Michael Schumacher, Ferrari, Imola, 2000

Strategic superiority extends Schumacher’s winning streak

2000 San Marino Grand Prix flashback

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The scoreline after the first two races of 2000 read Schumacher 20, Hakkinen nil. The championship then returned to Europe for the meat of the season, with McLaren anxious to score their first point.

Of the upcoming 12 races, 11 would take place in continental Europe. At this point Azerbaijan wasn’t even in the Eurovision Song Contest.

The European tour traditionally started with the San Marino Grand Prix. This was held at Imola in Italy because San Marino is (a) tiny, and (b) bereft of international-standard racing circuits.

The popular Imola track was holding its fifth race since being substantially revised following the tragedies of 1994. By the standards of the time the circuit felt slightly neutered, though looking back on its 20 years later its high speeds and cramped confines contrast sharply with many current tracks.

2000 San Marino Grand Prix qualifying

McLaren’s failure to get on the score board over the first two races was even beginning to dent McLaren team principal Ron Dennis’s CBeebies-presenter levels of chirpiness. Notwithstanding mechanical woes, the McLaren still seemed to be the car to beat, particularly on single lap pace.

Mika Hakkinen, McLaren, Imola, 2000
Hakkinen scored another superb pole position
This was proved once again in qualifying where Hakkinen snatching pole position in superb fashion, despite a couple of small errors on his fastest lap. Michael Schumacher shared the front row, just 0.091s adrift.

Their team mates lined up next, David Coulthard a couple of tenths clear of Barrichello. Ralf Schumacher put his Williams fifth but rookie team mate Jenson Button struggled over Imola’s distinctive kerbs and was 18th.

Having resolved the wing failures which forced them to withdraw from Brazil, Sauber were in much better shape at Imola, and Pedro Diniz impressively qualified 10th. Benetton, however, were struggling. Giancarlo Fisichella, who arrived at his first of two home races second in the championship, was barely clear of the Minardis in 19th, eight places behind team mate Alexander Wurz.

1Mika HakkinenMcLaren1’24.714
2Michael SchumacherFerrari1’24.805
3David CoulthardMcLaren1’25.014
4Rubens BarrichelloFerrari1’25.242
5Ralf SchumacherWilliams1’25.871
6Heinz-Harald FrentzenJordan1’25.892
7Eddie IrvineJaguar1’25.929
8Jarno TrulliJordan1’26.002
9Jacques VilleneuveBAR1’26.124
10Pedro DinizSauber1’26.238
11Alexander WurzBenetton1’26.281
12Mika SaloSauber1’26.336
13Pedro de la RosaArrows1’26.349
14Ricardo ZontaBAR1’26.814
15Jean AlesiProst1’26.824
16Jos VerstappenArrows1’26.845
17Johnny HerbertJaguar1’27.051
18Jenson ButtonWilliams1’27.135
19Giancarlo FisichellaBenetton1’27.253
20Gaston MazzacaneMinardi1’28.231
21Marc GeneMinardi1’28.333
22Nick HeidfeldProst1’28.361

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2000 San Marino Grand Prix

Michael Schumacher, Ferrari, Imola
Schumacher jumped ahead of Hakkinen on lap 45
Hakkinen got away cleanly from pole position but Schumacher bogged down with “massive wheelspin”. Anxious to keep Coulthard behind, the Ferrari driver carved up his rival, delaying the McLaren as they turned through Tamburello for the first time. That allowed Barrichello to pass the McLaren.

Behind them Jacques Villeneuve made a superb start, taking four cars off the line to slot in fifth ahead of Jarno Trulli’s Jordan.

The early shuffling allowed Hakkinen and Schumacher to get a jump on the field, and crucially for this first time this season the McLaren was set to go the distance. However, in this era of fuel strategies it wasn’t just on-track pace that would make the difference. The first phase of the race saw Hakkinen easing away from Schumacher, with Barrichello in third from Coulthard.

McLaren’s attempt to free Coulthard from behind Barrichello by pitting him early did not pay off – the Ferrari driver kept hold of third place. Meanwhile a longer pit stop for Schumacher allowed Hakkinen to build a lead of almost six seconds by the time the first round of stops had completed.

The McLaren continued to pull clear of the Ferrari, but an electronics glitch cost Hakkinen a couple of seconds. At roughly the same time Schumacher had a scare whilst trying to lap Diniz who tried a bit too hard to get out of the way.

Ralf Schumacher, Williams, Imola, 2000
The other Schumacher qualified fifth but didn’t finish
The second round of pit stops that proved crucial. Despite Hakkinen at one point having an over five second lead over Schumacher, the McLaren’s mid-race stint was short, allowing the Ferrari an additional four laps at low fuel pace. This, plus slick work from the Ferrari mechanics, was enough for Schumacher to emerge in the lead for the final phase of the race. McLaren fared better with their second stop for Coulthard, which finally got him ahead of Barrichello.

In the closing stages Hakkinen was able to close up on Schumacher, but with it being a treasonable offence in Italy to pass a Ferrari for the lead of the race, he had to settle for second.

Behind the leading quarter the race was one of attrition. Frentzen fell by the wayside with Jordan’s increasingly familiar gearbox problems, and a loss of fuel pressure sidelined Ralf Schumacher’s Williams.

Eddie Irvine lost out on a points finish after accidentally engaging his speed limiter button. There was a great battle for the remaining points, Villenueve benefitting from his flying start to finish fifth despite a spirited effort from a charging Salo.

