Hakkinen wins Spanish GP

Mika Hakkinen took his first win of the season at the Spanish Grand Prix, seizing the initiative from Michael Schumacher when the latter was held up in the pits, and then lost his head trying to chase

Hakkinen wins Spanish GP

A McLaren 1-2 did not look on the cards when the race started, as Coulthard got bottled up behind Ralf Schumacher, and Hakkinen could not do a great deal about Schumacher - though his car appeared to be a little quicker.

However, a series of incidents centring around the pitstops contrived to hand the race to McLaren.

"The boys did a fantastic job today," said Hakkinen, paying tribute to his pit crew. "It was amazing - a fantastic job. They did everything exactly as they should.

"I don't know quite how I was placed like that," Hakkinen went on referring to his win, "but I'm very happy with the result."

It was Schumacher's pitstops that proved to be his downfall in the Spanish Grand Prix - a race the German appeared to have under control.

Schumacher's first pitstop on lap 27 demonstrated how the German can react to pressure when on the back foot - his in-lap had been ruined by the Jaguar of Eddie Irvine, which allowed the chasing Hakkinen to close to within half a second. Whether on his own volition, or the decision of the team, he stayed out another lap than was originally planned.

Once in the pits, the lollipop man appeared to raise his board momentarily, but the fuel filler had not been fully removed. Schumacher went anyway, the lowered lollipop clattering on the tub of his Ferrari, and the hapless Nigel Stepney was sent flying.

The Ferrari Chief Mechanic appeared to be hurt, fairly seriously, and was taken back into the garage, apparently in some pain. Reports later emerged that fortunately he had sustained no serious injuries.

However, Schumacher had the advantage after Hakkinen's stop a lap later, squeezing into the lead and holding that gap at around a second and a half.

However the incident was still to prove the undoing of the Championship leader. Schumacher pulled into the pits as the leading pair approached a tail ender. The replacement fuel filler man, Andrea Viccari, seemed unable to get the pipe connected, leading to a 17.5 second stop.

After that, Schumacher was never really on the pace, destroying his tyres in an attempt to stay on terms with Hakkinen. This required a third pit stop for new boots on lap 42, which dropped him out of contention and back into the clutches of David Coulthard.

David Coulthard drove a storming race, making both outstanding overtaking moves of the event - and perhaps of the year so far.

The Scot harried the Williams of Ralf Schumacher, finally passing him down the outside on the first turn as the German was emerging from the pits on lap 41. Coulthard managed to tough it out, and set off in pursuit of Michael Schumacher.

Within five laps, Coulthard had caught the Ferrari and was swarming around all over the back of the German's car, just as Hakkinen had done a few laps earlier.

On lap 47, Coulthard swept to the outside line, and Schumacher cut across to the inside, defensive, line. Undeterred, Coulthard braked a touch later than Schumacher to move alongside around turn 1. Getting better traction, he pulled ahead, and Schumacher could do nothing.

"The first move Michael made surprised me as it was so late," said Coulthard, regarding Schumacher's aggressive defensive tactics.

"We very nearly touched," he confirmed. On the subject of his return to the cockpit after a harrowing week, where he was involved in a plane crash, Coulthard added: "It's good to get back in the car and drive. Good to just do my job."

This was all the more remarkable considering the Scot's poor start, where Ralf Schumacher's Williams squeezed past both Coulthard and Barrichello. Coulthard appeared to be able to do nothing about the Williams in the early stages.

The World Champion had severe tyre pressure problems, either caused by punishment from the driver, or a fault with the set-up of the tyres. Under severe pressure for third from his brother Ralf in the Williams BMW, the Ferrari driver blocked several times, and then contrived to force the Williams to the outside of turn 11, Banc Sabadell, in order to allow the following Ferrari of Rubens Barrichello through - a massive change in fortune for the Ferrari driver.

"My race was dead," admitted Barrichello. "It was not good until that point. It is impossible when you get caught behind slower cars, even when they are two or three seconds a lap slower," the Brazilian explained, after being caught behind Ralf Schumacher at the start.

Heinz-Harald Frentzen was a distant sixth for Jordan. The British team seem to have given up any chance of chasing Ferrari and McLaren for the time being, but risk losing third place in the constructors' stakes to Williams, particularly with the driving heroics of Ralf Schumacher on side.

Mika Salo was seventh, just out of the points, after something of a quiet race, while Ricardo Zonta made it to the finish in 8th, which will be a boost to his confidence - his team mate Jacques Villeneuve was running strongly in sixth when he pulled off with a suspected engine failure at turn three, the long right-hander known as Renault.

Pedro de la Rosa went out, but hardly in a blaze of glory - while tearing through the field from the back of the grid, an over ambitious move on Jean Alesi's Prost put both drivers out at turn seven, the Campsa.

This ended a distinctly up-and-down weekend for the Spaniard, who had performed extremely well on home soil, to qualify a career-best ninth. This was removed from him when fuel irregularities were exposed on the number 18 Arrows. Perhaps succumbing to a touch of red mist, the 28-year-old went for a move that was never really on.

As a result, the top home driver was Marc Gene, who ran in tandem with his Minardi team-mate for the majority of the race, and finished two laps down.

Schumacher's woes means the McLaren drivers close to within 14 points of Schumacher, with Coulthard two points behind Hakkinen's 22pts.

Hakkinen was philosphical about the result, appreciating that there is a long way to go, and a quick turnaround cannot be expected.

"It's a long time til the end of the season, and anything can happen - today was a good example of that," he admitted.

"But we learned a lot about the car this weekend, and we think we can make it a lot quicker," he claimed - a message which must have Ferrari worried despite their significant lead in the points.

Barrichello is fourth on 13pts with Ralf Schumacher holding a watching brief on 12pts.

Results:

1 Hakkinen McLaren 1h33'50"390
2 Coulthard McLaren +16.0
3 Barrichello Ferrari +29.3
4 R Schumacher Williams +37.3
5 M Schumacher Ferrari +47.9
6 Frentzen Jordan +81.9
7 Salo Sauber 1 laps
8 Zonta BAR 1 laps
9 Fisichella Benetton 1 laps
10 Wurz Benetton 1 laps
11 Irvine Jaguar 1 laps
12 Trulli Jordan 1 laps
13 Herbert Jaguar 1 laps
14 Gene Minardi 2 laps
15 Mazzacane Minardi 2 laps
16 Heidfeld Prost 3 laps
17 Button Williams 4 laps
18 Verstappen Arrows 40 laps
19 Villeneuve BAR 44 laps
20 Alesi Prost 64 laps
21 De La Rosa Arrows 64 laps
22 Diniz Sauber No time

championship standings:

1 SCHUMACHER Michael ALL 36
2 HAKKINEN Mika FIN 22
3 COULTHARD David G-B 20
4 BARRICHELLO Rubens BRE 13
5 SCHUMACHER Ralf ALL 12
6 FISICHELLA Giancarlo ITA 8
7 FRENTZEN H.Harald ALL 5
8 VILLENEUVE Jacques CAN 5
9 TRULLI Jarno ITA 4
10 BUTTON Jenson G-B 3
11 SALO Mika FIN 1
12 ZONTA Ricardo BRE 1

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The Spanish Grand Prix -- lap by lap

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