|The 1999 Race-by-Race Review|
|by Michele Lupini, South Africa|
1999 will more than likely be remembered as one of the most dramatic seasons in recent years. No less than five drivers were in contention of grabbing the World Championship title at relative points through the season, and yet no one driver seemed fully capable of clinching the title before the final race. A season marred by drivers making critical mistakes, teams fouling up their strategy and ever so much drama, that could fill hours of Hollywood-like footage. Michele Lupini has a look back at the sixteen rounds of the 1999 season and provides a recap of every race
Winner: Eddie Irvine. Pole Position: Mika Hakkinen. Fastest Lap: Michael Schumacher
The 1999 Grand Prix season started off with a bang in Australia, in a race that confounded the critics and served as a perfect preamble to what was to become a great season: To expect the unexpected!
While it was clear that the status quo from 1998 was set to continue after free practice, qualifying confirmed McLaren were still the team to beat. So it was the old 1-2 on the front row, Mika Hakkinen pipping his McLaren-Mercedes teammate at the post, with Michael Schumacher third from Rubens Barrichello in the Stewart-Ford, Heinz-Harald Frentzen in the Jordan Mugen-Honda and Irvine's Ferrari.
But the 1999 season struggled to get underway in Australia. First, the Stewart-Fords of Barrichello and Johnny Herbert both caught fire causing the start to be aborted. Herbert retired and Rubens got the spare - from the pit lane. Then Michael Schumacher's nightmare from Japan '98 relived itself, the Ferrari stalling on the second start - causing that to be halted. The nightmare would continue to duplicate itself, when his Ferrari's rear tyre exploded half way through his race.
After several retirements, including both the McLarens, Ferrari's Irvine led from Frentzen and Ralf Schumacher in the Williams. They were to finish in that order, giving the Irishman his maiden victory in Formula One and a healthy lead in the Drivers' Championship over the main contenders. And, with statistics showing that it is often the driver who wins the first race to also win the title that year, the question in everyone's mind was, Eddie??? Surely not...
Winner: Mika Hakkinen. Pole Position: Mika Hakkinen. Fastest Lap: Mika Hakkinen.
Sao Paolo saw the F1 scene returning to expected form following that extraordinary Australian result. Mika Hakkinen won with a suspect car, beating Michael Schumacher. But Brazil's hero was "Rubinho" Barrichello. McLaren dominated practice and qualifying, lining up in an again dominant front row, Mika's time quicker than his 1998's 3-groove pole. An impressive Barrichello kept Michael Schumacher out of third.
Race day drums and sambas hissed, and Michael Schumacher's problem wasn't a stalled Ferrari, but a stationary McLaren - Coulthard stalling on the grid. Hakkinen led from Barrichello, Schumacher, Irvine and Frentzen. But Mika's McLaren suddenly slowed, letting Barrichello into a popular lead from Schumacher. Just as quickly as he slowed, Mika picked up speed again, keeping pace with the Ferrari.
Barrichello pitted, clearly on a 2-stop strategy, letting Schumacher lead from a frustrated Hakkinen, Irvine and Barrichello, who soon passed the Ulsterman to the delight of the crowd. Schumacher pitted - rejoining ahead of Barrichello. But Mika was charging - to make his stop work and maintain the lead, setting a fastest lap before a blinding second stop to rejoin in the lead.
Then, to the disgust of the crowd, Rubinho's Ford mill expired, while Hakkinen built up a six-second lead over Michael, which he maintained at will. Frentzen, repeating his fine Australian performance, was a strong third, ahead of Ralf, Irvine and Olivier Panis, claiming a point for Prost-Peugeot.
Winner: Michael Schumacher. Pole Position: Mika Hakkinen. Fastest Lap: Michael Schumacher.
If a trend was developing early on in 1999, it was that the pace in F1 testing, practice, qualifying and even early in the races had little to do with race results. The weekend at Imola started in familiar fashion, the silver arrows dominating every session. Michael Schumacher and Irvine were too close for McLaren comfort, though. Fifth, in one of the team's highlights of 1999, was Jacques Villeneuve in the BAR. But he retired on the grid.
