21 May 2000
Victorious Schumacher weathers the storm.
Michael Schumacher re-inforced his wet weather credentials by racing to victory at a rain-soaked Nurburgring in the European Grand Prix.
The German trailed Mika Hakkinen in the opening stages - after the Finn had made a lightning start from third on the grid - but thundered through at the Veedol chicane on lap ten, and was not headed thereafter save for during the pit-stops.
Although there were spots of rain in the air, and more than that around the hairpin, Hakkinen made the most of a slow start by both Schumacher and pole sitter David Coulthard to rocket between the two and into the lead by the time the field had reached the Castrol-S. The Finn then found that he could not shake the crowd's favourite from his tail, however, and spent the first half dozen laps attempting to defend his advantage from an eager Schumacher.
The Ferrari man looked at every opportunity to pass before bullying Hakkinen into staying wide approaching Veedol on lap ten. As the red car eased through, Hakkinen's McLaren showed the first signs of losing traction as the rain became more persistent, allowing Schumacher to open out a four-tenths gap by the time the pair crossed the line.
The advantage grew steadily larger over the ensuing laps, Schumacher pulling out a massive five seconds by lap 13, despite conventional wisdom saying that the conditions were too tricky for pace. Ferrari then confirmed that the weather was getting worse by calling the leader in for wets just one tour further on, and McLaren followed suit by changing both Coulthard and Hakkinen in quick succession.
The stops did not go quite to plan for the Silver Arrows, however, as Hakkinen found himself emerging behind his team-mate, despite Coulthard struggling with a problem that was making the rear of his car very nervous. Schumacher made the most of the Finn's next error, increasing the lead and lapping almost three seconds faster than anyone else on the track as if to emphasise the advantage he holds in such conditions. Only when Hakkinen finally caught and passed Coulthard did the lead begin to come down but, even at this stage, Schumacher was looking good for a fourth win of the year, despite the odd sideways moment.
In the wake of the top three, Schumacher's team-mate Rubens Barrichello found himself having to carve back through the field as the pit-stop schedule played against him. Between the third place he had occupied immediately before calling in for tyres and his new found eighth lay a group including a very impressive Pedro de la Rosa, Giancarlo Fisichella, Ralf Schumacher, Jos Verstappen, and both Jaguars. Rubens began to pick them off one-by-one, and it signalled the start of a recovery that would take him right to the verge of another podium finish.
Fisichella, too, was in the midst of a recovery of his own, having clouted the luckless Jarno Trulli off the line, and punted the Jordan into a first lap retirement. The Silverstone team's misery then doubled as Heinz-Harald Frentzen went no further than lap three before his engine blew, but, surprisingly given the conditions, these were the only retirements in the early going.
Mika Salo signalled the fall of the midfield, spinning off on his own before the battling trio of Verstappen, Schumacher Jr and Eddie Irvine joined him on the sidelines after a coming together at the Castrol-S. Fault for the incident will undoubtedly be someone else's depending on who is asked, but Ralf was the unlucky loser in it all, spinning in anticipation of contact between the over-enthusiastic Jaguar man and the Arrows, and then finding his own rear wing sliced off by the rotating R1.
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