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British GP 2001 - Hakkinen's runaway
15 July 2001
Mika Hakkinen proved wrong the doubters that suggested he'd retire, by dominating the British Grand Prix at Silverstone.
The Finn made the most of a strong start to harass Michael Schumacher during the early laps of the eleventh round of the world championship, before surging past the German at Maggotts on lap five and pulling away. Thereafter, he was only headed during the first round of pit-stops, and proceeded to take a dominant first win of the season.
The drama started right at the first corner, however, as, while Schumacher and Hakkinen made clean starts, second row starters David Coulthard and Jarno Trulli vied for the same piece of track, collided and spun off at the first corner. While the contact pushed Coulthard into a spin across the infield from which he recovered, Trulli was firmly embedded in the Copse gravel trap, his race – and Jordan's best hope – already done for the day.
Further back, Olivier Panis made it two Honda-powered cars out of the race, as he too speared into the gravel as the result of contact with British American Racing team-mate Jacques Villeneuve.
All of this allowed Juan Montoya, from eighth on the grid to move into third spot, as the second Jordan of Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Rubens Barrichello were forced to take avoiding action in the Trulli/Coulthard incident. Kimi Raikkonen was also delayed, but resumed behind Frentzen and passed the German at Stowe to lie sixth behind Ralf Schumacher.
Montoya was already being dropped by the leading pair, as Schumacher extended his lead slowly over Hakkinen. The Finn was having none of it, however, and, determined to open his account for the year, clung tenaciously to the tail of the Ferrari.
The news, on lap three, that Coulthard had gone off at Priory, his suspension tweaked by the contact with Trulli, was the signal for Hakkinen to launch his assault on the lead. Closing throughout the following lap, the Finn was perfectly placed to take a run at the Ferrari into Copse, pulling alongside and ahead as the pair approached Maggotts on lap five. Schumacher offered token resistance but, with his car already handling strangely on the fast corners, decided that discretion should be the better part of valour.
Once ahead, it quickly became clear that McLaren had sent Hakkinen out on a two-stop strategy, the Finn streaking away from Schumacher to such an extent that, by lap ten, he was some twelve seconds up the road. Schumacher, meanwhile, was in no position to give chase, as his problems gradually dropped him into the clutches of Montoya.
With the Colombian all over the back of the Ferrari, Schumacher suddenly looked at risk of losing second place, and duly succumbed to the Williams on lap 18 as Montoya lined him up into Copse. Third looked safer for the German, however, as the closest battle behind him – involving team-mate Barrichello and brother Ralf – was some way back down the road. Ralf, in turn, was still under pressure from the mercurial Raikkonen, with Nick Heidfeld and Frentzen also in close attendance.
Raikkonen began the first round of pit-stops for those on a two-stop strategy at exactly one-third distance, and Hakkinen followed his compatriot into the pits one lap later. Despite a quick stop, the delay for the erstwhile leader was enough to drop him behind Montoya, but, more importantly, not Schumacher. With one stop each still to come – and the German's likely to take longer than his rival's – the race edged further in Hakkinen's favour.
At the opposite end of the field, Giancarlo Fisichella did little to improve Benetton's poor start to the season, taking to the gravel as early as lap four and rejoining behind Fernando Alonso's Minardi at the back of the pack. Alonso, in turn, was harrying Eddie Irvine's Jaguar for 16th, with the second Benetton of Jenson Button and Jaguar's Pedro de la Rosa not too far ahead.
Moving in the midfield, Jos Verstappen made the most of another light early fuel load to climb to ninth by lap four, disposing of both Jean Alesi and Jacques Villeneuve on the same tour, with the Canadian eventually following suit to take a top ten position in the remaining BAR.
Montoya held the lead of the race for five laps before making his first stop. This was enough to elevate Hakkinen, who had been tailing the Williams for some time, back into the lead, with both Ferraris and team-mate Ralf Schumacher – all yet to stop – also passing the Colombian by the time he returned to the track.
Montoya, however, closed quickly on the pair ahead of him, and Williams indicated that Ralf, for the second race in a row, should yield to his team-mate. Anxious not to lose face, the German elected to make his stop for fuel in response to the pit board, dropping to sixth as a result of a slow stop.
Schumacher, the pole sitter in France two weeks ago, then had his problems compounded when the BMW engine in the back of his car cried enough just two laps later, stranding him at Priory and causing a frustrated young German to stomp back to the Williams motorhome.
