At the start, Michael Schumacher got away well, as did HÃ¤kkinen, and Coulthard. Even the Jordans got away well. Barrichello? He did not get away well, and lost position rapidly, such that he was 5th by the first corner. It was not to be a good...
At the start, Michael Schumacher got away well, as did Häkkinen, and Coulthard. Even the Jordans got away well. Barrichello? He did not get away well, and lost position rapidly, such that he was 5th by the first corner. It was not to be a good day for Barrichello. Irvine, however, was the first casualty, having become entangled in anothers battle.
Through to turn 2, and a huge tangle ensued. Trulli, Frentzen, Barrichello, and de la Rosa were out, and others were damaged in the process. The replays started to piece together what happened - with quite frightening clarity. It all began with a tangle between Barrichello and the two Jordans, with the Jordans getting squeezed alongside Barrichello. The Jordans were in turn squeezed into Coulthard, resulting in the whole tangle scattering carbon fibre across the track and the gravel trap, with an Arrows flying - actually flying - over the lot, bouncing off the cockpit of Coulthard, and landed by the side of Barrichello's Ferrari. The Arrows was that of de la Rosa. In the accident a fire marshal was injured, and was taken to hospital. The television coverage showed the doctors trying to resuscitate him at the track side. It was not a pleasant sight.
The safety car was out, as they tried to clear the carnage and help the marshal. The safety car stayed out for 10 laps, with the track strewn and it appeared as if the most sensible decision would have been to stop the race and restart it. However, the decision was made, and the race went on behind the safety car.
Just before it restarted, Schumacher slowed down for the start line to give him a run-up. The field behind concertinad, and Jenson Button paid the price as he had to run off-track to avoid the car in front, hitting the barrier and then having to pull off and retire. After the line, Salo was a tad too ambitious, and had to leave the track at the 1st chicane, and rejoin. Verstappen, however, was going well, and was charging into 5th place from Fisichella. Villeneuve was out with a suspected engine failure.
13: Schumacher, Häkkinen, R Schumacher, Verstappen, Fisichella, Zonta.
Zonta was, along with Verstappen, the man of the race, and charging hard, and he easily flew past Fisichella to take 5th. Nick Heidfeld's torrid season for Prost continued, culminating in his overcooking it, going off, and leaving the car stranded across the track. For a while it looked like the safety car would be out again... Thankfully, it wasn't.
Zonta continued to push hard, and was after Ralf Schumacher, and muscled his way past. Verstappen - another who is frequently written off - was up to third, with Zonta chasing hard. Zonta finally managed to get by Verstappen with a beautiful slipstreaming move. He instantly lost it, only for Zonta to push by again, and keep the place.
Zonta was soon in from 3rd for fuel, and turned around in 7 seconds - not enough for a one-stopper, meaning that he would have to stop again, and would be able to scare the big-boys again. Zonta was now battling with Wurz for 5th place.
After a while, Zonta was back in again, and out in 8.4, having run a short stop. It really was very little in between the two events - very little was going on on-track. The next piece of excitement was Gene going off and rejoining in front of the cars he was behind. He sensibly let them by, but the Minardi's were not good in Italy, causing trouble for various drivers during the race. On lap 39, Ferrari were ready for Schumacher, who was turned around in 7 seconds. 3 laps later, McLaren brought in Häkkinen, who'd made up track position over the 3 laps, but it wasn't enough.
42: Schumacher, Häkkinen, R Schumacher, Fisichella, Wurz, Verstappen
Wurz was next to pit, and looked likely to lose position to Verstappen. Mazzacane was not Mr Popular in Italy, as he blocked Häkkinen trying to get by. Ralf and Fisichella both pitted, but for the latter it was to be a disastrous stop, with a stall, a stuck gearbox and quite a bit of chaos resulting in a stop being well over 1.5 minutes long before it got away properly.
The final few laps went by with little drama, with Schumacher taking the flag. After the race, Schumacher broke down in tears in the press conference, and didn't want to talk.
<pre> 1. Schumacher 2. Häkkinen 3. Ralf Schumacher 4. Verstappen 5. Wurz 6. Zonta
Stephen M Baines http://www.motorsport.org.uk