RACE REPORT: FRENCH GRAND PRIX Smart fuel strategy helps Frentzen reign supreme in wet, wild race MAGNY-COURS, France, June 27, 1999--Heinz-Harald Frentzen won a wet and wild French Grand Prix thanks to pit strategy and the skill and...
RACE REPORT: FRENCH GRAND PRIX Smart fuel strategy helps Frentzen reign supreme in wet, wild race
MAGNY-COURS, France, June 27, 1999--Heinz-Harald Frentzen won a wet and wild French Grand Prix thanks to pit strategy and the skill and luck needed to keep his B&H Jordan-Mugen-Honda from spinning off a rain-drenched track. Frentzen took the lead for the first time with seven laps to go as his rivals made their second pit stops for fuel, and he stayed out. Points leader Mika Hakkinen finished second, and Rubens Barrichello was third. The Jordan crew had decided to give Frentzen extra fuel when he made his only stop (on lap 22 of 72) not only for fuel but for wet-weather tires, as it was starting to rain. He was the only finisher not to pit twice en route to his second career victory. It also was the second-ever victory for the Jordan team. "I went into the pits because it had suddenly started to rain quite heavily," Frentzen said, "and everyone was trying to make it into the pits as safely as possible. But then I noticed that the guys doing the refueling were taking a lot of time, and when I went out again I knew immediately that the car felt very heavy. I was wondering how I was going to be able to keep the car on the road with all the aquaplaning." It began to rain so heavily that the Safety Car came out on from laps 26 to 35. Even still, drivers spun off, including former CART champions Alex Zanardi and Jacques Villeneuve, who were trying to catch up to the Safety Car after their pit stops. The slippery conditions created all sorts of battles and action. In all, there were six lead changes between five drivers, and when it was over Frentzen crossed the line 11.092 seconds ahead of Hakkinen's West McLaren-Mercedes. Barrichello, who led three times for a total of 44 laps in his Stewart-Ford, rounded out the top three. Frentzen averaged 96.291 mph (154.965 km/h) to complete the 72-lap 190.023-mile (305.814 km) race in one hour, 58 minutes and 24.343 seconds. Pole sitter Barrichello grabbed the lead at the start but gave it up to David Coulthard on lap 6. But Coulthard retired his West McLaren-Mercedes four laps later with an electrical failure. It started to rain as the leaders began lap 21. Several drivers, including Jean Alesi, who was in third place in his Red Bull Sauber-Petronas, spun off before the Safety Car came out on lap 26. The puddles and slick track would cause five drivers to spin into retirement and many others to slide off and keep going. By this time, Hakkinen was in second place, having charged up from 14th at the start. Reigning World Champion Hakkinen had an amazing race, going from 14th to second only to fall back to eighth when he spun, then working his way into the lead and finally ending up second when he had to make his second pit stop and Frentzen didn't. Barrichello, who battled wheel-to-wheel with Coulthard, Michael Schumacher and Hakkinen, had to ease off to conserve fuel -- plus his Stewart-Ford was set up for dry conditions -- so he eventually settled for third. An intense battle between Ralf Schumacher's Winfield Williams-Supertec and the Ferraris of Michael Schumacher and Eddie Irvine in the closing laps -- one of many such battles in this race -- ended with them rounding out the top six in that order. Michael Schumacher led laps 44 to 54 in his Ferrari but was slowed by gearbox and handling problems.
HEINZ-HARALD FRENTZEN (B&H Jordan-Mugen-Honda, winner): "I noticed that the guys around me must have had less fuel, because initially they were able to pull away from me quite quickly. But luckily then the Safety Car was brought out, and there was time for me to have some conversations with the pits by radio. We talked about strategy and why I was so heavy on fuel. It was still pretty tight, and I even had to save fuel at one stage to be sure of making it all the way to the end (without a second stop). But we have good radio communications, and everything worked out well."
