15 years later, Mika Hakkinen reflects on spectacular pass of Michael Schumacher to win 2000 Belgian Grand Prix at Spa


Race car drivers not only have great talent behind the wheel, most have great memories and recall of some of the most spectacular moments in their careers.

Former Formula One champ Mika Hakkinen certainly falls in that category. And one of Hakkinen’s greatest memories was his incredible pass by Michael Schumacher to win the 2000 Belgian Grand Prix at Spa, which Hakkinen calls the “greatest circuit of them all.”

“Alongside Monaco and Suzuka, which in their different ways are also magnificent racetracks, Spa is the greatest challenge for a driver on the modern Formula 1 calendar,” Hakkinen wrote in a recent blog post. “It has everything – fast corners, blind bends, tricky crests, nasty dips – and I have to say I always absolutely loved driving there.”

To commemorate that amazing pass for the win, Hakkinen has penned a post on McLaren’s website that is so crisp in detail, it almost seems like it was just yesterday that it happened.

“My most memorable Belgian Grand Prix was undoubtedly the 2000 race. I had won the world championship in both 1998 and 1999, and in 2000 my McLaren-Mercedes was as quick as ever, albeit not always quite as reliable as it had been in the previous two seasons. Nonetheless, I arrived at Spa at the head of the world championship standings, and in an optimistic mood. My principal rival, as ever, was Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher, just two world championship points behind me.”

Hakkinen then replayed his last lap battle with Schumacher in extremely vivid and equally breathless detail:

By lap 40 I was on his (Schumacher’s) tail. As we sliced our way through Eau Rouge on that lap, we both lifted momentarily, and powered our way towards Les Combes. Eau Rouge was a majestic corner in those days, almost flat but not quite, a real test of man and machine. I had taken it well, perhaps a little better than Michael had, and, as he and I approached the braking area for Les Combes, I decided to try to outbrake him.

I thrust the nose of my McLaren-Mercedes alongside his Ferrari, and prepared to brake late. But Michael saw me coming, and chopped across me, at 300km/h (186mph), his right rear tire touching my left front wing endplate as I lifted so as to back out of the maneuver.

After the race, Michael received a lot of criticism for that high-speed chop, but, now, 15 years later, I have no problem with it. I massively enjoyed my Formula 1 career, and one of its highlights was my ongoing rivalry with Michael. I respected him, and I think he respected me. We raced each other hard, but for the most part we also raced each other fairly. He was a terrifically combative competitor, but you could say that about all the great champions. You do not win seven world championships by being soft-hearted, and Michael was never that; but he was a superb driver, one of the best in the history of the sport in fact.

As I drove the remainder of lap 40, I could tell that, although my left front wing endplate had been slightly damaged, my car was still handling beautifully. I knew the entry to Les Combes was going to be the only place where I was going to be able t0 pass Michael, but I also knew that I would have to make my maneuver a very decisive one, simply because Michael was not likely to give up the lead easily. He had made that abundantly clear already. So, as we began lap 41, I decided to take a risk.

It was a big risk, but it was a calculated risk. I was going to take Eau Rouge flat. In those days, taking Eau Rouge flat was not something for the faint-hearted. It was extremely difficult, and the penalty for getting it wrong was usually an enormous accident. Worse still, the track was still damp off-line, so I knew I would have to be millimeter-perfect – not an easy thing to be in the world’s most daunting corner, foot to the floor, powering through the apex towards a blind exit.

As I approached that (in)famous corner, I was right behind Michael. As I turned in, every fiber of my being was imploring me to lift. I decided to count to three, daring myself to keep my foot planted on the loud pedal as I counted, knowing that by the time I got to three I would either have taken Eau Rouge flat or would be in the barriers. There was no in-between, of that I was 100 per cent sure.

‘One,’ I said aloud, and the car began to tremble, assaulted by tremendous g-forces, both lateral and compressional. I knew I would have to fight the car if I was going to avoid a shunt, and I will be honest: I also knew I would have to fight my own fear.

‘Two,’ I gasped, sawing at the wheel as the car was pitched first this way and then that. For a split second, right in the middle of the corner, I thought I could not hold it. The car was absolutely on tippy-toes, but then it gripped, and clung on.

‘Three,’ I yelped, just as the car went scarily light on the exit of the corner. It is always a nasty feeling when a race car goes light at high speed, but, again, the car continued to hold on. I had done it. I had taken Eau Rouge flat, in a race not in a qualifying session, with only a very narrow dry line on which to do it.

Ahead of me on the straight, Michael had clearly not taken Eau Rouge flat, because I was now catching him at a rate of knots. As we approached Les Combes, ahead of us I spotted Ricardo Zonta’s BAR-Honda, which we were about to lap.

