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|1999 Luxembourg GP News|
Luxembourg Grand Prix Preview
With 3 races to go I would say that most of the teams are now switching their focus on the development of next year's car, except for the top 3, McLaren, Ferrari and Jordan.
Williams appear comfortable with 4th place since it is almost impossible for them to catch Jordan and Stewart who are in 5th position are a bit behind so they are not a threat. Benetton could try and take 5th position from Stewart but really the car is not up to it so what is the point !!.
This leaves McLaren and Ferrari to fight for the constructor's championship and if Hakkinen and Coulthard keep their calm and don't commit mistakes or bump into each other then Ferrari simply has no chance. On the other hand if they do, Ferrari will be so close to take it away as McLaren will appear to be trying to give it away !!
The drivers situation is a bit more complex. We have Hakkinen, Irvine, Frentzen and Coulthard. If McLaren come to their senses, then Hakkinen will be aided by Coulthard and they will win both championships. Provided that Hakkinen does not spin once more !!. Irvine on equal points is not a real threat unless Hakkinen fails to finish and the real threat is Frentzen who in my opinion has a better chance than Irvine and will probably finish second this season behind Hakkinen.
So what is going to happen.
Three major questions one should ask:
Will Hakkinen make any more mistakes ? If yes then he will
not win the championship, he will just lose the plot. If not he will win it as he has the
best equipment there is no competition from anyone apart from
Will Ferrari improve ? Unlikely is the answer and hence
Irvine will not be able to compete. If the Ferrari is once again behind Jordan and
Williams, Ferrari will have decided to switch to concentrating on next
Will Frentzen win the world championship ? If Hakkinen makes another mistake, the answer is yes, otherwise he will most probably finish second ahead of Eddie !!
Mika Hakkinen clocks the fastest time in today's practice ahead of Mika Salo and an impressive Olivier Panis. Eddie Irvine, Ralf Schumacher and David Coulthard made the top 6.
It appears that Mika Hakkinen is under control as he clocked the fastest time during both sessions. Ferrari appeared to have improved with Salo and Irvine in the top 5 following the disastrous form in Italy. Jordan appear to have gone backward with Frentzen way back in 12th and Hill in 14th.
The surprise of the session was Olivier Panis clocking the third fastest time with the Prost team appear to have made significant improvements on the car.
The were several contrasting performances between drivers of the same team as Ralf Schumacher was 5th fastest Alex Zanardi returned to his disappointing form clocking the 16th fastest. Barrichello was in 7th while Herbert only managed 13th. Fisichella in 8th while his team-mate Wurz was back in 17th. Villeneuve in 10th while Zonta was way way back in 21st place with only the Arrows of Takagi slower than him. Let us hope he improves tomorrow hoping that he gets confirmed with BAR next year.
As always, these times are not very accurate, all will be revealed during the qualifying session tomorrow.
Heinz Harald Frentzen grabs pole position ahead of David Coulthard and Mika Hakkinen. Ralf Schumacher, Olivier Panis and Giancarlo Fisichella make the top 6.
It was one of the most interesting qualifying sessions ever with the track drying, lap times dropped dramatically every minute and it was the team with the best strategy and luck who recorded a good time. Frentzen waited for a long time and with one lap in the dying minutes he grabbed pole, before that he was way back in 18th place. Both Hakkinen and Coulthard were in the top 5 and Hakkinen could have grabbed pole had it not been for the traffic on his last lap. Ralf Schumacher was impressive again but Panis was even more impressive landing 5th position for the first time this year. Prost used some new parts in the engine only for qualifying and if this is a sign of what is to come next year, expect Prost to have a good season next year.
Jacques Villeneuve was again impressive today qualifying in 8th in his BAR Supertec while his team-mate Zonta was again way back in 17th.
But the disappointment of the day was Ferrari, yet again all the hype about news chassis and new aerodynamic package proves nothing. Eddie Irvine is in 9th position while Hakkinen is in 3rd and Frentzen on pole. It would not be a surprise if both Coulthard and Frentzen overtake Irvine in the World Championship points. Mika Salo didn't do any better and thus won't be able to help Irvine as he qualified in 12th place. Stewart were also disappointing as it seems that they setup their cars for wet conditions and Barrichello was on pole for the first half of the session but once it started to dry, he started to slip and ended up in 15th one place behind his team-mate Herbert. One other disappointment was Zanardi who only managed 18th while his team-mate Ralf Schumacher is in 4th place.
