In search of revenge after the two defeats suffered in comparison with Mclaren in France and Austria, Ferrari is carefully preparing for the German Grand Prix, scheduled on the Hockenheim circuit, home of Michael Schumacher. From the tests of Fiorano and Mugello emerge many solutions to fill the advantage that the team of Woking had shown at Zeltweg. In Tuscany, Barrichello works on an upgraded engine, which however will not be present in Germany, where will be used only engines with slightly increased rotation speeds for qualifying. Otherwise, they expect news on the rest of the car: an unprecedented front wing and widely tested in tests; a rear suspension redesigned to have better traction; an updated software for departures and another engine management, plus aerodynamic chimneys in various versions. The latter are dusted off after being tested during the Magny-Cours tests in mid-June.
Meanwhile these hot air vents in the upper part of the sides have changed physiognomy and are tested in Fiorano da Badoer, on July 24, 2000, during the tests of the three F1-2000 for the German trip: the Venetian driver tries two different types, distinguished by their size. One resembles a shark fin, while another is similar to the Mclaren solution, but is more generous in form. The option to choose for the Grand Prix will depend exclusively on the temperatures.
On the driver front the morale is high for Schumacher, despite the two consecutive retirements. The German reiterates that there is no crisis, while his manager Weber says he is sure that Michael will win both in Hockenheim and in Budapest, as well as revealing that the Ferrari driver is determined to run at least until forty years.
Meanwhile, the driver market is always in constant turmoil when it comes to mid-season: Heinz-Harald Frentzen renews for another two years the contract that binds him to Jordan, and this happens a few days after the confirmation of Jacques Villeneuve’s stay in BAR. The Canadian in the previous weeks had been approached with insistence at Benetton, where he would replace the starter Alexander Wurz. Instead of the Austrian driver, Jenson Button will probably go, as Williams is increasingly determined to bet on Juan-Pablo Montoya. Traditionally, on the eve of the Mercedes Hakkinen and Coulthard Grand Prix, Hakkinen and Coulthard visited some of the Group’s factories. Among these, it is also up to the Rastatt factory, where 5,000 employees build Class A.
The morning of July 26 unfolds in two acts: the first sees Mika and David as two workers, then, on stage, the two return drivers. The judgment of the FIA commissioners on the missing seal at the Mclaren office in Hakkinen in Austria could only be the dominant theme of the questions that are addressed to them and Norbert Haug by the employees. The German number one says:
"Every time we learn something and on this occasion it is not entirely clear why, although the software of Mika’s machine is absolutely in order, the FIA has condemned us. We adapt as we have already done after the judgment in Brazil. It is certain that for others the measures can also be taken differently".
A clarification that aims to bring to mind the question of the deflectors of Ferrari, found irregular in the Malaysian Grand Prix '99, but then declared according to the FIA Court of Appeal, because they were measured with inadequate instruments. For Mclaren this story must be taken with sportiness and with the conviction that the dual World title is still at hand:
"We have two real drivers, who will fight. Ferrari has only one. That’s fine with us. Who will be our first driver? There will be a moment in which we will decide based on the results, but this could also happen at the last Grand Prix. For the German Grand Prix we will have many innovations, especially a very powerful engine evolution that we will use both in qualifying and in the race: we will confirm the performance of Zeltweg, you will see. We will never resort to subterfuges, as others do. But for each race we will bring important news to beat rivals".
The presence of Mika and David with the mechanic’s suit and the welder’s glasses was much applauded: the two delight in assembling the body of a Class A. And for three hours they visit the factory, without ever mentioning Formula 1. The most relaxed and relaxed seems to be Hakkinen, after ten days at sea spent between Porto Cervo and Portofino. Less quiet, although he himself preached calm and optimism, Michael Schumacher, especially when he is told the question departures, after some questionable maneuvers on his part against Coulthard at the lights out. But the German does not want to agree with the opponents:
"The rules are made this way, we can discuss it as much as we want but as long as they remain so you can start like this. Then, I did nothing wrong and incorrect, otherwise they would have punished me all right. That’s all, there’s nothing more to say. We’re on the track to run, we’re not like a little family having tea in the garden".
The avalanche of criticism is not at all welcome. Schumacher is also unaffected when asked for an explanation of the phase preceding his zig-zag manoeuvre, that is, the actual start, that is, when he stays a bit 'still and starts late:
"But when? But what do you say? It just happened in Austria. Yes, it’s true last year it happened more often but it wasn’t my fault, it was a technical problem. No human factors".