Mika shot into an immediate, commanding lead, with Coulthard gradually opening a gap on Schumacher, Irvine dropping back, ahead of a gaggle headed by Barrichello. Mika's pace appeared blinding but it all ended with an unforced error, Mika slammed into the pit straight wall, sliding to rest a couple of hundred metres down the road and out of the race. The silent crowd erupted. Michael closed to within a second of Coulthard, pitting before his expected single stop.
His pace after the stop was blinding - Michael took chunks out of David's pre-stop lead every lap. When Coulthard pitted, he emerged as Michael flashed into the lead - to the delight of Italy, piling on the pressure to build up 22-second advantage before his second stop. He rejoined in the lead, going on to win Ferrari's first race at the circuit named after Enzo and Dino, in sixteen years.
Behind Coulthard, a delighted Barrichello was third, from Damon Hill, a surprised Fisichella and Alesi. Both Irvine and Frentzen retired from possible third places when Eddie's Ferrari engine exploded and Heinz-Harald went off on the Ferrari's lubricant. It was to be Irvine's only retirement of the year.
Winner: Michael Schumacher. Pole Position: Mika Hakkinen. Fastest Lap: Mika Hakkinen.
Michael Schumacher continued his winning form at Monte Carlo, with teammate Eddie Irvine following him home in a Ferrari 1-2 victory, to defeat Mika Hakkinen and humble McLaren. The win made the German Ferrari's most successful-ever F1 driver - his sixteenth victory surpassing Niki Lauda's 15 Ferrari wins.
The McLarens struggled all weekend. McLaren? Struggle? Try eleventh and fourteenth in the first session. But they fought back - six hundredths of a second split the World Champion from his challenger on the grid in a come-from-behind pole. However, When the lights extinguished, it was the red cars that got the drop on the silver ones. Michael had the better of Mika, Eddie of David. Damon Hill soon pulled an improbable move on Ralf Schumacher for fifteenth, ending his race on the spot, as Michael continued to open up his lead with the three behind remaining static. Irvine edged up onto Hakkinen's tail in the traffic, when Ross Brawn called Eddie in for an early stop.
Then Mika drove down the escape road, rather than risk a spin on an Arrows' oilspill. He kept it running, returning with Irvine breathing down his neck. Schumacher pitted at his leisure, returning in a massive lead, Hakkinen pitting later, rejoining behind Irvine in a lonely second. This allowed Eddie to make his splash-and-dash stop and rejoin ahead of Mika. The three were to finish the race in that order.
Had Ferrari turned the tables? Monte Carlo pointed to that. But even the Ferrari men were anxious of its pace in the following races. That said, McLaren had been unable to prevent Michael Schumacher from gaining what appeared to be firm grip on the 1999 World Drivers championship...
Winner: Mika Hakkinen. Pole Position: Mika Hakkinen. Fastest Lap: Michael Schumacher.
Formula One can be as interesting as watching paint dry. At Barcelona, overtaking seemed impossible. None the less, Spain was a McLaren dream, surging the Woking team's confidence.
Mika edged ahead at the start, but Ferrari's race immediately took a knock, when Coulthard and Villeneuve, who qualified fifth in the BAR, nipped into second and third. Mika led David, opening up a lead from Villeneuve, and the frustrated Schumacher and Irvine. They had to wait for their pit stops to do anything about the McLarens speeding into the distance.
Villeneuve retired from a promising fifth in an embarrassing pit stop. Hakkinen took his last stop, but retained the lead to the end as Coulthard went on to complete McLaren's first 1-2 of the year behind his teammate. In short, Barcelona was dead boring and that's about as much as anyone will remember of that race.
Winner: Mika Hakkinen. Pole Position: Michael Schumacher. Fastest Lap: Eddie Irvine.
The Canadian Grand Prix will be remembered for Mika Hakkinen winning the race, after Michael Schumacher had his turn at crashing into the wall.
