RACE REPORT: AUSTRIAN GRAND PRIX Helped by McLaren clash, Irvine closes to within two points of Hakkinen with win SPIELBERG, Austria, July 25, 1999 -- Ferrari driver Eddie Irvine second his career Grand Prix victory, snatched from David ...
RACE REPORT: AUSTRIAN GRAND PRIX Helped by McLaren clash, Irvine closes to within two points of Hakkinen with win
SPIELBERG, Austria, July 25, 1999 -- Ferrari driver Eddie Irvine second his career Grand Prix victory, snatched from David Coulthard's grasp by just .313 of a second in Austria, pulling Irvine to within just two points of Mika Hakkinen in the World Championship points battle.
The West McLaren-Mercedes duo of Coulthard and Hakkinen did their part in helping Irvine win by colliding on the opening lap.
"I knew qualifying did not represent our true performance," said Irvine, who had qualified his Ferrari third with a time a full second slower than Hakkinen's pole-winning McLaren-Mercedes. "And because of that and the right strategy, I was able to do the job. I proved that I can win." With Michael Schumacher out of action for about three months after breaking his right leg after crashing in the recent British Grand Prix, Irvine has taken over Ferrari's bid to win the Drivers and Constructors Championships. After nine of 16 races, Hakkinen now has 44 points to Irvine's 42. It's equally close in the Constructors Championship, where Ferrari leads with 74 points over McLaren-Mercedes with 72 points.
Hakkinen took the lead at the start of the race but was knocked into a spin as his teammate Coulthard tried to pass him going into the second corner.
That dropped Hakkinen to last place.
"I'm going to have a serious discussion with a certain person on a certain subject!" Hakkinen said afterward.
Hakkinen lived up to his nickname "The Flying Finn" by charging spectacularly through the field to eventually finish third.
Coulthard led for the first 39 laps, while Rubens Barrichello ran second in his Stewart-Ford and Irvine third. The mid-race pit stops, however, vaulted Irvine into the lead on lap 40 as he took advantage of Coulthard being slowed by traffic and having a pit stop that lasted a second longer. Coulthard chased Irvine all the way to the checkered flag. Irvine's margin of victory, .313 of a second, was the closest Grand Prix win since Ayrton Senna beat Nigel Mansell by .215 of a second at Monaco in 1992. Irvine averaged 129.609 mph (208.587 km/h) to complete the 71-lap, 190.546-mile (306.649-km) race in one hour, 28 minutes and 12.438 seconds. Heinz-Harald Frentzen finished fourth in his B&H Jordan-Mugen-Honda. Austria's Alexander Wurz took fifth in his Mild Seven Benetton-Playlife, and Pedro Diniz rounded out the points-paying positions with a sixth place in his Red Bull Sauber-Petronas.
Barrichello was in fourth place when he retired with less than 20 laps to go after an oil-feed pipe problem caused his engine to fail. Johnny Herbert's Stewart-Ford had its rear wing knocked off on the first lap by Mika Salo's Ferrari as Herbert slowed for the traffic jam caused by the two McLarens tangling. Salo, Schumacher's replacement at Ferrari, finished ninth.
EDDIE IRVINE (Ferrari, winner): "The smoke coming from my car toward the end of the race was probably coming from my brain because I had to think about so many things -- the fuel, the brakes, the tires. It was not just a case of driving. I had understeer on my second set of tires, but that got better after a while. Then I eased off to conserve the brakes, and (David) Coulthard caught me quicker than I expected and I had to push very hard and forget about my brake problems. I was wishing that the checkered flag would have come sooner."
DAVID COULTHARD (West McLaren-Mercedes, second): "Obviously, this is my nightmare scenario. Never have I taken my teammate off at the start and then finished second to a Ferrari. I am very sorry for running into Mika (Hakkinen), but I misjudged that corner. The rest of the race was just a case of Eddie (Irvine) being quicker in those last few laps after the pit stop. I knew just before my stop that I was beginning to lose time in traffic. I lost two and a half seconds behind (Alex) Zanardi, driving slowly round the middle of Turn 6 and I had to run wide there. I was off-line, and I nearly went off the circuit. That came at exactly the wrong moment, and obviously that was crucial time in being able to stay in front of Eddie."
MIKA HAKKINEN (West McLaren-Mercedes, third): "It was important to come here and score points, and we did that. Whatever happened in the second corner is not important at the moment, in this situation, but generally it was very enjoyable to be overtaking lots of other cars again."