And on the novelties brought by Ferrari in Germany, he declares:
"We have an aerodynamic package specially made for this circuit. I am confident it will work well. In fact, we have an engine that is at least as powerful as the Mercedes, but because of aerodynamics we can’t go faster. This time I think things will be fine".
On the chimneys, he reveals:
"Here again I think we will not use them, they will be useful next winter".
Ferrari must show that it has not lost its grip after the setbacks, and that it still has the energy to be in charge of the rankings until the end:
"There is no one team that prevails over the other. If one goes on, it is only for one race. The technical balance is in parity both as a car and as an engine. I am not at all worried, and there is no air crisis in Ferrari".
Schumacher also talks about the problems he had in qualifying at Zeltweg, apparently caused by an anomaly at the differential, promptly resolved in the tests between Fiorano and Mugello. In turn, the Mclaren-Mercedes is loaded. On the track tests, Coulthard prefers the pre-tactical:
"We trained at Silverstone, on a track not identical to this one for the aerodynamic load".
In Hockenheim it is essential to find the right balance to face both the slow section, in Motodrom, and the fast one in the two straights. The key to Sunday’s result could be the super engine brought in two new versions by designer Mario Illien. At Zeltweg, the Mercedes V10 showed only half what it can do by relegating the two Ferraris to unusual gaps in qualifying: up to 636 thousandths for Schumacher, the slowest of the unassailable leading quartet. But in the race the accident at the start of Michael, hit by Zonta at the start, made life easy for the Silver Arrows, called back from the wall when they pushed too much. The race engine, an important evolution by admission of the same men of the Mercedes, will be the secret weapon. Anglo-German motorists have no doubts about their failure-proof superiority, although they admit that the challenge will be at close range. Coulthard is very cautious about the decision of the FIA commissioners:
"It is a choice that we cannot change, like the one that in Brazil took away six points from me. Now it all depends on the results. The World Cup, even for me, remains possible. And ten points lost at the table will be able to recover them already here in Hockenheim".
Disappointing, however, the public position of the two drivers of Mclaren to the disputes posed to Schumacher on what, according to the insiders, is a bad example provided to young drivers for its transversal departures. While the Ferrari driver responded with a hard face invoking the rules in his defense, Coulthard only pointed out that it was not him, but Frentzen to raise the problem at the meeting drivers-delegate FIA for safety at Zeltweg. Hakkinen, and Frentzen himself, choose to remain silent. The reigning World Champion simply says:
"I did not intervene because I was never damaged by Schumacher’s manoeuvres at the start".
In the press conference on the eve, in addition to the usual controversy over the departure of Schumacher, there is also talk of the return of Eddie Irvine, absent in the Austrian race for severe abdominal pain, but presented in shape and with a new look in Germany.
The look is the usual, the mischievous eyes, but the wax shows the ten days spent between hospital and specialized laboratories to look for the reasons that had forced him to forfeit. The former Ferrarist says he’s fine, but:
"I’m not hiding the fact that I’ve had some pretty rough times. I ran a thousand tests, and eventually Professor Williams in London told me that nothing justified surgery. Why did I bleach my hair? Because then at least people will ask me questions about the new look and not about my illness. I’m sorry I couldn’t take part in the Silverstone tests, which Burti took in my place, and during which the new engine that I will have available in the race was tested. But I will do everything to make up for lost time working at the maximum in these two days of rehearsals".
In the spotlight there is also Jacques Villeneuve, who explains to the press the reasons for his choice to stay at the BAR for another three years. For Jacques, Benetton had made so many promises for the future, but with the return of Renault it would have been a start almost from scratch, while at BAR, after two years, knows everything, strengths and weaknesses:
"I didn’t do it to earn more money, as some might think, but to complete a project in which I believe and to win points and results. The choice was not easy: the two options were extremely interesting and attractive, I preferred to focus on continuity rather than on novelty".
With great aplomb, Flavio Briatore, general manager of Benetton, comments that the choice of Villeneuve may be good for both BAR and Benetton:
"If he had come to us next season we would surely have suffered a certain pressing on his part. Maybe it’s better this way, for the moment. We will have time to progress and look around".
On Friday 28th July 2000 the drivers took to the track for the two free practice sessions. At the end of the first session, Schumacher scored the best time in 1'43"532, ahead of Hakkinen, detached by half a second, teammate Barrichello and David Coulthard. The German is repeated in the afternoon, in a session characterized by rain and that does not see major changes compared to the first. The only jolt is given by Frentzen, who with his Jordan rises to second position, forty-three thousandths from Schumacher.
