Imola, Sunday, May 2, 1999 -- Jacques Villeneuve and his Lucky Strike Racing team saw their hopes of a good race result dashed on the starting grid by a gearbox problem at today's San Marino Grand Prix in Imola. The weekend had begun with some...
Imola, Sunday, May 2, 1999 -- Jacques Villeneuve and his Lucky Strike Racing team saw their hopes of a good race result dashed on the starting grid by a gearbox problem at today's San Marino Grand Prix in Imola. The weekend had begun with some impressive and promising work by Villeneuve, who turned in a best-ever, fifth-place qualifying performance, on Saturday. The Lucky Strike Racing team driver's bright spirits, matching his newly dyed bright blond locks, began during Friday's free practice when he finished eighth. "The car is pretty good and we are up where we should be fighting" he commented.
The following day, qualifying brought a large smile on the newly bright blond French Canadian when to the delight of his Lucky Strike Racing team, Villeneuve earned a position on the third row, behind only the top teams of McLaren and Ferrari. His strong performance drew the attention of the international media and the former World Champion's aggressive nature surfaced: "I am very excited because the car allowed me to keep attacking. I could push it harder and harder and it reacted well."
Optimism and determination reigned in the Lucky Strike Racing garage, along with tension and high expectations, when Villeneuve finished his formation lap and took his place on the grid. The positive feelings were dashed as the lights went green to start the race. A short radio message from Jacques to his engineer brought an end to the excitement. "I had a problem with the gearbox electronics. There was no warning, I am not sure what happened. The engine was running but I couldn't go forward. I had to switch it off." Disappointment was etched on his face when he came back to the garage: "It's enormously frustrating, especially since the car was fast on Saturday and running well. We had high hopes and it's really annoying not to be able to even start the Grand Prix. We have to make sure that things like this don't happen again. We must finish a race soon."
Managing Director Craig Pollock felt his driver's pain: "There was a lot of work put in this weekend and although we showed some good potential, the reliability is still not there. This is the farthest we have gone in a race with one car and we have to do it with both cars now."
The San Marino GP finished in front of A delighted crowd of 'tifosi', the fiercely loyal Ferrari fans who follow the fortunes of their team all over the world, saw their Ferrari hero Michael Schumacher take the chequered flag for the first time this season. David Coulthard of McLaren-Mercedes and Brazilian Rubens Barrichello of Stewart-Ford joined him on the podium.