What followed was a series of heartbreaking retirements. The first to fall was Frentzen, who ground to a halt at the first corner after his pitstop with the same electrical problem that had befallen his teammate. Coulthard inherited the lead and stayed out front until the rain came back with a vengeance. The Scot chose to stay out on dry tyres while most pitted for wets, which ultimately proved to be a costly mistake, as he slid off the road and out of the race on the 38th lap as the conditions worsened. Within a handful of laps two Championship contenders had seen their hopes of winning the title fall by the wayside. Ralf (still on dry tyres) then inherited the lead which he held until his pitstop six laps later. This allowed Fisichella (also on dries) to take the lead with Ralf in second, as the rain stopped. Meanwhile Herbert had quietly moved up the order after changing to wet tyres just at the right time.
The heartbreak then reached new levels. On lap 49 Fisichella lost what would have been his first win when he spun out of the lead like Coulthard before him, giving the lead back to Ralf. But then he too lost the lead (and probable first win) when his right rear tyre punctured, allowing Herbert to take the lead which he would not lose. Further back the Minardis were taking full advantage of the unpredictable nature of the race with Badoer in fourth and Gené in seventh. But with just 13 laps to go, Badoer’s gearbox failed, denying the Ferrari test driver his first ever Formula 1 points and leaving him in tears. Gené was promoted to 6th, which became 5th when Jacques Villeneuve’s car failed, robbing the BAR team of their first-ever point. Behind him, Irvine and Häkkinen had fought their way back into contention for points, with Irvine holding 6th ahead of Häkkinen. After cruising for most of the race, Häkkinen turned up the pressure, eventually forcing Irvine into a mistake and taking 6th place. At the front Barrichello tried everything to pass Trulli for 2nd and make it a Stewart 1-2, but ultimately had to settle for 3rd. Meanwhile, Häkkinen caught and passed Gené for 5th to earn 2 invaluable points, but the Spaniard held onto 6th ahead of Irvine to give Minardi their first point for four seasons.
Brought back great memories, thought I’d share. :)