2000 Belgian Grand Prix
|Race 13 of 17 in the 2000 Formula One season|
|Date||27 August 2000|
|Official name||LVIII Foster's Belgian Grand Prix|
|Location||Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, Stavelot, Belgium|
|Course||Permanent racing facility|
|Course length||6.968 km (4.330 mi)|
|Distance||44 laps, 306.592 km (190.507 mi)|
|Weather||Wet at start, drying, Air & track temperature; 15 °C (59 °F)|
|Time||1:53.803 on lap 30|
The 2000 Belgian Grand Prix (formally, the LVIII Foster's Belgian Grand Prix) was a Formula One motor race held on 27 August 2000 at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, Stavelot, Belgium. It was the thirteenth race of the 2000 Formula One season, and the 58th Belgian Grand Prix. The 44-lap race was won by McLaren driver Mika Häkkinen, who started from the pole position. Michael Schumacher finished second in a Ferrari, and Williams driver Ralf Schumacher was third.
The race began behind the safety car, and when the car returned to the pits Häkkinen built a comfortable lead over Jarno Trulli. As the track dried and his rivals made pit stops, Häkkinen maintained his lead until a lap-13 spin gave Michael Schumacher the lead for most of the remainder of the race. By the 34th lap Schumacher's tyres began to degrade; he drove off the racing line to cool them, which allowed Häkkinen to close the gap. On lap 41 Häkkinen overtook Michael Schumacher for the lead, lapping BAR driver Ricardo Zonta and maintaining the lead to win. Although Rubens Barrichello set the fastest lap time in the other Ferrari, he was hampered by a poor qualifying performance and retired with a fuel-pressure problem thirteen laps from the finish.
Häkkinen's victory extended his lead in the Drivers' Championship to six points over Michael Schumacher, with Coulthard a further seven points behind. Barrichello's retirement dropped him to twenty-five points behind Häkkinen. In the Constructors' Championship, McLaren extended their lead to eight points over Ferrari with four races remaining in the season.
The Grand Prix was contested by eleven teams with two drivers each. The teams (also known as constructors) were McLaren, Ferrari, Jordan, Jaguar, Williams, Benetton, Prost, Sauber, Arrows, Minardi and BAR. Tyre supplier Bridgestone brought four different tyre types to the race: two dry compounds (soft and medium) and two wet-weather compounds (hard and soft). The wet-weather tyres were introduced for the race weekend in response to prospective rival tyre supplier Michelin beginning their tyre-development program during the year, resulting in Bridgestone increasing their development rate to research advances.
Before the race McLaren driver Mika Häkkinen led the Drivers' Championship with 64 points, ahead of Michael Schumacher (62 points) and David Coulthard (58). Rubens Barrichello was fourth with 49 points, and Giancarlo Fisichella was fifth with 18. In the Constructors' Championship McLaren led with 112 points, one point ahead of rival Ferrari. Williams were third with 24 points, while Benetton (18 points) and Jordan (12) contended for fourth place. McLaren and Ferrari had dominated the championship, winning the previous twelve races. Barrichello and Fisichella had second-place finishes, and Ralf Schumacher and Heinz-Harald Frentzen had finished third.
After the Hungarian Grand Prix on 13 August, five teams conducted mid-season testing at the Silverstone Circuit on August 15–17. McLaren test driver Olivier Panis was fastest on the first day, ahead of Frentzen. Williams test driver Bruno Junqueira's car had a water leak, resulting in repairs which limited his team's testing time. Panis remained the fastest on the second day. Jos Verstappen's Arrows car had a sensor failure, limiting his team's testing time; the car's floor had to be removed to install a new sensor. Panis was again fastest on the final day of testing. Ferrari opted to test the suspension and tyres of Michael Schumacher's car at the Fiorano Circuit. Schumacher later moved to the Mugello Circuit, with Barrichello conducting engine and setup tests, and Ferrari test driver Luca Badoer remained at Fiorano for development work on new car components. Prost opted to test at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza on August 17–18 with driver Jean Alesi. Benetton conducted a five-day, one-car test at the Danielson Circuit, with test driver Mark Webber on aerodynamic development for the first four days and Alexander Wurz concentrating on practice starts the last day.
