Italian GP to play pivotal role in World Championship chase

MONZA, Italy, Thursday, Sept. 7, 2000 - The next two Grand Prix races in the Formula One World Championship take place on the two oldest racing venues still in use. This weekend’s Italian Grand Prix takes place at Monza, a circuit that dates...

MONZA, Italy, Thursday, Sept. 7, 2000 - The next two Grand Prix races in the Formula One World Championship take place on the two oldest racing venues still in use. This weekend’s Italian Grand Prix takes place at Monza, a circuit that dates back to 1922. Then it’s on to Indianapolis, which was built in 1909, for the inaugural SAP United States Grand Prix on Sept. 24. While the track configuration at Monza has changed over the years, the Formula One cars still run on parts of the original circuit. The road course at Indianapolis is, of course, new, but the Formula One cars will also run on parts of the famed oval. Like Indianapolis, Monza is steeped in history and atmosphere. Monza has played host to 64 editions of the Italian Grand Prix, including every Italian Grand Prix of the modern World Championship, which began in 1950, except for the 1980 race held at Imola. Set in a walled, wooded park that used to be a hunting ground for royalty, Monza has been the scene of many dramatic races. This year’s Italian Grand Prix, round 14 of 17, will be an important race in the World Championship. West McLaren-Mercedes driver Mika Hakkinen leads the championship with 74 points while Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher is second with 68. Hakkinen’s teammate, David Coulthard, is third with 61 points and Ferrari’s Rubens Barrichello has 49. For Schumacher, who led the points until the 13th race of the season, a victory Sunday would please himself and the sellout crowd cheering on his Ferrari and that of teammate Barrichello. “Winning the Italian Grand Prix in a Ferrari is special for any driver,” Schumacher said, “but right now it would be more special to win this race for the sake of the championship.” Still, Schumacher said the outcome of this race is not crucial for the championship. “It’s important,” he said, “but no matter what happens here, the championship is not over, although what happens can make our life easier or more difficult.” Schumacher does not believe that the momentum has shifted to Hakkinen because the latter won the last Grands Prix. “A success of a race lasts only until the next one,” Schumacher said. Schumacher has won the Italian Grand Prix twice while Hakkinen’s best finish at Monza has been second place in 1995. Hakkinen led last year’s race until he made a mistake and spun off and handed the victory to Heinz-Harald Frentzen in the Benson & Hedges Jordan-Mugen-Honda. “I hope I don’t have to experience something like that again,” said Hakkinen, who was very emotional after losing last year’s race. As a McLaren-Mercedes driver, Hakkinen doesn’t get quite the support from the fanatical Ferrari fans that Schumacher and Barrichello receive. But, for the most part, the fans treat Hakkinen in a friendly matter even though he is Schumacher’s closest rival for the title “There are some fans who are showing you (rude gestures) and are not so friendly,” Hakkinen said. “Sometime the emotions can get a bit high. But there are a lot of fans that are fantastic and very friendly and want your autograph and want to shake your hand. Mainly the fans are very pleasant and very nice.” Hakkinen said he is approaching this weekend just like any other Grand Prix event. “It’s really important,” he said, “like every Grand Prix. The concentration and preparation here is like it is at every Grand Prix. The target is to get as many points for me and for the team.” Coulthard is also out to score as many points as possible. He is 13 points behind Hakkinen, but the McLaren-Mercedes team has pledged that it will give both its drivers an equal opportunity to win races and the championship. While much of the focus is on the championship and the Ferrari drivers, the fans of Italian drivers Giancarlo Fisichella and Jarno Trulli are also on hand to cheer on their national heroes.

FORMULA ONE NOTEBOOK

Where to watch: Television viewers in the U.S. can watch the Italian Grand Prix live on Speedvision at 7:30 a.m. (EDT) Sept. 10. Fox Sports Net will air the race tape delayed at 10 a.m., 11 a.m., noon, 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. in various time zones Sept. 10. Check local listings. Speedvision will show qualifying live at 7 a.m. (EDT) on Sept. 9.

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Burti signs for Jaguar: Brazilian Luciano Burti will drive for Jaguar Racing in 2001 as Eddie Irvine’s teammate. Burti will take over for Johnny Herbert, who is leaving F1 at the end of the season to race in CART. Burti, 25, finished second in the 1999 British Formula 3 championship, where he scored five wins. He has worked this year as the test driver for Jaguar and served as an emergency replacement for Irvine at the Austrian Grand Prix after Irvine suffered from a painful stomach ailment. “Securing a F1 drive is what I’ve been working toward since I first began in go karts,” said Burti, who has signed a one-year contract. “I’m thrilled that it has finally happened, but the most important thing for me now is to seize the opportunity and focus on making a contribution to the success of the team.” *** Heidfeld to join Sauber: Germany’s Nick Heidfeld has signed to drive for the Red Bull Sauber-Petronas team for the next three seasons. Heidfeld, who won the 1999 FIA Formula 3000 Championship, made his debut in Formula One this season with the Gauloises Prost-Peugeot team.

