HAKKINEN HOPES FOR ROLE REVERSAL IN HUNGARY INDIANAPOLIS, Aug. 12, 1999 -- Eddie Irvine is hoping the trend continues. Mika Hakkinen is hoping it won't. Ferrari's Irvine won the last two Grand Prix races and finished second in the other...
HAKKINEN HOPES FOR ROLE REVERSAL IN HUNGARY
INDIANAPOLIS, Aug. 12, 1999 -- Eddie Irvine is hoping the trend continues. Mika Hakkinen is hoping it won't.
Ferrari's Irvine won the last two Grand Prix races and finished second in the other race. He racked up 26 points in that time and took the lead in the World Championship from Hakkinen.
Hakkinen's trend has been to go the other way. In the same three races he finished only once -- in fourth -- and scored a measly four points in his West McLaren-Mercedes.
"It's very hard," Hakkinen said, "and the things that have happened in the last three Grands Prix have made things very challenging, psychologically. I still feel strong and the team is working harder than ever. I can see a lot of possibilities, but I am going to fight to the maximum in these last six races.
"In this race last year, everything was looking extremely good until I had a mechanical failure in the car which cost a lot of performance and a lot of places. Let's hope this year is different."
This year, overall, has been different for Irvine. He scored his first Grand Prix victory in the season opener. He's taken over the leadership role at Ferrari for the injured Michael Schumacher. And he's leading the World Championship.
"Until this year I had never won a Grand Prix," Irvine said, "and this year I have won three. As the song goes, 'The times, they are a'changin'.'" In Sunday's Hungarian Grand Prix -- the 11th of 16 on the Formula One calendar -- Irvine could have a chance of a hat trick of victories. "If I hadn't messed up my pit stop at Silverstone (at the British Grand Prix) that would already have been on the cards," Irvine said. "It would be great if I could do it, but Mika (Hakkinen) will be do everything he can to make sure it doesn't happen."
Still, asked if he now expects to win rather than just hope to, Irvine said: "No, you never 'expect' in F1. I'm just coming here to have a strong race. I'll be disappointed if I come away from here and Mika (Hakkinen) won the race by 30 seconds. If I'm right up his gearbox at the end of the race I won't be disappointed. It's not ideal, but at least we took the race to them."
"So far we've managed to achieve that," Irvine said. "This weekend it could all turn around, so we've really got to concentrate on what we are doing, try to keep things simple and gets some points, and hopefully McLaren will have problems.
"But here we can give them a good race even if they don't have problems." After racing on the high-speed straights through the deep green forests of Hockenheim, the Formula One circus heads for the tight and twisting Hungaroring. The track, located in the sun-baked hills on the outskirts of Budapest, has been called "Monaco without the buildings."
"The Hungaroring is one of the slowest tracks we race on with regards to average speed," said Williams driver Ralf Schumacher. "Just like in Monaco, the engineers must try to as much aerodynamic downforce as possible, although mechanical grip is important, as well."
"If overtaking on most of the present circuits is difficult, then I must say that in Hungary it is virtually impossible. Therefore, the Winfield Williams team has to push as hard as possible in qualifying to reach a good starting position."
Said Hakkinen: "To race here is a nightmare because if you get stuck behind a car, even if he is one-and-a-half or two seconds slower you can't really overtake because it's a bit like Monaco."
Overtaking is difficult but not impossible at the Hungaroring. In 1989, Nigel Mansell started 12th and won the race.
The question for Sunday is: Can Hakkinen overtake Irvine and can Irvine overtake Hakkinen? Whose trend will continue?
FORMULA ONE NOTEBOOK
Where to watch: Television viewers in the U.S. can watch the Hungarian Grand Prix live on SpeedVision at 7:30 a.m. (EDT) Aug. 15. Fox Sports Net will air the race tape-delayed at 10 a.m. Aug. 15 in all time zones. SpeedVision will show qualifying live at 7 a.m. (EDT) Aug. 14. *** Schumacher aims for Monza: Michael Schumacher has undergone surgery after doctors decided to remove some of the pins in his right leg to speed up the healing process. A Ferrari statement said Schumacher might make his return to F1 at the Italian Grand Prix on Sept. 12. He has been training and undergoing therapy for 10 hours a day and hopes to test a Ferrari in the near future. *** Irvine's moon walk: "It's taken me half a year to get back into the points lead," Eddie Irvine said. "I am not even thinking of the world championship. "I'm not! It's like when you're a young boy, you want to go to the moon. You don't believe you can do it, so you don't think about it. Well, I was too much of a realist to think about it, so ... now I am too much of a realist to think about the world championship. But it keeps coming to us!" *** Hill's track: Damon Hill scored the first of his 22 Grand Prix victories in Hungary in 1993. He also won the 1995 edition of the race, and it was in Hungary in 1997 that he nearly gave Arrows its first-ever Grand Prix win. Hill, the 1996 World Champion, has finished second in Hungary three times (1994, 1996 and 1997) and took fourth place last year. Thus he has never finished out of the points in his six appearances in Budapest. *** Team Williams' track, too: Team Williams has always been strong at this track. Williams drivers have won seven of the 13 races in Hungary, including Damon Hill's maiden F1 victory in 1993 and two victories for former Indianapolis 500 winner Jacques Villeneuve in 1996 and 1997. A Williams driver has been on the podium in each of the last 10 races here. McLaren's last victory came back in 1992 with Ayrton Senna at the wheel. *** Not BAR's year: Jacques Villeneuve has failed to finish a single Grand Prix this season in the new British American Racing-Supertec. Furthermore, his teammates have struggled as well. "The feeling in the team is that we've underachieved so far this year," said BAR team manager Robert Synge. "We are all disappointed that with the tremendous facilities at (the BAR/Reynard factory) and the depth of technical expertise that we haven't done better. "Still, there are 285 people at British American Racing who are all working flat out to improve the situation."
Hungarian Grand Prix Fast Facts
Date: Sunday, Aug. 15 Race: Eleventh of 16 on 1999 schedule Venue: Hungaroring, Budapest Circuit length: 2.468 miles, 3.972 km Race length: 77 laps On TV: Race (live) -- 7:30 a.m. (EDT) Aug. 15, SpeedVision. (Tape-delayed) -- 10 a.m. in all time zones Aug. 15, FOX Sports Net. Qualifying (live) -- 7 a.m. (EDT) Aug. 14, SpeedVision Points leader: Eddie Irvine, Ferrari 1998 race winner: Michael Schumacher, Ferrari 1998 pole winner: Mika Hakkinen, McLaren-Mercedes Previous winners: 1997 -- Jacques Villeneuve; 1996 -- Jacques Villeneuve; 1995 -- Damon Hill; 1994 -- Michael Schumacher; 1993 -- Damon Hill