HEINZ-HARALD FRENTZEN (B&H Jordan-Mugen-Honda): "We could not keep up with the cars in front of us. When (Rubens) Barrichello dropped out, I had plenty of space ahead of me and behind me, and my team told me to bring the car home. So I did not go flat out."
MIKA SALO (Ferrari, ninth): "At the second corner, with the accident in front, the whole pack slowed down, but I was carrying a bit too much speed and hit (Johnny) Herbert from behind. During the race I seemed to have a lack of straight-line speed, which made overtaking difficult. On the plus side, I learned a lot today."
ALEX ZANARDI (Winfield Williams-Supertec, retired lap 36): "My radio stopped working some time before my engineer was calling me into the pits for refueling. In that moment, I was close to (Pedro) Diniz and at almost every turn I had a chance to overtake him. I was concentrating on overtaking him and only saw the pit board on the third time it was being shown to bring me in, but it was too late and I ran out of fuel."
JACQUES VILLENEUVE (British American Racing-Supertec, retired lap 35): "The car was easy to drive, and things were looking good until something in the driveshaft broke. It's frustrating because I had a good start, some good fights and was hanging in there."
RON DENNIS (Director of Team McLaren-Mercedes): "Days like today can be used to strengthen the team. David's (Coulthard) apology and Mika's (Hakkinen) acceptance of it reflects the maturity of their relationship. I hope Bernie (Ecclestone) appreciates our contribution to maintaining the excitement of Formula One!"
NEWS and NOTES:
Stewarts upgraded: The Stewart cars featured a new Ferrari-style "periscope" exhaust system and the new Series 3 Ford V10. "This engine gives improved top-end performance and a wider spread of power to help acceleration," Ford's European racing director Martin Whitaker said. "Apart from the internal changes, the most obvious external difference is the adoption of a new exhaust system, featuring a short tailpipe exiting through the top of the bodywork."
McLaren drivers should stay: Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard should remain with West McLaren-Mercedes next year. "I do not expect any surprises (in our driver lineup)," Mercedes racing boss Norbert Haug said. "I hope we can stay as we are. We are working on that, but there are still some points to clarify."
Technical update: McLaren reverted to its 1998 steering geometry after Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard complained about how heavy the 1999 steering system was. Jordan had one long-wheelbase car (about 3.5 inches/9 cm longer than the regular car), which Damon Hill used in the race. For the second consecutive race, Jordan ran its new rear suspension and gearbox. Alex Zanardi convinced Williams to fit steel brake discs to his car Friday, but Saturday he reverted to carbon-fiber discs, which are 20 pounds (9kg) lighter.
Fast company: The Red Bull Sauber drivers were in some fast company Saturday when Austria's Harald "Harry" Egger, who holds the world record for speed skiing at 154.167 mph, visited the team.
Off-road Hill: Damon Hill set the quickest time during practice Friday. "The team has done a great job developing the car, and now I feel I am able to fight," Hill said. "When the car feels good you can dig deeper, although I went off so many times I wondered whether I should take up a new career as a rally driver."
Anniversaries: This race marked the 330th Grand Prix start for Arrows and the 230th for Minardi. Ferrari's new team leader Eddie Irvine started his 90th Grand Prix as did Heinz-Harald Frentzen.
Villeneuve upbeat despite retirements: Although Jacques Villeneuve has failed to finish a single race this season, he has a positive attitude about the BAR team. "The team has always been working very hard," said Villeneuve, the 1995 Indianapolis 500 winner. "It's just that we have had so many mechanical failures and so many different things to fix. That is where all the money and time has gone, not on getting performance. "But I don't need to push the team. Everyone is pushing himself or herself, which is great. A lot of work has already gone into next year's car, because there is not much we can achieve this year anyway."
Heidfeld close to clinching F3000 title: With his fourth victory in six races, Nick Heidfeld closed in on clinching the FIA Formula 3000 Championship after leading every lap to win the Austrian round of the series. His two main title rivals -- Gonzalo Rodriguez and Bruno Junqueira -- failed to qualify because of a heavy rain storm. Soheil Ayari and Nicolas Minassian rounded out the top three finishers.
We try harder: Main title challenger Michael Schumacher of Ferrari is out of the picture for about three months, but McLaren isn't about to relax. "We are trying even harder than ever," McLaren director Ron Dennis said, "because the worst thing you can do is mentally relax. This won't be a championship that came about because of other people's misfortunes -- it's always hard to win in F1."