The German Grand Prix: Round 11 of 17 in the 2000 Formula One World Championship. Heading into the race, Ferrari driver Michael Schumacher lead the Drivers’ Championship with 56 points, ahead of McLaren driver David Coulthard on Rubens Barrichello in fourth on 36 points and Giancarlo Fisichella was fifth on 18 points.
When qualifying began, there were black clouds around the track and with the threat of rain in the air; everyone went rushing out to try to get a time in the bag. It was not the moment to have a mechanical problem or a spin. And so there was some consternation in the BAR, Benetton and Ferrari pits when one of each of their drivers did not return from their first runs.
Jacques Villeneuve and Giancarlo Fisichella had overcooked it and spun while Rubens Barrichello had suffered a mechanical problem. There were also troubles down in the Arrows pit where Jos Verstappen’s car refused to start and while the spannermen flexed their wrists everyone else ran around signing “Rain, Rain, go away, come again another day”. It worked.
In those frantic opening minutes Heinz-Harald Frenzten, Jacques Villeneuve, Jaron Trulli and Michael Schumacher were all briefly in the number one spot but then David Coulthard put all their efforts into perspective as he sailed round to record a lap time which was 1.4secs faster than that of his McLaren team mate Mika Hakkinen.
The McLaren 1-2 looked to be pretty solid as a sprinkle of rain came along but as it was happening Fisichella in his spare car was out on a desperate mission to make the grid. It probably helped that Fisichella knew that he had very little to lose and so pushed harder than he might have done otherwise. The result was that he popped up to second on the timesheets, and then the rain ended dreams of others doing any better.
In fact at the end of the session the track had dried enough to allow Michael Schumacher to sneak a time which was six-hundreths head of Fisichella but he was still a very long way behind Coulthard. Schumacher’s second place was good news for him and came after a difficult Saturday morning when he crashed his own car. This meant that he went into qualifying with the spare car. Schumacher said after the session that it made little difference but it did mean that he did not have the confidence to push to the absolute limit on his first flying lap.
Down at the back of the grid, there was some excitement as both Barrichello and Frentzen just managed to get into the field with their final efforts. Benetton was happy to have Fisichella third and Wurz seventh (although the Austrian was nine-tenths of a second slower than the Italian). While it is nice to see the cars going well, there was a large element of luck in Fisichella’s position. If he had not spun off he would not have been out on the track at exactly the moment he needed to be there without anyone else to get in his way.
The nature of the qualifying meant that there were quite a few surprises, notably fifth place for Pedro de la Rosa, using the Arrows spare car because of an engine problem in his own at the end of the morning practice session. Verstappen was less happy but 11th on the grid was not bad given that he might have failed to qualify if the rains had come a few minutes earlier.
The Jordan team was pretty disappointed with sixth and 17th positions on the grid with the revised EJ10 and the latest Mugen-Honda engine. Trulli was happy enough with fifth given the fact that he had problems on Saturday morning but Frentzen was not pleased. He had been right up there in the early minutes of the session but his best time was taken away because he had gone through a chicane and ended up 17th.
The top 10 heading into the German Grand Prix was David Coulthard taking Pole Position ahead of Michael Schumacher, Giancarlo Fisichella, Mika Hakkinen, Pedro de la Rosa, Jarno Trulli, Alexander Wurz, Johnny Herbert, Jacques Villeneuve, Eddie Irvine and Jos Verstappen.
On race day, Jenson Button was left sitting on the grid as his BMW engine had refused to fire up and would have to start from the back of the grid. At the start, neither Coulthard , Schumacher or Fisichella had a good start but Häkkinen had a blinder. Häkkinen was quickly ahead but behind him Coulthard moved across to block Schumacher.
Fisichella did not guess that happening and hit Schumacher who had switched sides to make another attack on Coulthard. Both spun off, hit the wall and retired with the two blaming each other. The order at the end of lap 1 was: Häkkinen, Coulthard, Trulli, de la Rosa, Herbert, de la Rosa, Irvine, Verstappen, Villeneuve, Zonta and Barrichello.
Häkkinen and Coulthard were pulling away from the rest but there were changes behind them as Barrichello and Frentzen (both on two-stops) were charging through the field. Barrichello dealt with Villeneuve and Zonta on Lap 2 and Frentzen was up to 11th on the same lap. Irvine was under attack from Verstappen and was forced to defend. Verstappen attacked him on Lap 4 and pushed him wide.
Barrichello got past both of them and soon Frentzen began to attack them. By now, at the front, Häkkinen was a second ahead of Coulthard and 4 seconds ahead of Trulli. But the action was behind them as Barrichello passed Herbert on Lap 8 and behind them Frentzen got ahead of Irvine and Verstappen in 3 corners. On the next lap, with the McLarens 7.2 seconds ahead, Barrichello set a lap matching the McLarens.
