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|1999 Spanish GP News|
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Has the Ferrari really improved or was Monaco just a one off. It is probably both but Ferrari's improvement can only be compared here in Spain where the circuit reflects more of a typical modern circuit.
So Mika Hakkinen appears to be favourite and he must win to maintain a small gap to Michael, he must also win to reduce the gap to Ferrari in the constructors championship. McLaren's reliability seems better but it is still very bad, with 3 finishes out of 8 attempts. So that will still be a concern.
David Coulthard must do well but the guy is unlucky and that appears to affect his performance, Spain is one of his last chances to to show any potential. If he is not careful he will not just be out of a McLaren next year but out of Formula 1 all together.
Michael Schumacher will do his best as usual but I don't think the Ferrari will compete at this circuit. I could be wrong but if McLaren don't face problems during the race expect a 3rd or even lower place for Michael.
Heinz-Harald Frentzen will do well in the Jordan although
rumours are that Jordan will introduce a new Mugen Engine during the race raising concerns
on reliably. But if the Jordan does prove reliable, expect a podium finish from Frentzen.
Rubens Barrichello, maintains the fastest lap time at the
Barcelona circuit this year much quicker than anyone else has ever managed this year. Will
this translate into pole, I doubt it but it will certainly translate to 2nd or 3rd on the
grid. The "smaller" fuel tank still amuses me in the Ford and that will probably
cost Rubens a 2nd or 3rd place and will end up in 5th losing valuable points. That is if
the Stewart is reliable enough.
Giancarlo Fisichella and Alexander Wurz will struggle with the Benetton here as it seems the car is not suited to medium to high speed circuits. I don't expect either to finish in the points unless a lot of the top runners retire.
Jacques Villeneuve, needs to finish but if the BAR does finish, it will certainly be in the points. Jacques will most probably qualify in the top 6 and the highest of the Supertec runners, he has done that in the last 2 races. Under race conditions, well there is a big question mark on the reliability and that must affect the drivers as well. The Honda engine deal will give some boost to the team but wether that translates into a race finish remains to be seen.
Mika Salo will compete in this race sitting-in for the injured Ricardo Zonta for the last time (officially) as Zonta is expected to driver the BAR in Canada. I don't expect much from Salo at this circuit.
Other drivers with a potential to do well are Ralf Schumacher and Jarno Trulli, both had good test times last week.
Stay tuned for all the times and results here.
Eddie Irvine was the fastest driver in today's free practice sessions for the Spanish GP ahead of Heinz Harald Frentzen and Michael Schumacher. Hakkinen, Zanardi and Hill make the top 6.
It was certainly a surprise to see Eddie Irvine at the top of the times today while championship leader Michael Schumacher was 3rd. More surprisingly, Mika Hakkinen was 4th when it was expected that McLaren have a clear advantage on this circuit over Ferrari. One things is clear that the times today will drop by as much as 3 seconds come qualifying tomorrow and it seems that most of the teams were trying different setups today in preparation for qualifying and the race given that they have had 3 days of testing here last week.
One interesting fact is that the times are closer than any of the previous races this season, with all drivers in the top 10 within 1 second of Irvine.
In addition to the impressive time by Irvine, Frentzen continues his amazing form (as compared while at Williams) , Zanardi was in 5th place which is quite an improvement but it is also due to the fact that he has tested extensively on this circuit.
Coulthard was very disappointing clocking the 7th fastest time, Barrichello in 8th will be expected to improve, Herbert is still struggling in his Stewart back in 16th place and Benetton's Fisichella is way back in 15th and Wurz in 17th, a clear sign that the Benetton is not suitable for the faster tracks on the calendar.
The top 6 in qualifying tomorrow will almost certainly be in a different shape and order, stay tuned !!
Mika Hakkinen grabs his 5th pole position this season ahead of Eddie Irvine and David Coulthard. Michael Schumacher, Jean Alesi and Jacques Villeneuve make the top 6.
Less than 2 seconds separate the top 4 position which was surprising since it was expected that the McLarens will dominate. More surprising is the fact that Eddie Irvine was 2nd ahead of both Coulthard and his team-mate Michael Schumacher.
Impressive performance from Jean Alesi say him grab 5th position and an equally impressive performance from Jacques Villeneuve saw him secure 6th position and ahead of all the other Supertec runners.
Barrichello was 7th when he was expected to do better, the same applies to Frentzen who only managed 8th. Jarno Trulli was 9th ahead of Ralf Schumacher in 10th.
The Benetton team continues to struggle with Fisichella only managed 13th while Wurz qualified way back in 18th position.
There was a lot of contrast in the times between the team-mates. This was the first time that Irvine outqualifies Michael Schumacher. Alesi was 5th while Diniz was 12th, Villeneuve was 6th while Salo was 16th, Fisichella was 13th while Wurz was 18th !!
It will be a very interesting race tomorrow as tyre compounds and pit strategies will play a major role to determine who wins.
Mika Hakkinen wins his second race of the season ahead of David Coulthard and Michael Schumacher. Eddie Irvine, Ralf Schumacher and Jarno Trulli make the top 6.
Hakkinen and Coulthard get away cleanly but Irvine
struggles closing the door on Michael Schumacher behind him. Villeneuve who started 6th
had a great start and managed to get past Alesi, Michael Schumacher and Eddie Irvine and
ends up in 3rd position. Jarno Trulli who started from 9th also had a great start
and ends up in 6th.
The race order for the top 6 until the first pit stops was: Hakkinen, Coulthard, Villeneuve, M Schumacher, Irvine, Trulli.
Following the first pit stops, M Schumacher and Irvine manage to pass Villeneuve in the pits. Zanardi and Panis retire on lap 25. Alesi on lap 28 and Frentzen on lap 35.
Race order : Hakkinen, Coulthard, M Schumacher, Irvine, Villeneuve, R Schumacher
Villeneuve pits for a second time but the BAR gearbox fails and he retires. Herbert and Diniz also retire on the same lap. M Schumacher closes the gap on David Coulthard to less than 1 second.
All the top 6 drivers make their 2nd pits stops and the top 3 orders remains the same. Coulthard starts increasing the gap to M Schumacher until they both start lapping slower cars and the gap drops back. The order remains the same however until the end of the race.
So for the first time this season, both McLaren's actually finish and they finish 1st and 2nd. Hakkinen is now only 6 points behind M Schumacher and the championship fight is on again !!.
Next stop is the Canadian GP on Sunday the 13th of June.