The Mclaren use worn-out engines, leaving the new and more powerful ones for the best. This is the reason why the Anglo-German team sleeps soundly, with a Hakkinen that has finally found a smile. Mika discovered the usefulness of the holidays and consequently, after Austria, he hurried to take a boat ride in the Tyrrhenian. He came back as excited and pale as before. As for the free practice, the reigning champion states:
"They were interesting tests, because they were moved by the variability of the weather conditions. Like almost all drivers I prefer to drive in the dry, but this time I found myself comfortable in both conditions and it seems to me that our competitiveness remains the same. It made me a good impression to see how many fans we have here, many silver and black hats on the stands make a nice glance".
Hakkinen wanders around the paddock smiling, passes behind Coulthard while he is besieged by microphones saying treat him well, and reveals a further reason for his serenity:
"I never had any problems on the track with Michael Schumacher. If there’s any friction between him and Coulthard, I’m not going to intervene in any way, I’m not going to take a stand on the controversies that affect them. And then, after all, if anyone has anything to gain from their rivalry, it’s me".
Coulthard, on the other hand, is pleased with the machine’s progress:
"Even in these free practices we did a big job. This track, then, is strange because, even if no substantial changes have been made, it is never the same as the year before".
However, on Saturday the 29th of July 2000, the rain strongly influenced the outcome of the qualifying. Coulthard goes to the track first of all, just as the first drops begin to fall on the track. The Scottish turns in 1'45"697. After that, the intensity of the rain increases, making it impossible for other drivers to improve the Mclaren driver’s time. Qualifications at some point must even be interrupted due to a violent downpour.
Michael Schumacher placed second in the final minutes of the rehearsal, one second and three tenths from the poleman. In the second row Giancarlo Fisichella and Hakkinen, followed by the Arrows of De La Rosa and Jarno Trulli in the third row. A disastrous day for Rubens Barrichello: the Brazilian is only eighteenth, almost four seconds from Coulthard. The driver of Ferrari, up to two minutes from the deadline, has an even insufficient time to ensure participation in the race. This is the last attempt to place him in 18th place.
Rubens, however, has his grievances: in the first minutes of qualifying he is forced to return to the pits due to an electrical failure; however, the forklift is not available because used by Michael Schumacher, In turn without the machine holder because damaged in free practice in the morning with an exit of the track and consequent contact against the barriers. Barrichello returns to the track only in the final, conquering a disappointing ninth row: it had not happened for eight years to see a Ferrari so far behind on the starting grid (Australia '92, Nicola Larini, 19!). Rubens, despite everything, remains optimistic:
"If such a thing had happened to me in qualifying in Hungary I would have told you immediately that, except for miracles, there would have been nothing to do. But not here: if it doesn’t rain and if the car is good on this circuit I should recover positions. Of course, God willing".
The thousand vicissitudes experienced in the qualifying day seem already filed:
"Everything happened to me. In the morning I completed the fourth half, I reduced the aerodynamic load to the maximum and I hoped to be able to do well in the afternoon. But on the second lap I had a problem at the electronic control unit, I found myself without gears forced to stay still. I went back to the pits knowing that Michael had the forklift and his race car was still half disassembled. So I had to wait so long at the pits to have a car that would allow me to get on the track. It was not easy. Brawn reassured me on the radio that I should not fear for qualifying because the regulations would allow me to enter the grid anyway".
Then he tells the last attempt:
"Maybe I could have done better but I found traffic and resigned myself. I’ll start in the ninth row, I won’t see what happens in front, but I’ll be aggressive enough to earn some position. If it rains at the start it would be better to go behind the Safety car, otherwise anything could happen. At the first and perhaps even more so at the second corner".
Comes also a defense to his teammate:
"The controversy about Schumacher? I think it’s time to end it. If Villeneuve, Coulthard, Irvine and some others have something to say that they come to talk about it with Schumacher or that they talk about it at the FIA. Otherwise they’ll stop".
The thought goes back to the race:
"It will be difficult, but thanks to the work done last week in Fiorano and Mugello the car has improved. Maybe it’s not superior to Mclaren, but I don’t think it’s inferior. And I’ve also gotten better at finding the adjustments, dealing with and handling certain situations. Yes, I’ve grown. I also have more grit and this allows me to say that I will do everything to detach myself from the bottom of the grid and conclude this strange weekend in a positive way".