This will certainly make for an exciting race as it will be interesting to watch Frentzen defend his position from both Coulthard and Hakkinen. We will also see how team orders will be applied inside the McLaren camp.
Will be a very interesting race
Johnny Herbert wins the Luxembourg GP ahead of Jarno Trulli and Rubens Barrichello. Ralf Schumacher, Mika Hakkinen and Marc Gene make the top 6.
What an amazing race it was, with the lead changing 6 times, with several spectacular crashes, with several heavy showers, no wonder we see those names in the top 6.
The race started strangely as well, Marc Gene stalled so the start was aborted and at the restart, Hill at the first corner slowed down leaving not much room for Wurz who tried to avoid him but hits Diniz whose car overturns and skids on the gravel upside down. It must have been a scary moment for Diniz as for a moment it appeared that he must have damaged his neck as the rollbar behind him collapsed. Fortunately he escaped with no serious injuries. Meanwhile the safety car was out with the race order: Frentzen, Hakkinen (overtaking Coulthard at the start), Coulthard, Ralf Schumacher, Fisichella and Panis.
The safety car remains until Diniz's car is removed then the race really starts with the top 4 creating a visible gap to the rest of the field with Frentzen chased by Hakkinen. Irvine meanwhile managed to pass Panis and on lap 16 pass Fisichella to get to 5th position.
Then it started to rain but not heavily, immediately, Ron Dennis called Hakkinen in and went for wet tyres, this proved to be a bad decision as the rain was not heavy and only on a few parts of the circuit and immediately started losing time. Mika Salo also switched to wet tyres and the pit stop itself took a very long time. A few laps later Eddie Irvine pits and puts on dry tyres but the rear right wheel was no where to be found and the team lost around 15 seconds just looking for a tyre to put on !!.
Race order: Frentzen, Coulthard, Ralf Schumacher, Fisichella
The rain eases and Hakkinen comes back and puts dry tyres on, he is now in 14th place and struggling. Frentzen and Coulthard both pit at the same time and leave in the same order with Frentzen leading, however Frentzen suffers an ignition problems and retires soon after he leaves the pit lane. This gives the lead to Coulthard but it start raining again heavily this time, Coulthard decides to stay on dry tyres but loses it and crashes into the tyre wall handing the lead to Ralf Schumacher with Fisichella behind him !!.
Meanwhile Irvine pits for wet tyres and rejoins in 12th place while Hakkinen is still struggling in 14th appearing to have written the race off.
Ralf Schumacher pits for his second pit stop and Fisichella who seems to be on a one stop strategy takes the lead only to spin and stall his engine out of the race handing the lead back to Ralf Schumacher who was comfortably ahead of Johnny Herbert and Jarno Trulli.
The misfortunes didn't stop here, Ralf Schumacher suffers a blown tyre but manages to keep the car and nurse it back to the pits, replaces the tyre and rejoins in 5th position giving the lead to Johnny Herbert. Irvine goes back into the pits for dry tyres again !!
Herbert, Trulli, Barrichello, Badoer, Ralf Schumacher, Villeneuve.
Marc Gene was in 7th followed by Irvine and Hakkinen.
The track starts to dry and Hakkinen wakes up, he chases Irvine and forces him to lock his brakes and passes him. Badoer and Villeneuve both retire with mechanical problems losing a great opportunity to score for their teams. This move Ralf Schumacher to 4th and Hakkinen who also managed to pass Gene to 5th place. Eddie Irvine failed to catch Gene and hence finished 7th.
At the front Herbert was comfortable in the lead but Rubens Barrichello was trying all he can to pass a visibly slower Trulli without success, they finished in the same order.
It was certainly one of the most amazing races this year even though we have seen so many good races this year, this will certainly count as one of the best if not the best. It showed which teams didn't panic and which drivers managed to keep their cars running on a wet track with dry tyres.
So Mika Hakkinen now leads the championship by 2 points, Irvine, Frentzen and Coulthard didn't score any points. With 2 races to go, it seems that the championship is now a battle between Irvine and Hakkinen unless..
Frentzen had a fantastic opportunity to close the gap to Hakkinen and Irvine but his car failed him. Coulthard had a chance to do the same but he made a mistake. It make you wonder how many more mistakes can Hakkinen, Coulthard and McLaren afford before they give away both the championships.
Next stop is the Malaysian GP and that will be yet another exciting race given the fact that it is a new circuit and the drivers will not be familiar with it at all. We will certainly see some more surprising results.