McLaren Dominates Before the race had even started, the Arrows team were in trouble, with Pedro Diniz stuck on the grid with battery problems. The car was pushed into the pit lane, and would have to start from there. From the start Hakkinen...
Before the race had even started, the Arrows team were in trouble, with Pedro Diniz stuck on the grid with battery problems. The car was pushed into the pit lane, and would have to start from there. From the start Hakkinen pulled away from Coulthard, and make good progress. Michael Schumacher had a bad start, and lost places, with Fisichella up to 3rd and Irvine also getting in front of the German. Fisichella didn't keep third for long, with Irvine taking him. Barrichello made the most of his good qualifying session, and was not looking tardy.
Villeneuve was starting to make some progress, moving up to 8th, taking Herbert and Hill. Frentzen was already down in 20th place, with Alesi down in 19th. Frentzen had had a spin on the first lap, and was into the pits for a new front wing and tyres. Hakkinen was setting fastest lap after fastest lap. By the end of lap 5, Hakkinen had some 5.8 seconds over Coulthard, with Coulthard having a further 4 seconds over Irvine. This continued, with Hakkinen having a clear 0.6 seconds a lap over Coulthard. Behind the top 6 of Hakkinen, Coulthard, Irvine, Fisichella, Schumacher and Wurz were Barrichello in the Stewart, Villeneuve, Herbert, Hill, Panis and Trulli. By the end of lap 14 the gap from Hakkinen to Trulli was some 52 seconds.
Down at the unfashionable end of the field, Takagi, Ralf and Alesi were battling for 15th place. Herbert was also pushing harder at the front end, with him making progress on Villeneuve. By lap 21, the pit stops had started to happen. On the track both Arrows pulled off the track simulataneously, did they collide? No, it turned out that they suffered from a synchronised engine blowing display. Hardly the best news for the Arrows.
Ferrari now had a problem with the fuel stops. Irvine was ahead of Schumacher, but thanks to the rule changes after the first race of the year the team couldn't just ask Irvine to give up a place. Irvine before the stops had a clear 6 seconds over Schumacher. The team in the end gave Schumacher a smaller fuel load to enable him to catch up, and soon he was by. It proved to be somewhat academic, though, as Fisichella decided to make a move on Irvine. He dived around the outside of the Ferrari, and smartly turned into the corner before he was properly ahead. Result? Two cars out on the spot. For some reason Fisichella thought that he was badly done by. The action replays, however, backed up Irvine. On the gravel trap, however, Fisichella saw things differently, and spent quite some time shouting at Irvine.
By lap 34, the order had sorted itself out as Hakkinen, Coulthard, Schumacher, Wurz, Barrichello, Villeneuve, Herbert, Hill, Panis, Trulli, Alesi, Magnussen, Ralf, Takagi, Frentzen, Nakano and Tuero.
Villeneuve was yet again having problems with the fuel flap, with it flapping away for lap after lap. The second round of stops went uneventfully - at least it appeared that way, however Schumacher was deemed to have been speeding in the pit lane, and was rewarded with a 10 second penalty. In the process, Wurz made up a place. Hill then had an excursion across the gravel, followed later by him retiring with "suspected engine problems". At the rear of the field, Frentzen was continuing his battle with Magnussen, whilst at the front Barrichello was looking good in the points with the new spec engine and car. This was clearly progress for Jackie Stewarts team.
Coulthard at the front was pushing Hakkinen hard, with Coulthard bringing down the gap to 5.8 seconds by lap 57. Herbert continued to push Villeneuve hard, despite having a cracked exhaust from the start of the race. Hill was later found in the pits, and confirmed that "the engine went bang", after Frentzen had charged out of the pits and pushed Hill off the track. This was the umpteenth "do" between the two over the weekend. As Hill himself said, there were "personality differences" between them. Ahem!
Coulthards charge after Hakkinen was soon stopped, as he settled for second and dropped back steadily to a secure position. With only 3 laps to the finish, Panis retired with an engine failure. Hakkinen, meanwhile, was able to sail on to the finish.
Hakkinen Coulthard Schumacher Wurz Barrichello +1 Villeneuve Herbert Frentzen +2 Trulli Alesi R Schumacher Magnussen Takagi Nakano Tuero Panis +5 Last classified finisher -- Stephen M Baines
"[The Autosport sticker] started to peel off in the middle of Eau Rouge and it distracted me. In fact it was the first thing to hit the barrier" Tiff Needell - Jaguar XJR-15 Challenge - Interview with Autosport