Top Stories from the Sports pages of the International Herald Tribune,
Monday, September 25, 2000

Schumacher Takes U.S. Grand Prix

By Brad Spurgeon International Herald Tribune
INDIANAPOLIS - Michael Schumacher won the U.S. Grand Prix on Sunday, writing history as the first winner of the inaugural Formula One race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and as the second most victorious winner in Formula One history, with 42 career victories.

Mika Hakkinen, the world champion, was forced out of the race with engine failure just 26 laps into the 73-lap event. The Finn failed to finish for only the third time in 15 races this season and now trails Schumacher by eight points with two events remaining.

Most important for Schumacher is that the victory lifted both him and his Ferrari team back into the lead in the drivers' and constructors' championships with only two races left in the season. Schumacher is trying to become the first Ferrari to win the world title since Jody Scheckter won it in 1979.

''It's something really, really nice,'' Schumacher said. ''It's the first time we've been here, and I guess none of us expected to have such a great welcome from the American fans. And not only the Americans, because they came here from all over the world. But to see so many people celebrating with us with this victory, yes, it's the best.''

Before a full house of more than 200,000 fans a Formula One attendance record and under a light drizzle and a cold, cloud-covered sky, the race started on a partly damp circuit with most cars equipped with rain tires.

Schumacher, 31, started from pole position, with David Coulthard, in a McLaren, starting in second place and Hakkinen, in the other McLaren, starting in third.

At the race start Coulthard leapt off the starting line before any of the other cars moved and he took the lead from Schumacher by the first corner. Hakkinen and Barrichello maintained their positions.

Schumacher then pushed Coulthard to the limit and while the raced stewards investigated whether or not the Scot had jump-started the race, Schumacher managed to pass him at the end of the long straightaway to gain the lead at the beginning of Lap 7.

Coulthard was then ordered to serve a 10-second penalty in the pits for having jump-started the race, and during the next several laps most of the cars came into the pits to change into dry-weather tires.

But not Schumacher. The German stayed out on wet-weather tires and built up his distance from the rest of the pack. After 15 laps Schumacher had a 43.5 seconds lead on Hakkinen when the Ferrari driver finally pulled in to change his tires. He returned to the track 10 seconds ahead of the Finn and it looked like the race was won.

Then Hakkinen started building up speed and lap after lap he gained time on the Ferrari until by Lap 26 he was only four seconds behind and it looked like the race was anything but decided. Until suddenly, on that lap, flames began to pour out the back of the McLaren and Hakkinen had to pull out of the race.

The rest was a nearly routine race for Schumacher until with five laps left he spun out after his car slightly ran off a corner. But he managed to spin the car around on the track and maintained a comfortable, 14.2 second lead.

He drove his Ferrari around the 73 laps of the 4.19-kilometer (2.6-mile) track in one hour 36 minutes and 30.883 seconds for an average speed of 190.239 kilometers an hour and a distance of 306.016 kilometers.

It was Schumacher's seventh victory this season. He started the race with an equal number of career victories to Ayrton Senna in the all-time roster. Only Alain Prost has more, with 51.

It was Ferrari's seventh victory at a U.S. Grand Prix, but its first in Indianapolis. Ferrari regains the lead in the constructors' championship as it now has 143 points to 133 for McLaren, in second.

McLaren started the race leading the series by four points.

But behind Schumacher it was a dogfight among many of the other cars. Rubens Barrichello came in second, 12.1 seconds behind, while Germany's Heinz-Harald Frentzen in a Jordan came in third.

Jacques Villeneuve in a British American Racing car came in fourth, and Coulthard came in fifth. Ricardo Zonta, Villeneuve's teammate, finished sixth.

Villeneuve, the only driver in the series to have raced in the Indianapolis 500, for which the track is famous and which the Canadian driver won in 1995, finished the race in fourth after a tough battle with Frentzen. With only seven laps left Villeneuve spun off the track while trying to overtake Frentzen, and then got back on the track, maintaining his position.

The next race is the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka on Oct. 8.

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