MONZA, Italy, Sept. 12, 1999--Heinz-Harald Frentzen headed for victory in the Italian Grand Prix while a devastated Mika Hakkinen walked back to the pits. And while Frentzen celebrated his second win of the season, Hakkinen contemplated the win...
MONZA, Italy, Sept. 12, 1999--Heinz-Harald Frentzen headed for victory in the Italian Grand Prix while a devastated Mika Hakkinen walked back to the pits. And while Frentzen celebrated his second win of the season, Hakkinen contemplated the win and the points he had thrown away.
Hakkinen comfortably led the first 29 laps of the race -- the 13th of 16 on the Formula One world tour -- before he made the mistake of shifting into first gear instead of second gear as he entered the first turn, locked the rear wheels of his West McLaren-Mercedes, stalled the engine and spun.
“I saw him (Hakkinen) spinning off in the first chicane,” Frentzen said, “and I told myself, ‘I can’t believe it.’ He had a seven-second lead in front of me, but by then the gap was consistent and he wasn’t going any faster.”
Frentzen went on to win by 3.272 seconds over Ralf Schumacher, who crossed the line second in his Winfield Williams-Supertec. Mika Salo gave the “tifosi” fans something to cheer about as he finished third in his Ferrari and joined Frentzen and Schumacher in the celebrations on the podium. Eddie Irvine only managed to finish sixth in his Ferrari, but the one point he earned means that he and Hakkinen are now tied for first place in the World Championship with 60 points each.
With Frentzen earning 10 points for his victory, he now moves into third place in the standings with 50 points. David Coulthard, who placed fifth in Italy, is fourth with 48 points. Averaging 147.874 mph (237.938 km/h) in his Benson & Hedges Jordan-Mugen-Honda, Frentzen completed the 53-lap, 189.858-mile (305.548-km) race in one hour, 17 minutes and 2.923 seconds. Hakkinen, who had won the pole, led from the start, with Frentzen second and two-time CART champion Alex Zanardi in third. Zanardi, however, would be plagued by a broken floor section and drift back to finish seventh. But in the early stages of the race, he let his teammate Ralf Schumacher through into third place.
Rubens Barrichello put in an aggressive drive to claim fourth in his Stewart-Ford, ahead of Coulthard’s McLaren-Mercedes and Irvine’s Ferrari. Former Indianapolis 500 winner Jacques Villeneuve, eighth, finished the second Grand Prix of the season in his British American Racing-Supertec.
HEINZ-HARALD FRENTZEN (B&H Jordan-Mugen-Honda, winner): “When I was behind Mika (Hakkinen) I tried to keep up with him, as much as I could. I didn’t know how to maintain my pace, because I was trying to go as quick as possible behind Mika without losing too much time to him. At the beginning, because I knew it was going to be a long stint, I wanted to save the tires as much as possible for the end of the run, so I was trying to avoid too much wheelspin.
Then I saw that Ralf (Schumacher) had overtaken Zanardi, and I was informed on the radio that Eddie (Irvine) was coming up quickly (behind him), so I tried to push hard again. By that stage of the race, I didn’t have any more doubts about the tires, which were pretty much consistent, so I pushed to make sure that there was a secure gap between Ralf and me.”
RALF SCHUMACHER (Winfield Williams-Supertec, second): “I have to say thanks to the team and also to my teammate (Alex Zanardi), who made it incredibly easy for me to get by him to drive my race. We have an agreement that if one or the other of us is quicker, we don’t hold each other, we help each other. At the end of the day we are driving for the team, to get the best result. Alex deserves a big share of my second place today.”
MIKA SALO (Ferrari, third): “Unbelievable! It was great after such a bad weekend. We have been so slow all weekend that we are lucky to be in the top 10, actually. Especially being here in Italy, it was very emotional, with people crying and screaming. Just unbelievable ...”
RUBENS BARRICHELLO (Stewart-Ford, fourth): “It was one of the best races of my life. I was very aggressive. I wished I could have finished third for Jackie and Paul (Stewart) and for all what they have done for me, and for my future (Ferrari) fans.”
EDDIE IRVINE (Ferrari, sixth): “I was a bit cautious at the start, as I knew it was vital for me to finish the race, and that might have cost me one or two places. Changes to the car meant that it was quicker in terms of top speed, but it was bad on the curbs. In the end, though, I got one point, and my nearest rival got none. Now we are going to circuits which will suit our car much better, and we will be in a much stronger position to fight for the wins. We knew we would struggle here. I was not worried about Zanardi at the end. I had backed off to make sure I got that valuable one point.”
ALEX ZANARDI (Winfield Williams-Supertec, seventh): “I could feel something hitting the ground underneath the car early on in the race, around the third lap. It got so bad during the race that it was picking the nose off the ground. Unfortunately, it appears like the floor had come loose.”
JACQUES VILLENEUVE (British American Racing-Supertec, eighth): “It was an exciting race, and the car was competitive from the first to the last lap so that I was able to keep pushing. At the start I was probably a bit cautious and could have made up a couple of places if I had been more aggressive, but then I felt that everything was going well, and I was sure that I could finish so I was not worrying about the reliability. In fact I was able to have some fun because the car allowed me to attack."
MIKA HAKKINEN (West McLaren-Mercedes, retired lap 30): “Naturally, I am very disappointed to have made a mistake which ruined the chance for me to extend my lead in the championship. After the start I pulled out a pretty good lead, and I was feeling very comfortable with the car when on lap 29 I went into the first chicane, which I have taken all weekend in second gear, and I made a mistake and selected first. The rear wheels partially locked up, and I spun off with a stalled engine. Of course, I am upset with myself, but I will make sure this is the last error I make this year.”
Stars in Monza: Celebrities seen in the pits included Brazilian soccer star Ronaldo, who currently plays for the AC Milan team; Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York; Miss Germany 1998, the Irish rock group The Corrs, and American Phil Hill, 1961 World Champion.
Barrichello claims that he will not, as Schumacher’s current teammate, Eddie Irvine, is required to do by his contract, move over to let Schumacher win. “If I am in front of Michael, I don’t think there is any need for team orders to come into play,” Barrichello said. “If I am in front it is because I deserve to be, and it is in the best interests of the team to see me winning.
“But I am number-two driver, but its more of a 1B, really. I am definitely number two. I would be snobbish of me to say I want to be number one. I have come to the team much later than Michael. The space is his. I have to create my space get to know people and show what I am capable of doing. “This is the chance to measure myself against Michael, who is one of the best, if not the best driver in the world. I have the chance to learn. I have the chance to work with the best, and it’s a great challenge.”
Indy visitors: Tony George, president of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Kevin Forbes, director of engineering and construction of the Speedway, and Jeff Belskus, IMS executive vice president, were among a group from IMS that attended the Italian Grand Prix.
Costly day: Eddie Irvine’s misery in qualifying -- eighth on the grid - was compounded by a $10,000 fine for pit-lane speeding, his second offense of the season.
Patrick impressed: CART owner Pat Patrick, attending the Grand Prix at Monza, was impressed with F1’s hospitality and paddock arrangements. “Te Paddock Club (for VIPs and sponsor guests) and the paddock are well arranged,” Patrick said. “It is well managed and well marketed. It would appear to me that CART could emulate the paddock and hospitality area of F1 and enhance the value of our show.”