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Hakkinen moves into title lead after convincing Hungaroring victory

FINN Mika Hakkinen moved into the championship lead and closer to a hat-trick of world titles with a convincing victory at the Hungarian Grand Prix at the Hungaroring on Sunday.

Hakkinen, who began third on the grid, claimed his third win of the season to move two points ahead of Ferrari rival Michael Schumacher, who finished second, and six points ahead of third-placed team-mate David Coulthard, who partnered the winner at McLaren for a record 77th time.

Despite track temperatures of 42 degrees Celsius, Hakkinen was able to move ahead of pole-sitter Schumacher before the first corner while Coulthard struggled off the line and just managed to fight off BMW-Williams driver Ralf Schumacher in third.

Hakkinen was consistently quicker than Schumacher in the opening laps and moved 7.2 seconds ahead of his German rival after 20 laps in front of a 20,000-strong army of travelling Finns.

Schumacher pitted on lap 27 for a 7.3-second stop while Hakkinen came in for a 7.0-second stop four laps later and went out in the lead. The Finn then posted another fastest lap on lap 33 to remain 13.2 seconds ahead of his Ferrari rival, with Coulthard remaining third.

Scot Coulthard remained around two seconds behind Schumacher until the second round of pit-stops as the German struggled with the handling of his Ferrari.

Schumacher came in first for a 7.7-second stop on lap 50 while Coulthard just failed to get out ahead after a stop of 6.6 seconds one lap later. Hakkinen took advantage of his comfortable lead and maintained a 21.8-second advantage after a 6.8-second pit-stop.

Hakkinen remained clear and scored his 32nd point out of a possible 40 in the past four races as Schumacher held off the determined challenge of Coulthard for the other podium places.

Canadian Jacques Villeneuve collided with Arrows' Pedro de la Rosa and was forced into the pits on the opening lap to fit a new nose cone on his BAR. The incident ended Villeneuve's chances of gaining a points-scoring finish.

Benetton's Giancarlo Fisichella went sideways into the gravel on lap eight which allowed Jaguar's Eddie Irvine to move from ninth to seventh after the Ulsterman overtook Jenson Button at the same time.

The Italian spun again four laps later and came in for new tires to try and sort out his handling problems, but he retired with brake problems on lap 36.

Jean Alesi's nightmare season continued when he was forced out with steering problems while the leaders were on lap 15 after the Prost team twice attempted to fix the problem in the pits.

The Frenchman apparently retired on lap nine as he was wheeled into the garage, but he re-appeared four laps down. After his retirement, Alesi insisted he was forced to steer the car even when he was driving straight.

Team-mate Nick Heidfeld stalled in the pits on lap 24 and was forced out with electronic failure as troubled team owner Alain Prost was again left disappointed.

Sauber's Pedro Diniz became only the fourth retirement after completing 62 laps with engine problems and Minardi driver Gaston Mazzacane joined him out of the race with a blown engine after completing 68 laps.

Ferrari driver Rubens Barrichello followed up his Germany win with a fourth-placed finish, ahead of German Ralf Schumacher in fifth. Jordan's Heinz-Harald Frentzen claimed the final points-scoring spot in sixth.

MCLAREN-MERCEDES: Hakkinen insists start and engine developments were key to success

Mika Hakkinen insisted his Hungarian Grand Prix win was instigated by his quick start and secret engine modifications made over the weekend.

The Finn, who led from the first corner after overtaking Michael Schumacher and David Coulthard at the start, refused to reveal the engine developments that allowed him to pull away from the rest of the field.

"We made some modifications to the set-up and the engine people did some things," said Hakkinen. "It was very enjoyable to race and I'm not going to tell you exactly what we did, but I was very fast.

"It was a combination of things though. I had a fantastic start and was able to overtake both David and Michael into the first corner. Everyone did the right thing at the start and we got away 100 per cent."

Hakkinen joked: "You make a start like I did maybe once a year, but that's not true - you probably do it once or twice a year."

Coulthard set to investigate first set of tires after third place in Hungary

David Coulthard will investigate whether there was a problem with his first set of tires after losing time in the first part of the Hungarian Grand Prix before finishing third.

