Hakkinen leads McLaren one-two in Spain

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The Independent Online

Mika Hakkinen of McLaren Mercedes won his third straight Spanish Grand Prix, taking advantage of tyre problems a slow pit stop by Ferrari's Michael Schumacher to claim his first Formula One victory of the season.

Hakkinen's teammate David Coulthard was second, completing the third straight 1-2 finish by McLaren in the Barcelona race. Ferrari's Rubens Barrichello was third followed by Ralf Schumacher of Williams, season points leader Michael Schumacher and Jordan's Heinz-Harald Frentzen.

Michael Schumacher led from the pole in a tight battle with Hakkinen, but wasted 17.5 seconds on a pit stop after 41 laps when his car seemed to have trouble taking on fuel. Hakkinen also pitted after 41 laps, but was out in 6.4 seconds and never gave up the lead.

It was Hakkinen's 15th career win and his first in the fifth race of the season. It pulled the two-time defending champion to within 14 points of Schumacher, who won the first three races this season. Schumacher has 36 points to 22 for Hakkinen and 20 for Coulthard.

Hakkinen won in 1 hour 33 minutes 55.390 seconds at an average speed of 196.324 kph (121.990 mph).

It was Hakkinen's first win since the final race of '99, when he won the world title taking the Japanese Grand Prix. He also got good news when organizers announced Sunday the Spanish Grand Prix will be run on this track through 2006.

"It feel like it has been a really long time since the last win," Hakkinen said. "I don't know how I can explain it how pleased I am. I'm just over the moon."

"It's a long way to the end of the season and anything can happen and today was a good example," he added, praising his pit crew. "The boys did an amazing job today, it was just tremendous."

Hakkinen called the race a turning point in the chase to catch Schumacher, just like it was a year ago.

"This week I have learned much more about this car. I feel much more confident now ... and for the rest of the season I understand much more about the car, and the reliability was excellent."

Schumacher, unlike the McLarens' two stops, pitted three times. On the first stop, chief mechanic Nigel Stepney was injured when the Ferrari pulled away as the fueling hose was being removed, knocking him to the ground.

The injury did not seem serious but it may have caused Schumacher's problems on his second stop. On his third he stopped 5.9 seconds for new tires, apparently troubled with a hard compound that was slowing the car.

After winning the first three GPs and threatening to end the season title race by mid summer, Schumacher has finished third and fifth in the last two as McLaren has revitalized it chances.

Schumacher and Hakkinen, the first two on the grid, battled through the first 41 of the 65-lap race with Schumacher never ahead by more than 3.5 seconds as they pulled away from the rest of the field. Hakkinen won by 16 seconds over Coulthard and was 29.1 seconds ahead of No. 3 Barrichello.

Coulthard, on a warm, sunny day, showed no ill effects after escaping from a jet plane crash on Tuesday in Lyon, France, that killed the pilot and copilot. He suffered badly bruised ribs on both sides.

"It was good to get in the car, drive, do my job," Coulthard said. "This is the best thing that can happen for the team and myself to come away from here with maximum points."

Schumacher, the two-time series champion, had everything going for him: the pole position and a great record at the Catalunya circuit in northeastern Spain. And the 31-year-old German also had the quickest time in Sunday's early warmup.

In nine races in Spain, he has won twice ('95 and '96), been second twice, third three times and also has a fourth and sixth place.

Off the track, Arrows driver Pedro de la Rosa qualified ninth on Saturday but was subsequently disqualified for allegedly using illegal fuel and pushed back to the last (22nd) place on the grid.

Arrows appealed the decision and De la Rosa was allowed to start in his original ninth position. Two hours before race time, however, Arrows withdrew the appeal forcing De la Rosa to the back of the grid.

Arrows admitted the fuel had a "minor contamination problem" and did not match the approved sample submitted before the race.

De la Rosa had mechanical problems and went out on only the second lap.

RESULT

1. Mika Hakkinen (Finland) McLaren one hour 33 minutes 55.390 seconds (average speed 196.324 kph) 2. David Coulthard (Britain) McLaren 16.066 seconds behind 3. Rubens Barrichello (Brazil) Ferrari 29.112 behind 4. Ralf Schumacher (Germany) Williams 37.311 behind 5. Michael Schumacher (Germany) Ferrari 47.983 behind 6. Heinz-Harald Frentzen (Germany) Jordan 81.925 behind 7. Mika Salo (Finland) Sauber one lap behind 8. Ricrado Zonta (Brazil) BAR one lap behind 9. Giancarlo Fisichella (Italy) Benetton one lap behind 10. Alexander Wurz (Austria) Benetton one lap behind 11. Eddie Irvine (Britain) Jaguar one lap behind 12. Jarno Trulli (Italy) Jordan one lap behind 13. Johnny Herbert (Britain) Jaguar one lap behind 14. Marc Gene (Spain) Minardi two laps behind 15. Gaston Mazzacane (Argentina) Minardi two laps behind 16. Nick Heidfeld (Germany) Prost three laps behind 17. Jenson Button (Britain) Williams four laps behind Not classified (Did not finish) Jos Verstappen (Netherlands) Arrows 25 laps completed Jacques Villenueve (Canada) BAR 21 laps completed Pedro De La Rosa (Spain) Arrows one lap completed Jean Alesi (France) Prost one lap completed Did not start (failed to complete first lap) Pedro Diniz (Brazil) Sauber

STANDINGS

Drivers' championship: 1. Michael Schumacher (Germany) Ferrari 36 points 2. Mika Hakkinen (Finland) McLaren 22 3. David Coulthard (Britain) McLaren 20 4. Rubens Barrichello (Brazil) Ferrari 13 5. Ralf Schumacher (Germany) Williams 12 6. Giancarlo Fisichella (Italy) Benetton 8 7= Jacques Villeneuve (Canada) BAR 5 7= Heinz-Harald Frentzen (Germany) Jordan 5 9. Jarno Trulli (Italy) Jordan 4 10. Jenson Button (Britain) Williams 3 11= Ricardo Zonta (Brazil) BAR 1 11= Mika Salo (Finland) Sauber 1

Constructors' championship: 1. Ferrari 49 points 2. McLaren 42 3. Williams 15 4. Jordan 9 5. Benetton 8 6. BAR 6 7. Sauber 1

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