20 years ago, the world of F1 enjoyed an absolute classic. A rain hit Grand Prix that also saw a disgruntled former Mercedes employee run onto the track.
What Happened at Hockenheim in 2000?
The very best Formula 1 race of the season, with a dramatic first victory for Rubens Barrichello—he started 18th on the grid!
But the race saw first lap accidents, rain, a protest, one massive accident, and skittish behaviour down the field.
For the young Mr. Wapojif, he was on holiday at the time with the Wapojif family. In Paris, actually, at the age of but 15.
So, yes, that means we watched this race in French on 30th July 2000. And we couldn’t understand much of what the commentators were saying.
Not that it was an issue, as there was so much action we just used our eyes to follow everything going on. And it was the craziest race since Nurburgring 1999!
The 2000 German GP
There was a tense battle for the title at this stage of the season—round 11 of 17.
Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher (already a double champion) was up against McLaren’s Mika Hakkinen (also a double champion) and David Coulthard (DC).
In qualifying, DC stuck it on pole. That left Schumacher in second. Giancarlo Fisichella was a surprise third in his Benetton, but Hakkinen was only fourth. Bummer!
This created an interesting situation. DC and Schumacher were friends of sorts (despite major controversy at Spa 1998) and worked together to improve F1 safety.
However, they also had a habit of colliding on track (the result of which is they were often pissed off with each other).
In 2000, Schumi was under pressure all season due to his startline tactic. That led to him swerving violently across the circuit to block the opposition.
That’s in the event he got a bad start (they never were his strong point). He’d already done that several times to DC, who was vocal in his anger about the aggressive approach.
The Ferrari driver’s response was that it wasn’t just him doing the move. Replays from other races displayed various drivers down the grid up to the same antic.
Anyway, come the race start and DC got his own back. He chopped across the track to replicate Schumi’s move.
In response, the Ferrari driver moved to the left of the circuit. That led him to drift into Fisichella’s path, who seemed to forget his F1 car had a brake pedal.
Both were eliminated on the spot. Given Schumi’s title challenge at the time, he had every reason to be annoyed about the situation.
And Hakkinen did a classic leapfrog, taking advantage of the kerfuffle to head straight into the lead.
The race went on. No red flags. That left a rather disappointed 100,000 plus strong German crowd—at Hockenheim to see their hero win.
And so, with Barrichello way down the order, the McLarens had an easy win on their hands. So DC and Hakkinen duly blasted way in first and second.
Arrows’ Pedro de la Rosa (having qualified an amazing fifth) was running along in third and looking good for his first podium (he did eventually bag one in 2006).
And Barrichello, in the sole Ferrari, charged through the pack.
But that was about it. A processional race was ahead, with Hakkinen the probable favourite to win. But then this happened.
That triggered off mayhem and all the teams rushed to get their pit stops done. McLaren decided to pit Hakkinen, but DC lost out and his race chances looked shot.
For Jordan’s Heinz-Harald Frentzen, though, it elevated him right up the order. And for the first time since 1999, he was up near the front battling again.
And as it started to rain, Frentzen had an outside chance of a win. And he could well have done so. But, unfortunately (as was common in 2000), his bright yellow Jordan broke down on him.
With a variety of spins and incidents, the safety car was out on track several times. This bunched the pack up together.
As it continued to stop/start with rain, after the restart the pack began battling out as drivers sensed a chance for unexpected glory due to the attrition rate.
Sauber driver Pedro Diniz then made a terrible error, moving onto the racing line when Jean Alesi in his Prost was still there.
The result was what Alesi called the worst accident of his long F1 career, which ran from 1989 through to 2001.
Alesi was furious afterwards, hurling his helmet onto the floor (he’s notoriously emotional). He promptly spent the next few days feeling very unwell, unfortunately.
Whilst Diniz did his best to avoid Alesi back at the paddock, the race was on.
Rain was pelting down at the top of the circuit, so McLaren called in Hakkinen for wet tyres. It seemed the right decision.
Except Barrichello stayed out on his slicks to take the lead. Why? As it wasn’t raining at the other end of the track.
This meant Hakkinen gained in the wet bits, but then Barrichello pulled ahead again at the dry bits.
All of which ensured he could sweep on through to take a brilliant first win.
Barrichello swept across the finish line to take a dramatic and unlikely victory. This was the first win for a Brazilian driver since Ayrton Senna at Adelaide in 1993.
But doubly emotional, since Senna (Barrichello’s friend and mentor) had died at Imola in 1994.
🚦 START: P18
🏁 FINISH: P1
— Formula 1 (@F1) July 30, 2020
It’s no surprise Barrichello was delighted. His roller coaster day tumbled into tears of joy and sadness—in and out of the car.
On the podium he famously burst into tears, which has become rather iconic imagery and part of F1 legend.
Hakkinen bagged second and DC was third. Jenson Button dragged his Williams to an impressive fourth, with Mika Salo fifth, and de la Rosa sixth.
An epic day all round with much delight after Barrichello’s first win. Schumacher hung around for the full race to see his teammate win.
He was one of the first over to the Brazilian to congratulate him, too.
Normal service resumed after this race, with Schumacher and Hakkinen duking it out for the title. The former won out and took his third title.
But, crucially, he won Ferrari’s first driver’s title since 1979! An agonising 21 year wait for the Scuderia.
Although he went on to blitz the 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2004 titles, too.
However, since then Ferrari hasn’t won a driver’s title since 2007 with Kimi Raikkonen. So, it’s rapidly heading back towards its former glory-free years.
As for Rubens Barrichello, he’s now retired after the longest career in F1 history (1993-2011) beating Riccardo Patrese’s immense previous record (1977-1993).
The Brazilian took 11 career wins and challenged for the title in 2009, losing out to the UK’s Jenson Button with two races to go.
Bad luck, Mr. Barrichello, but the good news is his son is in U.S. F2000 National Championship. So, that surname could win an F1 title yet!