In September 1999 the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) released a provisional calendar for the 2000 season, dropping the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps from the Formula One World Championship due to Belgian tobacco-advertising laws which threatened to cancel the race; several teams had tobacco sponsorship. The FIA had the revived Dutch Grand Prix at the Circuit Park Zandvoort and the Portuguese Grand Prix at the Autódromo do Estoril as alternatives if the Belgian Grand Prix was cancelled. The dispute was resolved when the Belgian government exempted the race from the advertising law, and it was reinstated at the FIA World Motor Sport Council meeting in Paris on 6 October.
Before the race, Panis announced that he was moving to British American Racing for the 2001 season. Although BAR's management tried to persuade McLaren team principal Ron Dennis to release Panis to replace Ricardo Zonta, Dennis blocked the move and Panis would continue testing for McLaren until the end of the year; Panis' contract was confirmed ten days before the race. Benetton announced that Jenson Button would move from Williams to replace Wurz. Williams announced that Button was on loan to Benetton and still under contract to the team, maintaining the right to recall him for the 2003 or 2004 season. Mika Salo's management announced that he was moving to the new Toyota team as part of their testing program for 2001 before joining their racing team the following year. Salo later enabled a performance clause, allowing him to leave his current team (Sauber) at the end of the season. Ferrari arrived at the circuit with a lighter, more-powerful version of its Tipo 049 V10 engine with for Saturday's qualifying session, returning to the development power plant used at the Hungarian Grand Prix. They also had a revised aerodynamic package.
Practice and qualifying sessions
Four practice sessions were held before the Sunday race, two each on Friday and Saturday. The Friday morning and afternoon sessions each lasted an hour; the third and fourth sessions, on Saturday morning, lasted 45 minutes each. Conditions were dry for the Friday morning and afternoon practice sessions. Coulthard set the first session's fastest time with a lap of 1:53.398, eight-tenths of a second quicker than Michael Schumacher. Häkkinen had the third-fastest time, with Jarno Trulli, Barrichello and Jacques Villeneuve in the next three positions. The two Benetton drivers were seventh and eighth (with Wurz ahead of Fisichella), and the Williams cars of Ralf Schumacher and Button completed the top ten. Alesi's Prost had a fuel-pressure problem which prevented him from completing a timed lap, and he was the slowest overall. In the second practice session, due to a slow rear puncture Coulthard's first-session lap was still the fastest; Häkkinen had the second-fastest time. Jaguar driver Johnny Herbert changed his car's balance, improving its performance and finishing third-fastest. Villeneuve moved into fourth after changes to his car's setup; Michael Schumacher slipped to fifth, and Wurz finished sixth. Jos Verstappen was seventh-fastest, ahead of Fisichella, Barrichello and Trulli.
The weather remained dry for the Saturday-morning practice sessions. Häkkinen set the fastest lap of the third session at 1:51.043, quicker than his best on Friday and ahead of Frentzen, Trulli and Ralf Schumacher. Coulthard, who had an engine problem early in the session, was fifth-fastest (ahead of Button and Michael Schumacher). Alesi, Villeneuve and Sauber driver Nick Heidfeld rounded out the top ten. During the final practice session Häkkinen could not improve his time, although he remained the fastest. Button, much happier with his car's handling, set the second-fastest time. The Jordan drivers were third and fourth, with Trulli ahead of Frentzen. Ralf Schumacher and Coulthard completed the top six. Of the slower drivers, Marc Gené had an anxious moment when his Minardi car shed its engine cover but was able to return to his garage.
