On this day in 2000, Formula 1 returned to the United States at the beginning of the new millennium, in the middle of the fierce title fight between Michael Schumacher in Ferrari and Mika Hakkinen in McLaren.
Schumacher cut the Hakkinen’s lead to two points after winning the previous race in Monza, and Ferrari trailed McLaren by four points, three races before the end of the season.
German joined Ferrari in 1996 and this season seemed like a great opportunity to end 21-year drought for Ferrari without a driver’s title, but it was still a long way to go. The situation for Schumacher and Ferrari looked much better than in 1997 and 1998 when he lost the fight for the title in the final races of the season.
Team work in qualifying
The two strongest teams that were fighting for both titles used the team tactics to help their drivers to reach the highest possible speeds on the long Indianapolis straight.
Ferrari did a good job and Schumacher won his 30th pole, seventh of the season (out of nine), ahead of Coulthard, Hakkinen and team mate Barrichello.
The German won the pole position with an advantage of 0.126 seconds ahead of Coulthard, Hakkinen was 0.162 seconds slower and Barrichello trailed his team mate for 0.334 seconds.
The best of the rest were Jarno Trulli in the Jordan Mugen Honda (+0.740 s), Jenson Button in the BMW Williams (+0.751 s) and Heinz-Harald Frentzen, also in Jordan (+0.801 s).
Coulthard jumps the start
Drivers started the race on full wets except Herbert in the Jaguar who decided to gamble on dry tires.
Coulthard jumped the start and found himself in the lead although he knew it would not last long because he would get a penalty, but Hakkinen succesfully defended from Barrichello and kept third place behind Coulthard and Schumacher.
Schumacher managed to overtake Coulthard in lap eight who later accused him for blocking him and pushing off the track with a contact.
Hakkinen’s title deciding Mercedes failure
After the drivers switched to dry tires, Schumacher led Hakkinen with an advantage of 11 seconds in lap 17 but Finn started to cut his lead from lap to lap.
Hakkinen reduced Schumacher’s advantage to 7.2 seconds in lap 20, in lap 22 it was 6.4 s, in lap 23 was 5.5 seconds, 5.0 seconds in the lap 24 and in the lap 25 advantage was just 4.1 seconds.
But then happened what McLaren fans feared most – in lap 26 Hakkinen retired with an Mercedes engine failure. It was the first mechanical failure at McLaren since March and spectators were deprived of the great battle for the victory (and Finn lost at least six points which would be very usefull in the title fight). It was the first retirement for Hakkinen in the last 12 races.
Schumacher losses concentration
After Hakkinen retired, Michael Schumacher led his brother Ralf in Williams by 12.7 seconds ahead of Barrichello who was recovering due to premature change to dry tires. Coulthard was struggling after penalty for jumped start.
Schumacher’s mind was already at the next race, but five laps before the end he spun in a slow second sector and I lost a few seconds compared to second placed Barrichello.
“I was no longer concentrated,” admitted Michael after the race. “I cruised and had such a great advantage that team asked me to drive slower and slower.”
“That’s what I did and clipped some grass that was still wet and I spun. These things happen when you are not concentrated.”
McLaren lost lead in both championships
After Hakkinen retired with an engine failure and Coulthard jumbed the start, it was one of the worst races of the season for McLaren.
The team called Hakkinen into the pits too early for the dry tyres (like Ferrari did with Barrichello), but the Finn was able to recover and continue to haunt Schumacher until his engine retired.
Schumacher won the race, 12 seconds ahead of Barrichello and Frentzen in Jordan. Fourth was Villeneuve in the BAR Honda, fifth Coulthard at McLaren, and the last point went to Zonta in the BAR Honda.
Michael Schumacher returned to the top of the drivers’ standings and was leading Hakkine with an advantage of eight points, two races before the end.
Thanks to a 1-2 victory at Indianapolis, Ferrari overtook McLaren and led them by ten points.