The theory goes that the long-haul races are at the start and end of the season, as it's the only way to guarantee television viewers. With races such as the one in Malaysia, that isn't a problem. Frentzen was the first driver to have a few ...
The theory goes that the long-haul races are at the start and end of the season, as it's the only way to guarantee television viewers. With races such as the one in Malaysia, that isn't a problem.
Frentzen was the first driver to have a few dramas, as his car developed a misfire on the formation lap, and looked set to start the race from the back of the field. Fortunately for Frentzen, Fisichella developed a problem with differentiating left from right, and tried to pull into the wrong grid slot. The start was aborted.
The second attempt saw Fisichella held back for causing the restart, and Frentzen was able to take his slot. Unfortunately for Williams, Montoya was stuck on the grid and was pushed away. The Colombian leapt out of the car and went for the spare. It was not apparent if he did, indeed, start in the spare car.
As the lights went out, it was Schumacher that was away well from pole and into the lead, with Barrichello half asleep, and allowing Ralf Schumacher through. Ralf was clearly ahead, when Barrichello nerfed the Williams into a spin - sadly, this seems to be becoming a common factor in Barrichello's starts, as this was the second race running where he had hit someone. The Williams was able to rejoin the race, but the potential challenge was removed. Coulthard, meanwhile, had had a blinding start, and was up from 8th to 4th place, with Trulli ahead. Raikkonen was in trouble with his car, and out.
At the end of the first lap, Schumacher led his team mate by 1.4 seconds, with Trulli a further 1.7 seconds behind, with Coulthard and Frentzen behind. Olivier Panis' BAR-Honda took a major dislike to the race by grenading, putting oil on the track, and pitching the car into the kitty litter. This was to have a major impact on the race, as the skies just started to open and a monsoon fell on part of the track - especially the area where the oil was from the BAR. The Ferrari of Schumacher was the first on the scene, closely followed by Barrichello, who followed Schumacher into the gravel trap. Both cars rejoined the track, with Barrichello ahead. Jarno Trulli was now in the lead, and the safety car came out - this was a good move, as the track conditions were exceedingly treacherous, with cars spinning out left, right and centre. The roll call of victims was Irvine, Bernoldi, Heidfeld, Villeneuve, and Montoya.
McLaren took the advantage, with Coulthard in for wets first, with Häkkinen able to follow in at no disadvantage to either driver. Ferrari, meanwhile, had a major headache, as first Barrichello came in, with Schumacher behind - they had called them the other way around, and found themselves with the wrong tyres for Barrichello, and then had to hunt for the proper tyres. Fitting the wrong tyres to the cars would have resulted in disqualification. The team ended up turning Barrichello around in 1m12 seconds, with Michael Schumacher sitting behind in the pitlane waiting for his turn. The two drivers didn't lose that much time on the track, as the safety car was still out and they were able to join the tail of the crocodile. The positions now were that Coulthard was leading Frentzen, with Verstappen, Häkkinen, Trulli, Alesi, Fisichella and Ralf Schumacher following.
On lap 10 the race restarted, Coulthard was way well, with Frentzen seeming a little dozy and not attacking, but kept 2nd with Verstappen charging hard in 3rd. Häkkinen was now up to Verstappen's rear, and threatened hard. Verstappen, however, had other ideas, and made a beautiful move on Frentzen and was now in second place, and after Coulthard for the lead. Häkkinen also followed taking Frentzen, making it more apparent that the Jordan was having some sort of problem - either car, tyre or driver related. Schumacher, meanwhile, despite his tyre fiasco was already up to 6th place, and chasing Frentzen hard, and just slipped around the outside of him almost effortlessly. Jenson Button had a spin in the wet conditions - rather strange ones, though, where the rain started on the start-finish line, finished by the first corner, and the restarted part way around again. Schumacher continued his charge, taking Ralf and Häkkinen very easily, with Barrichello in close pursuit.
Michael was now up to Verstappen, and theory suggests that the move should be easy, however Verstappen and the Arrows were on top form today, with Verstappen defending his position admirably. Schumacher finally managed to take him, and was up to Coulthard's leading position. He tried hard at turn 15 to take the Scot, but failed, finally managing it at turn 1.
It was now up to lap 18, and Häkkinen was the first to pit and go onto slicks again - a bit of a gamble. Ralf Schumacher did likewise. Ferrari prepared themselves, just in case. Barrichello did make a stop, with Frentzen doing likewise. Whilst the slicks didn't seem to have an advantage, it was pretty clear that they weren't at a huge disadvantage and would rapidly take over. Ralf Schumacher and Frentzen continued a very good battle, with Ralf finally forcing his way through in a move where Frentzen was forced to yield.
Coulthard was now in and onto slicks and refuelled - the big question was, would it be enough to keep him on the track to the end of the race. He dropped to third in the process, with Häkkinen up to Verstappen and trying for 4th place. Verstappen's car twitched, and Häkkinen sensed his chance, and fails as the Dutchman kept it together long enough to keep his position.
It now started to rain. Again. The Verstappen-Häkkinen train was now up to the tail-enders, where the Arrows often is, and Verstappen did a very good job of getting by. Häkkinen, however, did hit a few problems with Mazzacane. Ralf Schumacher then managed to get by Häkkinen for 5th place, and after Verstappen.
Schumacher made his stop in 12.8s and quite obviously on a 1 stopper. The Minardi of Marques had obviously stayed out a little too long, and threw the tread from his wet tyres. Burti, who had been lapped in the Jaguar by Coulthard, decided to make a stab of unlapping himself - unsuccessfully. Ralf Schumacher continued to push Verstappen hard, and finally managed to muscle his way by. Verstappen was not taking it laying down, and pushed back to try and get back ahead. He didn't quite succeed.
Häkkinen was now up to the Arrows driver, but was apparently unable to do anything about him for a while. Then Frentzen was up and joining in the party. Häkkinen made a huge lunge at Verstappen and got by, unfortunately to the Finn, Verstappen fought back and regained the place, and momentarily disturbed, Häkkinen saw Frentzen lunge past him in the melee. Net result: Häkkinen was now down in 7th place, and out of the points.
On lap 39, Ralf Schumacher had to pit. A couple of laps later, Barrichello had to make another stop for fuel and another radiator clearing session. Mika Häkkinen also made a stop. The positions were now Schumacher, Barrichello, Coulthard, Verstappen, Frentzen, Ralf Schumacher, Häkkinen, Trulli, Alesi, Burti, Button, Mazzacane, Alonso and Marques.
Arrows were now preparing for a late splash-and-dash, dropping Verstappen down to 7th. The drama was now between the McLaren of Coulthard and the Jordan of Frentzen, both of which in theory needed a second stop, but now were not stopping. Would they manage to cross the line, or would one of them have to slow too much and lose position? Mika, meanwhile, sensed a chance of 5th place from Ralf Schumacher, and made a new challenge. The Williams driver was suffering with some sort of brake problem, as at every corner huge clouds of brake dust were launched into the air. In the end, Ralf held the Finn off and gained two points for WilliamsF1.
1. M Schumacher 2. Barrichello 3. Coulthard 4. Frentzen 5. R Schumacher 6. Häkkinen
-- Stephen M Baines http://www.motorsport.org.uk