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2000 San Marino GP News
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The European season is just about to start with Ferrari having an almost perfect start while McLaren will be at the court of appeal to see whether they came out of the first 2 races in Australia and Brazil with a mere 6 points or none.
The points in the championship do not reflect the difference between the 2 teams. They are much closer than that, in fact a lot would argue that McLaren is actually faster as Hakkinen has demonstrated that by putting his car on pole for the first two races. However it is the reliability that counts and if the car is fast but cannot survive a race distance then it is as good as nothing. So how will the top 2 teams and the remainder of the grid do at San Marino?
McLaren: The pressure is on at McLaren and the team must produce results. Hakkinen retired in the first 2 events and he cannot afford scoring 0 points again if he is to defend his title again. Coulthard put on a very good performance in Brazil despite a few gears missing. If the cars last then both could be on the podium and possibly a 1-2 however it will be unlikely that neither car will suffer some sort of a problem.
Ferrari: In Australia they appeared very reliable, in Brazil they struggled the whole weekend with Barrichello retiring from the race and Schumacher having minor problems. I would give Ferrari a better chance than McLaren to have both cars finish. As for the drivers, well Barrichello had 2 bad qualifying sessions but that will turn around and when that occurs he could outqualify Schumacher. In the race though, Barrichello does not seem to be as aggressive as Schumacher and the first 2 races he was stuck behind another car losing valuable time. The key for Barrichello will be to qualify well and have a good start. Schumacher on the other hand is aggressive and with Ross Brawn they make a perfect strategic team. Keep in mind that Schumacher is leading Barrichello so team orders might come into play here although it is a bit early.
Jordan: They appear to have fixed the reliability issues they had in Australia but they are slow. I did not expect Benetton to beat Jordan but it seems that the Mugen Honda engine is underpowered and that would not help Jordan. Frentzen is very consistent and hence expect him to be in the points. Jarno Trulli is fast and he will finish close to Frentzen if not better.
Jaguar: 4 retirements from 2 races, not a good result at all. The car seems to be very unreliable and the drivers are not helping, Herbert appears to have such bad luck that no matter what he drives, the car will fail. Irvine on the other hand has spun twice, at Melbourne he was right behind de la Rosa when the latter crashed but in Brazil he just spun on his own. Don't see either doing much better here.
Williams: They might be the dark horse of 2000. Who would have possibly imagined that Williams with a brand new BMW engine would have both cars finish in the points (pending McLaren's appeal) in only the second race of the season? They have done an amazing job and I would expect that to continue with a few problems here and there. The BMW engine is still underpowered so they will have to gain positions and points when the others retire but that will change too. Ralf Schumacher will again do well if the car lasts while Button has shown very good signs and he will not be too far behind.
Benetton: Yet another surprise package with Fisichella finishing 2nd (pending McLaren's appeal). The Supertec engine is certainly a better engine than what it used to be last year and Fisichella is superb and with Flavio returning to the team, all the right ingredients are there. The car is one of the most reliable although we saw Wurz suffer major problems in Brazil but that could be a one-off. Expect Fisichella to do well behind McLaren and Ferrari with Wurz not too far behind although the pressure is on him to do well or else.
Sauber: After missing the Brazilian GP due to rear wing failures, the team have tested the car and fixed the problem. Salo did well in Australia although he was later disqualified so the team could do well at San Marino. Expect Salo and Diniz to run amongst the Arrows, Williams and possibly even Jordan.
Prost: Both cars retired very early in Brazil, they were not that fast either. Alesi had an excellent start and was overtaking everyone but I suspect he was on a 2 stopper. I don't expect either car to finish competitively in San Marino. They need to work very hard on reliability and then on performance. That is a long way yet.
Arrows: Both cars performed very well at the start of the race but they got tired and lost a few places towards the end of it. The car is showing potential and the Supertec engine is certainly better than last year. The weakness in the team could end up being the drivers. If the drivers (Verstappen and de la Rosa) are fit then they could easily finish in the top10 and possibly in the points.
Minardi: A very good car but a very underpowered engine. They have to rely on the other teams suffering problems if they are to score a point. Gene is very good but he does not have the equipment. Mazzacane is new to F1 so we cannot make accurate judgements just yet.
BAR: The scene of Villeneuve retiring early in Brazil reminded us of the BAR of last year. BAR and Honda don't think so and they believe the gearbox problems have been fixed. We now need to see the promised engine enhancements coming from Honda over the next few races. BAR won't be very competitive just yet but if the car lasts, expect Villeneuve to be in the points and perhaps the podium if any of the front runners fail. Zonta is starting to show some good signs during both qualifying and race so expect him not to be too far from Villeneuve.
