TACH Special: Spa-Francorchamps: Ferrari's New Beginning?
26 August 2000
By David Treffer
The Auto Channel
Five races remain in the 2000 Formula 1 season. The points battle for both the drivers and constructors championship is as close as any fan could desire. McLaren-Mercedes driver Mika Hakkinen leads the standings with 64 points. Directly on his heels is Ferrari driver Michael Schumacher with 62 points followed by Hakkinen's teammate David Coulthard with 58 points. Obviously, one of these three drivers will emerge as the 2000 Formula One Champion. Ferrari driver Rubens Barichello is in fourth place with 49 points. While his chances of winning a driver's championship are remote at best, Barichello could become a pivotal player in Schumacher's quest for a third drivers championship.
In the Constructor's Championship, the McLaren-Mercedes team holds a slim 1 point (112-111) lead over Ferrari. No other constructor is even within shouting distance of these two teams. For the record BMW holds down 3rd place with 24 points. Needless to say the battle is a tango for two.
The famous Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium is the setting for the next battle between these two titans. The 4.330 mile circuit is widely held as one of the most beautiful circuits that the Formula One Series visits. It is the longest of all the courses on the Formula One World Tour. With famous turns such as "La Source" and the incredibly fast "Eau Rouge" the circuit is recognized as a speed circuit. In a pure speed battle, Mercedes is given the nod for holding an advantage.
Last year David Coulthard utilized a controversial pass of his teammate, Mika Hakkinen to post a victory. Ironically both Hakkinen and Schumacher have vowed that the results will not be the same this year. The strategy that Ferrari must now employ is simply " all-out." Just a month ago, Schumacher had a lead that was seemingly insurmountable. Schumacher, to his credit, admonished the press for proclaiming that his third world title was "in the bag."
Spa-Francorchamps is located in the famous Ardennes forest. The area is known for changeable weather. The area can have perfect skies in the monring and be inundated with rainstorms by the afternoon. The old adage regarding the weather ,"just wait 15 minutes and it will change", is appropriate for Spa. When it comes to foul weather there is no one better than Schumacher. His teammate Rubens Barichello is a close second. Schumacher is the "Rain Meister" and that should concern Hakkinen and Coulthard. Schumacher will probably be doing a "rain dance" on Saturday evening.
The one item a lot of pit watchers will be observing is determining if McLaren is going to give Coulthard a chance to win his first championship. The spin that has always been put forth by McLaren is that neither Hakkinen or Coulthard is favored. However stories have been leaking out of the McLaren camp that Coulthard will be given a chance to win a championship. Coulthard has played the supporting role for Hakkinen. It will be just one of many "behind the scenes" dramas being played out on the world stage.