Saturday afternoon's qualifying session lasted for an hour. Each driver was limited to twelve laps, with the grid order decided by the drivers' fastest laps. During this session the 107% rule was in effect, requiring each driver to remain within 107% of the fastest lap time to qualify for the race. The session was held in dry weather, with the ambient temperature 25 °C (77 °F) and the track temperature 30 °C (86 °F). Häkkinen clinched his fifth pole position of the season and his third at the circuit, with a time of 1:50.646; although he was optimistic about his race prospects, he was concerned about the start. Häkkinen was joined in the front row of the grid by Trulli, who equalled his best qualifying performance of the season (at the Monaco Grand Prix). Trulli was also optimistic about his chances because of the Jordan team's strong record at the circuit. Button qualified third, and said he was happy with his starting position. Michael Schumacher secured fourth position, nine-tenths of a second behind Häkkinen, setting a lap time which pushed Häkkinen's teammate Coulthard into fifth. Coulthard, who had problems with grip, believed that he could have had a faster lap time. Ralf Schumacher secured sixth position after being caught in traffic during his final run, keeping the Williams driver from a quicker lap time. Villeneuve, in seventh, reported oversteering. Frentzen qualified eighth; his best lap time was disqualified after Coulthard blocked him at the Bus Stop chicane, which caused Frentzen to run onto the grass. Herbert and Barrichello rounded out the top ten drivers, with Barrichello spinning at the chicane during his third run after locking his brakes. Fisichella, eleventh, missed the top ten by three-tenths of a second on his only quick run of the session. Herbert's teammate, Eddie Irvine, qualified twelfth with tyre-grip problems. He was ahead of Zonta in the slower of the two BARs (which lost a half-second through Eau Rouge), Heidfeld in the faster Prost, Sauber's Pedro Diniz and Arrows driver Pedro de la Rosa. Alesi qualified 17th, despite spinning at the chicane and triggering a yellow flag. Salo qualified 18th, ahead of Wurz (who had engine problems and shared the spare Benetton monocoque with Fisichella). Verstappen and the two Minardi drivers qualified at the back of the grid, in positions 20 to 22.
The drivers took the track at 09:30 CEST (UTC+2) for a 30-minute warm-up in wet weather, with lap times slower than the previous days' practice and qualifying sessions. Häkkinen maintained his good performance, setting a time of 2:03.392. Michael Schumacher was the second-fastest driver; Button was third, two-thousands of a second behind Schumacher. Barrichello completed the top four, three-tenths of a second behind Häkkinen. Giancarlo Fisichella struck the barriers heavily at turn 14 after spinning sideways and was launched into the air, landing upside-down; the session was suspended while marshals cleared the track of debris. Fisichella sustained a bruised left knee, and was forced to start the race with his team's spare car. Jacques Villeneuve damaged his car's rear end in a crash later in the session, but was able to continue.
The race began at 14:00 local time, with air and track temperatures at 15 °C (59 °F); clouds, but no rain, were predicted for the race. Standing water on the track, causing heavy spray and impairing visibility, meant that the race would start behind the safety car; all cars except Pedro Diniz' had wet tyres. Minardi's Gastón Mazzacane started from the pit lane, since he changed to his team's spare car after his engine failed during the warm-up. The race began without a formation lap. During the safety-car period, Diniz spun off; he was passed by Pedro de la Rosa, who received a ten-second stop-go penalty which he served on lap 13. The safety car entered the pits after one lap, and the cars were allowed to overtake after crossing the start-finish line. Häkkinen maintained his lead going into the first corner, followed by Trulli, Button, Michael Schumacher and Coulthard. Herbert ran wide at the first turn, losing ninth place to Barrichello. At the end of the first racing lap, Diniz dropped to the rear of the field. De la Rosa lost 16th position on lap three after running wide at turn 18, losing two places to Alesi and Verstappen.
Häkkinen began to pull away from Trulli. Although Button tried to pass Trulli on the fourth lap at the Bus Stop chicane, he ran wide and lost third position to Michael Schumacher. On that lap, Alesi was the first driver to pit for dry tyres. By the beginning of the fifth lap Häkkinen increased his lead over Trulli to ten seconds, ahead of Michael Schumacher, Button and Coulthard. Schumacher took second place when Trulli ran wide at La Source on that lap. Button immediately trieed to pass Trulli on the outside, making contact with the Jordan driver. Trulli was sent into a spin, becoming the first retirement of the race. Button then lost two positions to Coulthard and Ralf Schumacher. On the next lap Michael and Ralf Schumacher were the first leaders to pit for dry tyres, as Alesi began setting faster lap times than the front-runners. Häkkinen pitted from the lead on lap seven, followed by Button, and re-emerged ahead of Coulthard to retain the lead. Coulthard made his pit stop on the following lap, re-emerging in ninth position.