MIKA HAKKINEN (West McLaren-Mercedes, second): "So many things happened, but the most important was the psychological strength required today, starting the race from 14th position, not only from me but from everyone on the team. Obviously we have been getting used to starting races this year from the front row, so to be starting from 14th position was a new type of situation for us. The race was just great: Good tactics, perfect communications, and I was able to push the car to the limit through 80 percent of the race. Unfortunately it was not one of my best moments when it started raining, because I spun and lost a lot of time. That is the reason why I'm in second place. But it doesn't matter. It was great fun."
RUBENS BARRICHELLO (Stewart-Ford, third): "It's mixed emotions for me. I don't think I need to be disappointed, because I have finished on the podium. While leading the race I had that feeling that it could be ours today. But when it started to rain heavily, my car was aquaplaning quite a lot, and I was lucky not to spin off. In the wet, when my car was getting more and more oversteer, it was quite difficult to drive and I was having to concentrate hard. But even so, I was losing time to the McLarens, the Ferraris and the Jordans."
MICHAEL SCHUMACHER (Ferrari, fifth): "My radio stopped working early on. I was trying to communicate with my pits with hand signals. I was having trouble changing gear, and at one point I only had first and second gear. So I came in and changed the steering wheel. The new set of tires did not work well. At the end of the race I had fun with my brother Ralf, like in our old karting days."
ALEX ZANARDI (Winfield Williams-Supertec, retired lap 27): "I was trying to reach the Pace Car. I lost grip on a huge puddle. The car went slightly sideways, and I think too much water went into the airbox because the engine stopped."
JACQUES VILLENEUVE (British American Racing-Supertec, retired lap 26): "Today's conditions were incredible. I don't think I've ever driven in so much rain. I was together with Alexander Wurz, and we were trying to catch the rest of the field, which was not really going that fast behind the Safety Car. But normally when you are in the middle of a group, the cars push the water away. We were on our own for a while, and when we reached the chicane, there was so much water there that I just went aquaplaning and spun off. The same thing happened to Wurz right at the same time." *** FINAL RESULTS:
MAGNY-COURS, France --Results of the French Grand Prix, with starting position in parentheses, driver, country, make of car, laps completed and reasons out, if any, on the 2.64-mile Magny-Cours circuit: 1. (5) Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Germany, Jordan-Mugen Honda, 72 laps. 2. (14) Mika Hakkinen, Finland, McLaren-Mercedes, 72. 3. (1) Rubens Barrichello, Brazil, Stewart-Ford, 72. 4. (16) Ralf Schumacher, Germany, Williams-Supertec, 72. 5. (6) Michael Schumacher, Germany, Ferrari, 72. 6. (17) Eddie Irvine, Britain, Ferrari, 72. 7. (8) Jarno Trulli, Italy, Prost-Peugeot, 72. 8. (3) Olivier Panis, France, Prost-Peugeot, 72. 9. (10) Ricardo Zonta, Brazil, BAR-Supertec, 72. 10. (21) Luca Badoer, Italy, Minardi-Ford, 71. 11. (20) Toranosuke Takagi, Japan, Arrows, 71. 12. (19) Pedro de la Rosa, Spain, Arrows, 71, disqualified. 13. (7) Giancarlo Fisichella, Italy, Benetton-Playlife, 42, spin. 14. (18) Damon Hill, Britain, Jordan-Mugen Honda, 31, misfire. 15. (15) Alex Zanardi, Italy, Williams, 26, engine stall. 16. (12) Jacques Villeneuve, Canada, BAR-Supertec, 25, spin. 17. (13) Alexander Wurz, Austria, Benetton-Playlife, 25, spin. 18. (22) Marc Gene, Spain, Minardi-Ford, 25, spin. 19. (2) Jean Alesi, France, Sauber-Petronas, 24, spin. 20. (4) David Coulthard, Britain, McLaren-Mercedes, 9, electrics. 21. (11) Pedro Diniz, Brazil, Sauber-Petronas, 6, transmission. 22. (9) Johnny Herbert, Britain, Stewart-Ford, 4, gearbox. Time of race: 1 hour, 58 minutes, 24.343 seconds. Margin of victory: 11.092 seconds. Winner's average speed: 92.269 mph. Lap leaders: Barrichello 1-5; Coulthard 6-9; Barrichello 10-43; M. Schumacher 44-54; Barrichello 55-59; Hakkinen 60-65; Frentzen 66-72.
