For the start of the race, Pedro de la Rosa was not having a good time, with his times being disallowed from qualifying, and having to start from the back of the pack. At the start, Schumacher made a brilliant start from pole, but Ralf made a...
For the start of the race, Pedro de la Rosa was not having a good time, with his times being disallowed from qualifying, and having to start from the back of the pack.
At the start, Schumacher made a brilliant start from pole, but Ralf made a stunning start and was up to 3rd, and very nearly made it 2nd. Barrichello did not make a good start, and was falling back, whilst Hakkinen kept 2nd, and Coulthard 4th, whilst Villeneuve was in 6th, whilst Frentzen took his team mate for position.
Diniz was the first runner to fall off the track, whilst de la Rosa continued his bad weekend, when he was involved in an incident with Alesi, resulting in both retiring from the race.
By lap 8, everything was still fairly settled, and very little was happening on the track. The major excitement was that Coulthard was pushing Ralf Schumacher hard for 3rd. And slowly, time passes... Lap 15 arrived, and still very little action was happening on or off the track. We looked to be in danger of a repeat of the major non-event of 99. The top 12 was as follows:
M Schumacher, Hakkinen, R Schumacher, Coulthard, Barrichello, Villeneuve, Frentzen, Trulli, Button, Salo, Zonta and Verstappen
On lap 17, the first of the suspected 3 stoppers came in, with Wurz, Heidfeld, and Button coming in. On lap 19, Herbert also pitted, and rejoined to split Schumacher/Hakkinen on the track, but a lap down. Herbert lifted off at the end of the pit straight and let Hakkinen through to rejoin the battle.
Villeneuve pitted, and had a small fire at the left-rear of the car as he left the pit lane, he later retired with some sort of engine problem, probably connected with the fire. At the front, it was now the turn of Michael Schumacher to be held up, and this time by Eddie Irvine - his team mate of last year. Schumacher lost a lot of time, and the pit were ready for him. He did not - however - stop. Ralf Schumacher pitted from 3rd, and allowed Coulthard to move up to 3rd, whilst Ralf rejoined in 5th.
The next lap, Michael Schumacher did pit, and had a very tardy stop. The stop became bad news when the lolly-pop man lifted the nozzle too early, long before the refueller was ready, meaning that Nigel Stepney had a 800hp Ferrari collided with his leg, resulting in damage to his ligaments. A replacement refueller would be needed in a laps time for Barrichello's stop, whilst Stepney was stretchered off to hospital. Coulthard, meanwhile, had an untidy stop in 11.6 seconds, whilst 2 laps later Barrichello had an uneventful stop, whilst Hakkinen was one of the few to have an exceptionally tidy stop in 7.8 seconds.
Into the 30s, and Hakkinen continued to harry Schumacher in first place, but there appeared to be very little chance of the Finn taking the German.
At the second round of stops, now into the 40+ lap territory, Coulthard managed a very tidy stop and made track position on Barrichello. Barrichello and Ralf Schumacher both pitted at the same time, and the Brazilian didn't have the tidiest of stops, allowing Ralf to keep track position, and rejoin the race side-by-side with Coulthard. Coulthard braved it out, and kept his position over the Williams.
More drama in the pit lane, as both Schumacher and Hakkinen pitted together. Hakkinen was turned around cleanly and out into the lead, whilst Schumacher had more trouble, with the fuel nozzle not locating, and his tidy stop evaporating into a 17 second disaster zone. Things were not going well chez Ferrari.
On the track, Coulthard was catching Schumacher hand over fist, and there was nothing the Ferrari could do to defend his position. Coulthard was eating into the German by 1.8 seconds a lap - the Ferrari obviously had a problem of some sort. Coulthard caught the Ferrari and hassled it and hassled it... He tried at the end of the pit straight, but failed again to get by, and continued to push all the way around the track. Coulthard finally managed to get the position by taking him on the outside of the corner at the end of the pit-straight, after Michael pulled into the corner early to defend it, not expecting the Scot to attempt a move around the outside. The move may soon become a trademark move for Coulthard if he continues to do this.
Coulthard now had second place, and now made it his job to chase after Hakkinen. Ralf Schumacher was now rapidly gaining on Michael, whilst Barrichello was also rapidly gaining on Ralf. The three moved their way around the circuit in a train, only for Ralf to make a daring move on his brother, then Michael squeezed, Ralf attacked back, and Michael squeezed and squeezed, and almost pushed his brother off the track to allow Barrichello (Michael's team mate) to take both of them. Michael then dived into the pits for his stop - clearly Michael was working for the team and not his brother. It was one of the most spectacular and daring moves to be seen on the race track for some time, and credit to all three drivers that no-one ended up off the track in the process.
The last handful of laps were a non-event, except for Herbert and Gene having to come in for a splash-and-dash, whilst Button retired from 6th place with an engine blow-up, allowing the Jordan of Frentzen (which was never in the picture) into the points.
Stephen M Baines http://www.motorsport.org.uk