Coulthard believes that the lack of balance in his car before his first pit-stop was down to the tires and the reason why team-mate Mika Hakkinen and Ferrari's Michael Schumacher could pull away.

"I just wasn't quick enough in the first stint," said Coulthard. "I had a very unusual balance in the car, which is bizarre, and I need to find out if the tires had a problem with pressure.

"It cost me a lot of time in the first stint. Michael could pull away at a rate of knots. After the tires were changed they were much better in the second and third stints and the car got quicker."

Coulthard also complained about back-markers hindering his chances of overtaking Schumacher in the latter stages of the race, even though he admitted third place and four points was all he really deserved.

He added: "I did lose a lot of time behind the four Minardis that seemed to be out there. Michael Schumacher seemed to always catch the traffic around turn 5 and I never really got a chance to overtake until turn 10. That cost me time, although I only deserved to finish third really."

FERRARI: Schumacher admits he was not quick enough

Michael Schumacher admitted he just was not quick enough to match the pace of the McLaren of Hungarian Grand Prix winner Mika Hakkinen.

Schumacher, who has now lost the lead to Hakkinen in the drivers' championship, was behind the Finn at the first corner and was over two seconds down after just six laps.

"We were not fast enough to win the race today," said Schumacher. "I lost the start to Mika, but when you see his pace during the race he would have overtaken me anyway later in the race."

Schumacher insisted that he was also relieved to have held off Hakkinen's team-mate David Coulthard for second place after the Scot closed in on the German in the latter stages of the 77-lap race.

He added: "I'm quite happy to keep second position because even that was a tough battle with David after his second pit-stop."

Rubens blames his poor qualifying

Brazilian driver Rubens Barrichello blamed his poor qualifying position for his fourth place after losing ground on the title-chasing pack in Hungary.

Starting fifth on the grid in Sunday's Hungarian Grand Prix, the Ferrari ace struggled to get past the German driver Ralf Schumacher, until they both came into the pits.

But after losing valuable time trying to get past the BMW-Williams driver, Barrichello could not catch Briton David Coulthard, in third, eventually finishing 35 seconds behind the McLaren.

"I think I lost my chance of a better result on Saturday when I didn't qualify well," said Barrichello. "After that it was impossible for me to overtake Ralf and so I paid the price.

"The pit crew did a fantastic job to put me ahead of him. I was too far behind to catch the others, although I did try."

Jean Todt, general manager of Ferrari, was also pleased with his drivers, and was more than relieved to see Michael Schumacher cross the line.

Todt said: "It was important to get both drivers to the flag, especially Michael who has retired the last three races.

"Today's result is a bit disappointing because after claiming pole we thought we could go on and win."

WILLIAMS-BMW: Schumacher pleased after recovering from pit-stop problem

BMW-Williams' Ralf Schumacher was pleased with his fifth place finish at the Hungarian Grand Prix after recovering from a problem during his first pit-stop.

Schumacher lost time on his first stop after a wheel nut failed to come off cleanly, and although it cost the German fourth place to Rubens Barrichello's Ferrari he was not disappointed.

"I lost the position to Barrichello because I was delayed at my first pit-stop," said Schumacher. "But I'm pleased with the result and I'm not sure that I could have kept him behind me anyway."

Schumacher's team-mate Jenson Button was not as positive after losing two places late in the race to Jarno Trulli and Eddie Irvine before finishing ninth.

Button said: "It was a very disappointing race for me overall. I felt I had a real chance of getting some points here, but we had an engine problem in the second half of the race, which obviously resulted in a lack of power."

BMW-Williams technical director Patrick Head added: "Obviously it was disappointing for Ralf to lose a place at the pit-stop and we weren't really strong enough to catch Barrichello's Ferrari up.

"Jenson was also going well, but unfortunately some technical problems made him lose power. He drove an amazingly good defensive race, but just couldn't hold Trulli and Irvine back."

BENETTON-SUPERTEC: Benetton surprised by brake problems

Benetton technical director Pat Symonds said the team was surprised by the brake balance problem that plagued Alexander Wurz during the Hungarian Grand Prix and ended Giancarlo Fisichella's race.