Michael Schumacher, who booked the victory from the top of the excellent results he had in free practice, is also an external positivity. However, we must consider the weather variable: Ferrari’s forecasts for the time of the Grand Prix are for a continuous alternation of good and bad weather. It will really be a lottery for Michael too, forced to do everything alone, with Barrichello away, in the rear:
"It is very difficult to predict the weather: it may be a matter of luck. But running in certain conditions will be very dangerous indeed. We’ve already spoken to Charlie Whiting, asking him to get the Safety Car out of here for a long time in case of heavy rain. This is because in the two long straights a cloud of persistent water is created that prevents the visibility and the evaluation of the speed of the preceding".
Michael’s not upset about the morning incident that made it harder:
"At first I thought I was wrong. I was apologizing to the mechanics, they told me about the failure of the terminal part of the flat bottom that caused the loss of control of the machine".
Ahead of the race, Schumacher is satisfied with Ferrari’s performance:
"We have always been fast, so I have confidence in the race, I will need a good start. I am not surprised by Benetton’s performance, which is always valid in variable weather conditions and with an excellent Fisichella. Giancarlo dangerous for me in the race? We can have a faster car than Benetton, but if with a good start it sits between me and Coulthard, it will make my life difficult while struggling to be near David. Rubens was unlucky: difficult to help me. I would have liked to make life harder for Mclaren. At the last assault I used the launch lap to assess the adhesion in the different sections. So, in the pass I launched I knew exactly where I could go to the limit and where to be sweeter in driving, as at Ostkurve, the third variant and the last two corners of Motodrom. I admit that I was lucky: without suitable conditions I could never have improved. I drove to the limit and I also grazed a runway exit".
Finally, Schumacher does not forget the thirteen fans injured by bad weather, hit by trees fallen in the forest or in the campsites of the circuit:
"I wish everyone a speedy recovery".
At his first pole position of the season, David Coulthard talks about the perfect result:
"There was a bit of a frenzy at the beginning when everyone jumped on the track to take advantage of the dry. I was able to better predict the weather situation and was very fast in the central sector. I made a second attempt towards the end of the shift because I saw that the track could dry up quickly and I wanted to defend my pole. In the race we will all be very close, but I want the ten points of victory".
Hakkinen non ha avuto lo stesso intuito da previsioni del tempo e la sua cautela eccessiva gli è costata la prima fila. Farsi passare da Schumacher non è certo un trauma ma, oltre alla pioggia, Mika non aveva previsto lo scatto opportunista di Fisichella, capace ormai di tirare fuori dalla sua Benetton doti sovrumane. Il finlandese dichiara:
"A placement that makes anger, because we had arranged the car excellently during free practice. But on days like these, you can only make time if you hit the track at exactly the right time. Maybe I was a little too careful when I didn’t go out to avoid risks. At the end of such a Saturday, having two cars in the first four places seems to me a result that can make the team happy".
Ron Dennis' phlegm hides as usual feelings and emotions:
"One afternoon that was a lottery, but the results and the performance of the team make me calm. David was good and ready, Mika lost the best moment. But we are in good shape for the race".
Dennis also reveals that Ferrari, in Austria, had asked the FIA both the disqualification of Hakkinen and Coulthard for the issue of the missing seal, and this attack behind was not digested.
"I read the letter and its contents seemed surprising both in a technical sense and for the conclusions it reached. I find it very strange that a team is officially pronouncing on a story, a judgment, to which another team is subjected. In fact, the judges found it inadmissible. In that document the arguments were dictated only by the opinions of Ferrari. I repeat that in no way could it have been possible to intervene on the program".
Jean Todt replied by saying:
"We sent the FIA only requests for clarification to understand what was the interpretation given by the Federation to the lack of Mclaren. This is something that Mclaren in Malaysia also did to us. The fact that they have this letter shows that it was a document in the record, so nothing secret".
Outsider of the day with the third place on the grid, just behind Schumacher but in front of a qualification specialist like Hakkinen, Giancarlo Fisichella also committed a lightness that could have cost him dearly. Outside of the $5.000 fine that is imposed by the race management for not being weighed before moving from the car to the forklift. According to article 82 paragraph A, point 7, in fact, the Roman pilot could have sunk in the rear, with the eighteenth time. The article in question, in fact, speaks clearly: before changing the car, you have to remember the balance. If you do not, the time obtained with the spare machine can be cancelled. The bravery of the Roman in the last minutes, therefore, risked to be vain. Fisichella remained for hours sub judice:
"It went well, not having crossed even a lap with the first car, I didn’t think it was necessary to weigh. And then what’s the need? I’m always six pounds, don’t they know? Seriously, I dodged a bullet and I gladly pay this $5.000".
