German GP McLaren Sets Sights on Ferrari

INDIANAPOLIS, July 29, 1999 -- West McLaren-Mercedes teammates Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard have shaken hands and agreed to come out fighting. There are championships to be won. In the Austrian Grand Prix last weekend the ...

INDIANAPOLIS, July 29, 1999 -- West McLaren-Mercedes teammates Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard have shaken hands and agreed to come out fighting. There are championships to be won. In the Austrian Grand Prix last weekend the McLaren-Mercedes duo collided on the opening lap when Coulthard tried to pass Hakkinen. The result was that Hakkinen spun, dropped to last place and charged to third place in a race he could have won. Coulthard led half the race, but Eddie Irvine pulled off a victory in his Ferrari while Coulthard finished second. Michael Schumacher may be out of action after breaking his leg when he crashed at the British Grand Prix but, as Irvine proved with his win in the Austria, the World Championship is still wide open. After nine of 16 rounds on the Formula One world tour, reigning champ Hakkinen leads the Drivers Championship standings with 44 points. Irvine, who has taken over the leadership role from Schumacher at Ferrari, has 42 points. Next comes Schumacher with 32 points, Heinz-Harald Frentzen with 29 and Coulthard with 28. Ferrari heads the Constructors Championship with 74 points over the 72 points earned by McLaren-Mercedes. And it's because of the championships at stake that the McLaren drivers are looking forward rather than backward. The two drivers met with Mercedes-Benz racing director Norbert Haug and McLaren director Ron Dennis after the race in Austria. "We sorted it out," Haug said. "Mika said to David, 'Forget it. It was a mistake. Let's shake hands. One mistake is OK.'" Hakkinen said any sort of feud now would be detrimental to the team's championship bid. "We have both discussed what happened in Austria," Hakkinen said. "We are in a positive frame of mind for the rest of the season. Any problems would not be very constructive for us or the team. I said to him, 'I understand things like that happen. Let's forget it.' "There were some team members who were extremely upset," Hakkinen said. "But it's one of those things. I've been in F1 for many years and have seen so many good things and bad things, and that was just one of the weekends. There is no point in starting to destroy all the work that we have done all these years. "It's just better to go and concentrate on the rest of the season." Coulthard, too, wants to forget about the incident. But, he said, he won't be any less aggressive. "That's behind us," Coulthard said. "It won't change my style, though. If I see a gap I will go for it. I will take calculated risks. I made a mistake, but with a couple of good results I'm back in the championship." Irvine is only two points behind Hakkinen in the championship. "We are more on course for the championship than we were a week ago," Irvine said. "We were eight points behind Mika (before the Austrian Grand Prix), and now we are two points behind. But Mika is the favorite. He has been consistently faster than us all year. Although we have beaten him on a few occasions, we need to step up a gear, and we need to start going faster to really be in with a chance of the title. That's what we're working on. "In the four years that I have been at Ferrari, we have never stood still. We have always gone forward, and this year everybody can see that." Irvine won last weekend. Can he do it again this weekend? "If we are close in qualifying, that means we have a chance in the race," Irvine said. "I'm just going out to get the best results I can and the most points I can get." Located between Frankfurt and Heidelberg, the Hockenheimring has some characteristics and challenges that the F1 teams will face when they compete in the inaugural United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis on the new road circuit at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sept. 24, 2000. Both tracks feature high-speed straights and tight, challenging corners. "Hockenheim is a good combination circuit," said Jock Clear, senior engineer for Jacques Villeneuve on the British American Racing team. "The long straights, with their very high top speeds, are followed by the stadium section where the cars scrabble for grip with because of their ultra-low downforce setting. The long straights and slow chicanes make for heavy braking and also lead to good overtaking opportunities. "Setting up the cars requires a compromise. The long straights require a very low drag-low downforce aerodynamic setting to capitalize on the high top speeds, but this leaves the cars short of grip for the twisting stadium section." This weekend's German Grand Prix is a virtual sellout, many of the fans coming year after year to cheer on their German hero Schumacher, who has competed in this race every year since 1992. Although their idol won't be racing, there are still two other German drivers to cheer for in the race -- Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Michael's brother Ralf Schumacher. It is also the home race for Mercedes-Benz.

FORMULA ONE NOTEBOOK

Where to watch: Television viewers in the U.S. can watch the German Grand Prix live on SpeedVision at 7:30 a.m. (EDT) Aug. 1. Fox Sports Net will air the race tape-delayed at 10 a.m. Aug. 1 in all time zones. SpeedVision will show qualifying live at 7 a.m. (EDT) on July 31.

Job alternatives: After West McLaren-Mercedes drivers Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard retire from racing, they may be able to get a job building cars. The teammates toured the Mercedes-Benz factory near Stuttgart on Wednesday. In addition to signing hundreds of autographs for the employees, they also joined the assembly line, where they installed some parts on the cars being built.

More power: Ford will debut its latest specification engine -- the Series 4 -- this weekend, and Stewart-Ford drivers Rubens Barrichello and Johnny Herbert will use it in practice and qualifying.

Get well soon: Mika Hakkinen has sent a card to the recuperating Michael Schumacher. Hakkinen said he misses the competition. "I sent him a message just to wish (him well)," Hakkinen said, "and told him to take the maximum opportunity to spend the time with his family because that is a rare opportunity in F1. I did say 'I miss you a little bit from F1,' but everybody has their weak moments in life! We had some very close racing earlier this year, and suddenly he's not there, so it's a different situation."

Not true: Eddie Irvine has dismissed stories in the press that Ferrari teammate Michael Schumacher is going to retire as "total bull."

German Grand Prix Fast Facts

Date: Sunday, Aug. 1 Race: 10th of 16 on 1999 schedule Venue: Hockenheimring, Hockenheim Circuit length: 4.24 miles, 6.823 km Race length: 45 laps On TV: Race (live) -- 7:30 a.m. (EDT) Aug. 1, SpeedVision. (Tape-delayed) -- 10 a.m. in all time zones Aug. 1, FOX Sports Net. Qualifying (live) -- 7 a.m. (EDT) July 31, SpeedVision Points leader: Mika Hakkinen, McLaren-Mercedes 1998 race winner: Mika Hakkinen, McLaren-Mercedes 1998 pole winner: Mika Hakkinen, McLaren-Mercedes Previous winners: 1997 -- Gerhard Berger; 1996 -- Damon Hill; 1995 - Michael Schumacher; 1994 -- Gerhard Berger; 1993 -- Alain Prost

Source: IRL/IMS

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Eddie Irvine , Ralf Schumacher , Michael Schumacher , Heinz-Harald Frentzen , Rubens Barrichello , David Coulthard , Mika Hakkinen , Jacques Villeneuve , Gerhard Berger , Norbert Haug , Alain Prost , Damon Hill , Jock Clear
Teams Ferrari , Mercedes , McLaren , British American Racing