Top Stories from the Sports pages of the International Herald Tribune,
Monday, July 17, 2000

Hakkinen Captures Austrian Grand Prix

Schumacher Spins Off Track in First Lap

By Brad Spurgeon International Herald Tribune
SPIELBERG, Austria - Sitting on the starting grid at the A1 Ring, a driver sees an upward sloping hill leading to a gravel pit and then a wall. The track turns at nearly a right angle at that point, but from the grid it looks like the end of the line.

It really was the end of the line on Sunday for Michael Schumacher, the

Formula One championship leader, who was knocked off the track before getting through that first corner.

At the Austrian Grand Prix last year, a tussle between the two McLaren drivers ended with one knocking the other off the track. This time it was a clash between the two Ferrari drivers that caused the incident.

Last year Mika Hakkinen went off at the first corner and a Ferrari driver, Eddie Irvine, profited to win the race. This year Hakkinen led from almost start to finish to win the Austrian Grand Prix, covering the 71 laps of 4.326-kilometer (2.688-mile) track, a total distance of 307.146 kilometers, in one hour, 28 minutes and 15.818 seconds for an average speed of 208.792 kilometers per hour.

David Coulthard, in the other McLaren, came in second, 12.5 seconds behind, and Rubens Barrichello came in third in a Ferrari.

Hakkinen won the drivers' title for the second year in a row last season in the last race of the championship. The victory Sunday was only his second victory this season. But it lifts his total to 48 points, just two points behind Coulthard, who is in turn only six points behind Schumacher. The sweep of the top places also hands the lead in the constructors' race to McLaren for the first time this year.

''I'm extremely happy about the outcome of this Grand Prix, '' said Hakkinen. ''I'm very optimistic about the rest of the season. It's not over yet.''

Coulthard said he was not disappointed that he did not win, noting that he now was very close to the championship leader.

Under cool, cloudy and windy skies Hakkinen, 31, a Finn, started from pole position and made a good start.

Coulthard, second on the grid, started even faster and came up to challenge his teammate on the first corner. But the two men had held a discussion about the problem last year, so Coulthard slowed and did not challenge his teammate.

''Being on the inside you're never quite sure where the dust is and how much grip you're going to have,'' Coulthard said. ''So I took it as far as I felt comfortable. You just have to accept that you cannot sometimes brake as hard on the inside as you can on the outside of the corner so you don't.''

Behind them, the two Ferrari drivers did not manage to avoid each other.

Barrichello started third on the grid and Schumacher started in fourth. Both Ferraris started well. At the first corner Schumacher optimistically tried to squeeze through a small gap inside Barrichello and then had to brake hard.

Right behind the Ferraris, Ricardo Zonta, a Brazilian driving for the BAR team, was dueling Jarno Trulli, a Italian in a Jordan. When the Ferraris slowed, Zonta ran into Schumacher, pushing him off the track, and Trulli touched the back of Barrichello's car. Barrichello went off the track, too, but managed to go through the gravel and get back on the track in eighth place.

Schumacher did not blame his teammate, saying, ''I was going into the first corner and Zonta hit me, sending me into a spin. It's as simple as that, but that's motor racing. Ricardo overestimated his own abilities and underestimated his speed, but I am sure there was nothing intentional in his actions.'' Zonta was later given a 10-second penalty for the incident.

Zonta said it wasn't his fault. ''I got a really good start but I was caught between the two Ferraris. Michael was on a really tight inside line and almost came to a stop as he was turning. I braked as hard as I could but touched the back of his car.''

The cars of Schumacher, Trulli and Zonta blocked the track at the first corner and the safety car was brought out to pace the race while the cars were removed.

When the race started two laps later some of the cars that began at the back of the grid were at the front and vice versa. Jenson Button, who had started in 18th place in his Williams, had risen to sixth in the confusion. Jacques Villeneuve, who started in seventh was now in 13th. His teammate at the BAR team, Zonta, had dropped from sixth to 15th place.

Only the two McLarens held their positions.

When the racing resumed, Barrichello started to climb. He overtook Johnny Herbert in a Jaguar on lap five, then passed Mika Salo of Sauber, who had dropped behind Pedro de la Rosa on lap eight. But de la Rosa's Arrows held its ground until an engine problem knocked him out of the race at the start of lap 32.

By lap 33, at nearly the halfway point of the race, Barrichello was back in third place, the position he would maintain until the end.

In front of him were the two McLarens. Coulthard was 32.5 seconds ahead of Barrichello. Hakkinen was 14.8 seconds ahead of Coulthard.

Coulthard briefly took the lead when Hakkinen made his pit stop on lap 38. But after Coulthard made his stop on lap 42, Hakkinen regained the lead.

Villeneuve finished in fourth for the second race in a row, while Button came in fifth. Salo was sixth.

At the other end of the field, Ralf Schumacher, in a Williams, was in a race of its own. The German driver, who started from 19th position, had technical problems from the start and made a total of five pit stops and finished the race nine laps behind the leader.

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