The wallet is lighter, but the prospect of winning a podium remains:
"If I don’t lose positions at the start, it’s mine".
And the satisfaction of having completed a round of applause:
"It was not easy, with a forklift that lost ten kilometers an hour on the straight. It was not necessary to make mistakes. And I was perfect".
Sunday, July 30, 2000 the McLaren remains ahead of everyone in the morning warm-up, with Coulthard who after a dangerous spin and consequent damaged wing (as well as the front suspensions), ahead with the time of 1'44"065 the teammate Hakkinen, detached by a tenth. Behind the Arrows of Silver the Arrows-Supertec of De La Rosa and the Ferrari of Schumacher, distant seven tenths from the Scottish. Fisichella is seventh, Barrichello still in trouble, ninth, ahead of Trulli.
At 14:00, as predicted by the meteorologists, menacing black clouds fly over the track, even if for the moment not even a drop of rain falls, and indeed, when the lights go off there is also some ray of sun that illuminates Hockenheim. Jenson Button sees his race get complicated when at the moment of starting for the reconnaissance lap the BMW engine of his Williams turns off. The young Briton is taken off by all his colleagues, so, according to the rules, after the mechanics have restarted the car will have to start from the last box.
At the start, Coulthard does not have a sublime shot, but worse still Michael Schumacher, while it is burning the start of Hakkinen, which in a few meters is nothing less than the head of the race. Schumacher widens the trajectory at the entrance of the first corner to have a better traction and attack Coulthard, but he does not realize that at a close distance behind him there is Giancarlo Fisichella, who is surprised by the sudden steering of the Ferrarist. At braking, Benetton hits the rear of Ferrari in full. Both cars end with violence against the barriers.
Schumacher stormed down from the cockpit and sent Fisichella to the country, although to blame all the accident to the Roman pilot would be rather unfair. The Hockenheim circuit is long enough for the commissioners to remove the damaged cars and avoid a red flag. Schumacher and Fisichella, therefore, are forced to retire. The third in a row for the German, the second for Giancarlo, also involved in the chaos of the departure in Austria.
At the end of the first lap, Hakkinen makes the pace ahead of Coulthard, Trulli, De La Rosa, Irvine and Herbert. Rubens Barrichello quickly gained positions, so much so that he was already tenth. The Brazilian also easily passes Zonta and rises to ninth place, meanwhile Irvine has a difficult start to the race, as he is bypassed first by his teammate Herbert, and then by the Arrows of Jos Verstappen after two attempts by the Dutch. With Jos sixth and De La Rosa fourth, the Arrows has both drivers in the points area.
From the rear, however, comes very fast Barrichello, who takes advantage of his Ferrari with a lower load of gasoline and also surpasses Villeneuve, after which he attacks Irvine and at the entrance of the Motodrom passes him. While Hakkinen and Coulthard travel undisturbed at the top of the race divided by a second, Herbert, Verstappen and Barrichello fight each other. Battle that rages also in the center of the group, where stands Frentzen, as Barrichello party with less gasoline, and a two-stop strategy. Barrichello continues his ascent, passes first Verstappen and then Herbert at the Clark curve. The next target is De La Rosa’s fourth place, fourth six seconds apart. With free track, the Ferrari driver immediately recorded the fastest lap, lowering the limit for two consecutive laps.
On lap 10, Arrows and Ferrari were reunited, and overtaking Barrichello was no problem. At the same time Frentzen enters the points zone. The German had left seventeenth, just ahead of Barrichello. Starting from Johnny Herbert, seventh, all the drivers are very close to each other, up to the last position held by Jenson Button. The tussle raged on the circuit. Herbert himself had to abandon the tight fight due to trouble with the gearbox.
Barrichello won the third place thanks to the easy overtaking on Jarno Trulli, the latter in difficulty after a convincing first phase of the race. The Italian driver, in fact, is gradually reached also by De La Rosa and Frentzen. Barely sixteen laps have passed, the race is full of battles, however dozens of fans of Michael Schumacher, disappointed by the retirement at the start of their idol, already leave the circuit without attending the rest of the race.
The only Ferrari remaining in the race is ten seconds from Mclaren, when it is called to the pits for the first stop of the two scheduled. After 7.2 seconds for tyre change and refueling, Barrichello finds himself in sixth position, which becomes fifth when the next step is up to Frentzen to pit-stop; at the exit of the pits, Jordan’s pilot defends Verstappen with determination to stay in the points zone. Rubens picks up De La Rosa in no time at all, and just when he seems about to try to overtake, during the twenty-fifth lap the international director stops on a man walking in bordopista with a sheet full of written, among which stands the symbol of the Mercedes. The invader even gets to cross the track, then greets the two Mclaren-Mercedes with a wave of the hand when the latter pass at full speed.