Michael broke Mika's run of poles and also streaked into an immediate lead as Jarno Trulli ended the weekend for Alesi and himself, and prepared Barrichello for retirement, bringing out the safety car. By lap three, the Montreal wall started satisfying its appetite, claiming Zonta's BAR to bring the safety car straight back out.
The restart saw Mika chasing Michael this time, while Coulthard was all over the back of Irvine's Ferrari. Then the Montreal wall eliminated Damon Hill, but the race continued, Schumacher consolidating his lead. But Michael's trail of pace came to an end, the wall eliminating the then-race and championship leader.
So, Hakkinen led Irvine, Coulthard, Fisichella and Frentzen when the turn 13 wall claimed its hat trick of world champions, taking Villeneuve out of his home GP and returning the safety car to duty. The restart witnessed an ego-bashing incident between Irvine and Coulthard. Both suffered, Eddie dropping back and David pitting at speed for repairs.
Hakkinen drove away, shielded by balkers, as Irvine fought past an impressive Diniz, battled to pass Herbert and then easily powered past the Williams Supertec. Then Frentzen slammed into the barriers to bring the pace car out to lead the race to the flag, ending an entertaining race.
Winner: Heinz-Harald Frentzen. Pole Position: Rubens Barrichello. Fastest Lap: David Coulthard.
Extreme conditions added different names to the F1 history books at the French Grand Prix - the main players making do with lesser positions. An exciting weekend saw Barrichello's second-ever pole and Frentzen and Jordan's second victory.
Qualifying was wet and more of a lottery of who comes out when. This ended in a rather odd looking grid, with Barrichello first, Alesi second, from Panis and Coulthard. Michael Schumacher was sixth, Hakkinen Fourteenth, Irvine sixteenth and seven drivers, including Damon Hill, outside 107%, which was waived due to the extreme conditions.
Rubens made a fine start, leading Alesi, Coulthard, Frentzen and Michael Schumacher. Hakkinen was ninth by lap 2 and making a position per lap. The race saw some great dicing from Michael and Mika until the latter passed the Ferrari, in the mean time Coulthard coasting to a stop, retiring yet again.
So Barrichello led from Alesi, Frentzen, Hakkinen and Schumacher. Hakkinen then took second - from fourteenth in nineteen laps, to close on the leader, but slipped as he passed the Stewart. Then the skies opened, catching Fisichella out and the Ferrari team without tyres for Irvine. Was this a dress rehearsal for a later race?
The safety car came out and remained for eleven laps, During which Damon Hill stopped and announced his retirement from F1. Then Michael Schumacher came alive, disposing of Frentzen and Barrichello to lead to the next pit stops. Schumacher changed his steering wheel during his stop, dropping him back. Barrichello led, while Hakkinen battled with Frentzen for second. Then it was Mika's turn to pass the Jordan and Stewart to lead.
But Hakkinen and Barrichello needed fuel and stopped - both rejoining behind Frentzen, who went on to record a fine and deserved victory for himself and Jordan, from Hakkinen and Barrichello. Ralf Schumacher pinched fourth from his brother, with Irvine following Michael home.
Ferrari had failed to capitalise on two races everyone expected them to win in Canada and France, but the French Grand Prix will be remembered as a Jordan success and a great weekend for Formula One.
Winner: David Coulthard. Pole Position: Mika Hakkinen. Fastest Lap: Mika Hakkinen.
The British Grand Prix shook up the 1999 World Championship. David Coulthard's first win of the year and Michael Schumacher's premature exit from the chase left the way open for McLaren. Or did it? Mika's retirement was another difficult one for the team and they were set to deal with a different animal in Edie Irvine as lead driver at Ferrari.
The race ended as quickly as it started, the red flag coming out after a start-line incident, but not before Schumacher's Ferrari went straight, skimming over the gravel trap and into the wall at speed. Michael tried to climb out of car, but his leg was snagged in the shattered cockpit. Medical staff attended to Schumacher at the scene, before he was taken to the Silverstone medical centre and on, by helicopter, to hospital with a fractured tibia and fibula and a badly bruised knee.
