Top Stories from the Sports pages of the International Herald Tribune,
Monday, June 5, 2000

On a Day of Dropouts, Coulthard Wins Monaco Grand Prix

Formula One

By Brad Spurgeon International Herald Tribune
MONACO - David Coulthard drew the lucky number Sunday after the Monaco Grand Prix turned into a crazy game of roulette as one car after another dropped out.

For most of the first half, the race followed the normal pattern a dull procession along the tight course in which drivers found it next to impossible to overtake.

Coulthard in a McLaren covered the 78 laps of the 3.367-kilometer (2.1-mile) track in 1 hour, 49 minutes, 28.213 seconds for an average speed of 144.072 kilometers per hour. Rubens Barrichello came in second in a Ferrari, 15.8 seconds behind. Giancarlo Fisichella was third in a Benetton. It was Coulthard's eighth career victory, his second this year, and his first in Monaco.

''I've always said there's a few big Grand Prix that I'd like to win,'' Coulthard said. He said that Monaco had been the only one left on his list ''because it's technically one of the most challenging and difficult tracks for any driver.''

The victory moved the Scot to second place in the drivers' standings with 34 points, behind Michael Schumacher who has 46, and past his teammate Mika Hakkinen, who has 29.

Coulthard, 29, got off to a perfect start from third on the grid under hot, humid and hazy but sunny skies. The roulette wheel had already begun to spin, however, and the start had to be done again. And then again.

The race was aborted the first time after the formation lap because Pedro Diniz's Sauber was stuck on the grid and Alexander Wurz's Benetton had blown an engine while approaching the grid.

The second restart was called after a six-car pileup in the Loews hairpin corner on the first lap. Jenson Button in a Williams and Pedro de la Rosa in an Arrows touched wheels as they went through the corner. De la Rosa spun and prevented Button's car and four others from getting through the corner.

What was supposed to be a race between the most advanced cars in the world turned briefly into a foot race as drivers involved in the pileup sprinted, sometimes in the wrong direction, through the

back streets of Monaco in an attempt to reach the pits in time to jump into their spare cars before the second restart.

When the race finally began, it turned into a procession. Schumacher, the pole-sitter, Jarno Trulli, in a Jordan, Coulthard, Heinz-Harald Frentzen, in the other Jordan, and Hakkinen all made good starts and held their grid position through the first corner. Schumacher, a four-time winner in Monaco, started turning laps consistently one second faster than Trulli. Schumacher maintained that pace until he began to encounter the back markers after 30 laps.

Meanwhile, both Coulthard, unable to pass Trulli, and Hakkinen, stuck behind Frentzen, were losing time.

But at just about the halfway point, cars started falling out with both mechanical problems and spinouts.

After stalking Frentzen for 35 laps, Hakkinen suddenly lost speed. He returned to the pits and made a stop of 53.2 seconds before going out again. As Hakkinen re-entered the track, Ralf Schumacher, in a Williams, tried to pass, lost control, ran into the guardrail and limped out with a bleeding gash in his left calf.

Almost immediately, Trulli slowed and dropped out of the race. That left Coulthard in second.

So Coulthard finally had his chance to try to catch Michael Schumacher. But Schumacher had enough of a cushion to make his first pit stop after lap 48 and come back on the track still ahead.

''I was beginning to think he could walk on water,'' Coulthard said. But on lap 55, Schumacher's Ferrari lost a part of its rear suspension and nearly went out of control. His team struggled to repair the car, but finally Schumacher climbed out. His race was over.

Strange things continued to happen on the track. With only eight laps left, Frentzen, who was second at the time, spun into a guardrail and out of the race.

That left nine cars, all of which finished. Eddie Irvine was fourth and scored the first ever points for the Jaguar team. Mika Salo came in fifth in a Sauber, and Hakkinen was sixth to claim just a single point.

With three laps left, Coulthard had lapped his teammate, Hakkinen, in a symbolic move that may set the scene for the rest of the championship.

The significance was not lost on Schumacher, who perhaps was trying to undermine Coulthard when he said, ''It's true I could have picked up 10 points today, but the driver I consider my main rival could also have done so.''

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