The race direction can do nothing but neutralize the race through the entrance of the Safety Car, and recover the crowd as soon as possible. As a result, all drivers fall back to make their respective pit-stops, including Barrichello and Frentzen who are on par with the others, but with the exception of Coulthard, who makes an extra lap behind the Safety Car rather than stop together with Hakkinen. Waiting for his pit mate to complete his stop would certainly have been the best choice, as a full lap on a long circuit like Hockenheim behind the Safety Car causes the Scotsman to lose some positions after completing his stop. David, for second, finds himself sixth.
Meanwhile, the man who had invaded the track is taken away, and later it turns out that he was a former employee fired by Mercedes. By his gesture he intended to protest against the measure. In addition to the sheet worn as a poncho on which were written against the house of Stuttgart, the man had launched leaflets of the same tenor. On lap 28, at the time of restarting the race, Hakkinen leads ahead of Trulli, Barrichello, De La Rosa, Frentzen and Coulthard. The Finn immediately ran away, Barrichello took advantage of Trulli’s wake, tried to attack him at the Clark corner but the Pescarese defended himself. Close to the points zone, Jacques Villeneuve overtakes Ralf Schumacher for the seventh place, then the same Ralf ends in a spin due to a contact with the other BAR of Zonta, ending in last position.
The fights raged also some positions behind, and one in particular, the one between Alesi and Diniz, ends in the worst way: at the entrance of the Senna curve, the Sauber driver joins the French Prost, and in braking he stretches his trajectory too much, causing the inevitable contact. Alesi slams at great speed against the barriers, two people fly in the middle of the track, Diniz must in turn stop because unable to continue. The race direction is forced to return to the track the Safety Car for just one lap, the time to clean up the track.
At the restart, Hakkinen does as before and is safe from any attacks, Trulli must defend himself again from Barrichello, while in the rear Alex Wurz ends up spinning on the main straight after putting two wheels on the grass during a fight with Salo. The Austrian Benetton dies, which means withdrawal for the second Benetton. Meanwhile, as if the race had not already given enough twists and turns, here comes the long-awaited rain begins to fall on the track in a copious way. The commissioners wave the Giallorossi flags to signal slippery track, especially in the third sector, since in the other parts of the circuit the asphalt is still dry and the rain is light. Nick Heidfeld is the first to ride wet tires, while Coulthard passes Frentzen at Turn Clark and takes fifth position. The treacherous asphalt deceives Irvine, author of a spin, and Villeneuve, put in trouble by his teammate Zonta at the first corner. The Brazilian tries to pull off but ends up touching the right rear wheel of Villeneuve, which becomes a pirouette.
Most of the drivers choose to mount the wet, on all the race leader Hakkinen, followed by Trulli. Ferrari mechanics are ready to welcome Barrichello, but he chooses to stay on the track, not convinced to change tyres due to the fact that two thirds of the track are almost dry. Coulthard makes the same move as Frentzen and Zonta.
The race of Trulli is ruined by a stop&go whose reason is not understood, and not surprisingly, after the race the direction of the race must admit to have inflicted the penalty erroneously. The damage, however, is done. No error in the penalty imposed on Zonta, responsible for contact with Villeneuve. Hakkinen, the first of the drivers with wet tires, gains seconds on Coulthard and Frentzen, but not as many as he would like, because the rain continues to fall only on Motodrom. Frentzen, meanwhile, stalks Coulthard’s McLaren. The Scotsman is in trouble, he goes long in a chicane, then still wide at Sachs, where a few seconds later he goes to cover up Zonta. The Scottish decides that it’s time to pass on wet tires, Frentzen, however, gives confidence to those dry as Barrichello, leader of the race in front of the German driver, who dreams of getting on the podium in his home race. Coulthard, meanwhile, after the pit-stop is found even ninth.
At seven laps from the end Hakkinen reached and overtook Frentzen after a straight of the latter at Clark Turn. The Jordan driver takes advantage of the dry part of the circuit to recover the second place, lost permanently during the thirty-ninth lap due to an electronic problem. For Jordan it is the twelfth retirement of the season, demonstrating a reliability that does not seem to improve. There are five laps to go, Barrichello manages the first position with ten seconds of lead over Hakkinen who precedes Salo, Coulthard, climbed up to fourth position, Button and De La Rosa. Coulthard completed his comeback surpassing Salo, who then had to defend himself from the attacks of Button, the last party and incredibly fighting for the fourth position. The young Briton goes over Sauber’s head, and goes up against his best career result.
