Breathtaking Skill Leaves Hakkinen Set for Title

World Champion Mika Hakkinen thrilled the motor racing world by winning the Belgian Grand Prix with an audacious overtaking move that put a third drivers' title firmly in his sights.

Breathtaking Skill Leaves Hakkinen Set for Title

World Champion Mika Hakkinen thrilled the motor racing world by winning the Belgian Grand Prix with an audacious overtaking move that put a third drivers' title firmly in his sights.

The 41st-lap move, which saw the Finn lap Ricardo Zonta's BAR Honda and overtake race leader Michael Schumacher's Ferrari in the blink of an eye, has been heralded as one of the finest seen in Formula One.

"His overtaking manoeuvre I'm sure will go down as one of the greatest in the sport's history," Hakkinen's McLaren team boss Ron Dennis said.

Schumacher, who now trails Hakkinen by 68 points to 74 with four races remaining, was full of praise for his main rival. "Mika made a really outstanding manoeuvre," he said.

Newspapers throughout Europe hailed a display of skill that could well propel Hakkinen to a third title in as many years, a feat unparalleled since the 1950s, and showed Schumacher is not the only driver capable of breathtaking skill.

Schumacher refuses to concede that his championship chances are on the wane after scoring only 12 points in five races against the resurgent Hakkinen's 42 in the same period.

Ferrari Lacks Speed

But he admitted Ferrari, without a drivers' title since 1979, had lacked the speed required to beat the ever-improving McLaren team in the last two races.

"We have improved the car here and in the gap between Hungary and this race," he said. "But it has not been enough.

"But I know that things can change quickly and with four races to go I am still optimistic. We can do a lot more than this."

Ferrari's legion of flag-waving fans will certainly hope he is right and will show their feelings at the Monza circuit this week when the teams begin testing there on Tuesday.

"This was very disappointing for us," said Ferrari's sporting director Jean Todt.

"We did not get the result we could have done with Michael. We lost to a very strong and a very lucky driver.

"We are six points behind in the drivers' championship and eight behind in the constructors. But there is still everything to play for and we will continue to strive for success with our usual determination."

With races in Italy, the United States, Japan and Malaysia to come, the Finn is in a strong position to become the first driver since Argentine Juan-Manuel Fangio to score a hat-trick of titles.

Fangio won four successive championships from 1954 to 1957, with different teams. No driver has managed to win three successive championships since then and no team, except McLaren, has supplied a car to win three successive drivers' titles.

McLaren succeeded in 1984 to 1986 when Austrian Nika Lauda, with one win, and Frenchman Alain Prost, with two, dominated the drivers' title race.

The team repeated the feat between 1988 and 1991 when Brazilian Ayrton Senna took three drivers titles and Prost one.

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