Mika Hakkinen made the sort of overtaking move normally the trademark of Michael Schumacher to beat the German to victory at Spa-Francorchamps.
In a race filled with typical Spa suspense and drama, the Finn led, spun and recovered before choosing the narrowest strip of road to pass both Ricardo Zonta and Schumacher at Les Combes to claim a miracle win and extend his world championship lead.
Hakkinen had led from the start, courtesy in part to the decision of the drivers to begin the race behind the Safety Car. Although the pit-straight was hardly producing any spray, the rest of the fickle Belgian circuit was still holding water, and it was decided prudent not to tempt fate at La Source or Eau Rouge on lap one.
Consequently, Bernd Maylander led the race for the opening four miles, before peeling off into the pit-lane and allowing Hakkinen to go about the job of easing out a gap over second-placed Jarno Trulli. Other than the Finn's gradual disappearance, there were few major moves in the first couple of tours, but it was not for wont of trying.
Trulli was unable to go with the leader because of massive pressure from third on the grid Jenson Button, while the rookie, in turn, had Schumacher for company. A gap then extended back to David Coulthard
and Ralf Schumacher at the tail of the top six, with the rest of the field squabbling in their wake.
The first incident of note arrived on lap five, when Button, sensing a gap down the inside of Trulli at La Source, clipped the Jordan and spun it broadside across the road. Delayed in the incident, the youngster was then powerless to prevent Schumacher, Coulthard and Ralf from filing past, before rejoining in a chastened fifth place. It was worse for his victim, however, as Trulli climbed from the stalled Jordan, albeit refusing to blame his assailant for the retirement.
At the front, however, hakkinen sailed blithely on, unaware that his main challenger was now the man he feared most. The leader's mind was more closely focused on the conditions, which were beginning to improve rapidly and, with the news that Jean Alesi had already switched his Prost onto slicks - and lapped three seconds faster than Hakkinen - the Finn contemplated a change of rubber himself.
He was beaten to the draw by Schumacher, however, as Ferrari
pulled its man in almost immediately. A 6.3secs stop reflected the small amount of fuel added to the car and, when Hakkinen finally stopped a lap later, the German was able to close the gap considerably and increase the pressure on the leader.
Further back, it was looking less likely that Hakkinen's McLaren
team-mate Coulthard's championship hopes had long to live. The Scot had qualified badly as the result of his petty squabbles with Frentzen on Saturday, and now ran fifth on the road as he attempted to make up lost ground. His day got worse as, once again, Hakkinen got the first call for slicks, and Coulthard was forced to make another tour of Spa before finally calling in.