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Michael Schumacher finally gave Ferrari its first drivers’ World Championship since 1979 in another yearlong battle with Mika Hakkinen’s McLaren. Schumacher won the season’s first two races after Hakkinen had retired from the lead and then narrowly beat the Finn at Imola.
Schumacher’s prospects for a third title appeared more doubtful after first-lap accidents at the A1 Ring and Hockenheim and resounding defeats to Hakkinen in Hungary and Belgium. But he returned to form by beating Hakkinen at Monza and capitalising on McLaren’s misfortunes at the United States Grand Prix – now run on an excellent road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Victory in the penultimate race in Japan clinched the title and Schumacher scored an eighth win at the final race in Malaysia. New Ferrari team-mate Rubens Barrichello enjoyed an emotional first win having climbed from 18th on the grid in the Hockenheim rain.
David Coulthard’s fifth McLaren season included prestigious wins in Britain, Monte Carlo and France as he closed in on Schumacher’s points lead although his own challenge ultimately faded. Coulthard had survived a plane crash in which both pilots were killed. His second-place finish in the Spanish GP just five days later was a testament to the Scot’s courage and resolve.
2000 was the first year since 1988 in which only two teams won races. Even so, Williams had an increasingly promising first year using BMW power. 19-year-old newcomer Jenson Button was especially impressive during his maiden F1 season – out-qualifying team-mate Ralf Schumacher on seven occasions and taking third on the grid at Spa-Francorchamps.
The Mugen Honda-powered Jordan team was fast enough to finish third in the championship for a second successive year. Jordan was the only team other than Ferrari and McLaren to qualify on the front row but poor reliability blighted its challenge. British American Racing took a great step forward in their first year with works Honda engines, showing improved reliability and helping Jacques Villeneuve to a series of points finishes.
Stewart Grand Prix had been sold to Ford in 1999 and it was renamed Jaguar Racing with its cars sporting a new British Racing Green livery for 2000. Eddie Irvine signed from Ferrari but it was a bad year with its car hampered by engine problems and poor aerodynamics. Prost also struggled and it ended Peugeot’s last year in the sport without a point – officially F1’s worst team.