Grand Prix of Monaco Review

Monte Carlo, Monaco
May 16th, 1999
by Michele Lupini, South Africa

Michael SchumacherMichael Schumacher tightened his grip on the 1999 Formula One World Championship with a stunning victory at Monte Carlo on Sunday. And to make it a total Ferrari victory, Eddie Irvine brought his Ferrari home second, defeating Mika Hakkinen and humbling McLaren totally in the process. To top off a fine weekend, the German is now the most successful Ferrari Formula One driver, Monaco being his sixteenth victory for the greatest team in racing, surpassing Niki Lauda's fifteen Grand Prix wins.

Not only does Michael now lead Irvine in the drivers' title chase and is twenty points clear of third placed Hakkinen, but Ferrari have more than double the points of McLaren-Mercedes in the manufacturers title - the Italian outfit leading the Anglo-German team 44 points to 20.

Hakkinen and McLaren did have one thing to remember in Monaco, with a stunning, if controversial lap to snatch pole from under Schumacher and Ferrari's noses, in a weekend which otherwise saw the red cars doing what McLaren has done so well in the past year or so: Dominate.

When those five red lights extinguished just after lunch on Sunday, it was the red cars that got the drop of the silver ones that had surprised them so in qualifying. Michael had the better of Mika, Eddie of David, as the entire grid was away without any drama. Michael commented later, "I saw that Mika had too much wheelspin, so I was alongside him almost immediately." Mika agreed, "I got too much wheel spin from the start and Michael was able to accelerate out of the first bend in front of me."

Monaco 99, the startMichael Schumacher quickly opened up an advantage, opening up his lead by almost a second a lap. Behind the top four, Barrichello headed Frentzen, Fisichella, and a charging Trulli. The incident-free trend was broken when Damon Hill pulled an improbable move on Ralf Schumacher for fifteenth, ending his race on the spot and wrecking Ralf's early on. "The accident was my fault. I was simply being too ambitious," Damon admitted. Ralf concurred, "He wanted to overtake me on the inside but this wasn't possible."

Michael continued to open up his lead at around a second or so a lap, with the three behind remaining static. Marc Gene's demise must have pleased Minardi as much as it did Monaco's track builders, both Minardi's remaining serviceable parts and Monte Carlo's armco now at considerably less risk. His teammate's race never even lasted that long.

By the time the first round of pitstops started, with Prost's Jarno Trulli coming in earlier than expected to try and get the jump on the gang ahead of him, Schumacher was close to twenty seconds ahead. But there was action as Hakkinen was being harried by Irvine, who was in turn enjoying close attention from Coulthard. Sadly for David, who was having a strong run, his impending fate was clear, the McLaren smoking increasingly badly each time he exited the Loews hairpin, before it eventually expired, unable to select gear, the result of a terminal lack of transmission fluid.

Mika's McLarenWith Schumacher scything through backmarkers somewhat better than Hakkinen, Irvine managed to edge right up onto his tail, now without any pressure himself. As they approached a particularly difficult bunch of customers for passing, including a legendary Prost, Ferrari's Ross Brawn called Eddie in for an early stop.

That left Mika in a lonely second, but he was a little unlucky as he was among the first to pass over the result of Takagi's Arrows' lunched engine. He lost the back of the MP4/14 on the slippery surface and chose to drive down the escape road, rather than risk the result of a spin. He kept the Mercedes running, reversing back onto the track before racing off, but now with Irvine's recently refuelled Ferrari breathing down his neck

Mika, well behind Schumacher, had taken the pressure off the German, who now had enough of a window to pit at his leisure and still return with a massive lead. "I was able to take advantage of my strategy, which was obviously to get clear and build up the gap that I needed for the pit stop, to make everything safe," said Michael. But Irvine had pitted already, albeit for a quick stop, while Mika had to wait for a longer stop for a big fuel load. So Eddie was was in a position where he could splash-and-dash later and still be ahead. "I was a lot faster than Mika was all through the race, but when you're behind another driver here at Monaco it is impossible to overtake, especially a McLaren. We therefore had to do it on strategy, which we achieved," Said Irvine.