On Lap 10, Frentzen passed Herbert to take sixth. On the next lap, Barrichello started to attack de la Rosa for fourth, 8.5 seconds behind Häkkinen.
Verstappen passed Herbert for fifth on lap 12 and soon afterwards Barrichello edged past de la Rosa with Frentzen started to close in on de la Rosa as well. Herbert retired on Lap 13 with gearbox problems. Barrichello went after Trulli and was right behind him by Lap 14. He sneaked ahead of him on the next lap. Häkkinen was 1.1 seconds ahead of Coulthard and 14.3 seconds ahead of Barrichello. Barrichello started to close in on the two up front before pitting on Lap 17 and rejoined sixth.
Frentzen pitted on the next lap immediately after passing de la Rosa. Häkkinen and Coulthard were now 18 seconds ahead of Trulli and 32 seconds ahead of Barrichello. Barrichello passed de la Rosa for fourth but he was 8 seconds behind Trulli and was 31 seconds behind the McLarens. He closed the gap to Trulli to 4 seconds and the McLarens to 30 seconds but there were dark clouds looming.
Then suddenly a disgruntled former Mercedes employee appeared beside the track with a banner on which was written, “Mercedes Benz, who knew about my health problems, offered me a job I could not do and then sacked me for physical ineptitude after 20 years service”. He crossed the track as marshals chased him and so the safety car was sent out until the man was caught.
But the sign only came after the McLarens had started the next lap and so others like Trulli, Barrichello, de la Rosa and others went into the stops. There was confusion in the McLaren garage as they could not handle both cars at the same time. Thus Häkkinen went into the pits first. On the next lap, Coulthard went to the stop but rejoined at the back because of the extra lap. The order was: Häkkinen, Trulli, Barrichello, de la Rosa, Frentzen, Villeneuve, Zonta, Salo, Button and Heidfeld.
When the safety car went back into the pits, Alesi and Pedro Diniz collided taking them both out, bringing out the safety car again. In between, Coulthard was able to pass Heidfeld and Button and gained 4 places. There was more drama because after the safety car went on Lap 34, Villeneuve and Zonta collided, tipping Villeneuve into a spin. Later in the lap, Coulthard passed Salo to take sixth and then the rains began to fall down.
Trulli was given a 10-sec stop and go penalty for overtaking under yellow flags. Häkkinen pitted for wets and so did many others. The ones who did not pit now occupied the top four positions – Barrichello, Frentzen, Coulthard and Zonta with Häkkinen fifth, Salo sixth, Button seventh having passed de la Rosa.
Zonta was given a 10-sec stop go penalty for the same reason as Trulli and thus he lost concentration and spun out on Lap 38. Coulthard pitted soon after for wets and rejoined fourth, just ahead of Salo and Button. On Lap 40, Frentzen had an electrical failure and retired from second. As Hockenheim is one of the longest tracks of the year, different parts of the circuit had different levels of wetness.
Häkkinen was 7.5 seconds behind Barrichello and gained significantly on the wetter parts of the circuit before losing most of the time he had gained on the dryer parts. On Lap 42, Button passed Salo for fourth and Salo could do nothing as Button pulled away from him. It did not rain until the end of the race and so Barrichello won his first Grand Prix of his career from Häkkinen, Coulthard, Button, Salo and de la Rosa.
The 2000 German Grand Prix will also be remembered as the race where Barrichello’s win was the first victory by a Brazilian driver since three-time world champion Ayrton Senna seven years previously at the 1993 Australian Grand Prix. Barrichello’s win is still considered to be the most universally popular throughout those involved in the sport and is still one of the most liked people in F1.
Let us not forget that Barrichello went on to take his first Grand Prix win at the event. As he stood on the podium listening to the Brazilian national anthem, he was overcome with emotion and started sobbing with the sheer relief and joy of it all. Alongside him, Hakkinen and his McLaren team-mate Coulthard, hoisted Barrichello onto their shoulders in celebration. In the media centre, Barrichello got a standing ovation and, once the interviews were over, he was cheered back to the Ferrari motorhome in the paddock as well.
Starting from 18th on the grid after problems in qualifying, Barrichello showed throughout the race with some determination and great driving to gain the lead of the race when the opportunity arose and he was rewarded with a cracking race win for his hard work. He fought his way through the field by overtaking car after car every lap. The rain started light but began to get heavy towards the end of the race. Barrichello gambled staying on dries and it paid off magnificently. And what a Grand Prix victory to have won and it’s a Grand Prix that many fans still enjoy watching and reliving today.
And as the 2000 World Championship leaded towards the next round in Austria at the A1 Ring in Spielberg, Schumacher was still leading the Driver’s Championship by 56 points ahead of Hakkinen two points behind with 54 points and Coulthard in third with 54 points.