Coulthard Wins French Grand Prix

Published July 2nd, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

Scotland's David Coulthard in a McLaren-Mercedes scored his ninth career victory and third this season when he won the French Grand Prix on Sunday. 

McLaren teammate Mika Hakkinen of Finland was second with Brazilian Rubens Barrichello third in a Ferrari. 

Dual world champion Michael Schumacher of Germany had his world championship lead cut to 12 points over Coulthard after he was forced to pull out of the race with a blown engine. 

Coulthard had passed Schumacher on the 40th lap with a daring move that had them touching tyres and the Scot, fresh from resigning with McLaren for the 2001 season, went on to give them their first win on the Magny Cours circuit. 

Schumacher's Ferrari stayed in second until the 59th lap when his engine failed just after getting passed by Hakkinen. Schumacher dropped out and Hakkinen went on to second. 

Hakkinen ended up 14.7 seconds behind Coulthard with Barrichello 32.4 back. 

The rest of the field was more than a minute behind. Canada's Jacques Villeneuve in a BAR-Honda was fourth; Ralf Schumacher, Michael's brother fifth in a Williams-BMW with Jarno Trulli in a Jordan-Mugen-Honda sixth. 

Schumacher's big lead in the drivers race was cut, but he still has 56 points and Coulthard 44 with eight races left in the season. Hakkinen now has 38. 

Schumacher had the pole position and led for the first 39 laps except for a brief stint in second place during the first pit stops.  

Coulthard was in third behind Barrichello for the first 21 laps and was finally able to get past into second and start the chase after Schumacher. 

As soon as Coulthard moved into second, he was about six seconds behind but started chopping the gap. By the 33rd lap, Coulthard was less than a half-second behind and looking for a place to pass Schumacher and almost found one. 

At the slowest part of the circuit, the Adelaide hairpin turn, Coulthard made his first real move to overtake Schumacher. 

However, Schumacher held off Coulthard, almost pushing the Scot off the track, which caused an angry reaction from Coulthard. 

Coulthard shook his fist and made an obscene gesture at Schumacher that the inboard TV camera caught very clearly. 

After that Coulthard waited until the 40th lap to try again. This time he did it although the Schumacher's front tyre touched the edge of Coulthard's rear wheel as Coulthard squeezed by. 

Coulthard immediately built up a lead and held it through the second pits stops between the 43rd and 46th laps. 

At the end of 55 laps of the 72-lap race, Coulthard was cruising 7.8 seconds ahead of Schumacher. 

On lap 59 Hakkinen suddenly moved past Schumacher who soon dropped out of the race with smoke coming out of the motor. 

It was the second time in four races that Schumacher's car broke down after a long series of reliable finishes. 

Schumacher was comfortably ahead in the Monaco Grand Prix when a suspension rod broke on his car, forcing him to drop out, his first car failure in almost a year. 

The next race is the Austrian Grand Prix on July 16th – (AFP) 

© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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