Johnny Herbert had a scary moment when the Stewart's right rear suspension broke, Johnny doing well to control the dual-steering runaway Stewart. Pedro Diniz and Jean Alesi appeared to retire the Saubers in tandem, the Brazilian bashing into the runoff area barriers at the end of the pit straight. Alesi had a confusing end to a confusing race pitting twice on consecutive laps and stopping out on the circuit on the next. Jacques Villeneuve exited in a smoky BAR.

Hakkinen pitted late, rejoining behind Irvine, like his leading teammate, in a lonely second. Schumacher was cruising up front - lapping easily, but occasionally putting in a good lap or section.

Damon HillHis rather erratic pace, along with some indefinite tooing-and-froing into position by the Ferrari crew with tyres and hoses, caused some speculation as to Michael's Ferrari's health. But when Irvine duly made his splash and dash stop, easily rejoining ahead of Mika who toured on behind the Ferrari, it became apparent that they were preparing for the best opportunity to bring Eddie in.

Ralf Schumacher and Mika Salo both exited straight at the hairpin, Olivier Panis at ste Devote. Rubens Barrichello, driving a fine race behind the Ferraris and McLarens in a race-long battle with Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Giancarlo Fisichella, lost it into the Swimming Pool, finding the barriers on the way out of it while under pressure from Fisichella.

Meanwhile, Hakkinen caused Mercedes' Norbert Haug to do a little soul searching, when the Finn pulled a new lap record out of the blue, after some rather uninspirational laps.

But the Ferraris were never in trouble, as they headed to a popular - and unprecedented in Monaco - 1-2 whitewash. Michael was clearly happy: "I made a good start, so I was able to stick to my one-stop strategy. It was a hard race up to my pit stop because I was pushing very hard to make it safe. I must also pay a compliment to the other drivers who moved over when I came up behind them and fair play to them."

Hakkinen was a lonely third, from an again-impressive Frentzen, Keeping Jordan Mugen-Honda uncomfortably close to McLaren Mercedes in the constructor's race, and Frentzen himself even closer to the reigning World Champion in the drivers championship. "I am very happy with the team and myself," said Heinz-Harald, "This is another good result. The car and engine showed that we are competitive, and reliable."

David CoulthardThe Benettons rounded off the points positions, Fisichella ahead of Wurz. "I am pretty happy with this result," said Giancarlo, "I have been in the points three times out of four and this really underlines the reliability of our team." Alex too was content. "I am happy with sixth place," he simply said.

Trulli ended seventh, from Alex Zanardi - finishing his first race since his Formula One return, in spite of an eventful race. He had the better of histeammatee most of the weekend, "The car definitely needs to be improved," confirming the Williams can be fingered as the source of Alex' allegedly lacking form.

Although the McLarens did not come to grips with Monte Carlo (with the exception of that blinding Hakkinen pole surprise), they have been the class of the field everywhere else this year. But they now have less than half the constructors' points than Ferrari, and both Ferrari's drivers head Hakkinen in the drivers championship.

Michael Schumacher is the only driver to have finished every race this year, albeit once out of the points. Eddie's retired once, but scored points in the rest. McLaren has three finishes from eight starts.

Has Ferrari turned the tables?

Schumacher hugs Jean TodtYes, Monte Carlo clearly points to that. But it would be foolish to base any conclusions on the results of so hybrid a circuit. We'll have to wait and see what Barcelona offers in less than a fortnight, to know if Ferrari really has re-established the Formula One pecking order.

Schumacher commented after the race that, "It might be the case in Barcelona, that we are not as competitive, or as quick, as we have been here. If you look at the nature of the different cars then you might say that a circuit like Monaco favours the Ferrari a bit more than a faster circuit like Barcelona, which better suits, say a McLaren. But we also plan an intensive testing programme up to Barcelona. Let's see what happens, because naturally we want to have a car, which can beat the others on all types of circuit. I think we are already going in the right direction."

If that is so, McLaren will be hard-pressed to stop Michael Schumacher from giving Ferrari their first World Drivers Champion in twenty years. However, even with their speed advantage before Monte Carlo, McLaren have been unable to prevent Michael Schumacher from gaining a firm grip on the last World Drivers championship of the twentieth century. Could this year finally be IT for Italy's favourite horse?