Rubens is called to make a miracle: earn in dry stretches, then manage and control the car in wet stretches. At the end of the 45th and final lap of an incredible race, Rubens Barrichello can finally celebrate his first career victory, and he does so in a crazy way, with a spectacular comeback from 18th to first place. A victory made of decisive overtakings, exemplary vision of the race, of perfect management of the tires. At the Ferrari wall, in addition to the festive mechanics, there is also Michael Schumacher with his wife Corinna to witness the triumph of the Brazilian. Hakkinen and Coulthard must be satisfied with the reinforcement positions, far from discarding considering the umpteenth zero of Schumacher. In the drivers' standings, in fact, the two drivers of Mclaren rise to 54 points, minus two from the German. Jenson Button is fourth, ahead of Mika Salo and Pedro De La Rosa who complete the points area.
Barrichello is uncontrollable already from the return tour in the closed park, during which he raises his visor, does not hide his tears of joy and shakes his triumphant arms. Just across the finish line, among other things, the flood extends across the circuit, which if it had happened a few minutes earlier would have changed for the umpteenth time the outcome of the race. So it was not, and Barrichello, after a long wait 123 races, can climb on the top step of the podium, where he brings with him the flag of Brazil. In addition, as Schumacher would have done, Rubens pretends to be a conductor while the Italian anthem is played. After the champagne bath, Coulthard and Hakkinen take him on their shoulders, to pay homage to his exceptional performance.
The day after the race, Rubens is greeted at home by a giant cake made of carrots and chocolate, his favorite. Garnished as for a birthday, full of wishes, of joyful messages, because the first return home as a winner is an anniversary. The entry into the history of Formula 1, the definitive conquest of Brazil, of its people, of all its fans. Rubinho recounts his exciting Monday, unforgettable as the Sunday of triumph. And it starts right from the night before, from the return to Cambridge, the way his wife, his sister-in-law Mirella and two of his friends welcomed him home:
"They sang, they shouted, they spelled my name, they celebrated. It looked like New Year’s Eve".
Yes, there is no longer the weight of success that does not come. Rubinho is now lighter, less obsessed. The first victory materialized. And in the form of an enterprise, with a lot of overtaking, on a Sunday when no one would have bet on him. Now everything seems easier. His career could be at a turning point. Barrichello is breathing hard. Only now he seems to realize what he has done:
"How do I feel? Very well. A friend told me: Rubinho, it was worth waiting so long, if the first triumph was so beautiful. In fact it was not a normal success. I will not be the only one to remember it for life. Many will".
The Italian and Brazilian newspapers treat him like a hero. He comments saying:
"If I’m honest, I only saw something on the Internet. A quick browsing, because the phone never stops ringing. They call me from all over the world. And I thank everyone. Although there were two phone calls that filled my heart: that of my friend George Harrison. Yes, that of the Beatles. And then Paul Stewart, Jackie’s son. He’s like a brother to me, we’re so close. For years I ran for him and now he has not forgotten me, although on the top step of the podium I brought us another stable".
His victory cannot be considered a partisan victory, and it is no coincidence that no one has done so, so much so that even the leaders of Mclaren have not hesitated to compliment:
"I think that Sunday scenes can leave a mark not only in me, but in all Formula 1 fans. I had won, but at a certain point it seemed the success of everyone. At least that’s how it seemed to me. It seemed that all people understood what I was feeling. Maybe they felt the same things. The same happiness".
His tears struck a bit everyone:
"I have already seen those scenes several times, as I have enjoyed the entire race twice. The one on the podium that cries is me child, I was reminded of the sacrifices of my family to make me a pilot; I remembered in '96, when I was at zero, in a black crisis, what I had to struggle to regain confidence in myself. I thought of Senna, what I was living. There was everything in my head. So I opened my hands and thanked God".
And the screaming on the radio just across the line?
"I was like crazy. Everything was exciting, great. If I have to stop for a moment, I say the phrase of Ross Brawn, which incites me: go, if you keep this pace, you can win. I had dry tires in the lead, while the Mclaren had already gone to the pits. Exhilarating. Those words of Ross made sense of my career".
Rubens is now fourth in the standings, just ten points behind Schumacher and eight points behind Hakkinen and Coulthard. Does the world title have an extra contender?
