Top Stories from the Sports pages of the International Herald Tribune,
Monday, April 24, 2000

Coulthard Leads McLaren to Sweep in British Prix

Hakkinen Is 2d As Scot Registers Repeat Victory

By Brad Spurgeon International Herald Tribune
SILVERSTONE, England - The rains came to a halt Sunday to allow the ragged, weary and mud-covered British fans to watch a home driver, David Coulthard, win the British Grand Prix for the second year in a row.

Coulthard completed the 60 laps of the 5.14-kilometer (3.19-mile) track in 1 hour, 28 minutes and 50.108 seconds for an average speed of 208.266 kilometers per hour and distance of 308.3 kilometers. Mika Hakkinen, Coulthard's teammate in the other McLaren-Mercedes, came in second, 1.4 seconds behind, and Michael Schumacher came in third in a Ferrari.

''It's just fantastic,'' Coulthard said. ''I had such a long time to think about it while I was out there, and I developed a small gearbox problem and I was preparing to cry in the car. But thankfully it held together. It's great for the team.''

It was also great for the championship, as it brought to an end a three-race winning streak since the start of the season by Schumacher.

Two weeks of rain had turned the British Grand Prix into a logistical nightmare, and the fans had suffered.

But the fans have the rain to thank for the British driver's victory. It was the rain that fell before Saturday's qualifying session that shuffled up the starting grid. Qualifying took place on a track that slowly dried throughout the session and turned it into a lottery, as almost all the drivers went out in the last few minutes and got stuck in traffic. The result was that Schumacher started the race in the fifth place on the grid.

Coulthard, 29, a Scot, started in fourth place, just behind Hakkinen, who was in turn behind Heinz-Harald Frentzen in a Jordan, and Rubens Barrichello, who was on pole in the other Ferrari.

Coulthard made an excellent start, overtaking Hakkinen, who got caught out on the side of the track with Schumacher coming up beside him.

''I had the opportunity to go up the middle,'' Schumacher said of his start. ''But there were so many cars that there didn't seem to be anyone opening any doors. So I considered going up the grass, which should have worked, but after so much rain over the last days, the grass was so wet, so I was worried about wheel spin and so I lost momentum there.''

Schumacher was passed by Jenson Button, Jacques Villeneuve and then his brother Ralf as he was forced back to eighth on the first lap. His teammate, meanwhile, took the lead after a perfect start.

For the first 20 laps, the first six cars followed each other, one after another, with less than a second between each of them. Schumacher lost ground. He was stuck behind Villeneuve and could not overtake the Canadian and slid 21.5 seconds behind Barrichello, who was then in the lead.

As it turned out, the only driver to get wet was Barrichello. He held the lead until Coulthard overtook him on lap 31, but regained it when Coulthard made a pit stop.

Barrichello tried to put in a couple of fast laps to stretch his lead before going in for his pit stop. But as he entered the last corner before the exit leading to the pit lane, Barrichello spun. He tried to get his car back in position but spun around again before heading through the waterlogged grass and throwing up a shower of spray.

He made it into the pits but never came out, forced to abandon the race with a high-pressure hydraulic problem.

''I am very sad, because I had the opportunity of taking my first grand prix,'' Barrichello said. ''Around five or six laps before I retired I started to feel there was something wrong with the car. Then I began to have problems with the clutch and the throttle. That is why Coulthard managed to pass me. I spun because of the erratic behavior of the engine, which almost died on the entry into the corner, before power suddenly came in again.''

If Barrichello's race was over, Coulthard's fun had just begun. He eventually regained the lead and brought McLaren its 124th victory since it started in Formula One in 1966, and its 11th victory in the British Grand Prix. Only Ferrari has the same number of British victories.

After Frentzen was forced to retire with a gearbox problem and Villeneuve was overtaken by Jarno Trulli in a Jordan for sixth place, fourth and fifth places came to Ralf Schumacher and Jenson Button, the two Williams drivers.

Button, a 20-year-old Briton, became the youngest driver to win a point in Formula One at the Brazilian Grand Prix last month. He now has a total of three.

Michael Schumacher leads the championship with 34 points. Coulthard is second with 14, Hakkinen is third with 12 and Barrichello, who was second before the race, is fourth with nine.

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