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BUDAPEST, Hungary -- Mika Hakkinen won the Hungarian Grand
Prix Sunday with a bold passing move at the start and took the lead
from Michael Schumacher in the heated battle for the Formula One
The McLaren driver now holds a two-point lead in the battle for
the title over his Ferrari rival, who finished second.
Just six races ago, Hakkinen trailed Schumacher by 24 points.
Schumacher started from the pole, with Hakkinen third on the
starting grid. But Hakkinen swerved inside and pulled nearly even with
Schumacher heading into the hairpin first right turn.
Schumacher then almost pressured Hakkinen off the track, but the
German -- coming off two straight early crashes -- backed off.
Hakkinen seized the lead, and never relinquished it.
After that, Hakkinen pulled away on the twisting and slick 2.468-mile long Hungaroring, where overtaking is difficult.
Hakkinen, who made a similar start in the previous grand prix in Germany, said: "I said then that you make a start like that once a year but that's not true -- it's twice a year.
"It was very close but Michael and I came around the first corner in one piece -- both drivers did the right thing."
The Finn, almost a second slower than Schumacher in the race warmup, said of his sudden improvement: "It was a combination of things with the engine and chassis.
"I'm not going to tell you exactly what we did but the car went very fast."
It was Hakkinen's third Grand Prix victory of the season and 17th of his career, putting the Finn on track to become the first to win three straight drivers' titles since Juan Fangio during the 1950s.
Schumacher finished 7.9 seconds back, followed by David
Coulthard, the McLaren driver who also remained in the hunt for the
Schumacher, in control of the championship since winning the opening three races, said: "Mika was the fastest man today. Even if he hadn't passed me at the start he would probably have passed me later."
Hakkinen's win also meant that he and Coulthard have now equaled the record total of a team drivers' partnership of 25 wins, established by Brazilian Ayrton Sennna and Frenchman Alain Prost when they were also with McLaren.
It was a perfect way for them to mark their record 77th race as a pairing.
Hakkinen has 64 points, Schumacher 62 and Coulthard 58 with six races left. Ferrari's Rubens Barrichello has 49, after finishing fourth.
Schumacher's huge lead two months ago kindled Ferrari's hopes of
a first drivers' title since Jody Scheckter won in 1979.
But then Schumacher endured a series of mishaps, with mechanical
problems and the two crashes -- altogether four early exits in five
Hakkinen capitalized on Schumacher's problems by posting two
firsts and two seconds in four races.
Coulthard said he had struggled during the first phase of the race, adding: "I was falling away at quite a rate of knots. Michael took the traffic well, I lost a lot of time."
Coulthard looked set to overtake Schumacher after his second pit stop on lap 51 of 77 but the tactic failed as the Scot rejoined the race in the Ferrari driver's slipstream.
McLaren team boss Ron Dennis, asked if the team had blundered by calling Coulthard in too early when he was going well, seemed to agree when he said: "It wasn't a perfect race -- we're disappointed we did not come first and second.
"But it's nice to lead both the drivers' and the constructors' championship."
|A bold start by Mika Hakkinen gave him the lead Sunday -- he never looked back.|| |
Hungarian GP results