Imola, 2000
Ferrari’s fans enjoyed a great start to the season
Both Prosts retired early on again: The team looked increasingly set to bank significant savings by booking Heidfeld and Alesi to mid-afternoon flights home for the remainder of the season. It didn’t get much better for the Benettons on race day with Wurz and Fisichella finishing ninth and 11th respectively.

As a result three races into the season Schumacher was still on a maximum haul of 30 points, whilst reigning champion Hakkinen had just six points for efforts, despite stellar qualifying pace.

However McLaren had finally proved they had reliability to go with their speed. Was a little more strategic sharpness all they needed to start winning? Dennis maintained the race hadn’t been lost in the pits, but on the track, when Hakkinen suffered his power loss, and a broken floor cost him more time.

At least the battle was now joined between the two drivers who were expected to fight for the title. But the championship was about to take an unexpected turn at Silverstone – in April. What could possibly go wrong?

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2000 San Marino Grand Prix result

PositionDriverTeamLapsTime / laps / reason
1Michael SchumacherFerrari621:31’39.776
2Mika HakkinenMcLaren62+1.168
3David CoulthardMcLaren62+51.008
4Rubens BarrichelloFerrari62+29.276
5Jacques VilleneuveBAR61+1 lap
6Mika SaloSauber61+1 lap
7Eddie IrvineJaguar61+1 lap
8Pedro DinizSauber61+1 lap
9Alexander WurzBenetton61+1 lap
10Johnny HerbertJaguar61+1 lap
11Giancarlo FisichellaBenetton61+1 lap
12Ricardo ZontaBAR61+1 lap
13Gaston MazzacaneMinardi60+2 laps
14Jos VerstappenArrows59+3 laps
15Jarno TrulliJordan58Gearbox
16Pedro de la RosaArrows49Spun off
17Ralf SchumacherWilliams45Fuel system
18Jean AlesiProst25Hydraulics
19Nick HeidfeldProst22Hydraulics
20Jenson ButtonWilliams5Engine
21Marc GeneMinardi5Spun off
22Heinz-Harald FrentzenJordan4Gearbox

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2000 San Marino Grand Prix championship standings

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Ben Evans
Motorsport commentator Ben is RaceFans' resident bookworm. Look out for his verdict on the latest motor racing publications on Sundays....

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10 comments on “Strategic superiority extends Schumacher’s winning streak”

  1. I love this series, it makes me miss Formula One even more. I seem to be among a minority who really couldn’t care less about eSports (for me the word “sport” is very much in air quotes there!), so this kind of article transports me back to some proper racing! Thank you.

    This was one of the first seasons I was old enough to really remember and the next race at Silverstone was the first one I ever went to. I was absolutely obsessed with Formula One and spent my whole time scrap-booking from newspaper trimmings, playing Grand Prix 2 on my terrible, chunky computer and writing to teams in the hopes of autographs from the drivers. Very fond memories!

    1. Ah yes. I used to cycle to all the car dealers hoping for motorsport posters or leaflets.

      Despite having taken part in esports for years I don’t regard it as an actual sport, it’s not in the real world, experiencing the forces and physics of life. Or indeed, risking my life.

    2. @ben-n I’m with you all the way. However I’d like to think that we arr not in the minority. If you compared the viewing figures of actual races compared to virtual ones I’m sure we’d see who the true minority are.

      F1 and the sponsors want to give a big profile to computer game races (for that is what they are) and I totally get why this site and others so the same – they all need the exposure and the eyeballs. So it’s a vocal minority against the silent majority.

      I much prefer watching the re-runs of classic races on YouTube (Monaco ’96 last week, Jerez’ 97 this) compared to watching a computer game broadcast. No thanks.

      Oh and yes GP2 was a fantastic game, good times!

  2. Nice Keith, keep ’em coming. The 2000 season is a ripper…

  3. Really enjoying this series. 2000 was the year I started watching F1 at six years of age. I can still remember cheering on Hakkinen at Spa with my family. And I believe I still have an audio tape at home on which I recorded my own race report!

    Reading about 2000 makes me very nostalgic. It’s rose-tinted glasses, but it seems so iconic, pure and perfect. The cars look wonderful as well.

  4. IIRC…in 1999 Hakkinen rode the wind and was a true champ indeed. But come 2000, he made a real meal of defending his title, even after Schum’s challenge expired early with a broken leg. Very early on the British press started hounding him to please play second fiddle to DC, who dreamed of taking over as McLaren no1.
    Up against Eddie The Irvine, Mika almost crumbled. We all remember the crying in the woods episode.

    But Eddie was not destined for greatness, and in spite of everything Mika made double champ. He is still wondering how he did it.

    1. 1999 Schumacher broke his leg. 2000 Schumacher won with the second best car. Probably his greatest triumph.

    2. Häkkinen was good in 1998, but very inconsistent in 1999, which almost cost him the title. Coulthard was even worse, though. He ran Häkkinen off the road in Austria and then somehow managed to lose the race to Irvine. Still he was a title contender until poor reliability and appalling driver errors took him out.
      In 2000 Coulthard was much better and he outperformed Häkkinen in many races in the first half of the season. For some reason, he then faded away badly later in the season, so the title battle was once again between Häkkinen and Schumacher. Häkkinen lost the battle and went on to retire after a horrible 2001 campaign.

  5. All these articles (which I’m really enjoying) have made reference to Ron Dennis being chipper and happy, it’s something I don’t remember at all. I can only ever remember him being generally miserable even when they won races. Was he really happy back then?

Comments are closed.