Barrichello takes maiden win as Mercedes protester disrupts race

2000 German Grand Prix flashback

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Michael Schumacher’s push to become Ferrari’s first drivers’ champion for more than two decade was coming under severe pressure as the championship returned to Germany for his second home race.

Reigning champion Mika Hakkinen had been back to his best at the previous round in Austria, winning comfortably. Schumacher had retired in a first-lap crash, but surely lightning wouldn’t strike twice at the Hockenheimring…

In 2000 Hockenheim’s circuit was still a terrifying, high-speed blast through the trees known for eventful races punctuated by the occasional expiring engine rather than outright exciting grands prix. But the unique layout added variety to the calendar; the new configuration introduced two years later has never inspired in quite the same way.

The German fans had lots of home talent to cheer for. As well as the Schumacher pair – Michael and Ralf – Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Nick Heidfeld were also in the field. Two German engine supplies were competing at the sharp end too: BMW and Williams, and the mighty McLaren-Mercedes. But as it would turn out, at least one spectator was determined not to see a Mercedes triumph.

In the title fight Schumacher was six points clear of David Coulthard, with Hakkinen just a further two behind. With just seven races left, points were getting scarce, and a title fight which had seemed a foregone conclusion had tightened up.

Elsewhere in the field Eddie Irvine was back in the Jaguar having recovered from a swollen intestine, and Jordan were finally able to introduce their updated car the EJ10B following successful crash testing.

Once again changeable weather was the order of the day for the practice sessions, with three of the four practice periods hampered by damp conditions. The main drama came at the very end of the practice periods when Schumacher crashed and had to switch to the spare Ferrari for qualifying.

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2000 German Grand Prix qualifying

Coulthard took pole by over a second
The tricky conditions continued into the grid-setting hour with intermittent showers keeping the track consistently damp. Coulthard claimed an impressive pole position, his second of the season, a whopping 1.3 seconds clear of Schumacher.

Surprisingly, Giancarlo Fisichella put him Benetton in among the McLarens and Ferraris, edging out Hakkinen by three hundredths of a second. Just as surprising was Pedro de la Rosa’s Arrows in fifth place, a whole two seconds adrift of Coulthard, sharing the third row with Jarno Trulli in the first of the Jordans.

Down in 18th place and seemingly out of contention before the race had even started was Rubens Barrichello’s Ferrari. He had been forced to use Schumacher’s car due to mechanical problems.

Grid

PositionDriverTeamTime
1David CoulthardMcLaren1’45.697
2Michael SchumacherFerrari1’47.063
3Giancarlo FisichellaBenetton1’47.130
4Mika HakkinenMcLaren1’47.162
5Pedro de la RosaArrows1’47.786
6Jarno TrulliJordan1’47.833
7Alexander WurzBenetton1’48.037
8Johnny HerbertJaguar1’48.078
9Jacques VilleneuveBAR1’48.121
10Eddie IrvineJaguar1’48.305
11Jos VerstappenArrows1’48.321
12Ricardo ZontaBAR1’48.665
13Nick HeidfeldProst1’48.690
14Ralf SchumacherWilliams1’48.841
15Mika SaloSauber1’49.204
16Jenson ButtonWilliams1’49.215
17Heinz-Harald FrentzenJordan1’49.280
18Rubens BarrichelloFerrari1’49.544
19Pedro DinizSauber1’49.936
20Jean AlesiProst1’50.289
21Gaston MazzacaneMinardi1’51.611
22Marc GeneMinardi1’53.094

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2000 German Grand Prix

Schumacher’s race was over early – again
Race day dawned bright but the forecast suggested things would change during the race. Barrichello gained a place early on as Jenson Button failed to get away from 16th place on the formation lap, forcing him to start from the back of the grid.

As the lights went out Hakkinen made a flying start, clearing both Coulthard and Schumacher into turn one. Approaching the first corner the Ferrari pilot moved across to reclaim the racing line, but failed to realise Fisichella was still alongside him.

The Benetton and Ferrari tangled, putting both drivers into the tyre wall and out of the race. This was a disaster for Schumacher – the second time in as many races that he’d not made it through turn one. Now the McLaren pair had a clear shot at the race win and championship lead.

Trulli’s Jordan led the chase of the McLaren drivers. Further back, Barrichello was the big winner on the opening lap, moving up to 10th. By lap five Ferrari power had motored him up to sixth place.

By then Jos Verstappen’s engine cover had made a bid for freedom, putting him out. The next retirement was Johnny Herbert whose Jaguar suffered gearbox failure on lap 13.

At the front of the pack thoughts were starting to turn to strategy, with Barrichello and Frentzen making stops on laps 17 and 18 respectively. The Ferrari driver’s early visit indicated he was running light to ease his passage through the field, though it would inevitably put him at a disadvantage on a track where a one-stop strategy was de rigeur.

Meanwhile the McLarens were busy pulling clear of the field, with Hakkinen 1.4s up on Coulthard, but the pair of them some 22s up the road from Trulli in third. As the halfway point in the race approached, the silver cars looked on course to give German power a one-two at home.

