BARCELONA, Spain -- Mika Hakkinen revived his
challenge for a third successive Formula One crown on Sunday
when he won the Spanish Grand Prix ahead of his McLaren teammate David Coulthard.
It was the 31-year-old Finn's first win since his
season-ending triumph in Japan last year, the 15th of his career
and his third in a row at the Circuit de Catalunya.
It moved Hakkinen up to second place in the overall
standings on 22 points, behind Ferrari's Michael Schumacher's 36 after five of this season's 17 races.
McLaren also finished with a 1-2 triumph last year but
this time Hakkinen owed his victory at least in part to the
problems which hit Schumacher's Ferrari.
The German had started on pole but he suffered tire problems
and two bad pit stops.
In the first, the team's British chief mechanic Nigel
Stepney was run over and suffered a leg injury. He later
returned to the paddock with his leg in a cast and said he had
suffered some ligament damage.
Schumacher led for the opening 41 laps except when Hakkinen
took over briefly during the first flurry of pit stops, but lost
time after his second slow stop, with a replacement man for
Stepney on the fuel nozzle, in 17.5 seconds.
Ferrari sources said damage caused during the first pit stop
made it difficult to remove the fuel hose.
Schumacher then had to make a third stop after his rear left
tire began to deflate. He finished fifth behind the leading McLaren duo,
his third-placed Ferrari teammate Brazilian Rubens Barrichello
and his brother Ralf Schumacher in a Williams.
Germany's Heinz-Harald Frentzen came home sixth to pick up
the final point that lifted his Jordan team to fourth place in
the constructors' standings, ahead of Benetton.
McLaren closed the gap on Ferrari in the constructors'
championship to just seven points. Ferrari now has 49 points
and McLaren 42.
The race was unlike last year's processional affair and was
enlivened by a stream of incidents which resulted in the
Schumacher brothers, watched by father Rolf, racing wheel to
wheel as they battled for positions.
Coulthard, racing just five days after escaping from a fatal
air crash in France, also dived past Schumacher but took a dim
view of the German's driving afterward.
He accused the double world champion of driving dangerously
on the limit as he "shut the door' when defending second place
on Lap 47 of the 65-lap race.
"It was way too late and at that speed it was incredibly
close and it was not entirely fair," he said. "That's why I
went on the outside the next time."
Coulthard said he had suffered increasing pain from his
bruised ribs throughout the weekend and he intended to take a
week off and miss testing in order to make a full recovery.
Hakkinen praised the excellence of his team, whose
pit-strategy was first-class in a race that Schumacher had
predicted would be a tactical affair.
"I know this is my third win in a row here, but I don't
really know why it is like this," said Hakkinen.
"But it is a great feeling. It could be, like it was last
year, a bit of a turning point in the season for us. I hope so.
We certainly seem to understand our car better this weekend."
Local fans had little to cheer after Spaniard Pedro de la
Rosa was first sent to the back of the grid for qualifying his
Arrows on tainted fuel and then went out on the second lap.
Briton Jenson Button, the 20-year-old Williams driver who
had collected points in two of the four previous races, was
unlucky not to score again.
He moved up from 10th at the start to sixth place four laps
from the end, when his engine blew.
|Mika Hakkinen credit his crew's pit performance for the victory.|| |