All drivers made pit stops by the end of lap nine. The race order was Häkkinen, Michael Schumacher, Ralf Schumacher, Alesi, Button, Villeneuve, Barrichello, Frentzen, Coulthard, Diniz, Herbert, Irvine, Zonta, Salo, Gené, Verstappen, de la Rosa, Heidfeld, Wurz and Mazzacane. During that lap Barrichello overtook Frentzen for seventh, whilst Verstappen and Fisichella collided after the Arrows driver tried to pass the slowing Benetton at the Bus Stop chicane. Verstappen had front-wing damage, and Fisichella later retired with an electrical problem. By the beginning of lap 13, Michael Schumacher closed his gap from Häkkinen to about 4.6 seconds after four consecutive fastest laps. Later in the lap, Häkkinen touched a kerb at Stavelot corner and was sent spinning sideways into the grass; Michael Schumacher took the lead. Nick Heidfeld was the race's third retirement when his car developed a mechanical problem during that lap.
Alesi, the first front-runner to make a scheduled pit stop on lap 18, rejoined in tenth. During the next two laps Salo passed Irvine for twelfth, whilst Barrichello pitted from sixth position and came out in eleventh. By lap 22, Michael Schumacher had increased his lead over Häkkinen to eleven seconds. Ralf Schumacher, ten seconds behind Häkkinen, maintained a six-second gap over teammate Button. Michael Schumacher pitted on that lap, emerging in third position. On lap 23 Barrichello passed Herbert for ninth position, and during the next two laps Villeneuve and Ralf Schumacher pitted. Button pitted from fourth position on lap 26, and Häkkinen one lap later; Häkkinen was told by his team (on pit boards) to speed up to reduce the gap to Michael Schumacher, who had a heavier fuel load. Button dropped to eighth position, and Häkkinen came out behind Michael Schumacher. Frentzen and Coulthard made their pit stops together on lap 28, with Coulthard emerging ahead of Frentzen. On that lap, Barrichello passed Alesi for sixth position. Barrichello, setting the fastest lap of the race (1:53.803 on lap 30), had consecutive fastest laps before making his second pit stop on lap 31. However, his car's fuel pressure dropped and he was pushed by marshals into the pit lane. Barrichello and Alesi (who had a similar problem) retired, and Button inherited fourth place. Salo was the final scheduled driver to make a pit stop, on lap 33.
At the end of lap 34, after all scheduled pit stops, the running order was Michael Schumacher, Häkkinen, Ralf Schumacher, Button, Coulthard, Frentzen, Villeneuve, Herbert, Salo, Irvine, Diniz, Zonta, Wurz, Gene, Verstappen, de la Rosa and Mazzacane. During that lap Michael Schumacher's tyres began to degrade, and he ran off the racing line to cool them by driving through water; Häkkinen gradually closed the gap. Coulthard, fifth, passed Button for fourth position on lap 37. Häkkinen tried to pass Michael Schumacher for the lead on the 40th lap on the approach to Les Combes (after drafting behind him on the straightaway), but Schumacher blocked him to defend his position. The drivers made contact, with Häkkinen receiving minor damage to his front wing and forced to lift off the throttle. During the following lap, while both drivers were lapping Zonta, Häkkinen moved to the outside lane to pass Schumacher for the lead. He kept the lead for the rest of the race, crossing the finish line on lap 44 for his fourth victory of the season in a time of 1'28:14.494—an average speed of 129.535 miles per hour (208.466 km/h). Michael Schumacher finished second, 1.1 seconds behind Häkkinen and ahead of Ralf Schumacher in third, Coulthard in fourth, Button in fifth place. Frentzen rounded out the point-scoring positions in sixth. Villeneuve, Herbert, Salo, Irvine and Diniz filled the next five positions. Zonta, Wurz, Gené and Verstappen finished a lap behind the leader, with de la Rosa and Mazzacane the last classified finishers.
