Hockenheim 2000, F1 GP of Germany. The race through jpoc's eyes.
My ticket was for the Nordtribune, just on the exit from the first corner and directly opposite the pit lane exit. This was to prove to be an excellent place to watch the incidents of this particular race. As the cars moved away on the parade lap, Jensen Button had a problem getting started and he was forced to start from the back of the grid.
That meant that Barrichello, Frentzen and Button would be in three fast cars starting from the back so there was plenty of potential for an interesting race.
From my seat, it was just possible to see one of the lights on the start gantry and a few seconds after the red light went out, the cars appeared heading for the first corner. As the leading McLarens of Hakkinnen and Coulthard turned into the first corner, a puff of blue smoke from the back of Schumacher's Ferrari gave the first warning that he had hit something and moments later the Ferrari and Fisichella's Benneton were sliding out of the race right in front of us.
As far as I could see, I was the only spectator in the Nordtribune not wearing Ferrari red. and there were an awful lot of very unhappy Schumi fans all around me.
While all of this was going on, Barrichello was making an incredible start. By the time that his team leader had crashed, he had already passed two cars and he took another two round the first corner. So, that was six places made up in the first few seconds of the race.
After that, the second Ferrari put in a performance which was clearly the finest race drive since Ayrton Senna at Donnington Park in the 1993 European G.P.
For the first part of the race, every time that the red car came past us it was in front of the car that it had been following on the previous lap.
Rubens carved his way up through the field dismissing the Jaguars, Arrows, BARs etc with ease. Deprived of their hero, the Schumacher fans were happily cheering every move that Barrichello made.
Having dealt with everyone else, the big question arose at the end of the race. What could the Brazilian do about the two McLarens? The answer came with the rain. Both Mclarens and, indeed, most of the other cars on the track stopped for wet weather tyres. Although the Ferrari team prepared a set of rain tyres for their car, Barrichello did not enter the pit road. He stayed out on dry tyres.
Of course, that put him ahead of the McLarens but would it last? On a wet track, could he lap fast enough to prevent Hakkinnen from catching him and overtaking? If he tried to drive fast enough, would he be able to control the car with dry tyres on a wet track?
One view of the end of the race is to say that Barrichello and his team won just because they made the right choice through luck or good judgement of the conditions. I'd add two other points to this. Remember the mess that Hakkinnen made of the wet conditions in the the 1999 British GP at Silverstone and then ask if the Finn could have kept his car on the road had he stuck to dry tyres. Then consider that almost every other driver came close to crashing in front of me in the rain. Most notably, Jarno Trulli had an almighty twitch which he was fortunate to catch and Eddie Irvine drove around half in the gravel trap.
Barrichello however looked completely steady and secure on the wet track. He deserved his first win because he mastered the conditions completely.
What of the other two fast cars that had started at the back of the grid? Frentzen was almost as good as Barrichello. He ran a similar strategy and, though he didn't get quite as good a start he made through the field at a pace that easily matched the eventual winner. Indeed, on the few occasions that both cars had nobody directly in front, the Jordan was setting faster laps. Sadly, his car failed with the gearbox electronic problems that have dogged the Jordan team all year. He must have been feeling wretched as he got out of his car in front of us but he responded to our applause with a smile and a wave.
Button has received a lot of praise for starting last and finishing fourth but really, he was just lucky with the way that his pit stops meshed in with the safety car periods. He passed one Minardi at the start and that was it. Until the good fortune over the stops, he ran a steady and uninspiring last but one for lap after lap never managing to even pull away from the Minardi behind him.
My final observation of the race was the reception give to Eddie Irvine on the slowing down lap. Because of his recent statements about Schumacher's driving, he is not a favourite amongst the German fans and he was the target of some abuse from the grandstands. Except that all of the female fans present were screaming and waving to him in delight. So, he has obviously got something that the other drivers lack!
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