"Easy. I think I have a great quality, my spirit. I want to think small, then maybe I make big. I’m trying to live in the present, I swear I didn’t even look at the charts. Now we go to Hungary, where I can do well, where Ferrari can be very competitive. I will not back down, that’s for sure. As I always did, even if someone criticized me".
To be precise, the many critics who promptly pointed out that Rubens was always behind his foreman, and always had the excuse ready for disappointing performances:
"I have no revenge to consume. I heard that tune too, I do not care. What matters is to have shown that I was not deluded, when I maintained that my time would come".
And to experience it better already from Tuesday he goes to Fiorano, on track, to try the Ferrari for Hungary. Rubinho does not stop:
"I’d be crazy if I did it right now".
To turn off any possible ambition of the Brazilian is none other than Luca Cordero of Montezemolo. Ferrari, the president said, will do everything to favor Schumacher:
"As long as I’m in Ferrari, the drivers will never compete with each other but will always work for the exclusive interest of the Scuderia. We will do everything to make Schumacher win the world title. Our men will put both drivers in a position to win. Sometimes the drivers are judged for their personal sympathy and because they speak in Italian, but for us technical values are important. We want to have two drivers who are as strong as possible".
For Barrichello there are only the honors of the moment and the praise:
"An extraordinary feat made by thirteen overtakings that gave him the opportunity to take advantage of the Safety car. In the rain he drove excellently and had courage not to go back to change the tires".
Montezemolo defends sword-drawn Schumacher from criticism after the accident:
"I find it paradoxical and deeply unfair that anyone should blame Schumacher. In Germany he left the stage at the first corner, perhaps because of a rather Garibaldi start, with a zigzag manoeuvre, by Coulthard, which put in difficulty both Michael and Fisichella. Of course, those behind, normally, should be more careful because it has better visibility...".
He praises the team, the president, and then throws a punch at Mclaren:
"This year, twice, they have been penalized for not complying with the technical regulations that are very clear. But the statements of their team leader are a long shot. The letter that Ferrari sent to the FIA was not clandestine at all and, rightly, the FIA made it available to the sports commissioners who, in turn, showed it to Mclaren before the meeting that was to decide on the case. We asked the Federation for clarification on the application of the regulations. Ours was a clear and honest behavior".
For Schumacher, the accident at the start did nothing but fuel the already heated controversy about his maneuvers at the start. The Italian press is not soft in giving judgment to the German, now considered a thug of the steering wheel, that zigzagging from one side to the other of the track ends up hitting his opponents, without respect for those unwritten rules but in force among pilots that Coulthard had often referred to in previous weeks. The race commissioners did not penalize him or Fisichella, arguing that the accident was attributable to both. But the Roman pilot is not there, and protests:
"The race commissioners blamed it on me and him. So it was a race accident where neither of us had to be punished. But if you’d been in my car, you might have seen the way things turned out. It was like a truck on the highway suddenly exits on the overtaking lane and brakes in front of you suddenly".
Case closed? Hard to believe. Flavio Briatore declares with polemic:
"To say that Schumacher is right is a typical act of arrogance. Michael concerns himself with the start and then the dynamics. What did Fisichella have to do? When Schumacher tightened to the left, Giancarlo had two alternatives: go on the grass and slam against the wall, or continue on his trajectory".
In short, the responsibilities are reciprocal and the two drivers must share the responsibilities, but Schumacher himself does not even think about it, as can be seen from his statements after the race:
"I’m angry to say the least. Fisichella ran into me, then he apologized but that doesn’t help me much".
To the interviewer’s comment that others believe that he is the culprit, Schumacher replies:
"Here we go again, the accusation that I am guilty is schooling".
In other statements, Schumacher finally says:
"It’s the ones behind that have to be careful of the cars in front of them. Fisichella ran into me. I don’t see why I had to stop myself, he had to stop".
Among those who disagree with the German, there is also Niki Lauda, who enthusiastically commenting on Barrichello’s victory, says that Schumacher’s reaction to heat is normal, but that when he sees the film of the race well, You’ll see that he also had responsibilities. Beyond the controversy, Schumacher has to deal above all with a crisis of dangerous results, which has allowed Hakkinen and Coulthard to approach and not a little in the standings.
After the success in Canada in mid-June, Michael redeemed his retirement in Monte-Carlo and consolidated an undisputed leadership of twenty-two points over Coulthard and twenty-four points over Hakkinen. Then there were three more retirements, two of which were due to accidents at the start, and in the meantime, the two Mclaren standard-bearers were always on the podium. In Budapest, for the twelfth round of the World Championship 2000, Michael will have to answer a little to all, critics and opponents.
Davide Scotto di Vetta