Barcelona, May 30, 1999 -- British American Racing brought one car home today - Mika Salo running strongly to the chequered flag in ninth place, while Jacques Villeneuve made a lightning start from sixth place off the grid to third and then held...
Barcelona, May 30, 1999 -- British American Racing brought one car home today - Mika Salo running strongly to the chequered flag in ninth place, while Jacques Villeneuve made a lightning start from sixth place off the grid to third and then held off a storming Michael Schumacher for 23 laps, before eventually retiring on lap 40 with a gear selection problem.
Despite Schumacher's attempts to overtake all race long, McLaren- Mercedes was able to achieve a clean sweep of the first two places in the race. Mika Hakkinen took the chequered flag just over six seconds in front of teammate David Coulthard, in a time of 1 hour, 34 minutes and 13.665 seconds. Schumacher completed the podium trio with a third place. With five races completed, Ferrari leads the Constructors' Championship with 51 points, and drivers Michael Schumacher and Eddie Irvine are 1-2 respectively in the Drivers' table, but the 10 and six points garnered by Hakkinen and Coulthard have put the pressure on once again.
Villeneuve was the story of the first third of the race when he "jumped" Schumacher, Irvine and Sauber's Jean Alesi to grab third place right off the start. The determined Canadian held off several furious challenges by Schumacher and wouldn't relinquish his podium spot until his first pit stop on Lap 23.
Schumacher and Irvine went ahead of the British American Racing team driver at that point, but Villeneuve was still in the points in fifth when he pitted for a second time on Lap 40. A problem with a rear wing lost him precious seconds, and then the gearbox jammed in first gear, and the race was over.
Salo, replacing the injured Ricardo Zonta who will return for the Canadian Grand Prix in two weeks, began in 16th on the grid and steadily worked his way up the field until he reached ninth, with 20 laps remaining. He stayed there and brought home a British American Racing car for the first time in five Grands Prix.
Jacques Villeneuve -- Retired -- Lap 40 "I made a great start which surprised me as all my practice starts this weekend hadn't been so good, but that was a lucky one. The car was really good and I was running strongly, easily able to hold off Michael until the first pit stop. In spite of a great effort from my crew, he only managed to pass me in the pit lane. After I rejoined one of the rear wing flaps collapsed, slowing me down and I was forced to come in for an unscheduled pit stop. I lost first gear when I tried to leave the pits, and that was unfortunately that. It was an encouraging race for the team, however, because we've made real progress, but now I need to get to the end."
Mika Salo -- 9th "I had quite a lot of understeer but otherwise the car was running fine. My second set of tyres seemed to make the handling problem worse, but then when I changed again things improved, and I was able to go much quicker during the last part of the race."
Craig Pollock, Managing Director, British American Racing "Mika's ninth place finish proves that the reliability is starting to come, and with Jacques' unbelievable start we can see that the performance is there, too. He was able to withstand the enormous pressure which Michael put him under, especially considering the speed the Ferraris showed when they got past him after the first pit stop. I think it was one of Jacques' best drives for some time. All the team did a great job, and I would like to thank Mika especially on behalf of the whole team, for his great drive and commitment in the three races in which he has replaced Ricardo Zonta. We wish him all the best."