[Apologies for the delay in posting the report. This was due to dealing with some flood damage at home.] At the start of the race the hard work that Villeneuve had put in during qualifying was blown. The car refused to get away from the grid.
[Apologies for the delay in posting the report. This was due to dealing with some flood damage at home.]
At the start of the race the hard work that Villeneuve had put in during qualifying was blown. The car refused to get away from the grid. The team said that the car had gear selection problems. Villeneuve later didn't confirm or deny this, saying that "all I know is it wouldn't go". Exit one BAR. Frentzen was extremely lucky to avoid the stricken car, whilst Hakkinen pulled away in the lead, with Coulthard close behind. Schumacher and Irvine followed on, with Barrichello and Frentzen behind. Trulli, however, wasn't to have a long race, exiting the track before the end of the first lap. By the end of lap 2, Hakkinen had 4.4 seconds on Michael Schumacher. The McLarens looked to be in a different class to the Ferraris and continued to pull out a lead. By lap 5, the gap to Schumacher was 7.3 seconds. On lap 5, Pedro de la Rosa and Alexander Wurz tangled, Rosa span the car round but eventually became stuck in the gravel, Wurz's car collided heavily with the wall and lost a front wheel and associated suspension. So much for the tethers, as the wheel bounced across the track.
On lap 16, Alesi became the first to pit with a ten second stop. Hakkinen was pulling away mercilessly, and came up to lap Gene. It was soon to be a mute point, as he overcooked it into a corner, and the car snapped away. Result? One severe nose job. Exit 1 McLaren... Coulthard now found himself with the lead. Irvine was now up to Takagi and Gene to lap them. The two backmarkers were in a little world of their own. Irvine found his way by when the pair had a cross country moment. Michael Schumacher was now pushing hard, sensing a possible chance to get by the sole McLaren either on the track, or via better pit stop strategy.
Barrichello pitted from 5th, allowing Frentzen up into his place. The pit stops were now happening in ernest with the field picking their moments to pit. Coulthard and Schumacher, however, were yet to stop on lap 29. Pit strategy was to be decisive. Ralf Schumacher made his stop and got away cleanly, only to retire within a minute. Ferrari were preparing for Irvine to pit. Schumacher was now getting closer and closer to Coulthard, whilst David was up to lap Diniz. Irvine did indeed pit from 3rd place, whilst Hill came in from 4th for his stop in 7.6 seconds. Zanardi pitted from 8th, and got away in a manner that seemed to surprise the fuel man.
Ferrari were now reported to be getting ready for their pit stop. The Ferrari of Schumacher stormed into the pits, and was turned around in 6.9 seconds... Coulthard, meanwhile, found himself upon Gene, which was to prove decisive. Tora Takagi, meanwhile, got a ticket for speeding - pity it was in the pit lane. Such was his indignation at this slur that the car promptly retired. Barrichello now found himself catching the McLaren of Coulthard on the track. This was a time when Coulthard should have been banging in the fastest laps in preparation for his stop. Not a good sign. Beyond the top 3, the top 12 were made up by Barrichello, Frentzen, Hill, Fisichella, Herbert, Zanardi, Diniz, Alesi and Panis. Michael Schumacher was now banging in fastest laps, on fresh tyres, and a newly filled tank. This was not good news for McLaren... Especially when the times were faster than those of last years car.
Coulthard finally pitted on lap 35, and was turned around in 9.2 seconds. The lead he had built up was not enough to hold back Schumacher, and so the Ferrari got into the lead. Superior pit strategy won the day for Ferrari. By lap 39, Coulthard was stuck behind Panis and Fisichella, and dropping back all the time, it was soon around 10 seconds... This was not a good day for McLaren. David was trying so hard to make up ground that he was slipping and sliding off the track, even allowing the Prost and Benetton by again...
Schumacher came in for an early second stop, just when everyone was expecting Irvine, and with the 21 second lead he had over Coulthard, he held onto the race lead. Once again, Ferrari timed everything to perfection. On lap 48 a Ferrari was stuck smoking at the side of the track. Eddie Irvines engine had let go, and out he went. Frentzen also hit gremlins, and found himself out of the race. This allowed Herbert and Zanardi into the top 6... Zanardi soon dropped out of the top 6, allowing Fisichella into the top 6. On lap 50, the order was Schumacher, Coulthard, Barrichello, Hill, Herbert, Fisichella, Zanardi, Alesi, Salo, Panis, Badoer and Gene. Panis was then out of the race, when he presumably had a gremlin of his own, as he simply pulled into the side of the track.
There were now just 11 laps to go, and Ferrari had a comfortable 6 second lead over Coulthard, and Barrichello wasn't in a position to really worry either of them. Coulthard, however, had decided not to let things go, and was trying hard to catch up. Within a lap or so the gap was down to 5 seconds. Barrichello was also having to work hard himself, as Hill was catching him fast. Coulthard found himself up behind Gene, and that was just enough to give the time back to Schumacher. With just a few laps to go, Johnny Herbert's engine let go in a major way. Alex Zanardi, unfortunately, came across the resulting slick on the track, and slid off the track. Salo took his place, only to retire just short of the flag.
1.Schumacher 2.Coulthard 3.Barrichello 4.Hill 5.Fisichella 6.Alesi 7.Salo 8.Badoer 9.Gene 10.Herbert 11.Zanardi -- Stephen M Baines http://www.motorsport.org.uk