Brother Michael and Ferrari team-mate and Barrichello were also clearly making a single stop, but ran as far as lap 39 before the Scuderia showed any sign of requiring their presence on pit-road. Schumacher was the first to stop, following Hakkinen, making his second stop, down the pit entry at a gap approaching twenty seconds.
The cars resumed as they came in, with Hakkinen comfortably ahead, but Schumacher being beaten to Becketts by both Barrichello and Montoya. The German's only saving grace came with the knowledge that both still had to make a stop before the end of the race and, with 19 laps to go, duly moved back into a comfortable second place.
Barrichello's advantage over Montoya was enough to overcome a slightly longer stop, on lap 42, and the Brazilian was able to resume behind his team-mate, in third overall.
The final round of pit-stops also completed the reshuffle in midfield, with Raikkonen initially relinquishing fifth place to Sauber team-mate Heidfeld, as well as falling behind Frentzen, but regained both places when his two constant companions made their stops. Heidfeld beat his countryman away from the stalls on lap 41 to cement sixth spot, and give Peter Sauber two cars in the top six.
Frentzen's tenure of seventh looked to be coming under threat from Villeneuve in the closing stages, but the Canadian had to overcome a couple of backmarkers in his pursuit, and was unable to make up the deficit to the Jordan.
Behind him, Irvine made the most of two quick stops to overhaul Verstappen and move into ninth, while Alesi headed the rest of the survivors across the line. Prost team-mate Luciano Burti had succumbed to an engine failure as early as lap six, but the veteran Frenchman added another notch to his list of finishes this season, coming home ahead of Pedro de la Rosa in eleventh.
Fisichella completed his recovery from the back of the field by beating Enrique Bernoldi's Arrows out of the pits after a tight moment, moving into 13th overall among the 16 finishers. Team-mate Button dropped back as a result of his strategy to take 15th, one lap ahead of the luckless Alonso, who lost a wheel from his Minardi and had to make an extra stop for a replacement.
The real drama was at the front, however, as Hakkinen added his own theatrical footnote to a powerful performance. With a thirty second lead over the pursuing Schumacher, the Finn looked assured of his 19th career win but, with his Spanish GP dramas still fresh in the mind, slowed dramatically Woodcote for the final time. As heartbeats jumped in the McLaren garage, however, Hakkinen accelerated, before ducking close to the pitwall, punching the air in delight.
His victory was a popular one up and down the pit-lane, with Schumacher among the first to offer his congratulations. With title rival Coulthard sidelined, the German could afford to finish second to Hakkinen, knowing that, as the Finn's confidence soars with the addition of ten points to his championship total, the Scot will not be given the benefit of team orders in the McLaren camp just yet.
It may be too late already, however, as Schumacher now moves 37 points clear of Coulthard, with just 60 on offer over the rest of the season. The Irish bookmaker who paid out on the Ferrari man's likely championship triumph must have known a thing or two….
1. Mika Hakkinen Finland McLaren-Mercedes 60 laps 1hr 25mins 33.770secs
2. Michael Schumacher Germany Ferrari-Ferrari +33.646secs
3. Rubens Barrichello Brazil Ferrari-Ferrari +59.280secs
4. Juan Montoya Colombia Williams-BMW +1min 08.772seecs
5. Kimi Raikkonen Finland Sauber-Petronas +1 lap
6. Nick Heidfeld Germany Sauber-Petronas +1 lap
7. Heinz-Harald Frentzen Germany Jordan-Honda +1 lap
8. Jacques Villeneuve Canada BAR-Honda +1 lap.
9. Eddie Irvine Britain Jaguar-Cosworth +1 lap.
10. Jos Verstappen Holland Arrows-Asiatech +2 laps
11. Jean Alesi France Prost-Acer +2 laps
12. Pedro de la Rosa Spain Jaguar-Cosworth +2 laps
13. Giancarlo Fisichella Italy Benetton-Renault +2 laps
14. Enrique Bernoldi Brazil Arrows-Asiatech +2 laps
15. Jenson Button Britain Benetton-Renault +2 laps
16. Fernando Alonso Spain Minardi-European +3 laps
Rtd Ralf Schumacher Germany Williams-BMW 36 laps completed
Rtd Luciano Burti Brazil Prost-Acer 6 laps completed
Rtd David Coulthard Britain McLaren-Mercedes 2 laps completed
Rtd. Jarno Trulli Italy Jordan-Honda 0 laps completed
Rtd Olivier Panis France BAR-Honda 0 laps completed
DNS Tarso Marques Brazil Minardi-European Did not qualify
Fastest lap: Mika Hakkinen McLaren-Mercedes 1min 23.405secs