Final Race Results

 1.  M.Schumacher  Ferrari             1h49:31.812                      
 2.  Irvine        Ferrari             + 0:30.400                       
 3.  Hakkinen      Mclaren Mercedes    + 0:37.400                       
 4.  Frentzen      Jordan Mugen-Honda  + 0:54.000                       
 5.  Fisichella    Benetton Playlife   + 1 Lap                          
 6.  Wurz          Benetton Playlife   + 1 Lap                          
 7.  Trulli        Prost Peugeot       + 1 Lap                          
 8.  Zanardi       Williams Supertec   + 2 Lap                          
 9.  Barrichello   Stewart Ford        + 7 Laps *                       
     * retired on lap 71 with rear suspension failure                   
NOT CLASSIFIED                                                          
     R.Schumacher  Williams Supertec   54  crashed                      
     Alesi         Sauber Petronas     50  spun off, stalled            
     Diniz         Sauber Petronas     49  straight on, stalled         
     Panis         Prost Peugeot       40  straight on, engine cut      
     Coulthard     Mclaren Mercedes    36  engine                       
     Salo          BAR Supertec        36  gearbox                      
     Takagi        Arrows TWR          36  crashed into Barrier         
     Villeneuve    BAR Supertec        32  clipped wall damaged steering
     Herbert       Stewart Ford        32  rear suspension failure      
     de la Rosa    Arrows TWR          30  gearbox                      
     Gene          Minardi Ford        24  hit barrier                  
     Badoer        Minardi Ford        10  gearbox                      
     Hill          Jordan Mugen-Honda   3  hit R.Schumacher             
Fastest Lap: Mika Hakkinen, 1:22.259, 147.354 kmph (lap 67)             
The Monaco Grand Prix, Lap by Lap

Michael SchumacherStart: As the cars form up on the grid, the sun is shining, it's 18 degrees and the track temperature is 33 degrees. Mika Hakkinen gets wheelspin as he changes into second gear and that allows MichaelSchumacherr alongside, taking Irvine with him. At Ste Devote, Hakkinen has to lock up allowing Schumacher into the lead, while Irvine slots into third ahead of Coulthard. Lap one: Schumacher has a 1.3s lead over Hakkinen who has a similar margin over Irvine. Coulthard is pushing the second Ferrari from Barrichello, then there's 1.2s to the rest. Back in eighth place, Fisichella has made a better start and is ahead of Villeneuve.

Lap 3: Schumacher has gradually eased away in front, now with a 2.8s lead from Hakkinen who is 2.1s ahead of Irvine, then there's 1.3s back to Coulthard, 2.5s toBarrichelloo and then 1.8s to Frentzen pushed by Trulli with Fisichella close by. Further back, Hill tries to dive down the inside of Ralf Schumacher at the chicane, they collide and while Schumacher is able to rejoin, Hill retires there and then

Lap 6: Schumacher starts a whole series of fastest laps. At this stage, he is 4.0s ahead of Hakkinen who is now 3.1s ahead of Irvine in third, just 1.8s ahead of Coulthard. Then there's 4.4s to Barrichello, 2.7s to Frentzen who has eased away from Trulli, still being pushed by Fisichella. Villeneuve is next from Zanardi who has Wurz and Herbert right up behind him.

Lap 9: Schumacher's push gives him a lead of 6.3s and it continues to grow. Further back, Wurz has slight damage to his rear wing, where the splitter has come away

Heina Harald FrentzenLap 10: Irvinestraight-liness the chicane but as he loses time rather than gains it, there is no penalty

Lap 11: Badoer retires with a broken gearbox - again, he notes

Lap 12: Schumacher's lead is now 7.3s while the only real battle among the front runners disappears when Trulli pulls away from Fisichella

Lap 14: Zanardi, who had had a queue of cars behind him, goes up the escape road at the chicane and drops from 10th to 16th

Lap 16: Schumacher's lead is now 9.6s, but it jumps to 12s on the next lap and Hakkinen starts to lose time to Irvine, although he then begins to pull away again. Fourth is still Coulthard, there's a big gap to fifth, Barrichello, while next up is Frentzen who is now being caught by Trulli, on softer tyres. Fisichella is close behind, then comes Villeneuve, another gap to Wurz and the rest

Lap 23: the first of the pit stops and this is Trulli who comes in for 7.4s

Lap 25: Gene retires with yet another accident; he hits the barrier on the way out of Ste Devote

