OTHERS

Hakkinen back to winning ways

BARCELONA, MAY 7. Mika Hakkinen took advantage of Ferrari pit stop problems to win the Spanish Grand Prix on Sunday for the third consecutive time over teammate David Coulthard, who overcame a suspected cracked rib suffered in Tuesday's plane crash that killed his pilot and co-pilot.

Hakkinen, the two-time World champion and recording the 15th win of his career, finished 16 seconds ahead of Coulthard with Ferrari driver Rubens Barrichello third, to notch his first win of the season, placing him second in the drivers' title race behind Michael Schumacher.

Schumacher still leads the drivers standings after five races with 36 points, with Hakkinen on 22 and Coulthard on 20.

``I don't know how I can explain it. How pleased I am? I am over the moon, what can I say it's a great victory today. There is still a long way to go in the season, but anything can happen and today was a good example,'' he added.

Schumacher, in a Ferrari, had pole and led Hakkinen until the end of the 41st lap when both came in together for fuel and tyres. Hakkinen had been trailing by less than a second since the 28th lap.

But while Hakkinen sped off back onto the track in less than seven seconds Schumacher took more than 17 seconds, his stop being slowed by a faulty refueling.

On the first pit stop on the 24th lap, Schumacher's fuelman for the Ferrari team Nigel Stepney was nearly run over. Schumacher took off with the fuel pump still in the car, nearly yanking the crewman's arm out - something which Barrichello only learnt about later after fuming following a tardy pitstop.

``I think the team had a problem with Nigel and putting the fuel in and my pit stop was quite slow,'' Barrichello said.

``I saw the fuel was taking such a long time. Later they told me Michael ran over Nigel and that's why it was so slow,'' the 28- year-old Brazilian said.

Hakkinen moved easily away as Schumacher had problems, turning two seconds a lap slower than Hakkinen and dropping further behind.

After that Coulthard took advantage of Schumacher's slower laps and passed the German on the 48th lap to move into second. ``Clearly how quickly I caught Schumacher meant he was not going on his normal pace so it was clear he had a problem,'' the 28- year-old said.

Schumacher had to come in again at the end of the 50th lap for his third stop and dropped to fifth, eventually finishing nearly 48 seconds behind Hakkinen. Schumacher's Ferrari teammate Barrichello was third, 29 seconds behind Hakkinen.

Coulthard was second five days after his miraculous escape from a plane accident in central France. He won the British Grand Prix two weeks ago after Schumacher had won the first three races of the season.

Coulthard was still bruised following his escape when he jumped out of the burning private jet which came down in the French city of Lyon.

Coulthard, his fiancee and fitness trainer all got out having only minor cuts and bruises and it gave extra meaning to his runner-up spot here.

``Absolutely. To get in the car, drive, do my job and this is the best thing that can happen to the team and myself with maximum points,'' he said.

``I do have an injury to both sides and it got worse as driving a car each day wasn't good for it. I am looking forward to having a few days off,'' he added.

Ralf Schumacher, Michael's brother, was fourth in a Williams-BMW and Heinz-Harald Frentzen in a Jordan-Mugen-Honda sixth.

Spain's Pedro de la Rosa is an Arrows-Supertec had to start in the back of the grid. It was discovered after Saturday's qualifying that his fuel did not confirm to previous legal samples. His ninth-place time was disallowed and he was placed 22nd.

The local man sadly lasted just one lap before he and Jean Alesi in a Prost-Peugeot bumped each other and both spun out.

The next race is the European Grand Prix at the Nurburgring in Germany on May 21.

- AFP

Mika Hakkinen of Finland pumps his fist and celebrates the Formula-1 Spanish Grand Prix victory in Barcelona on Sunday. - Reuters