After the race
The top three drivers appeared on the podium to collect their trophies and at a later press conference. Häkkinen was delighted with his victory: "This was an incredible win. It was a very difficult and unusual situation including my spin which of course was not planned. The kerbs here are very slippery and once you go over one there is not much you can do. I was lucky to keep going and I was able to chase Michael. But the car got better and better." The driver added that he wanted to review his overtaking manoeuvre to see if Michael Schumacher performed an illegal move. Schumacher said that despite improvements to his car, he was unable to match Häkkinen's overall pace. He added that he experienced no problems running off-line to cool his tyres, and was happy to run behind backmarkers for straight-line speed assistance during the race's closing stages.
Ralf Schumacher said, "I'm more than happy; we have been strong here the whole weekend and my car behaved perfectly. I had a little moment of worry about six laps from the end when the throttle didn't seem to pick up properly and I thought the engine was going to stop, but it came back and all was well." Schumacher added that his team was confident of securing third in the Constructors' Championship; although he could not match Häkkinen's pace, he praised the team for his car's set-up. Coulthard was disappointed with his fourth-place finish, and thought his team's decision to call him into the pit lane after his competitors cost him the victory; however, he remained confident about his championship chances. Button was also disappointed to finish fifth: "It was a bad race for me, if not the worst. The car was working well at the start, but when I tried to pass Jarno I went in a bit late." Trulli refused to criticise Button after the race, believing that the Williams driver made a mistake. Fisichella and Verstappen felt similarly about their lap-nine collision, with Fisichella saying that he "felt sorry" for Verstappen and describing his weekend as "disastrous". Verstappen said that he struggled with his car's balance, which resulted in oversteer. He was "happy to go home", because "it's not been a good weekend." Frentzen said that although he was happy to score points, he had hoped for a better finish.
The media focused on Häkkinen overtaking Michael Schumacher for the lead on lap 41, and after the race Häkkinen went to Schumacher in the parc fermé and told him not to make a move like that again. Zonta later said that although he was unaware of Häkkinen's presence, he saw Schumacher in his mirrors. Derick Allsop of The Independent described the impact the move might have on Häkkinen's career: "Perhaps, he [Mika Häkkinen] will be recognised as a driver worthy of a place in the pantheon of the sport's heroes." According to McLaren team principal Ron Dennis, "His overtaking manoeuvre I'm sure will go down as one of the greatest in Formula One history", and in February 2001 Häkkinen's move was chosen by more than 60 Formula One historians as the MasterCard Priceless Moment of the 2000 F1 season.
The use of a safety car to start the race had a mixed response within the sport. Coulthard agreed with the FIA's decision: "I know there will be a debate over it but the fact is I was asked beforehand and I said that, based on the previous years we've had here, the safest thing is to have a safety-car start". He added that although the safety-car start eliminated overtaking, it also prevented a major accident. Ralf Schumacher also agreed with the decision to start under safety-car conditions. However, ITV commentator and former driver Martin Brundle felt that the track was not wet enough for a safety car. Journalist Nigel Roebuck said that the length of time under safety-car conditions was inadequate, and raised the possibility of abandoning standing starts. FIA race director Charlie Whiting consulted Coulthard, the drivers' representative, before making his decision.
After the race, Häkkinen remained in the Drivers' Championship lead with 74 points. Michael Schumacher was second with 68 points, seven points ahead of Coulthard and nineteen ahead of Barrichello. Ralf Schumacher passed Fisichella for fifth place with 20 points, and Frentzen moved ahead of teammate Trulli and Salo. In the Constructors' Championship, McLaren maintained their lead with 125 points and Ferrari remained in second with 117 points. Williams increased their lead over Benetton to twelve points, and Jordan remained fifth with 13 points. Given Häkkinen's increased lead, Michael Schumacher acknowledged that his team lacked speed against McLaren in the season's four remaining races but remained confident of winning the world championship.
Standings after the race
- Note: Only the top five positions are included for both sets of standings.
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