Lap 27: leader Schumacher is now 15s ahead of Hakkinen, who is still being threatened by Irvine, just 1.6s behind. Coulthard is still within three seconds, but then there's a huge gap back to Barrichello, some 26s further back. Frentzen is next, shadowed now by Fisichella. Panis pits on this lap in 6.4s

Eddie IrvineLap 31: De la Rosa retires with gearbox failure. Now Schumacher begins another run of quick laps, taking his lead from 16s to 22s in a few laps but Hakkinen is now being pushed hard by Irvine

Lap 33: Herbert retires with right rear suspension failure, which causes him to crash in Casino Square. Villeneuve also retires with an oil leak, after the team tried to fix an oil leak on the grid. Coulthard is close behind the Hakkinen and Irvine pair, but soon drops back again

Lap 35: Schumacher's lead is 26s over the Hakkinen, Irvine pair while Coulthard loses seven seconds on this lap as he begins to experience gearbox problems

Lap 37: Takagi's engine blows up going down the hill into Mirabeau, andHakkinenn goes straight on on the oil and he loses some 18s as he pushes back and gets back onto the circuit. At the same time, Irvine pits for a 6.7s stop from third place, and Coulthard retires from fourth because his gearbox oil pressure has dropped. Salo also retires when he runs out of brakes and hits the barrier at Grand Hotel.

Lap 39: Schumacher has a 45s lead over Hakkinen who is just 2.4s ahead of Irvine even thought the latter has pitted. Then there's 22s back toBarrichelloo, just 1.3s to Frentzen and a tiny second to Fisichella, the last unlapped runner. Trulli is next from Wurz, followed by Alesi and Diniz

Schumacher and HakkinenLap 41: the Hakkinen and Irvine battle is joined. Panis retires when the engine cuts out going into Ste Devote and he is out of the race Lap 42: Michael Schumacher pits from a 47s lead to change tyres and refuel in 9.9s

Lap 43: Schumacher rejoins, still with a 24s lead. Fisichella pits from sixth on this lap

Lap 44: Wurz pits from 8th on this lap

Lap 47: after his stop, Schumacher's lead goes down from 24s to 19s on his new tyres and heavy fuel, but it's not a worry

Lap 49: Diniz retires, in trouble with brakes, when he locks up the fronts and slides into the wall at Ste Devote. Alesi pits for fuel and tyres and rejoins

Lap 50: However, suffering gearbox trouble, he hits the barrier at Casino Square and has to come back in to have the rear suspension checked, before retiring for good at Casino Square again Hakkinen pits for 8.4s on this same lap, Barrichello for a similar time from fourth and Zanardi comes in too

Lap 51: Schumacher's lead is now 22s over Irvine in second place, with a similar gap back to Hakkinen in third, then Frentzen followed byBarrichelloo, pushed by Trulli

Michael SchumacherLap 52: Trulli pits from sixth and Ralf Schumacher from tenth

Lap 55: Ralf Schumacher loses control of his Williams going down the hill to the Grand Hotel corner and smacks the barrier - out of the race

Lap 56: Irvine pits from second place and rejoins just 3.4s ahead of Hakkinen

Lap 57: Frentzen pits from fourth in 6.9s but still rejoins 7.5s ahead of Barrichello which is good enough for fourth place

Lap 61: Hakkinen is having problems with the front of his car and has to ease up so much on this lap that the gap between Irvine ahead of him rises from 3.8s to 6.3s

Lap 63: Trulli goes off up the escape road at Ste Devote and rejoins but it loses him seventh place as Wurz goes by

Lap 65: Hakkinen again has problems with his front suspension and Irvine's lead rises from 5.9s to 9.3s

Lap 67: quite strangely, Hakkinen now sets fastest lap

Lap 70: Barrichello loses some time on this lap

Lap 71: he is back in the clutches of Fisichella

Lap 72: he goes off into the barrier at the swimming pool after his rear suspension fails - like teammate Herbert's

Lap 78: Michael Schumacher wins from Eddie Irvine, the first ever Ferrari one-two at Monaco, and Michael Schumacher becomes the most successful Ferrari driver of all time.

Michele Lupini© 1999 Kaizar.Com, Incorporated.
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