INDIANAPOLIS, (Sunday, Sept. 24, 2000) -- West McLaren Mercedes driver and two time defending Formula One World Champion Mika Hakkinen lost the lead for the driver's championship today after a mechanical failure and subsequent fire ended...
INDIANAPOLIS, (Sunday, Sept. 24, 2000) -- West McLaren Mercedes driver and two time defending Formula One World Champion Mika Hakkinen lost the lead for the driver's championship today after a mechanical failure and subsequent fire ended his race prematurely. Driving his Ferrari on a new 2.606-mile course that combined parts of the historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval and infield roadway, Michael Schumacher won the first United States Grand Prix held in almost a decade. Schumacher, who began the race two points behind Hakkinen, now holds an eight-point lead (88 to 80 points) with two races and a maximum of 20 championship points remaining in the season. Meanwhile, Ferrari now has a 10-point lead in the constructor's championship (143 to 133 points). Hakkinen's teammate, David Coulthard, moved from his second position on the grid at the start to lead the field into turn one on the first lap, but was later subjected to a 10-second stop and go penalty for jumping the start. With a fifth-place finish, he was eliminated from the championship race. Hakkinen was running second to Schumacher and gaining ground quickly when the mechanical problem surfaced. "We don't know what happened exactly," said Hakkinen, who expressed his disappointment at not finishing the race after having run so strongly. "I was unable to continue. I was quick. It was really good."
Former Mercedes-Benz racing driver John Fitch, 83, who drove for Mercedes-Benz in the early 1950s in both Formula One and international sports car racing, was a guest of Mercedes-Benz today for the first United States Grand Prix. He had several thoughts about this race, and his illustrious career driving the Silver Arrows for Mercedes-Benz:
On the difference between Formula One today and the early 50s: "It's an entirely different thing now. It's an industry now. It was a sport then."
On the return of Formula One to the United States: "This is marvelous. Formula One should be in the U.S. Every team has some association with the U.S. It is the biggest car market in the world; it is the biggest producer of cars. In fact, we should have two races here in the States."
On how hard it is for an American to get into Formula One today: "It was easier do get into Formula One back then (in the 50s) than it is today. The competition is just so intense now. In my case, I was racing a Cunningham at LeMans in 1952 when Mercedes won it. I got to know the Mercedes people then. I raced in the Carrera Panamericana in a Chrysler in 1952 when Karl Kling won for Mercedes in the 300SL prototype, and I talked to Mercedes about their car. They offered to let me drive in a test after the German Grand Prix in July. That was it. Now, drivers have to go through all the lesser Formulas and it is not easy."
On the greatest race of his career: "There is no doubt my best drive was the Mille Miglia when I finished fifth overall the year Stirling Moss won for Mercedes. I was driving a production Mercedes-Benz 300SL, and there were hundreds of cars in the field. I asked Mercedes what they thought my chances were for an overall win, and they laughed. They thought it was silly. There were 40 prototypes in the field from the likes of Mercedes, Maserati and Ferrari, and they said my chances were nil. But I finished fifth behind Moss and Juan Fangio in Mercedes 300SLRs, and then a Ferrari and a Maserati. I won Sebring in 1953 in a Cunningham, and the Tourist Trophy in Ireland with Moss in '55, but that Mille Miglia was my best race, and I didn't even win."