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Monza modified: The configurations of the first and second chicanes at Monza have been changed for safety.

The first chicane is much tighter and slower, while the second chicane is now slightly longer. These changes have drawn mixed reviews from the drivers, who are pleased that they no longer have to “ride” the curbs through the chicanes to set a quick time but are worried that there could be trouble in the narrow first chicane at the start of the race.

“Personally, I rate it safer than what we had before,” Michael Schumacher said. “You can argue about the start situation, but if you go through all the races we have in the year, you will find places where there are very tight first corners like Monaco. It is a point of discipline between the drivers not to be crazy and just use the space which is available and not more than that. We asked the circuit to improve the safety, and I think they have done that in a reasonable way.”

Mika Hakkinen agreed that the first chicane was now safer, but still was wary that it could cause problems.

“The first chicane looks a bit scary,” Hakkinen said. “It is a corner that you approach at 350 km/h (217 mph) and you have to slow down to about 80 km/h (50 mph). You have to reduce your speed in a big way.

“The improvements with the runoff area are fantastic, so that is a plus. Overtaking is going to be a big issue at the start and in the race there because if you brake five or 10 meters too late you are going to go wide (and cut across the chicane), and when you do that you get a 10-second penalty. So it makes everything more complicated.”

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Approaching Indianapolis: Drivers and teams are preparing for the SAP United States Grand Prix on Sept. 24 at Indianapolis but, because it is a new track they have never tested on, they can only do so much.

“I am very confident to go there and find the right (racing) line and to find the maximum performance for the car,” Mika Hakkinen said. “The team has a pretty good understanding about what setup we need for the circuit over there. Everything is in pretty good order. We have a pretty good plan at the moment what to do there, and particularly for me to go there with a confident mind to get the maximum speed.”

Neither Hakkinen nor Michael Schumacher has used computer games to preview the new road circuit at the Brickyard.

“We will have some testing (in Europe) to try to work in advance for this (Indy) circuit,” Schumacher said. “However, it is quite a different circuit (to what we race on). On a personal side there is not much you can do. You arrive there, see the circuit and drive it, and then you find your way. I rely on myself that I have never had a problem to go to a new circuit and learn it.”

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Jordan celebrates: Jordan Grand Prix recently celebrated its10 years in Formula One. The event, open to the public, included displays of its F1 cars from the past decade, parties and a concert Sept. 3 at England’s Donington Park circuit.

Jordan’s first Grand Prix was the 1991 United States Grand Prix at Phoenix, the last Formula One race in the United States before the SAP United States Grand Prix this month.

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Monza winners at Indy: Alberto Ascari, Graham Hill, Jim Clark, Jackie Stewart, Emerson Fittipaldi, Mario Andretti, Nelson Piquet and Nigel Mansell, all winners of the Italian Grand Prix, have also raced in the Indianapolis 500.

Italian Grand Prix Fast Facts

Date: Sunday, Sept. 10
Race: Fourteen of 17 on 2000 schedule
Venue: Monza, Italy
Circuit length: 3.598 miles, 5.792 km
Race length: 73 laps
On TV: Race (live) - 7:30 a.m. (EDT) Sept. 10, Speedvision. (Tape delay) - 10 a.m., 11 a.m., noon, 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. in various time zones Sept. 10, FOX Sports Net. Check local listings. Qualifying (live) - 7 a.m. (EDT) Sept. 9, Speedvision

Points leader: Mika Hakkinen, West McLaren-Mercedes
1999 race winner: Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Jordan-Mugen-Honda
1999 pole winner: Mika Hakkinen, West McLaren-Mercedes
Previous winners: 1998 - Michael Schumacher; 1997 - David Coulthard; 1996 - Michael Schumacher; 1995 - Johnny Herbert; 1994 - Damon Hill, 1993 - Damon Hill, 1992 - Ayrton Senna

-IMS-

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Eddie Irvine , Giancarlo Fisichella , Jarno Trulli , Luciano Burti , Johnny Herbert , Michael Schumacher , Heinz-Harald Frentzen , Rubens Barrichello , David Coulthard , Mika Hakkinen , Nick Heidfeld , Nigel Mansell , Jackie Stewart , Alberto Ascari , Mario Andretti , Jim Clark , Ayrton Senna , Damon Hill , Nelson Piquet , Emerson Fittipaldi , Graham Hill
Teams Ferrari , Mercedes , Sauber , McLaren , Jaguar Racing , Jordan