At the opposite end of the field, Giancarlo Fisichella
did little to improve Benetton's poor start to the season, taking to the gravel as early as lap four and rejoining behind Fernando Alonso's Minardi at the back of the pack. Alonso, in turn, was harrying Eddie Irvine's Jaguar for 16th, with the second Benetton of Jenson Button
and Jaguar's Pedro de la Rosa
not too far ahead.
Moving in the midfield, Jos Verstappen made the most of another light early fuel load to climb to ninth by lap four, disposing of both Jean Alesi and Jacques Villeneuve on the same tour, with the Canadian eventually following suit to take a top ten position in the remaining BAR.
Montoya held the lead of the race for five laps before making his first stop. This was enough to elevate Hakkinen, who had been tailing the Williams
for some time, back into the lead, with both Ferraris and team-mate Ralf Schumacher – all yet to stop – also passing the Colombian by the time he returned to the track.
Montoya, however, closed quickly on the pair ahead of him, and Williams
indicated that Ralf, for the second race in a row, should yield to his team-mate. Anxious not to lose face, the German elected to make his stop for fuel in response to the pit board, dropping to sixth as a result of a slow stop.
Schumacher, the pole sitter in France two weeks ago, then had his problems compounded when the BMW
engine in the back of his car cried enough just two laps later, stranding him at Priory and causing a frustrated young German to stomp back to the Williams
Brother Michael and Ferrari
team-mate and Barrichello were also clearly making a single stop, but ran as far as lap 39 before the Scuderia showed any sign of requiring their presence on pit-road. Schumacher was the first to stop, following Hakkinen, making his second stop, down the pit entry at a gap approaching twenty seconds.
The cars resumed as they came in, with Hakkinen comfortably ahead, but Schumacher being beaten to Becketts by both Barrichello and Montoya. The German's only saving grace came with the knowledge that both still had to make a stop before the end of the race and, with 19 laps to go, duly moved back into a comfortable second place.
Barrichello's advantage over Montoya was enough to overcome a slightly longer stop, on lap 42, and the Brazilian was able to resume behind his team-mate, in third overall.
The final round of pit-stops also completed the reshuffle in midfield, with Raikkonen initially relinquishing fifth place to Sauber team-mate Heidfeld, as well as falling behind Frentzen, but regained both places when his two constant companions made their stops. Heidfeld beat his countryman away from the stalls on lap 41 to cement sixth spot, and give Peter Sauber two cars in the top six.
Frentzen's tenure of seventh looked to be coming under threat from Villeneuve in the closing stages, but the Canadian had to overcome a couple of backmarkers in his pursuit, and was unable to make up the deficit to the Jordan.