Schumacher wins at Indy
|Sunday, September 24th 2000, 21:47 GMT|
Michael Schumacher has retaken the lead in the Formula 1 World Championship standings after completing a dominant victory in the United States Grand Prix, with Ferrari team mate Rubens Barrichello in second place. Heinz-Harald Frentzen took third while world champion Mika Hakkinen retired with engine problems.
A flying start from David Coulthard took the Scot into the lead, closely followed by Michael Schumacher and Coulthard's McLaren-Mercedes team mate Mika Hakkinen in third. Coulthard's lead was to be shortlived and came under immediate threat on two counts.
The first and most pressing was the Ferrari of Schumacher – the scarlet F1-2000 bore down on the number two McLaren and by lap five the German was close enough to try a move on Coulthard for the lead. A failed attempt on lap five became a successful move on lap six with Schumacher going around the outside of DC into turn one to take P1 – a position the two-time world champion held till the chequered flag.
"It is something really, really nice to win here," said Schumacher after the race. "It's the first time we've come here and we didn't really know what to expect, but seeing so many people enjoying the race is great."
Coulthard's second problem came in the shape of a stop/go penalty for jumping the start and the 10 second stop allied with the extra long Indianapolis pit-lane put paid to any chances of Coulthard finishing near the front.
McLaren's afternoon did not look all bad as Hakkinen pitted early to make the change to dry tyres, a move which to start with did not look to have benefitted the Finn as race leader Schumacher continued with a run of fastest lap times. However, after Schumacher had pitted on lap 15, Hakkinen began to put in a blistering series of fastest laps as the dry line formed and he began to close the seven-second gap.
The Finn's charge proved to be short-lived and on lap 25, flames began licking out of the left-hand bank of exhausts of the Mercedes-Ilmor engine, putting an end to Hakkinen's race.
"I don't know exactly what happened," said Hakkinen, "I lost power to the wheels, so that was it. I was consistently quick in all the sectors. It was really good."
Rubens Barrichello spent much of the first half of the race maintaining his pace outside the top six but the Brazilian steadily made his way up the field and by lap 48 the second Ferrari was in third place behind the Jordan Mugen-Honda of Heinz-Harald Frentzen.
Both were due for a final pit stop and as such the Ferrari mechanics emerged from their garage and took up position for what looked like a Barrichello stop. The Jordan crew duly followed suit and on the next lap Frentzen peeled off into the pits, but under instruction from master tactician Ross Brawn, Barrichello stayed out. Two flying laps from Barrichello meant the little Brazilian could emerge in front of Frentzen after his own pit stop two laps later.
That's the way it stayed until the chequered flag and rather than Frentzen attempting to make up the lost ground to the Ferrari, the German's focus had to switch to the chasing Jacques Villeneuve, who was closing fast in fourth spot. The Canadian tried various attempts at getting his BAR-Honda past the Jordan but had to settle for fourth place.
The 1997 world champion had odds of 40-1 going into the weekend making an each way bet a fairly sound flutter. Some disappointed punters will be rueing the fact that the Canadian could not make one of his many passing moves stick.
Team mate Ricardo Zonta rounded out the top six to take the final point, making the US GP BAR's most successful race of the season. Four points keeps the Brackley-based outfit in equal fifth place in the constructors championship with Jordan – which has signed a deal to receive works Honda engines next year, alongside BAR.
Jaguar's weekend in front of Ford top brass did not fair well with Eddie Irvine finishing just outside the points in seventh spot and team mate Johnny Herbert in 12th. Newly-signed team principal for next year Bobby Rahal has his work cut out.
Pedro Diniz finished eighth despite a mid-race trip onto the grass at Turn 8. Sauber-Petronas team mate Mika Salo was less fortunate and spun going into Turn 4. The Finn came to a halt in the gravel and immediately beached the C19 only to become more bogged down with wheelspin.
Prost's Nick Heidfeld came home ninth while Alex Wurz completed the top 10 as the only Benetton to finish.
A promising weekend for the Williams-BMW team turned to nothing with both FW-22s retiring with mechanical problems. Jenson Button started from sixth on the grid, an impressive four places ahead of team mate Ralf Schumacher. Button made it up to fifth but touched Jarno Trulli's Jordan giving the young Englishman a puncture. He made it back to the pits to take on fresh tyres only to come to a halt at the pit exit with mechanical problems a few laps later.
"I came alongside (Rubens) Barrichello," said Button, "and just as I went over the bricks there was a bang and it felt like I hit something. The engine just died."
The Arrows pairing of Jos Verstappen and Pedro de la Rosa had tremendous straight line speed down the colossal Indianapolis straight and showed flashes of pace during the race, but both were forced to have early baths. Verstappen went straight on at Turn 8 and into the barrier on lap 35 because of what looked like mechanical failure and de la Rosa came to a halt on the pit straight 12 laps later.
With two races to go in Japan and Malaysia, Schumacher now stands as the favourite to take his third world championship, but only a fool or a singing fat lady would say entirely discount Hakkinen and the McLaren team.
"I am eight points ahead, so mathematically everything is still possible," said Schumacher. "I would love to have another Ferrari one-two in Japan, but with everything that's happened so far this season, you never know what's going to happen. We're going to have to be very focused and very concentrated."
1. M Schumacher Ferrari 1h36m30.883s
2. R Barrichello Ferrari + 12.118s
3. H-H Frentzen Jordan-Mugen Honda + 17.368s
4 J Villeneuve BAR-Honda +17.935s
5. D Coulthard McLaren-Mercedes +28.813s
6. R Zonta BAR-Honda + 51.694s
7. E Irvine Jaguar-Ford + 1m11.115s
8. P Diniz Sauber-Petronas 1 lap
9. N Heidfeld Prost-Peugeot 1 lap
10. A Wurz Benetton-Supertec 1 lap
11. J Herbert Jaguar 1 lap
12. M Gene Minardi-Fondmetal 1 lap
13. J Alesi Prost-Peugeot 9 laps
14. G Mazzacane Minardi-Fondmetal 14 laps
15. R Schumacher Williams-BMW 15 laps
16. P de la Rosa Arrows-Supertec 28 laps
17. G Fisichella Benetton-Supertec 29 laps
18. J Verstappen Arrows-Supertec 39 laps
19. M Hakkinen McLaren-Mercedes 48 laps
20. M Salo Sauber-Petronas 55 laps
21. J Button Williams-BMW 59 laps
22. J Trulli Jordan-Mugen Honda 61 laps