FABULOUS FOURSOME ZEROES IN ON WORLD TITLE AT NURBURGRING INDIANAPOLIS, Sept. 23, 1999 -- The battle for the World Championship has turned into a four-way fight after Mika Hakkinen spun out of the lead and Heinz-Harald Frentzen won the Italian...
FABULOUS FOURSOME ZEROES IN ON WORLD TITLE AT NURBURGRING
INDIANAPOLIS, Sept. 23, 1999 -- The battle for the World Championship has turned into a four-way fight after Mika Hakkinen spun out of the lead and Heinz-Harald Frentzen won the Italian Grand Prix two weeks ago. With just three races remaining on the Formula One schedule, Hakkinen and Eddie Irvine are tied with 60 points each, and Frentzen (with 50 points) and David Coulthard (48 points) still have a chance to snatch the title. One of these four drivers will be crowned World Champion, and his car will carry the prestigious number 1 in all the races next season, including the United States Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sept. 24, 2000. The European Grand Prix, staged Sept. 26 at the Nurburgring in Germany, is a crucial race for all four title contenders. Hakkinen has put the disappointment of the Italian Grand Prix behind him and feels positive about this weekend's race. "I feel all right," Hakkinen said. "I am sure I would have felt happier if the last Grand Prix had ended differently. Our car is extremely strong. We also had some extremely good testing at Magny-Cours last week when we found some new setups. I am confident in the car and feeling very pleased." Hakkinen's West McLaren-Mercedes teammate David Coulthard said he still plans to fight for the crown. McLaren has yet to determine if team orders will be used in the race to help one driver, probably Hakkinen, secure as many points as possible. "You cannot find a race strategy until you know where you'll be starting from," Coulthard said, "or how the warm-up has gone. None of us can see into the future, so you will all have to be patient. In any case there isn't a clear answer at the moment. "I will just go out in the car to do a good job in qualifying. I will still be trying to beat Mika in the battle for pole position. He has made (pole) his own a lot this year, but that is still my quest and my desire. "I am within a shout (of winning the championship). If I win this weekend, my chances will be looking good. If I don't win, it's not looking good. It is pure logic. You don't need to be a rocket scientist to work out the mathematical possibilities." Irvine, meanwhile, believes his Ferrari will be more competitive this weekend than it has been in recent races. "It is just down to us to start performing well again," Irvine said. "And I think we can do that this weekend. We are away from the low-downforce circuits again, and even if we hadn't made any changes to the car I think we could have performed well here. So I think our competitiveness would have come back even without making any changes to the car. "Instead, we have been working hard. I did five days of testing last week, and I think we have made progress thanks to some new aerodynamic parts. I am very optimistic." Although he won the Italian Grand Prix, Frentzen doesn't think his B&H Jordan-Mugen-Honda will perform as well as the Nurburgring. "The Nurburgring requires a lot of downforce, and we have been a little bit worse this year on the high-downforce tracks, compared with the low-downforce tracks," Frentzen said. "Ferrari will be very strong here, and I don't expect Eddie to have the difficulties in setting up his car for this track that he had at Monza. "Ferrari and McLaren should be strong at this track, but we want to be right behind them. If they make a mistake, we will be ready to challenge them." The Constructors Championship has yet to be decided, as well. McLaren-Mercedes is leading that race with 108 points while Ferrari has 102. While the forecast claims it will be dry this weekend, rain is always a possibility in the Eifel Mountains, where the weather is notoriously unpredictable. "Rain on Sunday could play into our hands," said Jordan's technical director Mike Gascoyne. "Both Damon (Hill) and Heinz-Harald (Frentzen) drive well in the wet. In fact, they have won the last two wet races." Traditionally, each country plays host to only one Grand Prix per season. But in recent years, Germany has held two F1 races: the German Grand Prix at the Hockenheim circuit in July and a second race, which has been called the European Grand Prix or the Luxembourg Grand Prix, at the Nurburgring in September. The historic old Nurburgring, which is 14 miles (22.8 km) long and contains a staggering 174 corners, was used as an F1 venue until 1976. The old track no longer meets modern F1 safety standards. The new 2.8-mile (4.5-km) Nurburgring, located next to the old circuit bearing the same name, was opened in 1984.
FORMULA ONE NOTEBOOK
Where to watch: Television viewers in the U.S. can watch the Italian Grand Prix live on SpeedVision at 7:30 a.m. (EDT) Sept. 26. Fox Sports Net will air the race tape-delayed Sept. 26; check local listings. SpeedVision will show qualifying live at 7 a.m. (EDT) Sept. 25. *** Villeneuve's first and last: Jacques Villeneuve scored his first Grand Prix victory at the European Grand Prix at the Nurburgring in 1996. The win came 11 months to the day after he had won the 1995 Indianapolis 500. Villeneuve's 11th, and to date, last, Grand Prix victory also came at the Nurburgring in September 1997. *** Proud father: Jean Alesi is the proud father of his new son, Julien, who was born Sept. 20. *** Crucial race: While Nick Heidfeld has already won the FIA Formula 3000 drivers' championship, Saturday's finale is a crucial race. Only the top 14 teams of the 20 currently competing will be allowed to enter next year's F3000 series, so all teams will strive to finish as well as possible.
European Grand Prix Fast Facts
Date: Sunday, Sept. 26 Race: Fourteenth of 16 on 1999 schedule Venue: Nurburgring, Germany Circuit length: 2.831 miles, 4.556 km Race length: 67 laps On TV: Race (live) -- 7:30 a.m. (EDT) Sept. 26, SpeedVision. (Tape-delayed) -- Sept. 26; check local listings, FOX Sports Net. Qualifying (live) - 7 a.m. (EDT) Sept. 25, SpeedVision Points leader: Mika Hakkinen, McLaren-Mercedes and Eddie Irvine, Ferrari (tie) 1998 race winner: Mika Hakkinen, McLaren-Mercedes 1998 pole winner: Michael Schumacher, Ferrari Previous winners: 1997 -- Mika Hakkinen; 1996 -- Jacques Villeneuve; 1995 --Michael Schumacher; 1994 -- Michael Schumacher; 1993 -- Ayrton Senna