Montreal, June 13, 1999 - Most Formula One drivers will readily admit that they are aware that Montreal is an excellent place to go "sliding", e.g. skiing, sledding and snowboarding. They will also tell you that the best time for these sports is...
Montreal, June 13, 1999 - Most Formula One drivers will readily admit that they are aware that Montreal is an excellent place to go "sliding", e.g. skiing, sledding and snowboarding. They will also tell you that the best time for these sports is winter, when snow covers that ground as far as the eye can see.
Today, with track temperatures nudging 40 degrees Celsius on the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve, a raft of skilled Grand Prix racers went sliding out of season and when the dust had cleared, both British American Racing team drivers, and a total of three world champions, were knocked out of the Air Canada Grand Prix on shunts at the same corner.
Mika Hakkinen of McLaren-Mercedes won the race and leap-fogged past Ferrari's Michael Schumacher on the drivers' championship leaderboard by the simple expedient of avoiding the wall at the chicane just before pit row or the start-finish line on the 4.421 km circuit. Hakkinen's 10 points on the day gives him 34 for the season, four more than Schumacher, who was the pole-sitter and leading the race when he crashed on the 29th lap. Giancarlo Fisichella of Benetton Playlife finished second, and Ferrari's Eddie Irvine, third, in the incident-charged race. The safety car was brought out on three occasions - the first time just after the start, and the last just before the end. Only 10 of 22 cars were running at the chequered flag.
The same corner claimed Schumacher, Jacques Villeneuve and Damon Hill, three of the four most recent world champions, as well as Zonta, running in his second Formula One race.
In all four cases, the drivers lost grip on track grit and debris and skewed laterally into the wall. Schumacher made the most damage, taking out the entire right side of his car, while the other three suffered identical damage to the right-rear tyre and suspension.
The Formula One circus now returns to Europe for the French Grand Prix at Nevers Magny-Cours, Sunday, June 27.
JACQUES VILLENEUVE - Retired - Lap 35 "It was my mistake - I was simply going a little bit too fast. There was a lot dirt down on the track at that point, it was easy to make a mistake and I lost control. I was pretty annoyed because (Pedro)Diniz (Sauber) overtook me under the yellow flag while the safety car was out and I was pushing hard to catch him. It's a pity because the car was much more competitive in the race than it had been in qualifying, and it didn't get to the finish because of its driver."
RICARDO ZONTA - Retired - Lap 3 "I don't know what happened - if it was the tyres or if I made a mistake. The safety car was out and I wasn't pushing or anything like that. The car got sideways and I hit the wall - that was that. I'm obviously very disappointed, and the only consolation is that three World Champions went off today at the same place - Hill Schumacher and Jacques - so I was in good company. It's not much consolation though."
CRAIG POLLOCK. Managing Director, British American Racing "I was very hopeful at the start that both Jacques and Ricardo could get a good result today, but it was not to be. Both team and drivers have learned a lot from this weekend. We can take some positive things away with us, and we have to be philosophical - it's motor racing."