Mika Hakkinen cut Eddie Irvine's lead in the World Championship to just two points with a dominating victory Sunday in the Hungarian Grand Prix.
Hakkinen led his West McLaren-Mercedes teammate David Coulthard to a one-two finish, and the 16 points they amassed also slashed Ferrari's lead in the Constructors Championship from 16 points to just four. Eddie Irvine ran second for much of the race in his Ferrari but ran wide with 15 laps to go. That allowed Coulthard, who was following him closely, to snatch second place.
Irvine now has 56 points to Hakkinen's 54. Coulthard and Heinz-Harald Frentzen are tied for third with 36 points each. In the constructors' standings, Ferrari has 94 and McLaren-Mercedes 90.
Hakkinen was cheered on by thousands of Finnish fans, who had made the pilgrimage to Budapest to cheer for the two Mikas -- Hakkinen and Salo. "The Finns have always come to support me here ever since the first time I raced in Hungary back in 1991," Hakkinen said. "This year it's been mega: The grandstands are full of Finns. This is fabulous, and the atmosphere is great."
Hakkinen's fourth victory of the season and the 13th of his career was his first since the Canadian Grand Prix in June. He averaged 107.201 mph (172.524 km) to complete the 77-lap 190.090-mile (305.921-km) race in one hour, 46 minutes and 23.536 seconds. His margin of victory was 9.706 seconds.
Starting from the pole, Hakkinen led the entire race. Irvine ran second while Coulthard, who had made a poor start, dropped to fifth before eventually working his way up to third, just behind Irvine. They both made their second pit stop at the same time, and Irvine was able to stay ahead until he made a mistake on lap 65.
Both B&H Jordan-Mugen-Honda drivers finished in the points, with Heinz-Harald Frentzen claiming fourth and Damon Hill taking sixth. Rubens Barrichello and the Stewart-Ford team were one of the few in the race to choose a strategy of one instead of two pit stops, and that helped Barrichello to finish fifth after starting eighth. Giancarlo Fisichella ran third and fourth for most of the 52 laps until he retired with engine woes.
Once again, both former CART champions retired. Alex Zanardi was the first out of the race when he pulled his Winfield Williams-Supertec into the pits with differential problems. Jacques Villeneuve completed the most laps yet in a Grand Prix this season - 60 - before stopping with clutch problems on his British American Racing-Supertec.
MIKA HAKKINEN (West McLaren-Mercedes, winner): "It's great to be back on the winner's podium again. This race is a tough one -- it takes a lot out of the car and the driver! By the time we had only 10 laps to go I thought if anything is going to go wrong, it is going to go wrong now, so I was almost holding my breath."
DAVID COULTHARD (West McLaren-Mercedes): "It would have been very difficult to pass Irvine. Before the pit stop I was trying to stay as close to him as possible, to put him under pressure and to be able to hope for a mistake from him. But after the stop, he was obviously much quicker on his fresh set of tires, until he made a mistake. That was exactly what I needed."
EDDIE IRVINE (Ferrari, third): "After two or three laps my tires went off badly, and I was having problems with the car, which was jumping all over the road. Before my second stop, I was cautious but I pushed hard on my 'in' lap, and that meant that I was able to get ahead of Coulthard. But I was struggling. During lap 63, I lost control of the rear and ran wide at Turn 5. At least I have come away with four points."
HEINZ-HARALD FRENTZEN (B&H Jordan-Mugen-Honda, fourth): "We were very fast in the beginning and I was in front of Coulthard, but I think my first stop was a little early and then I got stuck behind Fisichella and lost a lot of time."
RUBENS BARRICHELLO (Stewart-Ford, fifth): "We chose the harder compound Bridgestone, and our strategy was to make just one pit stop. Because the guys ahead were using softer tires and were on two stops, my aim was to keep up with the pack at the start and then make sure of a clean pit stop. The car was heavy with fuel a lot of the time, so that was difficult."
MIKA SALO (Ferrari, 12th): "I had a terrible race. I got stuck behind slower cars at the start and could not get past them. I could not find the right setup all weekend. I'm embarrassed by my performance and feel that I've let the team down."
ALEX ZANARDI (Winfield Williams-Supertec, retired lap 11): "I had to experience a feeling that I'm getting familiar with: the broken differential. The rear of the car began to slide around in a strange way, and it behaved unpredictably. I decided to park the car. I'm sure the Williams team can build fast and indestructible cars, and it makes me mad thinking that my race ended because of the same problem for the fourth time this season."
JACQUES VILLENEUVE (British American Racing-Supertec, retired lap 61): "I got sandwiched between Wurz and Barrichello at the start, banged a few wheels, and got a broken front wing, which meant I had a lot of understeer. In the end I had a clutch problem. It's frustrating to have another retirement after going so far in the race."
Villeneuve staying at BAR: Jacques Villeneuve will remain at British American Racing next season despite a rough season with the rookie team in which he has not finished a race. "Jacques is confirmed for next year," said BAR director Craig Pollock. "He has a contract."
No CART for Zanardi: Alex Zanardi has denied rumors that he will head back to the CART series in 2000. "It's not true," he said. "I have taken the decision that (leaving) CART is not just a page that I turned, but it's actually a different book from what I'm trying to write right now. "I have great memories from CART. It's very possible one day that I may change my mind and go back to America and not just see my old friends again but enjoy some more of that racing. But right now it is not my mind."
Speedy guest: The fastest driver on earth -- Andy Green -- was a guest of the Stewart-Ford team over the weekend. Green became the first person to break the speed of sound when he set the world's land speed record at 763.040 mph in Richard Noble's Thrust SSC jet-powered car in October 1997. Another celebrity in the pits was actor Sylvester Stallone, who watched the qualifying action from the Ferrari pit and later chatted with Jacques Villeneuve.
Alesi to leave Sauber: After a race filled with mechanical woes, Jean Alesi announced he will leave the Red Bull Sauber-Petronas team at the end of the season. "With regret," he said, "this race made me decide that I will not drive for the team next season. I will honor my contract for the remaining races, on some of my favorite circuits, but after that my life with Sauber is fini shed."
Salo in demand: Mika Salo has confirmed that he has offers from six F1 teams for next season. "The good result (second in Germany) has helped me a lot," Salo said, "and I am really happy about the way things are going for me. I have to thank Ferrari for having given me the chance to show what I can do."
Heidfeld clinches F3000 title: West McLaren Mercedes test driver Nick Heidfeld clinched the FIA Formula 3000 championship by finishing second Saturday in Hungary.
Ouch: Officials fined Jacques Villeneuve $8,000 for pit-lane speeding during the race. Fines are levied at a rate of $250 for each one km/h over the speed limit, which in this case was 50 mph (80 km/h).
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