Wurz finished the race 11th, while Fisichella was forced out after completing 31 laps and spinning twice beforehand.

"This has been a difficult race that hasn't netted us the result we would have expected from this circuit," said Symonds. "Both cars may have had a similar brake balance problem, which is surprising as this is a system that has been running for several years now."

Fisichella said: "The problem with the brake balance forced me to spin twice and in doing so I damaged the car. I came into the pits and the team changed the barge board. But the problem was still there and the car was too hard to drive, so there was nothing I could do but retire."

Speculation that BMW-Williams driver Jenson Button will sign for Benetton heightened all weekend, and under-pressure Wurz once again failed to produce a points-scoring performance.

Wurz said: "Before my first stop everything ran okay, but we stayed out too long and I got huge understeer on the last few laps and ended up losing a place during the second stop.

"My last set of tires was also in a bad condition and in addition I got a brake problem so I had to go easy to finish the race."

JORDAN-MUGEN HONDA: Jordan pair happy with results after suffering tire problems

Jordan drivers Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Jarno Trulli were satisfied with their respective sixth and seventh place finishes in the Hungarian Grand Prix after suffering tire problems throughout the 77-lap race.

Trulli decided to use a one-stop strategy, unlike Frentzen and the rest of the field who stopped twice, but both drivers were pleased to finish the race as the high track temperature wore the tires down.

"This was the maximum we could achieve, so I'm pretty happy," said Frentzen. "It was one of the toughest races of the season and, given the problems we have with tires in high temperatures, it was good to get a point.

"We were not able to go any faster, with the grip coming and going. It would have been easier to run closer to the cars in front had we not had the same problems with the tires that we had in France."

Trulli said: "My tires were wearing more than the opposition towards the end because they had fresher rubber. But I have to say the car was pretty good and I'm pleased with the performance."

BAR-HONDA: Nightmare first lap for Villeneuve ends his Hungarian hopes

British American Racing drivers Jacques Villeneuve and Ricardo Zonta finished Sunday's Hungarian Grand Prix 12th and 14th respectively, but it wasn't through lack of effort.

Villeneuve had to pit at the end of the first lap to have a new nosecone fitted after an incident with Pedro de la Rosa's Arrows.

Back in the fray he lapped impressively, his pace frequently matching, or exceeding that of the race leaders.

Zonta also climbed steadily during his first stint, but deteriorating handling hampered him. Chassis tweaks during each of his pit-stops failed to improve matters.

Villeneuve said: "I had a pretty bad start, with too much wheelspin. I was on the outside of De la Rosa at the chicane, and he braked very late. I did as well, but hit the back of his car."

Zonta said: "In the first stint I had understeer under power, then in the second stint there was oversteer on the entry to corners.

"Finally we made a change to the tire pressures, but the oversteer was still there and the steering became very heavy."

BAR managing director Craig Pollock said: "This was a hugely disappointing result, but there was relief that the set-up on Jacques' car was getting the maximum out of the chassis.

"We hope this will give us enough detail to have a good set-up for this sort of circuit in future.

"Jacques had a different set-up from Ricardo and that reflected in their performance differences."

SAUBER-PETRONAS: Salo lashes out at Minardi

Mika Salo blamed the Minardi team for costing him a better finish as the Finland driver had to settle for tenth place in a tough Hungarian Grand Prix.

A Minardi held up the Sauber ace midway through the 77-lap race as Salo tried to battle his way up the field.

Salo said: "What was really annoying was the Minardi that held me and a lot of other drivers up.

"That lost me a lot of time, and the trouble here is that it is so hard to pass even slower cars.

"I also lost a lot of time at the start. I thought I made a really good start, but when the guys in front of me braked I was hemmed in and couldn't move round them, so I had to brake at the same time and lost three places."

But the Sauber team was happy despite also seeing Pedro Diniz forced to retire after 63 laps, after looking on course for a top eight finish.

The Brazilian driver said: "I was pleased with my race because I managed to overtake a lot of people and recorded a good lap time.

"But then with 12 laps left the car just stopped without warning. We will have to investigate why."

