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|1999 Italian GP News|
Italian Grand Prix Preview
It is certainly getting hot this year with Hakkinen only 1
point ahead of Eddie Irvine and David Coulthard claiming that he has a shot at it too. The
Ferrari has gone backwards with the absence of Michael Schumacher. And now that he has
confirmed that he will not drive at Italy and possibly the following race, add to that the
fact that Irvine will not be driving for Ferrari next year as Rubens Barrichello is taking
So I guess it is a tough one to pick a winner, Hakkinen and
Coulthard could fight it out and I am sure Hakkinen will do his best to show Coulthard the
way but Coulthard appears to have been on the bright side of late, one never knows what
could happen between those two but let us hope that they don't take each other out. Behind
them, there is Irvine and Salo, Frentzen and Hill, Ralf Schumacher and Zanardi and
Barrichello and Herbert and each one of those appear to have the potential to score a
Ralf Schumacher sets the fastest time in today's practice sessions ahead of Jarno Trulli and Alex Zanardi. Jean Alesi, Mika Hakkinen and Olivier Panis make the top 6.
Ferrari were very disappointing with Irvine in 16th and Salo in 17th but that should not be the case when they qualify tomorrow.
It was clear that the top teams were trying to find the best setup for the cars and were not aiming for qualifying times. Most of the teams tested here last week and they have obtained a lot of data from those tests. Expect the grid to be reformed for qualifying as usual with McLaren, Ferrari, Jordan and Stewart. We could see a surprise or two from Ralf Schumacher, Jean Alesi and possibly Jacques Villeneuve.
One interesting fact from the sessions today was that the top 11 were within 1 second of Ralf Schumacher's fastest time. And with the exception of the 2 Arrows (who appear to have replaced Minardi as being last), all the times are within 2 seconds of the fastest time. If that does not dramatically change tomorrow, it will certainly be an interesting qualifying session.
Mika Hakkinen grabs his 10th pole position of the year and proves yet again that he is in a class of his own. An impressive Heinz-Harald Frentzen was second almost 0.5 seconds behind while David Coulthard was 3rd 0.75 seconds behind Hakkinen. Alex Zanardi was impressive in 4th with team-mate Ralf Schumacher in 5th. Mika Salo was the first of the Ferrari's in 6th place 1.225 seconds behind Hakkinen. Rubens Barrichello was 7th and Eddie Irvine was back in 8th place. He'll need to a lot of work if he is to keep his championship chances alive. Damon Hill was 9th followed by Olivier Panis in 10th place.
Villeneuve only managed 11th with Zonta way back in 18th, Herbert was way back in 15th. Alex Wurz was 14th out qualifying his team-mate Fisichella in 17th place. The Arrows team appear to have replaced Minardi as the slowest team on the grid with Takagi in 22nd place more than 4 seconds slower than Hakkinen.
An example of how close the cars are matched in the midfield, Jean Alesi in 13th was 0.002 seconds ahead of Alexander Wurz in 14th who was 0.001 seconds ahead of Johnny Herbert in 15th who was 0.002 seconds ahead of Pedro Diniz in 16th place. So Diniz being 0.005 seconds slower meant that he is 4 places back on the grid. It doesn't get any closer !!!!.
So not only is Hakkinen so dominant, Ferrari are certainly going backwards with Frentzen, Zanardi and Ralf Schumacher ahead of both Ferrari's and Barrichello ahead of Irvine. They are now certainly in the middle of the pack and not competing with McLaren but with Jordan, Williams and Stewart.
It must be said that Williams are certainly on their way of a big comeback. The engine they run is very ordinary compared to the Ferrari and the McLaren but yet they out-qualified the Ferrari's and Zanardi will start to show some skill towards the end of the season and with the BMW deal next year, who knows ? anything can happen.
So how will it shape tomorrow, well Hakkinen has Frentzen as a buffer between himself and Coulthard so that should ease the pressure a bit. The Williams is reliable so expect them to finish strong while Ferrari will find it hard to get some points unless anyone in front actually retires.
The race will probably be decided in the pits.
Heinz Harald Frentzen wins his 2nd race of the season and enters the driver's championship challenge only 10 points behind both Mika Hakkinen and Eddie Irvine. Ralf Schumacher was an impressive second with Mika Salo in 3rd place. Rubens Barrichello was 4th followed by David Coulthard and Eddie Irvine.
The first few laps of the race were very exciting, Mika Hakkinen had a good start but it was Alex Zanardi who managed to take 2nd position after starting from 4th. Frentzen was 3rd followed by Ralf Schumacher, Mika Salo and David Coulthard who had a very bad start losing 3 places. Rubens Barrichello was in 7th place but was charging and managed to pass both David Coulthard and Mika Salo and take 4th place. Frentzen meanwhile managed to pass Zanardi and take 2nd place. Mika Hakkinen meanwhile appeared untouchable.
Race order remained the same until Alex Zanardi gave way to his team-mate Ralf Schumacher as he appeared to have some braking problem and a few laps later, Mika Hakkinen makes a big mistake as he spins and stalls his car going into the first corner. He was very disappointed with himself that he threw his steering wheel, threw his gloves and after walking a few meters sits and starts weeping. He knew that he threw a huge opportunity for his 2 world championship especially that Coulthard and Irvine, his closest rivals were running 6th and 7th. well I guess from a spectator's point of view, this only makes the last 3 races more exciting.
Most teams went for a single stop and after all the teams had their stops, a few changes in the top 6 with Frentzen leading Ralf Schumacher followed by Salo then Barrichello, Coulthard and Irvine. Zanardi was the big loser dropping to 7th. Behind those was Damon Hill who was in 8th position before the pits and Jacques Villeneuve in 9th, after the pits, Villeneuve managed to gain a position moving up to 8th place, he managed to finish his second race in a row this season.
The race order remained the same till the end of the race with Frentzen winning the race followed by Ralf Schumacher and Mika Salo.
So the championship is now wide open and 4 drivers are competing for it. Mika Hakkinen is still the favourite provided that he does not make any more mistakes as his car and his driving ability are superb. Eddie Irvine who is struggling with his car and showed no impression today at all. It doesn't appear that he will have the car that will challenge the McLaren. Heinz Harald Frentzen is 10 points behind and another win will make him even closer and the Jordan seems to be improving and David Coulthard who is 12 points behind is the least likely to win it as he struggled today and with only 3 races remaining will need to be very consistent and very lucky to do it.
3 races to go but it seems that it will go right down to the wire.