I thought to myself, ‘Whichever way Michael goes, I’ll go the other.’ He went to the left, so I went to the right, braking as late as I dared, off-line, on a still-damp track, at 300km/h (186mph). As I turned in, I had done it; I had passed Michael; I had retaken the lead.

Through the next few turns Michael tried his best to harry me into a mistake, chucking his Ferrari around from left to right behind me, in an effort to unsettle me. As I say, he was always such a committed battler, a real racer in fact. But I held my nerve, whispering under my breath ‘Mika, keep calm, keep calm, keep calm.’

By the end of the 44th and final lap, I was still 1.1s ahead of him.

Job done. Great win. Fantastic day.”

In a classy move, Hakkinen added a postscript dedicated to his longtime competitor, but more importantly, friend forever.

“I hope and pray that those encouraging signs are continuing still. No, he will never race again; no, he may never walk again; he may never talk again, for all I know. But, on the other hand, he may. Miracles sometimes occur, and I for one dearly hope that a miracle occurs for Michael some time soon. Keep fighting, my old friend.”

Click here to read Hakkinen’s full blog post.

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Ford Mustang GT3 test has Austin Cindric dreaming of Daytona: ‘I want to drive that car’

Cindric Ford GT3 test
Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Austin Cindric wasn’t the “mystery” test driver behind the wheel of the new Ford Mustang GT3 at Sebring International Raceway, but the Team Penske driver desperately wanted to be.

Ford CEO Jim Farley, an amateur sports car driver himself, made the big reveal via a Tuesday tweet that provided the first video evidence of the GT3 Mustang on track.

“I’ve watched the video in question about a million times,” Cindric said Wednesday during a Ford Performance Zoom news conference to promote NASCAR’s first road course weekend of the season at Circuit of the Americas. “Definitely exciting times for sure. I want to drive that car. It suits my experience level and also the relationships that I have.”

Ford will enter the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship next season with its GT3 Mustang, entering a two-car factory effort (that will be managed by Multimatic) in GTD Pro and making customer cars available in the GT Daytona category.

That increases the likelihood of seeing more NASCAR drivers crossing over to IMSA. Cindric has been the only full-time Cup driver in the Rolex 24 at Daytona the past two years, but Ford Performance global director Mark Rushbrook has said the GT3 Mustang will provide more opportunities.

Ford has used its GT4 Mustang as a NASCAR driver development tool in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge with Harrison Burton and Zane Smith combining to win the season opener at Daytona International Speedway in January.

“We’re excited about the Next Gen car and the new architecture there and the similarities between that car and GT3 and even GT4 cars,” Rushbrook said at the announcement of the Ford GT3 program in January 2022 at Daytona. “We think it’s a great opportunity and to do be able to do that in a 24-hour race and get NASCAR drivers even more time is something we need to consider taking advantage of that opportunity.”

Given his sports car background, Cindric probably still would be in the Rolex 24 regardless. He has eight IMSA starts since the 2017 season opener at Daytona, racing a Lexus RCF GT3 and Mercedes-AMG GT3 in the GT category. The 2022 Daytona 500 winner made his second LMP2 start this year with Rick Ware Racing.

But Cindric’s preference naturally would be in a Ford, particularly with sports car racing enjoying convergence and crossovers in both GT and prototype racing.

“It’s an exciting time in GT racing, just as it is now for prototype racing with a lot of new regulations and manufacturers building new GT3 cars,” he said. “And also the opportunity with WEC (the World Endurance Championship) and Le Mans and how that all lines up for that category of car. It’s definitely an exciting time. I want to be as much of a part of that as possible.”

Though those odds seemingly will increase with multiple Ford entries in the Rolex 24 field next year, Cindric said NASCAR drivers still have to put in the networking to land rides as he has in recent years.

“Now how (the GT3 Mustang) relates to specifically NASCAR drivers and how often they want to be in the Rolex, could it be an influence? Absolutely, as far as the tie-in with the manufacturer,” Cindric said. “But the challenge and the drive and the logistics of getting an opportunity for a race like the Rolex 24 will be just as challenging as it always is to find your one-off ride for the race. At least from my experience, that’s what I still anticipate.”

It turned out the “mystery” test driver wasn’t from NASCAR (Farley revealed the driver to be 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Joey Hand after a fan asked whether it was Joey Logano).

But Cindric believes there could be more Cup drivers — and perhaps himself — behind the wheel of Mustang GT3s in the future.

“There’s definitely more of a pathway than I think there would be before as far as Ford drivers are concerned,” he said. “Hopefully, I’ll get the opportunity to drive that thing. It’s obviously a great looking car. That’s the first box you’ve got to check. And it’s cool (to have) a guy like Jim Farley, no doubt he’s a racer just as much as he is steering the ship for Ford. It’s cool to see he’s just as excited as the rest of us about it.”