ARROWS-SUPERTEC: Arrows duo use Hungarian Grand Prix to improve fitness levels

Arrows duo Pedro de la Rosa and Jos Verstappen both conceded that they did not hold much hope of scoring points at the Hungarian Grand Prix and simply used the race to improve fitness levels.

Verstappen finished 13th after starting from 20th, while De la Rosa was 16th after his car was hit by the British American Racing car of Jacques Villeneuve at the first corner.

The 77-lap race was run in 44-degree heat and the two drivers insisted such conditions will help to prepare them physically for the last races of the season.

"The race was bad for me because on the first lap I was hit in the rear by Villeneuve which blew my tire and damaged the rear suspension," said De la Rosa. "I don't know exactly what was wrong but the car was difficult to drive anyway.

"We managed to keep going until the end but there was no real hope for me to improve my position. The best thing was that it was physically good training for me."

Verstappen added: "It was a very hard race for us because our car isn't the best one for this circuit. As Pedro said, it was good training and I'm happy that I finished."

JAGUAR-COSWORTH: Irvine insists Hungary was a drive without reward

Eddie Irvine insisted that his eighth place finish at the Hungarian Grand Prix was his best-ever drive without the reward of any championship points.

The Jaguar driver started from 10th on the grid and said that although he lost time throughout the race for various reasons he enjoyed the 77-laps around the Hungaroring track.

"It's probably one of the best races I've driven without reward," said Irvine. "I had a lot of fun out there, it was very entertaining and a good workout.

"I had to pit early because we had a fuel pressure problem and then had to carry extra fuel for the remainder of the race as insurance. I also got caught behind a Minardi at a crucial time in the race when I was battling for seventh."

Irvine's team-mate Johnny Herbert failed to finish his fourth race out of the last five after retiring with gearshift problems with 67 laps completed.

Herbert said: "Yet again I had gearshift problems which developed around lap eight and continued until I went out. It's very difficult to drive at a consistent pace when you are having shifting problems. Unfortunately it is another non-finish which isn't very enjoyable."

PROST-PEUGEOT: Another lost weekend for Prost

Jean Alesi and Nick Heidfeld both suffered mechanical problems as they were forced to retire from the Hungarian Grand Prix to continue team boss Alain Prost's miserable season.

Alesi was the first of the two to retire when on lap nine he struggled to control his car. Having twice tried to solve the steering and suspension problem the French driver eventually pulled up and retired on lap 15.

Nick Heidfeld joined the Frenchman in the pit garage when he came into the pis with electronic problems on lap 24 and stalled his car.

It leaves Prost pointless after 12 rounds with both drivers without a race finish since Magny-Cours at the beginning of July.

Prost said: "I am really disappointed with the overall performance of our team today.

"We have had the same problems for a long time, and we are still not able to cure them. It is difficult for everyone in the team to work in the present circumstances."

Alesi added: "With every lap my steering was tilting further to one side until the car had totally lost its balance."

Heidfeld also commented: "The battery voltage was decreasing so for my first pit-stop the team asked me to keep the engine at high revs, but I had to lower the revs to get first gear. Even though the mechanics tried pushing my car I had to retire."

MINARDI-FONDMETAL: Gene feeling blue after flag misery

Marc Gene blamed faulty radio communication with his team after the Spanish driver received a 10-second stop-go penalty for failing to let Jaguar driver Eddie Irvine through after being blue-flagged.

The Minardi driver was caught in two minds whether to let the Briton through and received no response after calling his pit-crew for advice.

But Gene insisted that it was all a mistake and believes he was blue-flagged too late by race officials.

Gene, who finished the race in 15th, said: "It has been a very difficult race but my problems started when Irvine got behind me to lap me.

"I was waved the blue flag too late, therefore I did not know whether I had to defend my position or I had to let him pass.

"I had asked the team what I had to do but the radio's were not working well and I did not have any communication with the pit crew."

He added: "I then had a ten-second penalty and I felt sorry for Irvine because it caused him to lose time, but I don't act like this on purpose."

Minardi's miserable race continued when Gaston Mazzacane was forced to retire just eight laps from the end due to engine failure.

The Argentine driver said: "For the umpteenth time some mechanical problems hindered me like they did over the whole weekend. Unfortunately the set-up was totally different and this was a disadvantage for me."

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