Second Session: Michael Schumacher sets the fastest time today ahead of team-mate Rubens Barrichello and David Coulthard. The Jordan's of Heinz Harald Frentzen and Jarno Trulli manage to split the McLaren's with Hakkinen struggling in 6th position.
Johnny Herbert recovered from a blown engine in the morning session to set the 7th fastest time, Jaguar problems continue though with Irvine the only driver not to improve his time from the morning session. He ended up 12th fastest.
Giancarlo Fisichella, Ralf Schumacher and Pedro de la Rosa make the top 10. Gaston Mazzacane driving for Minardi is worth a mention as he was 15th fastest despite driving a slow car and the fact that this is a new track for him.
A very disappointing day for Jacques Villeneuve who suffered a massive engine blow-out on his first fast lap of the day. He ended up last with no competitive time set. His team-mate Ricardo Zonta didn't do much better in 17th place although this is a new track for Zonta as he missed this race last year due to injury.
A lot of drivers spun during the second session as they try to test the limits with Hakkinen, Verstappen, Zonta, Barrichello, Mazzacane all spinning but managing to recover while Ralf Schumacher spins and gets stuck in the gravel trap ending his session prematurely. Ralf's team-mate Jenson Button suffers a blown engine and ends up in 20th place.
Michael Schumacher's time is just over 0.5 seconds off the Pole position time set last year at Imola. It looks certain that we will have a faster pole time this year.
There is just over a second separating 6th place Hakkinen (1:28.021) and 17th place Ricardo Zonta (1:29.097) so the order of the starting grid could change dramatically.
First Session: Michael Schumacher sets the fastest time during the first practice session ahead of David Coulthard and Eddie Irvine. Mika Hakkinen was 4th followed by Heinz Harald Frentzen and Ralf Schumacher.
The top 2 have set times in this session that is more than a second faster than last years Friday practice sessions and there is still a session to go. Irvine was impressive while Hakkinen appeared to be struggling with his car. Barrichello only managed 10th which is disappointing given that Michael Schumacher was fastest.
Big difference as well between team-mates Heinz Harald Frentzen (5th) and Jarno Trulli (16). Ralf Schumacher (6th) and Jenson Button (18th) although Button is new to the track.
Neither Jacques Villeneuve nor Nick Heidfeld set a competitive time during this session both suffering problems. Johnny Herbert's bad luck continues as he suffered a blown engine and Alesi spun a couple of times but managed to keep going.
Qualifying Session: Mika Hakkinen recaptures pole position from Michael Schumacher just seconds after Schumacher took pole from him. David Coulthard was 3rd followed by Rubens Barrichello, Ralf Schumacher and Heinz Harald Frentzen.
The session started with Gene and Mazzacane on the track, just after setting a fast time, Gene's car broke down and had to return to the pits. Jenson Button came out as did Ricardo Zonta. After 15 minutes Alexander Wurz, Jos Verstappen and Michael Schumacher went on the track. Soon after everyone had set a fast time.
It was Schumacher who had provisional pole (1:25.677) then Coulthard grabbed it (1:25.425) but then Hakkinen grabbed it (1:24.830). Michael Schumacher on his second run came very close (1:24.860). On the final run, Michael Schumacher managed to go fastest with a time of 1:24.805 however Hakkinen had the last laugh as he too was on his last run and managed to grab pole yet again with a blistering fast time of 1:24.714 which is over 1.5 seconds faster than last year's pole time.
David Coulthard settled for 3rd while Rubens Barrichello struggled until he just managed to grab 4th place. Ralf Schumacher was very impressive managing 5th fastest even though his BMW engine blew up on his final run. Heinz Harald Frentzen was 6th followed by an impressive Eddie Irvine. Jarno Trulli, Jacques Villeneuve and Pedro Diniz make the top 10.
A disappointing session for Fisichella way back in 19th (after finishing 2nd in Brazil), Herbert struggles as well and only managed 17th. Nick Heidfeld was also disappointing in 22nd position while Jenson Button was also back in18th place.
The field is still too close (apart from the top 4) as Ralf Schumacher in 5th position is less than a second faster than Jos Verstappen who is in 16th position. Should make for an interesting race and lets us hope that reliability for the top teams holds so we can see some exciting racing.
Second Practice Session: Mika Hakkinen sets the fastest time ahead of Michael Schumacher (who does not improve on his first session time). David Coulthard was third ahead of a charging Trulli and team-mate Frentzen. Barrichello is still struggling in 6th place followed by an impressive Salo and equally impressive Villeneuve. Irvine and Diniz make the top 10.
Jenson Button continued to have problems with his car, he only managed a few laps towards the end of the session. Ralf Schumacher retired only 15 minutes into the session. Villeneuve spun twice, the second stuck in the gravel trap but still managed 8th fastest. Gene crashed his car after spinning.
