| ||Associated Press|
SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium -- Mika Hakkinen passed Michael
Schumacher with four laps left Sunday to win the Belgian Grand Prix
and extend his lead in the Formula One drivers' standings.
Hakkinen steered his McLaren-Mercedes by Schumacher's Ferrari on
the longest stretch of the circuit and went on to win by 1.1
seconds. Williams driver Ralf Schumacher, Michael's brother,
finished 38 seconds back in third place.
Defending champion Hakkinen now has 74 standings points to 68
for Michael Schumacher, making the four remaining GPs a virtual
two-man race for the F-1 title. The next race, the Italian GP, is
in two weeks.
Hakkinen finished Sunday's race in 1 hour, 28 minutes, 14.494
After an early spin, he steadily got closer to Schumacher's
Ferrari, pulling within 3.8 seconds on the 30th of 44 laps. From
there, it was a matter of waiting for the ideal moment to pass.
"It was incredible," Hakkinen said. "It was very difficult to
get past him."
It was another disappointment for Schumacher, who blamed his
loss on the difference in engines.
"He would have caught me anyway," the German said.
"We have four races to go. We know we are a bit behind,
everyone is pushing up to the maximum. I'm still optimistic. Its
not over yet," he added.
In between a slew of pitstops, Hakkinen often held the lead but
could have made victory much easier.
The Finn skidded out wide in a corner on the wet pavement on the
13th lap, giving Schumacher the time to pass him before Hakkinen
could regain his speed in the straightaway.
Suddenly, Hakkinen had over 10 seconds to make up.
"That spin was not really planned," he joked. "There was
nothing I could do. I didn't expect it at all."
The race was made more difficult by the changing weather on the
winding 4.329-mile Francorchamps course. Several drivers were often
caught with wet-weather tires on a dry track.
Both Jordan driver Jarno Trulli of Italy and Williams driver
Jenson Button of Britain quickly fell out of the top three as the
more experienced Schumacher and McLaren's David Coulthard passed
them on the wet corners. Trulli abandoned the race in the sixth lap
after a collision with Button.
Benetton's Italian driver, Giancarlo Fisichella, who was already
using his backup car after crashing in the morning warmup, exited
on the eighth lap after being hit by Arrows driver Jos Verstappen.
|Mika Hakkinen steers past Michael Schumacher in the final laps, holding the lead until the checkered flag.|| |
Belgian Grand Prix results