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|1999 San Marino GP News|
The first race of the 1999 Formula Season in Europe takes place this Sunday and who would have imagined that Eddie Irvine would be leading the World Championship and Heinz-Harald Frentzen tied for 2nd ??
I would not be surprised if the situation does not change after this weekend but I doubt it. This weekend McLaren should have sorted out their reliability problems and Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard will be very hard to beat. I expect Coulthard to give Hakkinen a real hard time and Coulthard will probably grab pole and might even win the race unless he gets told not to.
Michael Schumacher will be waiting for the opportunity for one or both of the McLaren's to fail and this is very possible however it will be very hard for Schumacher to win if the McLaren does not fail.
Another possible contender to win would be Barrichello, if the reliability holds and I would expect it to, then expect a strong finish and if a McLaren fails then a win is possible.
Jordan's pair of Frentzen and Hill will also be strong, Frentzen wanting to prove that his last 2 podium finishes were not by luck and Hill needs to change his luck and race for more than a few laps.
We could see some surprise results from the Supertec runners, Zanardi in the Williams needs to secure a finish and so does Villeneuve in the BAR. Ralf Schumacher appears to have matured so he will be strong. Fisichella could produce a good result which Benetton needs badly.
Alesi has shown amazing speed in the race in Brazil, if the car can hold together then he could produce a good result.
Arrow will launch the 99 contender at Imola (pretty late!!) so we'll see how much better the car is. Pedro de la Rosa is impressive so watch out for him.
Prost are also capable of producing some good results once they get the reliability figured out, that will take some time so I doubt that they will challenge for a top 6 spot unless others fail.
Minardi will be aiming to finish the race with Mark Gene still learning the tracks and Luca Badoer returning from injury, they will probably be taking it easy.
Finally Mika Salo will be driving alongside his good friend Jacques Villeneuve in the BAR replacing Ricardo Zonta, watch out for him, he might produce a surprise result.
Mika Hakkinen clocks the fastest time in today's free practice sessions ahead of team-mate David Coulthard. A surprise Eddie Irvine was third only 0.579 seconds behind Hakkinen while Damon Hill managed to finish 4th ahead of Michael Schumacher who stopped 5 minutes before the second session ended due to a rear wheel failure. Alex Zanardi has certainly shown a massive improvement by clocking the sixth fastest time just ahead of team-mate Ralf Schumacher.
Jacques Villeneuve managed a respectable 8th ahead of Barrichello and Trulli. Mika Salo driving for BAR in place of the injured Ricardo Zonta managed 14th place while it was a very disappointing session for Frentzen (17th) and both Benetton drivers who only managed 15th (Wurz) and 16th (Fisichella).
Mika Hakkinen's time was only 0.85 seconds slower than his fastest time set during the Friday practice sessions last year at Imola.
The Friday practice times are one thing and qualifying is another. We'll have to wait and see how the teams shape up tomorrow.
Mika Hakkinen grabs his third pole position of the season for the San Marino GP ahead of team-mate David Coulthard and Michael Schumacher. Eddie Irvine was 4th ahead of a very impressive Jacques Villeneuve in a much improved BAR. Rubens Barrichello was 6th followed by the Jordan pair of Frentzen and Hill. Ralf Schumacher and an improved Alex Zanardi make the top 10.
Major disappointment for Benetton with Fisichella and Wurz only managed 16th and 17th fastest. Also Mika Salo in the BAR was back in 19th position while his team-mate Villeneuve was up in 5th.
In the battle of the Supertec's, a major improvement from BAR with Villeneuve qualifying 5th placing him the highest of the Supertec's with Ralf Schumacher in the Williams in 9th. Worst of the Supertec's was the BAR of Mika Salo in 19th place.
The gap between Hakkinen and Coulthard was only 0.022 seconds (the smallest so far this season) and the gap to Michael Schumacher was only 0.176 seconds clearly indicating a major improvement for Ferrari. Hakkinen's pole time this year was only 0.389 slower than Coulthard's pole time last year.
Expect a close race tomorrow between the top 3 provided that the McLaren's don't suffer from reliability problems. Eddie Irvine will fight it out with Villeneuve, Barrichello and the Jordan pair of Frentzen and Hill. Ralf Schumacher and Alex Zanardi will also be strong.
Michael Schumacher wins the San Marino GP ahead of David Coulthard and Rubens Barrichello, Damon Hill, Giancarlo Fisichella and Jean Alesi make the top 6.
It was an impressive drive from Michael Schumacher and a brilliant strategy by Ferrari that won the race from McLaren who once again have the better machinery but are second best in race strategy.
Villeneuve stalls at the start and amazingly, everyone behind him manages to avoid him some by just a few inches. Trulli spins and crashes on the first lap. The top 6 keep their positions except for Villeneuve.
Hakkinen starts increasing his lead by around a second per lap, this continues until lap 18 when he makes a mistake and crashes out of the race. Meanwhile, Pedro de la Rosa and Alexander Wurz touch and crash on lap 6.
Top 6 positions prior to the first pit stops: Coulthard, M Schumacher, Irvine Barrichello, Herbert and Frentzen.
Michael Schumacher makes his first pit stop and soon after Coulthard pits and loses the lead to Michael Schumacher and it looks like Michael Schumacher and David Coulthard are on the same strategy, however Michael Schumacher start putting very fast laps and builds a 20 second lead over Coulthard then pits again but remains in the lead by around 6 seconds.
On lap 47 Eddie Irvine retires with a blown engine and Heinz-Harald Frentzen spins as a result of the oil from Irvine's car. On lap 59 Herbert retires with a blown engine and Alex Zanardi spins as a result too !!
David Coulthard appeared to be closing the gap to Michael Schumacher but it did not seem enough for him to challenge Michael.
Reliability at Imola was crucial and it seems that the teams thought to have reliability sorted out have suffered more than the teams known to have reliability problems as we saw Eddie Irvine retire as did Ralf Schumacher, both in reliable cars while Barrichello in a Stewart with major reliability problems managed to finish 3rd !!
Next stop Monaco in 2 weeks !!