Formula One
 Monday, August 28
Hakkinen tightens grip on title
 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.

Mika Hakkinen steers past Michael Schumacher in the final laps, holding the lead until the checkered flag.

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 seconds.

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.


Belgian Grand Prix results