Hakkinen led a processional race after the restart - until a difficult pit stop. Then a rear wheel hub problem put him out. That left Coulthard and Irvine to fight the Battle of Britain. Irvine led, but Coulthard took the advantage of another Ferrari pit stop fault as Eddie overshot his crew. Eddie chased David all the way to the flag - finishing close behind Coulthard.
The British Grand prix was, without doubt, the turning point of Season. With Michael Schumacher out until the Malaysian GP in October, Eddie Irvine suddenly found himself as Ferrari's number one. Something few would have contemplated when speculators earlier claimed that he could become World Champion. Mika Hakkinen wasn't far ahead, and Eddie was suddenly a far more significant dark horse for the '99 crown...
Winner: Eddie Irvine. Pole Position: Mika Hakkinen. Fastest Lap: Mika Hakkinen.
The McLarens dominated all weekend – except for Damon Hill's Friday surprise. A brilliant Hakkinen and Coulthard had qualifying to themselves, swapping pole before Mika clinched his seventh of the season. But as the grid filed away cleanly - Coulthard saved the drama for turn two, shafting his teammate and relegating Mika to the back, along with Herbert and Salo. So Coulthard led Barrichello, Irvine, Frentzen and an impressive Ricardo Zonta, while Mika sliced through the pack, led by Alesi.
Coulthard, Barrichello, Frentzen and Hakkinen, now fifth, all stopped, leaving Irvine way out front, but still had to stop. Eddie was flying, while a combination of prolonged lethargy and traffic held up Coulthard. A brilliant stop by Ferrari saw Eddie back out in the lead. Meanwhile Mika handled third and fourth placed Barrichello and Frentzen. Both risky moves utilised more Mika brute force and psychology than McLaren and Mercedes-Benz. Out front, things were hotting up, but traffic caused problems, and with three laps to go, David was under the Ferrari's wing and that's as far as he got.
Eddie brought the Ferrari home to an incredible win – retaining the Scuderia's two point championship lead and closing to within two of Mika in the driver's title. McLaren were unsettled by this unknown factor of Irvine in the lead Ferrari, and the championship was wide open.
Winner: Eddie Irvine. Pole Position: Mika Hakkinen. Fastest Lap: David Coulthard.
The German Grand Prix evened out McLaren and Ferrari's luck - both teams had lost two races they should have won, and won two races where they were expected to lose. It also established that Eddie Irvine was a definite candidate for world champion. But it was Mika Salo who took his Ferrari teammate's winners' trophy home - Eddie gave it to him in recognition of handing him victory.
Mika Hakkinen did nothing wrong at Hockenheim, but left with nothing. Coulthard continued his trail of sorry stories, crashing into Salo and incurring a stop-go for short cutting. He did claim two points - despite proving his car should have won.
Hakkinen claimed pole, his seventeenth and McLaren's hundredth, but fought Frentzen for it. Then a disastrous McLaren pitstop saw Hakkinen waste twenty seconds in the race - and although his race was soon to end with his right-rear tyre exploding, Hakkinen still managed to treat the viewers with yet another fantastic overtaking display.
McLaren had thrown another golden opportunity by the wayside. But for his team, teammate, hub and tyres in the last three races, Mika Hakkinen would have been edging towards his second WC. Instead, he faced a fight back against a man who was gaining momentum at every turn, as Eddie Irvine started to see that blurred dream of a world championship become an ever-clearer vision.
Winner: Mika Hakkinen. Pole Position: Mika Hakkinen. Fastest Lap: David Coulthard.
For the first time in months, a Grand Prix went according to form. Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard avenged their canny rivals at Ferrari with a Budapest whitewash. Eddie Irvine could have been second - he slipped off momentarily - it was a weekend the Italian team would rather forget, the second car scrubbing about the back. But Irvine and Ferrari remained ahead in both championships.
If McLaren had shown superior form all year, this was confirmation of the super-team's promise. Mika was fastest all weekend, but Irvine was on the pace, qualifying alongside Mika and ahead of Coulthard. At the start of the race, Hakkinen opened up a gap to a lead he never was to lose.
