A blown engine eventually put paid to Button's dreams, but he had acquitted himself well, and will surely do so again. His exit let the equally impressive Jacques Villeneuve into fourth, although the Canadian's place never looked that secure. Behind him, a train of four other cars jostled for the right to score points, but Villeneuve held on to fourth to belatedly open BAR's account in style.
Giancarlo Fisichella took fifth for Benetton, and both the 'B' teams could have a second point-scoring finish had it not been for the determined driving of Sauber's Mika Salo. Delayed by an unscheduled pit call, the Finn blasted his way back through the midfield, passing Ricardo Zonta on the brakes for sixth, having already disposed of Alex Wurz. The battle provided great viewing to the end, and re-inforces the competitiveness of the midfield this season.
Those unfortunate not to be involved included both Arrows and both Jaguars. True to form, Johnny Herbert's race lasted less than two laps, after the Englishman was collected by Pedro Diniz who, in turn, was taking a knock from Zonta. Herbert caught his moment across the kerbs but, on resuming, found that his clutch had decided enough was enough and parked up.
Team-mate Eddie Irvine lasted little longer, making a poor start to find himself trapped behind both Arrows and, eventually, taken out trying to avoid them. Remarkably, both the orange Orange cars left the track together, Jos Verstappen's front left bouncing around on the end of a broken pull rod and Pedro de la Rosa
losing his after hitting the wall. It was the latter incident that caused Irvine's demise, as the Irishman lifted to avoid de la Rosa's errant wheel and found the R1 spinning itself out of the race. The ensuing debris caused the safety car to come out, and allowed Verstappen amongst others to make emergency repairs.
Jean Alesi, too, had a short, but entertaining, afternoon, starting from the pit-lane after his Prost refused to play ball, and then spinning under braking when trying to pass Diniz. The Frenchman's day eventually ended on lap 27. Rookie team-mate Nick Heidfeld
at least managed to finish the race, albeit some two laps down on the winner after making a couple of visits to the pits. Fellow newcomer Gaston Mazzacane added his name to the list of retirements 18 laps from home, but Minardi team-mate Marc Gene
again made it to the finish. The Spaniard was a lap down, but only because he, too, had to make an unscheduled stop.
And so Michael Schumacher finally broke his Australian GP jinx. Having never previously won in Melbourne, the German was his regular joyous self on the podium and, indeed, the whole ceremony was conducted with a somewhat light-hearted air. The air elsewhere, however, will have been decidedly blue.
Race Result - Australian Grand Prix
- Albert Park, Melbourne - Sunday 12 March 2000.
1. Michael Schumacher
Germany Ferrari-Ferrari 58 laps 1hr 34mins 01.987secs
2. Rubens Barrichello
Brazil Ferrari-Ferrari +11.415secs
31. Ralf Schumacher Germany Williams-BMW +20.009secs
4. Jacques Villeneuve Canada BAR-Honda +44.447secs
5. Giancarlo Fisichella
Italy Benetton-Playlife +45.165secs
6. Mika Salo Finland Sauber-Petronas +45.624secs
7. Ricardo Zonta Brazil BAR-Honda +46.468secs
8. Alex Wurz Austria Benetton-Playlife +46.915secs
9. Marc Gene
Spain Minardi-Fondmetal +1 lap
10. Nick Heidfeld
Germany Prost-Peugeot +2 laps
Britain Williams-BMW 46 laps completed
Pedro Diniz Brazil Sauber-Petronas 41 laps completed
Gaston Mazzacane Argentina Minardi-Fondmetal 40 laps completed
Heinz-Harald Frentzen Germany Jordan-Mugen 39 laps completed
Italy Jordan-Mugen 35 laps completed
Jean Alesi France Prost-Peugeot 31 laps completed
Mika Hakkinen Finland McLaren-Mercedes 18 laps completed
Jos Verstappen Holland Arrows-Supertec 16 laps completed
Britain McLaren-Mercedes 11 laps completed
Pedro de la Rosa
Spain Arrows-Supertec 6 laps completed
Eddie Irvine Britain Jaguar-Cosworth 6 laps completed
Johnny Herbert Britain Jaguar-Cosworth 1 lap completed