But on lap 25 came an unexpected shock which dramatically changed the complexion of the race. Robert Sehli, a disgruntled former Mercedes employee, ran onto the circuit in a protest to draw attention to his unfair dismissal (the courts eventually agreed with Sehli, awarding him 91,000 Francs compensation in December that year, which would have helped with the fine his track invasion caused).

If his target was Mercedes, it couldn’t have been better timed. His interference prompted the deployment of the Safety Car, which wiped out the McLarens’ lead and handed Barrichello what was effectively a free pit stop. He was now third behind Hakkinen and Coulthard.

As the safety car disappeared everything kicked off; Ralf Schumacher spun out, whilst Jean Alesi and Pedro Diniz had one of the more spectacular collisions of the season, prompting the re-emergence of the safety car.

No sooner had the Safety Car gone in than the rain arrived causing another flurry of stops in the pits. BAR team mates Villenueve and Zonta contrived to hit each other.

Not everyone headed for the pits, however. Barrichello stayed on his grooved, dry-weather rubber and found just enough traction. As the McLaren pair stopped for wet-weather tyres, the driver who had started 18th rose into a remarkable lead.

Barrichello was a popular winner
With just a handful of laps to run the Brazilian stretched his lead to take a popular maiden victory, and achieving unlikely damage limitation for Ferrari. Behind him, Hakkinen led home team-mate Coulthard, leaving the pair level on points, and two adrift of Schumacher.

Button was another driver who starred in the slippery conditions, claiming the best result of his rookie season so far with fourth place. Mika Salo and de la Rosa were the final points-scorers.

While Barrichello celebrated, it was a tough day for his team mate. Schumacher was left counting the cost of another disastrous first lap. His championship lead was now under serious threat.

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2000 German Grand Prix result

PositionDriverTeamLapsTime / laps / reason
1Rubens BarrichelloFerrari451:25’34.418
2Mika HakkinenMcLaren45+7.452
3David CoulthardMcLaren45+21.168
4Jenson ButtonWilliams45+22.685
5Mika SaloSauber45+27.112
6Pedro de la RosaArrows45+29.080
7Ralf SchumacherWilliams45+30.898
8Jacques VilleneuveBAR45+47.537
9Jarno TrulliJordan45+50.901
10Eddie IrvineJaguar45+19.664
11Gaston MazzacaneMinardi45+29.504
12Nick HeidfeldProst40Alternator
13Heinz-Harald FrentzenJordan39Gearbox
14Jos VerstappenArrows39Accident
15Ricardo ZontaBAR37Accident
16Marc GeneMinardi33Engine
17Alexander WurzBenetton31Electrical
18Pedro DinizSauber29Accident
19Jean AlesiProst29Accident
20Johnny HerbertJaguar12Gearbox
21Michael SchumacherFerrari0Accident
22Giancarlo FisichellaBenetton0Accident

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2000 German 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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13 comments on “Barrichello takes maiden win as Mercedes protester disrupts race”

  1. That rain shower in the closing stages was quite something.

    1. Jonathan Parkin
      30th July 2020, 16:59

      Barrichello staying out on dry tyres was something else! The only driver to date to win a race from 18th place

      1. He was losing chunks of time in that sector with rain while gaining on rest of track. In the end staying on dry was the right choice.

  2. A former Mercedes employee deliberately caused the entry of the Safety Car when McLaren-Mercedes was about to get a 1-2. I wonder what the reactions would be if such a thing happened nowadays.

    1. “Nico could you get off the track please”

  3. I wonder if he is still alive. That wee protester achieved mention status in F1 history for a stunt that lasted less than a minute.
    His kilt has been acquired by the US Museum of F1 History in Texas.

    1. Different incident. The kilt was the “lunatic” running onto the track during the 2003 British GP.

  4. Wait a second it’s Silverstone this weekend and I find something confusing.
    Didn’t something happen like this at Silverstone a few races back?? You think you’d remember it happening. But at Germany? I have no recollection of this and admit the confusion. Someone set the story for me please.

    1. 2003 Silverstone GP was 2nd such protest.

    2. I remember that race so well – my first live grand prix. Fantastic race. I remember the ensuing safety car left Toyota (in their second season) running first and second with da Matta and Panis. A crazy grand prix!

  5. For some reason, in late 1990s and early 2000s McLaren often refused to pit their drivers on the same lap in case of emergency situation and this was one of them. Häkkinen came in first as the leading driver but Coulthard had to go around for another lap, catch safety car and lose positions as he made the stop after already being slower than the rest during the SC. Basically same happened in Canada 1999, Brazil 2003 and Canada 2005 as well as weather-affected races in Belgium 2000 and Britain 2002.

    Montoya’s black flag in Canada finally seemed the team to understand it’s better to have other driver queue behind than go for another lap.

  6. I remember watching this with my dad in a bar in corfu. They had German TV with BBC radio 5 commentary so every time there was an ad break we could still follow what was happening. It’s funny how you remember weird details like that when the race itself is memorable. 2000 had some pretty great ones.

  7. Personally, I think it’s one of the most entertaining races in F1 history. Half the track was wet, half the track was dry. Barrichello would gain something like 4 seconds in the dry section only to then lose it in the wets section; every lap.

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