So Mika cruised to a most deserved, great victory to end his midseason drought, from Coulthard and a subdued Irvine. Eddie, still leading the championship, as did Ferrari and all that considered, it appeared that 1999's best Formula 1 action hadn't even started yet.
Winner: David Coulthard. Pole Position: Mika Hakkinen. Fastest Lap: Mika Hakkinen.
David Coulthard dispelled any speculations of his ability, leading the Belgian Grand Prix from flag to flag. But a lack of team orders could have cost the team dear when the curtain finally came down. Eddie Irvine manhandled the evil-looking Ferrari home to fourth behind Frentzen, losing only three points to Hakkinen, whose team refrained from ordering Coulthard to let the title protagonist by.
Mika Hakkinen started from a dominant pole, only his teammate matching his pace. Coulthard made a good start to lead away. Mika got going a little early, but stopped, then the McLarens touched, again, Hakkinen the culprit this time. Both recovered, fending off Frentzen, Irvine and Ralf Schumacher. That was the finishing order – the race was another procession.
David Coulthard did everything right – from lights out to the flag. But his win was clouded, as it allowed Ferrari to come away from its worst race of the year so far stronger than it ought to have. Mika Hakkinen only lead Eddie Irvine by a solitary point. Despite Spa being a great victory for the Scot and a self-saluting act of the team's apparent morals, those four points could well have been the deciding factor in the championship war.
Winner: Heinz-Harald Frentzen. Pole Position: Mika Hakkinen. Fastest Lap: Ralf Schumacher.
Heinz-Harald Frentzen's splendid victory for Jordan Mugen-Honda in Italy turned the title into a four-cornered tussle. The German was ten points behind joint-leaders Irvine and Hakkinen, and two ahead of Coulthard, after a weekend Jordan will remember, McLaren will want to forget and Ferrari will thank their lucky stars for. Hakkinen erred for a second time, failing to capitalise on a win and an almost unassailable championship lead.
It seemed that as hard as Ferrari tried to blow it, McLaren just did that so much better. After a busy start, Hakkinen sped away when he knocked his gear selector down once too many, sliding to stall in the first chicane. He emerged in a fit of temper, before collapsing in tears. An emotional Heinz-Harald Frentzen drove his Jordan to his and the marque's third wins and Ralf Schumacher equalled his best ever result in second.
As the F1 circus headed to the last Grand Prix in Europe, Heinz Harald Frenzen seemed the ideal candidate to win a world championship which his rivals seemed so eager to lose.
Winner: Johnny Herbert. Pole Position: Heinz-Harald Frentzen. Fastest Lap: Mika Hakkinen.
The European GP was one of the most exciting in 1999. But climatic conditions again had much to do with Johnny Herbert's victory. Ferrari fumbled a pit stop like amateurs and McLaren called the rain wrong.
The race never started first time – the lights staying after Gene stalled. Then it went on behind the pace car after Diniz was trapped under his Sauber. When the safety car disappeared, Frentzen led Hakkinen, Coulthard and Ralf. As rain came down, Ron Dennis called Mika Hakkinen in and Irvine from 7th followed. Ferrari's right rear tyre man was absent, looking for rubber lost in Salo's stop seconds earlier. Eddie's stop was a disaster.
Frentzen led from Coulthard, Ralf Schumacher and Fisichella. Irvine was 13th, Hakkinen 15th, touring around, way off the pace. Now Coulthard led from Ralf and Fisichella, and the skies re-opened. David was pushing too hard and he too soon paid the penalty - skating out of the race. That left Ralf leading Fisichella, and Herbert, but Ralf's right rear tyre exploded and he had to drive slowly back to his pit, shattering the hopes for a maiden win.
