16 July 2000
Hakkinen cruises as shunt sinks Schumacher.
Mika Hakkinen proved that a rest was good for a change as he romped to victory in the Austrian Grand Prix at the A1-Ring.
In a race largely devoid of action - except for the traditional first corner contact - the Finn disappeared into the distance to record a dominant win, his first since triumphing in Spain two months ago. McLaren team-mate David Coulthard simply could not live with the lead McLaren's pace, and had to settle for six points in his pursuit of the world title, while the first lap melee left everyone else with far too much to do.
The McLaren cause was helped by the elimination of championship leader Michael Schumacher with barely half a mile on the board. The German made another slow getaway, but opted not to swerve across the circuit - as has become his wont in recent races - for fear of collecting the second Ferrari or Rubens Barrichello.
Whether or not this led to his downfall is a moot point, but the Ferrari was the most prominent casualty of the stampede behind him after being spun around by the late-braking Ricardo Zonta and then being torpedoed by Jarno Trulli's Jordan. Although the Ferrari managed to crab its way out of the gravel and back onto the track - in order to cause a red flag, it was cynically pointed out - its suspension was too badly damaged to facilitate any further involvement.
With Trulli also out on the spot, and Giancarlo Fisichella's Benetton stranded further down the road after a separate collision with both Pedro Diniz and the barriers, the officials called for the Safety Car - to Schumacher's hidden frustration. The German had no option but to trudge back to the pits on foot, and sat resignedly in the garage while the early laps unfolded.
Annoyingly for Ferrari, they unfolded strongly in McLaren's favour, as both Hakkine and Coulthard avoided the carnage and ran to the hills. Already at the second corner while the rest of the field was untangling itself, it was clear that Woking was a shoe-in for the win, pending unforeseen mechanical problems. The only dilemma it faced was which of its drivers was to take the flag first.
In the end, Hakkinen made up the team's minds, pulling away at almost a second a lap from Coulthard as if to say there was no way he was going to fall behind the Scot. The move was justified, as the champion had all but dominated the weekend and, as soon as he was far enough ahead, both drivers were given instructions to ease their pace. Hakkinen threw in a couple more fast laps just to make sure, and then the silver dream machine controlled the gap back to third place for the rest of the afternoon.
The position was initially held by Mika Salo, but a determined move by fourth-placed Pedro de la Rosa quickly saw the pair swap around. The Arrows driver then set about pulling away into a comfort zone that had many predicting a two-stop strategy - and inevitable tumble down the order - for the Spaniard.
Salo held fourth for quite some time, despite the fact that there were faster men in the field behind him. Barrichello, mindful of the fact the couldn't collect his team leader at the first corner, had taken to the gravel, but got off lightly in eighth place. Jacques Villeneuve, by contrast, had come to a virtual halt while all around him lost their heads, and resumed well back in 17th. Both would mount storming recovery drives, although the Brazilian was unable to repeat his weekend's early pace after sustaining damage in his rallycross excursion.
Between the pair and the points lay a disparate pack including the likes of Jos Verstappen (fifth), Johnny Herbert (sixth), Jenson Button (seventh) and Marc Gene (eighth). The Dutchman exited stage right to repair his own collection of damage - and then left when the gearbox broke on lap 14, pitching him into the gravel, but the rest held station for much of the day.
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