Michael Schumacher, Heinz Harald Frentzen, Ralf Schumacher and Marc Gene were the only drivers not to improve their times from the earlier session.
The session saw Hakkinen set a time below 1:25 making his time more than 1.3 seconds faster that last year's pole time. The field is still very close with Barrichello (6th) only 1.1 seconds ahead of Heidfeld (19th). The grid for tomorrow could be interesting !!
First Practice Session: Michael Schumacher sets the fastest time just 0.1 seconds ahead of a much improved Mika Hakkinen. David Coulthard was 3rd not much behind. Heinz Harald Frentzen managed to break the top 4 setting the 4th fastest time ahead of Rubens Barrichello who spent half of the session in the pits. Jarno Trulli was 6th followed by an impressive Mika Salo. Johnny Herbert had a much better day setting the 8th fastest time while Ralf Schumacher continues to push the Williams BMW spinning towards the end of the session but still managing 9th fastest. Jacques Villeneuve manages an impressive 10th fastest given that he had no fast laps yesterday.
Problems for Jenson Button who failed to set a fast lap while Heidfeld spun early in the session and spent most of the time in the pits. He returned back to track and managed 15th fastest which is encouraging.
The top 4 have set times faster than last year's pole time. In fact Michael Schumacher's time is more than 1.1 seconds faster than Pole position last year.
The field is very close with just over a second separating Barrichello (5th) and de la Rosa (16th).
Michael Schumacher makes it 3 in a row where it counts as he beats Mika Hakkinen by just 1.1 seconds to win the San Marino GP. The race was won in the pits where Michael Schumacher went for a longer first pit stop and a shorter second pit stop to take the lead from Mika Hakkinen. David Coulthard, Rubens Barrichello, Jacques Villeneuve and Mika Salo make the top 6.
Race Start: Mika Hakkinen makes the perfect start yet again while Michael Schumacher struggles yet again causing a lot of confusion behind him. As a result David Coulthard drops a place to Rubens Barrichello and Ralf Schumacher drops from 5th to 9th. Jacques Villeneuve makes a brilliant start and capitalises on the confusion in front and jumps from 9th to 5th.
Lap 1: Hakkinen, M Schumacher, Barrichello, Coulthard, Villeneuve, Trulli
Race order remains static, the gap between Hakkinen and M
Schumacher is around 2 seconds. The 2 are around 17 seconds ahead Barrichello who appears
to be holding Coulthard. 7 seconds behind is Villeneuve ahead of Trulli.
Lap 12: Hakkinen, M Schumacher, Barrichello, Coulthard, Villeneuve, Trulli
Race order remains static but Hakkinen and M Schumacher
increase the gap on Barrichello and Coulthard.
Lap 23: (Pit stops about to start) Hakkinen, M Schumacher, Barrichello, Coulthard, Villeneuve, Trulli
Most teams are on a 2 stop strategy, Barrichello was
thought to be on a single stop but is not. Top 5 rejoin is same positions, Jarno Trulli
has a long stop and ends up in 8th position.
Lap 35: Hakkinen, M Schumacher, Barrichello, Coulthard, Villeneuve, R Schumacher
Single stoppers come in with Herbert followed by Wurz and
Fisichella who pits on lap 41.
Lap 43: (after 2nd pit stops): M Schumacher, Hakkinen, Coulthard, Barrichello, Villeneuve, Salo
M Schumacher passes Hakkinen through the pit stop and
Coulthard passes Barrichello in the pits, Barrichello had to slow down otherwise they
Race Results: M Schumacher, Hakkinen, Coulthard, Barrichello, Villeneuve, Salo
A very exciting race, Michael Schumacher and Mika Hakkinen were very evenly matched but with a superior pit strategy, Michael managed to get ahead of Mika. David Coulthard was stuck for most of the race behind Barrichello but he was clearly faster than him. Barrichello on the other hand struggled with the car and could not match any of the top 3, he appeared to have a problem at the end of the race as he was almost 1 lap behind Michael Schumacher. A superb 5th place finish from Jacques Villeneuve mainly due to an incredible start and some strong defensive driving. Mika Salo drove well and finished in 6th place.
Interesting to note that fortunes have reversed for several teams in comparison with Brazil, Jaguar finished both car here after both retired in Brazil, so did BAR. While both Williams retired here after both finished in Brazil and so did Jordan !!
Michael Schumacher now goes to the 4th round in Silverstone 21 points ahead of 2nd place Barrichello and judging by today's performance from Barrichello, it is unlikely that he'll be able to challenge Michael this year. It appears that only Hakkinen can but McLaren need to get their pit stop strategies right.