Revived Hakkinen Poised to Mount Title Challenge
Monday May 8th, 2000
By Timothy Collings
After four races without a win, and only one victory in the previous five, world champion Mika Hakkinen recovered his form with masterly timing in Sunday's Spanish Grand Prix.
On a day when championship leader Michael Schumacher suffered a series of misfortunes in his Ferrari, Hakkinen drove his McLaren flawlessly to move up to second in the title race with 22 points to the German's 36.
"Last year, I won in Spain and it was a turning point in the season for me and I feel it could be the same this time," said Hakkinen.
"There was a lot of pressure on me and on the team, but everyone did a great job. For me, this is a fantastic result. It has put me back in the frame for everything and now I am ready for the next race."
While much of the attention at the Circit de Catalunya was focussed on Hakkinen's team mate David Coulthard, who was racing with severely bruised ribs only five days after surviving a fatal air crash in France, the Finn concentrated on sorting out handling problems that had dogged his season.
McLaren's technical director Adrian Newey said: "This circuit tends to place a real premium on aerodynamics and it really seems to suit our cars well.
"We worked very hard during the weekend to get the balance of the car right because Mika didn't get any worthwhile testing done last week.
"He had only one day and it rained. So Mika started this weekend without the advantage of a week's testing prior to the race which made it a little bit hard for him."
Schumacher, who topped the times in testing and through practice and qualifying for the race, was less disappointed than expected with his incident-laden defeat.
He finished fifth to collect two points behind the leading McLarens, third-placed Ferrari team mate Brazilian Rubens Barrichello and his brother Ralf in a Williams. Another German Heinz-Harald Frentzen was sixth for Jordan.
Fighting for third spot in the middle of Sunday's race, Michael made contact with his brother's Williams before Ralf got past. Barrichello overtook both of them while they were sorting out family business.
Michael Schumacher also accidentally injured Ferrari mechanic Nigel Stepney during a pit stop.
Schumacher sees Hakkinen as his only real threat to claiming Ferrari's first drivers' title in 21 years and the third of his career. The F1 circus heads towards Germany for the European Grand Prix at the Nurburgring on May 21.
Since the circuit rejoined the calendar in its 'new' configuration in 1995, it has not seen a Ferrari victory although Schumacher won there that year for Benetton.
Hakkinen won in 1998 for McLaren, after two wins by Canadian Jacques Villeneuve in a Williams, before Briton Johnny Herbert delivered the Stewart team's maiden triumph in a rain-lashed and chaotic race last year.