Top Stories from the Sports pages of the International Herald Tribune,
Monday, August 14, 2000

Hakkinen Triumphs On Hungarian Circuit

Finn Takes Lead in Chase for Drivers' Title

By Brad Spurgeon International Herald Tribune
BUDAPEST - Reigning world champion Mika Hakkinen slipped past David Coulthard and Michael Schumacher on the first corner of the Hungarian Grand Prix on Sunday and was never challenged as he drove to victory.

Hakkinen drove faultlessly throughout the grueling 77 laps of the 3.97 kilometer (2.4 miles) track to win in

one hour, 45 minutes and 33.869 seconds for an average speed of 173.964 kilometers per hour and a distance of 306.075 kilometers. Schumacher finished second 7.9 seconds behind and Coulthard third only half a second behind the German.

The Finnish driver, for the first time this season, took the lead in the drivers' title race from Schumacher, and set himself on course to become the only driver since Juan Manuel Fangio to win the drivers' title three years in a row.

''I had again a fantastic start,'' Hakkinen said. ''It was very close with Michael in the first corner, but that's what racing should be. And we came around the corner in one piece.''

Hakkinen, 31, who started the race two points behind Schumacher and level with Coulthard, his teammate at McLaren, now leads the championship with 64 points. Schumacher is second with 62, and Coulthard third with 58. But Hakkinen refused to say he was now the favorite to win the series.

''All the way through the season people talk about who is going to win, or who is going to lose, or who has lost motivation, or who has motivation,'' he said. ''I've been keeping my own head all the time and concentrating on my work and going to the races and trying to win. I'm not going to think about who is going to win and who is going to lose. That will be decided at the end of the year when we count the points.''

The first and third place finishes by the McLaren cars also carry that team past Ferrari in the constructors' series with 112 points to 111 for Ferrari.

It was Hakkinen's third victory this year and his second in a row in Hungary, which, because of the vast number of Finnish spectators who fly down for the race, is considered to be the closest thing to a home race the Finn has.

Under sunny, hot skies Hakkinen got off to a perfect start from third place on the grid, taking advantage of the fact that he was on the cleaner side of the track -- on the racing line -- while Coulthard was on the dirty side, starting from second.

Hakkinen pulled up beside Schumacher, who was on pole, and squeezed his way between Schumacher and the edge of the track before the first corner. The two were lined up for a collision, and Schumacher, who was braking late, laid off and let the Finn through.

Coulthard, who got off to a bad start that he blamed partly on the dusty track, struggled with Ralf Schumacher, in a Williams, to get around the first two corners ahead. ''There's definitely a disadvantage,'' Coulthard said of the dusty track, ''although my start was not as good as Ralf's, and he was also on the dirty side.

''But I had a really good battle with Ralf because although he was on the outside, I gave him room all the way around Turn 1, and then he didn't squeeze me off the circuit or anything like that, and it meant that we could battle into Turn 2. It shows that you can have close racing fighting for a corner without having to run into each other.''

Tension was high before the start for Michael Schumacher, who was knocked out of the two previous races in tussles at the first corner. In Germany, it was as a result of Coulthard, who started on pole, swerving in front of the German. But that move was a repayment to Schumacher for a similar move at the start of French Grand Prix in July. In Germany, Hakkinen leapt past the two of them from fourth place, but later lost the lead. In Austria, Schumacher was also knocked off the track at the first corner, by Ricardo Zonta, in a BAR.

''You have to say that today we were not fast enough to win the race,'' Schumacher said. ''I lost the start against Mika, which was a tight battle, but when you see his pace, if he hadn't overtaken me at the start he probably would have done it later through pit stops.

''He was simply the fastest man today at the circuit. That's why I'm not too unhappy to keep second position, because even that was a tight battle.''

Of the 16 cars that finished the race, only the top six were on the same lap as the winner. Ralf Schumacher, in a Williams, came in fifth and Heinz-Harald Frentzen, in a Jordan, finished sixth.

The next race is the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa on Aug. 27.

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