53 – 2000 Belgian GPby Alex Harmer on 11th June 2016
A series taken from the 162-page Motor Sport special 100 Greatest Grands Prix (other specials are available here).
If you asked anyone in F1 at the time, plenty would have said that Michael Schumacher needed a good talking to. But Mika Häkkinen, the quiet Finn who liked to let his driving speak for him, might not have topped the list of candidates to dish it out.
Qualifying at Spa threw up a few surprises, namely the Jordan of Jarno Trulli and the Williams of rookie Jenson Button splitting the two title rivals on the grid. But early in the race the interlopers clashed, setting up a showdown.
Rain started to fall and Schumacher caught Häkkinen hand over fist until the latter spun, handing over the lead in the process. Schumacher’s lead grew to almost 12 seconds, but it wouldn’t last. As the track dried Häkkinen came back with a vengeance until, with only four laps to go, he caught his quarry through Eau Rouge.
As they raced down the Kemmel Straight it looked like a done deal. That is until Schumacher abruptly closed the door at 190mph, taking off a chunk of the McLaren’s front wing in the process, something that would bring on strong words from the Finn after the race.
Häkkinen backed off for a few corners and then renewed his attack. Catching Schumacher at the same spot, they came upon Ricardo Zonta’s BAR in the centre of the track. Schumacher went left, Häkkinen dared to go right. Zonta had no idea the McLaren was even there but left enough room, unwittingly becoming part of one of the most audacious lead changes the sport has seen.
Exactly what Häkkinen said to Schumacher after the race may never be known, but for once he got his point across directly. His rival couldn’t help but take note. ACH
About 100 Greatest Grands Prix | From the editor Damien Smith
The Grand Prix motor races we can never forget…
This was a special one-off magazine, dedicated to our love of Grand Prix racing and produced by the same team that brings you Motor Sport each month.
It seemed a good idea: whittle down 107 years of racing history to come up with 100 GPs that could be considered the ‘greatest’ – then rank them in meritocratic order. By week three, the old grey matter was beginning to ache…
Defining greatness was the first task. There were the obvious races – the wheel-to-wheel duels, the comeback classics. But there were also individual performances of supreme dominance, races that might not necessarily have been the most exciting to witness. Greatness goes way beyond thrill-a-minute, we decided.
Choosing which races should make the list was hard enough; ranking the top 100 in some sort of order was even tougher, especially when it came to the crunch: which should be number one? We never did agree unanimously on the ‘greatest’, but if the magazine was to be finished a decision had to be taken. And that’s what I’m here for!
Will you agree with our choice and order? Probably not. But if steam begins to issue from your ears, take a deep breath. In any exercise such as this, there is no definitive list – because there can’t be. Our top 100 is based on opinion, nothing more, designed to be a bit of fun and to spark good-natured debate among fans of the world’s greatest sport.
You can download 100 Greatest Grands Prix in PDF form in the Motor Sport app.