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Schumacher holds on to double up

26 March 2000

Michael Schumacher made it two from two at Interlagos, winning the Brazilian Grand Prix after an inspired drive from third on the grid.

The German blasted out of the blocks to harass pole-sitter Mika Hakkinen on the run to the Senna S and, having dogged the Finn's wheel-tracks for a lap, made a burst for the lead at the same point just minutes later. From that point on, Schumacher was almost untouchable, racing away on the back of successive lap records to open up a gap sufficient to make a early fuel stop.

Both Ferraris were obviously on the same strategy, as Rubens Barrichello demoted David Coulthard on lap two, and then closed in on Hakkinen. The Brazilian subsequently found himself stuck behind the Finn until lap 15, but gave the home crowd something to shout about as he dived past in front of the main stand and set off in pursuit of his fleeing team-mate.

Schumacher was long gone, however, and pitted on lap 21 to confirm that, at best, he was on a two-stop plan. Losing two places during the stop, Schumacher then diligently set about restricting Hakkinen's advantage, despite the Finn now being on a lighter fuel load.

Barrichello followed the German into the pits for his early stop just a lap later, rejoining in fourth, and the crowd settled down to watch what was turning into one of the great tactical races. McLaren clearly had opted for the single-stop route and, with the two leaders still with a pit call to make, the result looked decidedly uncertain.

Ferrari's chances of another 1-2 - and the dreams of the home crowd - went up in smoke before half distance, however, as Barrichello's car blew smoke and crawled back to the pits. A cursory glance from the engineers was all it took to send several thousand Paulistas home early, despite the fact that Schumacher was keeping the leader at a respectable distance.

This all changed just four laps on, as Hakkinen toured into the pits from a 13-second advantage. The Finn pulled straight into the garage, gave a sorrowful wave to the massed stands and disappeared, not even stopping to explain his retirement to the press.

Gifted a massive lead over Coulthard - who was also struggling having lost third gear - Schumacher seemed content to roll off the remaining laps and accept another ten points. This he duly did, although a mystery problem on the F1-2000 saw him, too, slacken his pace with ten to run. Coulthard tried hard to respond the 'push' notice on his pit-board but, hampered by the missing gear, was only able to close to within four seconds of the winner by the flag.

With two of the front four out for the second race in succession, the rest of the field scrapped gamely for points. Giancarlo Fisichella, Jarno Trulli and, more remarkably, Jos Verstappen all appeared among the leaders before their stops, with the Benetton driver getting the nod when it mattered most.

Fisichella had been at the head of the midfield for most of the weekend and, despite a late charge from Heinz-Harald Frentzen's Jordan, managed to hold on to the final podium spot on Flavio Briatore's return to the team. The team kept the Italian out until lap 53 before making his pit-stop - after Schumacher had made both of his - but did enough to keep him ahead of both yellow cars on the run to the line.

Frentzen and Trulli ran different strategies in an attempt to give themselves the best chance of points, and it worked on both counts. The German drove a steady race from seventh, stopping once en route to fourth, while Trulli followed the Ferrari model, blasting away on low tanks and stopping twice to gain early places. This eventually netted him fifth overall after a spirited opening stint.

The fight for what became sixth also entertained. The Williams twins found themselves locked together for most of the race after Jenson Button made a poor getaway, and engaged in a hearty battle with the Arrows of Verstappen and Pedro de la Rosa. Only fuel stops, offs, and backmarkers served to split the quartet up, but not before Button had produced possibly the move of the race to pass Verstappen.

This was enough to net him seventh place, one behind team-mate Ralf Schumacher, and another helping of praise from his fans and critics alike. Schumacher, meanwhile, resisted his early attempts to regain grid position, and drove doggedly to secure another point.

Along with the higher profile retirements, those not to make the finish included both Jaguars, both Prosts, Villeneuve, Gene and Wurz. The second Benetton barely made it away from the grid, and lasted just eight laps before pulling off, while Eddie Irvine endured a lurid slide into the Pico do Bato barriers to end his race.

Ferrari now goes to the first of its home races with a healthy lead in both drivers' and constructors' series. If they built extra grandstands at Interlagos for Rubinho-fever, there will certainly be call for more at Imola!

Race Result - Brazilian Grand Prix - Interlagos, Sao Paulo - Sunday 26 March 2000.

1. Michael Schumacher Germany Ferrari-Ferrari 71 laps 1hr 31mins 35.271secs
2. David Coulthard Britain McLaren-Mercedes +4.302secs
3. Giancarlo Fisichella Italy Benetton-Playlife +39.898secs
4. Heinz-Harald Frentzen Germany Jordan-Mugen +42.268secs
5. Jarno Trulli Italy Jordan-Mugen +1min 12.780secs
6. Ralf Schumacher Germany Williams-BMW +1 lap

7. Jenson Button Britain Williams-BMW +1 lap
8. Jos Verstappen Holland Arrows-Supertec +1 lap
9. Pedro de la Rosa Spain Arrows-Supertec +1 lap
10. Ricardo Zonta Brazil BAR-Honda +2 laps
11. Gaston Mazzacane Argentina Minardi-Fondmetal +2 laps

Johnny Herbert Britain Jaguar-Cosworth 51 laps completed
Marc Gene Spain Minardi-Fondmetal 31 laps completed
Mika Hakkinen Finland McLaren-Mercedes 30 laps completed
Rubens Barrichello Brazil Ferrari-Ferrari 26 laps completed
Eddie Irvine Britain Jaguar-Cosworth 19 laps completed
Jacques Villeneuve Canada BAR-Honda 15 laps completed
Jean Alesi France Prost-Peugeot 11 laps completed
Nick Heidfeld Germany Prost-Peugeot 9 laps completed
Alex Wurz Austria Benetton-Playlife 6 laps completed

Pedro Diniz Brazil Sauber-Petronas did not start
Mika Salo Finland Sauber-Petronas did not start

Fastest lap: Michael Schumacher Ferrari-Ferrari 1min 14.755secs


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