Drivers: Hakkinen 40; M. Schumacher 32; Irvine 26; Frentzen 23; R. Schumacher 15; Fisichella 13; Coulthard 12; Barrichello 10; Hill 3. Constructors: Ferrari 58; McLaren-Mercedes 52; Jordan-Mugen-Honda 26; Williams-Supertec 15; Benetton Playlife 14; Stewart-Ford 12.
NEWS and NOTES:
Provisional 2000 Formula One schedule released: The return of the United States Grand Prix is one of the highlights on the provisional 17-race F1 calendar released last week by the FIA. The world tour will kick off in Malaysia on Feb. 20 and end with the inaugural U.S. Grand Prix at Indianapolis on Sept. 24 and the Japanese Grand Prix on Oct. 8. The provisional calendar: Malaysia--Feb. 20; Australia--March 5; Brazil--March 19; San Marino--April 9; Spain--April 23; France--May 7; Europe (Nurburgring)--May 21; Monaco--June 4; Canada--June 18; Britain--July 2; Austria--July 16; Germany--July 30; Hungary--Aug. 13; Belgium--Aug. 27; Italy--Sept. 10; United States--Sept. 24; Japan-Oct. 8. *** Barrichello & Stewart-Ford win pole: Rubens Barrichello won the second pole position of his career and the first for Stewart-Ford. It rained throughout the qualifying session, but the drivers who headed out early missed the worst of the rain. Because of the rain, former World Champion Damon Hill missed the qualifying cut by .003 of a second, but officials allowed him and four other slower drivers to start because of the extraordinary conditions. *** Hill may stop: Damon Hill, who recently announced that he will retire at the end of the season, may leave earlier than that. "This may be my last race," Hill told reporters after a disappointing race in which he stopped with a misfire. Before the weekend, Hill, son of two-time World Champion and 1966 Indianapolis 500 winner Graham Hill, said: "I have said before that if I wasn't enjoying it and I didn't think I could be competitive, then it would be time to stop. Those two criteria were met this year. My state of mind is that I see an end at the end of this year. I do not want to damage in anyway Eddie's (Jordan) hopes of securing his highest-ever finish in the Constructors Championship. "If my performances are not up to it, then of course we will have to discuss it (my retiring sooner). Right now I'm not thinking past (the next Grand Prix at) Silverstone." *** Most experienced: Having made his F1 debut in the 1989 French Grand Prix, Jean Alesi celebrated his 10th anniversary at this year's edition of the race. Starting in his 157th Grand Prix, the Frenchman is the most experienced driver in the F1 line-up today (Johnny Herbert is second with 135 starts), but he will have a long way to go to catch Ricardo Patrese, who holds the record with 256 starts.
Long history: Like the Indianapolis 500, which started in 1911, the French Grand Prix has a long history. The first event was staged in 1906, and this year marked the 85th running of the French Grand Prix. While other earlier races also used the name "Grand Prix," experts consider the 1906 race in France to be the first true Grand Prix. The race was run over two days, with six laps each day over a 64-mile (103-km) circuit near Le Mans. Eleven of the 34 starters finished. Hungarian Ferenc Szisz won in a 13-liter four-cylinder Grand Prix Renault.
Heidfeld wins third: Germany's Nick Heidfeld won his Formula 3000 race of the year in France. He took the lead on the opening lap by passing pole sitter Bruno Junqueira. Thomas Enge took second place and David Saelens third.
Verstappen's BAR: Jos Verstappen has signed on as a test driver at British American Racing. The Dutchman was the test driver on Honda's F1 project team until it folded after Honda decided to return to F1 as an engine supplier to BAR.
Top rides: Classic cars from the legendary Schlumpf Collection were used in the F1 drivers parade Sunday and toured the track Saturday. The cars, which almost never leave the museum, included two 1930 Bugatti Royales (including the famous Napoleon Coupe), a 1924 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost, a 1929 Bentley 4.5 Le Mans and a Delahaye 135 M.
Sold out: Race Day was a sell-out with more than 105,000 fans coming to the Grand Prix.