Michael Schumacher romped to victory in Melbourne, making the most of a double retirement for the McLaren team to lead home a Ferrari one-two.

The German was forced to follow in the wheeltracks of his biggest rivals for the first 18 laps, as polesitter Mika Hakkinen made a good getaway and team-mate David Coulthard followed suit. As the Finn gradually eked out an advantage at the head of the field, so Coulthard dutifully held off the pressing Schumacher, and it looked for a long time as thought this would be the final result.

However, it was not to be and, in a repeat of last year's race, both McLarens retired within a short space of time. First to go was Coulthard, calling into the pits to have a tyre changed and another, unidentified, problem seen to. The Scot rejoined by went less than half a lap before his engine's pneumatic system gave up the ghost.

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Seven laps later, on the 19th tour, Hakkinen too was in trouble. Schumacher had been recording fastest lap after fastest lap without really making much inroad into the Finn's lead, but a second blown Mercedes and the German was into the lead.

It was a sizeable advantage, too, for team-mate Rubens Barrichello had failed to capitalise on a fourth place start, and dropped behind the lead Jordan of Heinz-Harald Frentzen. Unable to find a way past the vivid yellow machine, Barrichello contented himself with waiting until the pit-stops, but appeared to have blown his only chance with another slow getaway.

Again, fate smiled kindly on Ferrari, however, for Frentzen's stop was even slower, the fuel hose refusing to engage and keeping the German stationary for almost 25 seconds. He had been leading the race after Schumacher made the first scheduled pit call of the new season, but Frentzen's day just got worse. Trying to make up for lost time, he pushed the Jordan to its limits, only for the gearbox to let the car down as it had in testing.

Barrichello was now on a charge of his own, his stop having dropped him behind impressive rookie Jenson Button and into the lower reaches of the top ten. The Brazilian relentlessly closed on Schumacher, prompting queries as to the health of the lead Ferrari, but it soon became apparent that Schumacher was allowing his team-mate through to make a second pit-stop for fuel and tyres. This completed, Barrichello resumed in the German's wake and held station to the flag.

Behind them, the action was a lot closer, with the outcome of the final podium position and the rest of the top six in question almost to the end.

The demise of Frentzen and the equally unfortunate Jarno Trulli allowed the surprise figure of Ralf Schumacher to join his brother in the top three. The Williams-BMW was not supposed to be able to run this far up the field, but the team proved it was no fluke as Button quickly joined his partner in fourth. From 21st on the grid, Button's drive had particular merit, albeit helped by an early safety car period, and it appeared for a while that the Briton may be on to follow in the footsteps of compatriots Martin Brundle and Johnny Herbert by scoring points on his debut.

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

Jenson Button 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
Jarno Trulli 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
David Coulthard 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