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Schumacher tolls championship bell.

He needn't have worried for, when Hakkinen rejoined after a 6.6secs stop, the Ferrari was already through the Rettifilio. Seven seconds to the good with eight laps remaining, Schumacher began to measure the gap back to his rival, counting off the laps to a comfortable victory.

Further back, Verstappen's tenure of third place had come to an end when he called in for fuel, allowing Ralf Schumacher to line himself up for a third podium visit of the year. The German ran almost to the end of the list of pit-callers before coming in and, after a very short stop, was able to rejoin well in front of the Arrows.

Verstappen nevertheless remained in fourth, with the gap back to Wurz only likely to be affected by the proximity of the second Benetton of Giancarlo Fisichella between the two rivals. The Italian had looked to be on for a points finish, in fifth place, before his car refused to engage gears on its one and only stop. Fisichella had been the last to peel off but, with the rear wheels spinning until they hit the ground, well over a minute was lost before he rejoined.

Mika Hakkinen set the fastest lap of the race as he set about reducing the gap to Schumacher at the head of the field, preventing the German from equalling Alain Prost's mark. He could do nothing about the five-second gap that remained between the two current champions-elect, however, nor prevent Schumacher from equalling Senna's race win record.

It all proved too much for the Ferrari man as, after celebrating the win with the tifosi he broke down in front of the press. Whether it was the emotion of closing the championship gap, winning in front of Ferrari's fanatical fans, or drawing level with one of the few men in F1 he revered may never be known.

Michael Schumacher was just happy to win.


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