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Archive for Sunday, July 16, 2000

Austrian GP pole won by Hakkinen

July 16, 2000

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— Rested and relaxed after his midseason vacation, Mika Hakkinen is back on the pole.

The two-time defending Formula One champion gained his first pole position in more than three months when he eclipsed the rest of the field in qualifying Saturday for the Austrian Grand Prix.

"It's a fantastic thing, a very good thing to happen," Hakkinen said after seizing his fourth pole of the season. "I'm really happy to be back on the pole.

"I managed to get the maximum of the car and really enjoyed myself."

Hakkinen led a 1-2 finish by McLaren-Mercedes, with teammate David Coulthard of Britain in second place.

The second row of the starting grid for Sunday's race will be shared by the two Ferrari drivers.

Rubens Barrichello of Brazil was third and Michael Schumacher of Germany, the championship leader, was fourth.

Hakkinen swept the pole position in the first three Grand Prix of the season and lost all three races to Schumacher. Hakkinen failed to finish the first two and ended up second in the third, in San Marino.

That race in early April was Hakkinen's last pole.

The Finn has been having a season below expectations, at least by his standards. He has won only one race, in Spain in May, and Coulthard has been McLaren's top driver, winning three races.

After finishing behind Coulthard at the French Grand Prix two weeks ago, Hakkinen looked burned out. With his wife expecting the couple's first child, some Formula One watchers began to question his commitment.

Team officials saw the signs and told him to take a vacation.

Was it the right thing to do?

"Absolutely," Hakkinen replied. "The most important thing was to take it easy, get some exercise and relax."

Having to race every two weeks and do a lot of testing in between was taking its toll, Hakkinen said. At the same time, he was having trouble finding the right setup for his car.

With dark clouds looming over the hilly countryside Saturday, all drivers went out early in the practice session to beat the threatening rain.

A few drops did fall as the session got under way, but there were few problems on the track, except for former world champion Jacques Villeneuve of Canada making a 360-degree spin in his BAR-Honda and speeding straight on.

Coulthard and Barrichello set the early pace, swapping the lead.

But then came Hakkinen, first beating Coulthard's time and then lowering his own again to one minute, 10.410 seconds.

That remained the fastest time on the 2.688-mile A1-Ring circuit and gave Hakkinen an average speed of 137.466 mph.

The first row of the starting grid will be the same as last year. Then, in the first lap, Coulthard bumped Hakkinen and dropped him to last place. Hakkinen battled back to finish third, while Coulthard was second.

"David and I will try to do it a little differently this year," Hakkinen said.

Coulthard finished with a time of 1:10.795, .385 behind Hakkinen.

"On my last run I clipped the curb going into the first corner and lost two-tenths and never got it back," Coulthard said. "The car was better on the last run, but I was worse."

Coulthard has won two of the last three races to move within 12 points of Schumacher, who leads the drivers' standings with 56 points. Hakkinen is third, 18 points back. No other driver has won a race this season.

Sunday's 10th Grand Prix in the 17-race season will be Coulthard's 100th Formula One race.

Schumacher had a spin and a few wild slides and finished .636 seconds behind Hakkinen.

"I'm quite a way off the pole, which worries me a little," he said. "Unlike our rivals, I haven't been able to find the right balance between the slow and quick corners, and that is very important on this track.

"On my last run, I had nothing to lose. I was fourth and I gave it my all. But I went over my limit at Turn 4 and lost control of the car."

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