So Fisichella led but Giancarlo, too, crashed out of the lead, losing out on that elusive first win. That allowed Herbert to lead, comfortably from Trulli and a charging Barrichello, Badoer, Ralf and Villeneuve - the BAR, in the points. But Hakkinen was right up with, Irvine, both chasing a Minardi for that last point! Irvine locked up the brakes and Mika was past and gone, then Villeneuve retired again and Mika was in the points - catching Gene for another. Mika caught and passed Gene, but Irvine remained out of the points.
Herbert led Trulli and Barrichello home, from Ralf. There was delight at Stewart - winning a race in its last year. But the overriding feeling was that no one seemed to want to win the '99 title. Ferrari sabotaged itself - again in that pit stop - while Hakkinen appeared to only race only half the distance. Whoever ultimately lost the title would have more than enough excuses to justify it!
Winner: Eddie Irvine. Pole Position: Michael Schumacher. Fastest Lap: Michael Schumacher.
The first Malaysian GP will go down as one of the most dramatic ever in Formula One history. It started with Michael Schumacher storming back from his recuperation and shaking the establishment, with Eddie Irvine underlining Ferrari's domination to complete a scarlet front row. When the lights went out, Schumacher shot into the distance, then slowed, let Eddie through and began a masterly display of holding up Mika Hakkinen, totally wearing the Finn out.
Ferrari painted Sepang red, leading all the way to steal both the drivers and makers' title leads back, or so we thought. Another drama was unfolding in the scrutineering bay. Ferrari was wheeling their cars away when FIA technical delegate, Jo Bauer, asked for the Ferrari's barge boards to be checked after a McLaren tip-off. The boards were found to be outside of the regulations. Ferrari's Jean Todt was summoned to the race stewards, starting a process that caused bickering at every level in F1, from the fans to the highest court in motorsport...
The victorious Ferraris were disqualified, making Hakkinen and McLaren champions until Ferrari appealed. That happened in Paris the following Friday. It was a tricky situation, with every man and his dog putting their two cents worth before the appeal. But the court, comprising five international judges, found the FIA's measurement to be suspect and reinstated the Ferraris, ending that furious debate and setting the Japanese finale up to be a cracker. Eddie Irvine and Ferrari lead Mika Hakkinen and McLaren by four points each in the respective titles as the teams headed to Suzuka.
Winner: Mika Hakkinen. Pole Position: Michael Schumacher. Fastest Lap: Michael Schumacher.
Mika Hakkinen was in absolutely magnificent form in the Japanese Grand Prix. To be assured of his second World Championship on the trot, the SuperFinn had to win the race. That he did, in superb style. Michael Schumacher also gave his all (or not) for Ferrari to clinch the Scuderia its first World Constructors title in seventeen years. Eddie Irvine's title chase came to a brave end in Japan, the Ulsterman wasn't up to it in the end - Eddie was well beaten by a deserved winner.
So, that riveting, controversial and hugely entertaining 1999 FIA Formula One World Championship was finally over. It often seemed as if no one wanted to win it, as both McLaren and Ferrari continually threw away opportunities through the year.
Mika Hakkinen won the driver's race in a fight to the very end. He not only had to fight his teammate, the pair made contact on more than one occasion, and despite a healthy championship lead, he ended one position behind Coulthard on two occasions, but the McLaren continued to suffer from a lack of reliability, and Ferrari were unbelievably resilient.
The Italian team, too, fully deserved the makers' title. While its arch rivals qualified for all but four Grands prix on pole, the fastest cars have not always won the races. Ferrari concentrated on the races, and despite losing their star driver for seven of them, fought off a stronger McLaren to wrest the constructors' championship.
1999 wasn't a vintage F1 year. It was hugely exciting in that the championship stayed alive all the way, punctuated by all the drama, excitement and interest one could dream for. But most of the races were boring, the contenders all benefited more from each other's misfortune rather than their own continued brilliance and F1 was more in the headlines for its scandals and controversy than its glory and action.
It was a fight all the way, none the less, and will be remembered for that alongside the drama, as Mika Hakkinen and Ferrari respectively earned their titles in a season where we learned to expect the unexpected.
|Michele Lupini||© 1999 Kaizar.Com, Incorporated.|
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