Hakkinen acquires greatness in one move

Belgian Grand Prix: Finn produces 'best ever manoeuvre' to pass Schumacher and secure victory that puts third successive world title in sight

Formula One has grudgingly acknowledged Mika Hakkinen as world champion these past two years but now, perhaps, he will be recognised as a driver worthy of a place in the pantheon of the sport's heroes.

Formula One has grudgingly acknowledged Mika Hakkinen as world champion these past two years but now, perhaps, he will be recognised as a driver worthy of a place in the pantheon of the sport's heroes.

The Finn's image has been forged by statistics rather than the courage and flamboyance of his driving, the gauge of a genuine people's champion. Until yesterday. Hakkinen's wondrous overtaking manoeuvre to suppress Michael Schumacher and win the Belgian Grand Prix have assured him of a new, exhorted status that even a third consecutive world championship will not enhance.

Schumacher sets the standards for them all and here, on the most awesome circuit of the all, the German attempted to regain the lead in the championship with characteristic aggression. Some, yet again, would say he was over aggressive in his ultimately vain defiance of the palpable quicker McLaren-Mercedes.

However, Hakkinen retained his nerve and determination to improvise with an extraordinary pass at more than 200mph, three laps from the end, which settled the race and had the McLaren team principal, Ron Dennis, acclaiming it as "the best ever manoeuvre in grand prix racing".

A lap after the Ferrari blocked the McLaren's path and the two cars brushed, both drivers braced themselves for another duel on the long climb out of Eau Rouge. This time they had a back marker, Ricardo Zonta, between them and the next corner.

Schumacher felt the presence of the BAR-Honda would help him fend off Hakkinen again and moved to the left of the Brazilian's car. But, to the surprise of Schumacher and the alarm of Zonta, Hakkinen thrust his McLaren to the right side of the road. Hakkinen came out ahead of both the other cars and held his lead into the rapidly approaching chicane. Once he had negotiated that he, and Schumacher, knew the race was over.

It is too early to say the championship is over also. With four races to go anything can happen. And yet there was scant conviction in Schumacher's voice. He is six points behind Hakkinen and more importantly his familiar adversary has struck a potentially devastating psychological blow here.

McLaren's other driver, David Coulthard, could manage no better than fourth place, behind Ralf Schumacher, in a Williams-BMW, after losing precious time in the confusion of the pit-stops as the track dried. Jenson Button, the 20-year-old British driver, was fifth in the other Williams and Heinz-Harald Frentzen claimed the final point for Jordan-Mugen-Honda.

Hakkinen, holding on to pole position after starting behind the safety car, yielded his advantage to Schumacher senior when he spun off a wet kerb on the 13th lap. Schumacher built a seemingly commanding lead but after his scheduled pit-stop he found Hakkinen on his tail.

Schumacher had used the wet side of the track to help cool his tyres but had no time for such thoughts as Hakkinen attacked on lap 40. Schumacher inched across and Hakkinen narrowly averted a potentially serious collision. Next time round he took Schumacher and the manner of his triumph made it all the more satisfying.

Hakkinen said: "It was incredible, and very difficult. I knew Michael was not going to give me much room and when I tried to overtake him the first time his car was too wide so I had to go plan B. Being behind the back-marker gave me an extra tow. Michael went left and lost his tow so I had more momentum and went inside Zonta.

"What happened on the previous lap was something weird but at the moment I am cool. I am not sure if we touched but my car moved violently. In situations like this emotions can be high and you can react without thinking. So it's better to look at the video in slow motion and understand what happened before saying any more."

Hakkinen and Schumacher were locked in earnest discussion at the end of the race and the Finn's hand movements suggested he was re-enacting the earlier attempt to overtake. Neither driver would reveal what was said but Schumacher defended his action.

The German said: "I moved from left to right but I honestly thought the move was okay. As Mika says, you have to look at the video to be say if it is any different. I tried my best but it was not enough. When Mika got me it was an outstanding manoeuvre and not one I expected. But I got six points and the championship is still alive."

Zonta, the man caught in the middle of the decisive manoeuvre, said: "I was at full speed and didn't know there were two cars behind me. I moved over for Michael and fortunately didn't move too far to the right because suddenly a McLaren was there and it shot passed me. It was a bit dangerous but an incredible move."

Dennis's admiration of Hakkinen was tempered by his transparent disapproval of Schumacher's driving tactics. Dennis said: "It was the best ever manoeuvre in grand prix racing. Mika was on the wet part of the track and it required commitment and bravery. He also had to keep the right line to the first corner. But I thought what happened on the lap before was on the limit. To say anything else is inappropriate. Others may go further but I'm not going to get involved in a war of words. At the same time I am not going to ignore it."

Dennis made no attempt to ignore the delay that cost Coulthard any chance of third place. Instead of bringing in both cars together the Scot had to make another lap of the circuit. Dennis said: "It's difficult in a situation like that because you can lose time changing the fuel nozzle. With hindsight we can say it was the wrong decision. But I'd be surprised if any analysis showed David would have finished better than third."

Coulthard said: "I've not benefited from any of these calls. I don't think it's deliberate action but it's left me with fewer points than I should have. It's clear as day it would have been better for me to come in with Mika."

Jaguar's Johnny Herbert was eighth and his team-mate, Eddie Irvine, 10th.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Starting the day with a three-egg omelette could make people more charitable, according to new research
science
News
Top Gun actor Val Kilmer lost his small claims court battle in Van Nuys with the landlord of his Malibu mansion to get back his deposit after wallpapering over the kitchen cabinets
people
News
Comedian Ted Robbins collapsed on stage during a performance of Phoenix Nights Live at Manchester Arena (Rex)
people
News
The actress Geraldine McEwan was perhaps best known for playing Agatha Christie's detective, Miss Marple (Rex)
peopleShe won a Bafta in 1991 for her role in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
News
newsPatrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
News
Robert Fraser, aka Groovy Bob
peopleA new show honours Robert Fraser, one of the era's forgotten players
Life and Style
Torsten Sherwood's Noook is a simple construction toy for creating mini-architecture
tech
Sport
David Silva celebrates with Sergio Aguero after equalising against Chelsea
footballChelsea 1 Manchester City 1
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links