AMG Safety Car. After leading the opening laps, Hakkinen's race car slipped on the curb at the entry to Stavelot and spun, allowing Schumacher to take the lead. With no damage to his car, Hakkinen resumed in second place, but found himself with 10 seconds to make up on the leader.
After the second round of pit stops, Mika began closing the gap between his Mercedes-powered race car and Schumacher's Ferrari, cutting the margin to 0.5 seconds with five laps remaining. Hakkinen first attacked Schumacher on the Les Combes right-hander, but had to back off. On the following lap, Hakkinen surprised Schumacher with a decisive move to the right of Ricardo Zonta's lapped BAR-Honda while Schumacher overtook the slower car on the left.
"This was an enjoyable race," said Hakkinen. "The curbs here at Spa are very, very difficult and slippery. When they catch you, there's really nothing you can do. I was lucky to stay on the track and to continue. Then I could start chasing Michael. It was a fabulous race to drive, and the car was getting better and better all the time.
"It is unusual for a driver to overtake somebody in a straight line when a backmarker is in between us. I knew that there was no point in following Michael and then trying to overtake him at the end of the straight, because obviously he wouldn't have given me room. It was a great move, and I loved it. I'm really happy to leave Belgium with 10 points."
Coulthard's race was hampered by the team's decision to wait one additional lap before bringing his McLaren Mercedes into the pit lane for dry tires. After dropping to ninth position, the Scotsman climbed back into contention, passing Heinz-Harald Frentzen with a quick second pit stop and overtaking Jensen Button with eight laps to go.
"I am a bit disappointed, because I came here to win," said Coulthard, who has three wins this season and stands third in the championship.
Following the grand prix at Monza, Italy, in two weeks, the Formula One World Championship comes to America soil for the United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sept. 24.