The start of the race was not as had been expected. Ferrari's decision to go to Fiorano for private start testing over the weekend paid off, as Schumacher sprinted into the lead, whilst team mate Irvine moved up from 4th to 3rd. Behind them were...
The start of the race was not as had been expected. Ferrari's decision to go to Fiorano for private start testing over the weekend paid off, as Schumacher sprinted into the lead, whilst team mate Irvine moved up from 4th to 3rd. Behind them were Barrichello and Frentzen. Over the first section of the race, the superiority of the Ferrari was very clear, as it pulled away consistently from Hakkinen in Schumacher's case, and Irvine from Coulthard. For Damon Hill, it was yet again a race to forget. He tangled with Ralf Schumacher at the chicane, and retired. Ralf survived, and with a few repairs got back into the race. The first of the worries for McLaren hit around lap 3, when David Coulthard's car started to give out ominous clouds of smoke on each passing of the Loews hairpin.
The first third of the race proceeded onwards with very little in the way of action, other than Badoer joining the list of casualties making two retirements. On lap 23, rather unusually, came a routine pit stop from Jarno Trulli, who appeared to be on a two stop strategy. It looked as if it wasn't as bad a decision as expected, as he only lost one place on the track in the process. It was a race to forget for Minardi, as Marc Gene collided with the barriers and was left stranded just past St Devote. Pedro de la Rosa likewise had a moment at the chicane, and lost a place in the process. Panis proved that Prost was on an unusual strategy by likewise joining in the early pitting.
Eddie Irvine was now up on the tail of Hakkinen and harrying him for second. Meanwhile, further back, Villeneuve joined the roll of honour for having a "chicane moment". Johnny Herbert, yet again, had a dramatic exit to a grand prix when the left rear suspension gave way and suddenly the Brit found himself with one less driven wheel. He did a remarkable job of keeping the car under control to retirement. Alesi, meanwhile, managed a brilliant move on Mika Salo in the BAR at Loews, whilst Coulthard was clearly in trouble as he lost 7 seconds in a single section on the track.
Ferrari were now ready for a stop - was it for Irvine? Apparently not, as the Ferrari continued past the pit entrance, however the following lap he did pit. Coulthard, however did pit on that lap and retired from the race with a gearbox with no oil... Salo's day ended rather sadly, with the car into the barrier at Loews. The car didn't turn in at all, possibly due to brake failure, and was out of the race. For Arrows, they got some on screen time when Takagi's engine blew up big time near Mirabeau... This was to be an important development in the race.
A few moments later, reports were coming through that Hakkinen had gone down the escape road at Mirabeau, it was clear he had suddenly lost 20 seconds. This was confirmed a little while later on telly replays. Hakkinen had had a moment on the contents of Takagi's engine. This proved to be a critical moment in the race, as this secured Irvine's second place. Hakkinen wasn't the only driver to have a moment like that, however, as Trulli likewise went up the escape road. Pedro Diniz went out of the race at St Devote and Alesi was out at Casino Square.
The race was now looking more precarious, as Schumacher appeared to be coasting, and visibly slower than he had been - was the Ferrari in trouble? The Ferrari pit crew were ready for someone! However it was Irvine that pitted, but still managed to keep his second place from Hakkinen. Meanwhile, Ralf Schumacher lost it at Loews hairpin. Into the last part of the race, and things were fairly settled, apart from yet another Mirabeau moment from Jarno Trulli, and Rubens Barrichello's car let go in a big way when his car went out of control on lap 71, with something breaking at the rear of the car.
So, a commanding victory from Ferrari. The team appeared to have the race well and truly under their control, and could have won by an even greater amount had they chosen to. A worrying development for the Woking concern, but a red letter day for the Tifosi all around the world.
1.Schumacher 2.Irvine 3.Hakkinen 4.Frentzen 5.Fisichella 6.Wurz 7.Trulli 8.Zanardi 9.Barrichello