Much is written about the dwindling of overtaking in modern Formula One. Don’t tell Mika Häkkinen, who in 2000, performed the greatest modern undertaking move on a momentarily hapless Michael Schumacher.
It was a late August day in 2000 at the Belgian Grand Prix and reigning champion Häkkinen of McLaren was chasing Michael Schumacher to retake his lead. With only four races left in the season, the two double world champions were head to head in the points as Schumacher was inching ever closer to bringing Ferrari its first drivers’ title since Jody Scheckter’s—21 years before.
The race, held on the legendary Spa-Francorchamps circuit, was a wet-dry affair which Häkkinen had started from pole. After an error by McLaren in tire strategy and a spin on a wet patch of asphalt, Schumacher overtook him for the lead. However, his Ferrari was set up for high downforce, which is good for a wet track but not so good when that track—one of the fastest on the racing calendar, where a high downforce setup is a serious drag in the straights—starts to dry up.
A few laps later, Häkkinen was right on Schumacher’s tail and made a move on him at the end of the Kemmel Straight, a long, 200+ MPH section immediately after the famous Eau Rouge corner. Schumacher wasn’t about to let him pass, forcing Häkkinen to actually clip the grass by the side of the track. One lap later, hunter and hunted found themselves on the very same spot again, with a crucial difference: ahead of them was Ricardo Zonta in his BAR-Honda, about to be lapped and blocking the road which led into Les Combes corner.
This is when Häkkinen made his second move. After you’ve secured your lower jaw with duct tape, watch him explain over multiple camera angles:
Häkkinen’s overtaking was so beautiful, so fast, so elegant yet so downright brutal that you can watch it again and again and still pick up new details. The move also gave him victory over Schumacher, his only one at Spa.
It would prove Pyrrhic: Schumacher won the remaining four races in the season to take his first of five straight world titles at Ferrari.
And as for poor Ricardo Zonta, stuck in the middle of this ferocious fight between the two double world champions? This is what he saw:
His team radio was not turned on, which is probably the only reason why Formula One’s millions of fans worlwide don’t know how to say “What the fuck was that?” in Brazilian Portuguese.
Photo Credit: Clive Mason /Allsport, Mark Thompson /Allsport