Mika Hakkinen, the Flying Finn, was perhaps the only racer who could challenge Michael Schumacher to his possible limits. He beat the German fair and square in 1998 and 1999, with both the championships being decided in a thrilling Japanese Grand Prix finale.
The year 2000 was different. Fortune was with the Ferrari team, with Schumacher managing to win the first three races and Hakkinen retiring in two of them. This was followed by three retirements where the McLaren of Hakkinen and Coulthard managed to secure good points.
Before the beginning of the Belgian Grand Prix, Hakkinen was a couple of points ahead with a maximum of 50 points still to grasp.
Mika Hakkinen took pole and was a clear 0.7s ahead of the second place Jarno Trulli while Schumacher was fourth, another 2 tenths behind.
The race was started behind the safety car because of the massive standing water on the circuit due to the heavy rain before the race. All the cars had wet tyres. The safety car went inside after the first lap itself and hence the cars began running at racing speeds! Within the first five laps, the flying Finn was able to increase his gap over to the second place Trulli by over 10s while Schumacher was upto second after mistakes by Jarno Trulli and Jenson Button ahead of him.
The position was maintained after the first pit stops on lap 9. For four consecutive laps, Schumacher set out fastest laps to close on to Hakkinen to cut down his lead to a mere 4.6s. Lap 13 was when Hakkinen made a mistake. He touched a kerb at Stavelot corner and was sent spinning sideways into the grass. Schumacher was in the lead now.
The order was maintained after the second round of pitstops. Mika Hakkinen was stuck behind Schumacher, despite the latter running with a heavier fuel load. By lap 34, Schumacher’s tyres began to degrade due to over heating, which meant he had to drive off the racing line into the pool of water to cool them off. This allowed Hakkinen to close the lead.
It was on lap 40 that Hakkinen attempted to pass the German for the lead on the approach to Les Combs, but Schumacher blocked him to defend his position. The drivers collided and it lead to a small damage to Finn’s front wing.
One lap later, the fighting duo reached the same Kemmel straight. Schumacher would have made it impossible for Hakkinen to overtake much like the previous lap. Except there was one difference this time, in the middle was a lapped car of Zonta, who had his team radio turned off and hence was lousing in the middle of the track. Schumacher went along the outside of the Zonta while Hakkinen went along the inside! And he had the corner to himself and took the lead! Beautifully, he managed to outwit the German making no possible error after retaining the lead.
The overtake was brutal, fast and beautiful. Flying Finn was indeed the right nickname for him. Not only the best of Hakkinen, it was probably one of the best modern day overtake the F1 sport will ever see.