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1999 Malaysian GP News  

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Drivers Championship Constructors Championship

Race Preview | Friday Practice | Saturday Qualifying | Race Report

Malaysian GP Preview

Of all the races this season, this will be the hardest to predict. Even harder than the first one. Why ?

Malaysia is a brand new circuit and the teams have no actual data from it whatsoever. This allows for a more level playing field between the teams. It also means that the driver who manages to quickly adapt to this circuit will be at an advantage.

The weather is another factor. At every event this year where there has been wet conditions, the results were strange. This one is no exception and the possibility of rain this time of the year at Sepang, is high, very high.

Finally, the circuit layout is very very interesting but what concerns me is the first and second corners, the first is literally 360 degrees and what does that mean ? A pile up 12 seconds after the start. The possibility of that happening is also high, very high !!

Other factors like who's car will be more suitable to the track is also another unknown, the track combines some very slow chicanes with 2 high speed straights.

Logically speaking, I would say that the McLaren's and the Jordan's have the biggest chance of winning this race followed by Ferrari, Stewart, Williams, Benetton. However the return of Michael Schumacher could have a positive impact on Ferrari but we don't really know if he is really fit, if he will be pushing all the time or what. Also if it does rain as expected, then who knows, Herbert won last time, next time it could be Badoer.

Stay tuned for the latest from the Malaysian circuit starting from Friday.

Friday Practice

Jacques Villeneuve sets the fastest time in today's practice sessions ahead of David Coulthard and Jean Alesi. Irvine, Michael Schumacher and Pedro Diniz make the top 6.

It was one of the biggest surprises of the season when Villeneuve in the last 5 minutes of the practice session managed to clock the fastest time of the session. The BAR was certainly not expected to perform that well but the fact that this is a new circuit provide a more level playing field and an opportunity for drivers to show how quick they can adapt to the new circuit.

The first session was run on a damp circuit after heavy rains. Michael Schumacher and Jean Alesi traded top spots during that session. The McLaren pair didn't impress. In the second session, we saw both McLaren's improve their times and midway through the session it was Hakkinen who topped the times only to be better by 7 other drivers later in the session and ended up 8th fastest. David Coulthard managed to set the second fastest but it was Jean Alesi who was impressive on both wet and dry conditions setting the 3rd fastest time. His team-mate Pedro Diniz also set an impressive time in 6th place.
The Ferrari pair fared well with Irvine in 4th and Michael Schumacher in his first appearance at a grand prix session set the 5th fastest time.

Disappointing performances from both the Jordan and Williams camps saw Hill in 12th, Frentzen in 14th, Ralf Schumacher in 18th behind Badoer and Zanardi in 20th behind de la Rosa !!. Let us hope they improve their cars for qualifying.

The weather will be a crucial factor and with heavy rain and thunderstorms expected on each day of the event, qualifying and the race itself are set to be classics.

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Michael Schumacher returns to Formula 1 in style by grabbing pole position almost 1 second ahead of team-mate Eddie Irvine. David Coulthard was 3rd followed by Hakkinen, Herbert and Barrichello.

Michael Schumacher set the pace from the start, he was one of the early drivers to go out on track and set provisional pole which was never taken away from him. Irvine was much closer but Schumacher on his last lap stunned everyone by bettering his own time by over a second. Coulthard and Hakkinen struggled to get  close to the Ferrari's but it is not clear if Ferrari are using a softer compound than the McLaren's.

Johnny Herbert fresh from a win at the Nurburgring managed to outqualify team-mate Rubens Barrichello. They are in 5th and 6th positions. Alexander Wurz also managed to outqualify Fisichella coming in 7th and 11th. Ralf Schumacher was 8th while Zanardi was way back in 16th. Damon Hill was in 9th and did better than Frentzen who was in 14th although Frentzen's car failed and he had to get into the spare car. Jacques Villeneuve was fastest yesterday but only managed 10th fastest. His time set in qualifying was actually slower than the time he set earlier in the day but again it could be the tyre compound. His team-mate Zonta qualified 13th.
Most disappointing were the Saubers after being very impressive yesterday, they ended up in 15th place for Alesi and 17th for Diniz.

The race could turn out to be a thriller, Michael Schumacher could return to his winning ways sooner than anyone thought, how will the tyre strategy work ? Will Schumacher give way to Irvine ?

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Race Results

Eddie Irvine wins the Malaysian GP ahead of Michael Schumacher and Mika Hakkinen Johnny Herbert, Rubens Barrichello and Heinz Harald Frentzen make the top 6.

The race was a strategic race with Michael Schumacher helping Eddie Irvine to win. From the start, Michael Schumacher put in a gap between himself and Irvine for a few laps and then slowed down and let Eddie Irvine through, David Coulthard was behind Michael Schumacher and eventually managed to squeeze through. This left Irvine in front followed by Coulthard then Schumacher and Hakkinen.

Coulthard closed up to Irvine but a few laps later his car failed. Meanwhile Michael Schumacher starts to hold Hakkinen giving Irvine a very comfortable buffer. The 2 Stewarts of Barrichello and Herbert remain in 4th and 5th place.

Eddie Irvine made his first pit stop and rejoined in 3rd place, a few laps later Michael Schumacher and Mika Hakkinen make their pit stops. Schumacher had created a buffer between himself and Hakkinen to load enough fuel to last him the whole distance while still leading Hakkinen. This strategy worked as Schumacher remained in 2nd ahead of Hakkinen after the first pit stops. Irvine was in the lead.

The situation didn't change until Irvine had to come in for his second pit stop while Schumacher stayed in front. Hakkinen had to make a second stop and rejoined behind Herbert in 4th place. Hakkinen pushed hard and managed to pass Herbert regaining 3rd place while Schumacher slowed down and let Irvine through to give him his 4th win of the season.

Herbert managed to finish 4th ahead of Barrichello who was on a two stop strategy while Frentzen managed to benefit from others misfortunes and finished in 6th.

The race coverage was below average and the producer appeared to concentrate on individual cars rather on overtaking manoeuvres. As an example towards the end of the race, we were looking at Barrichello while Hakkinen was overtaking Herbert !!. One would hope that next year's coverage will be better.

So Eddie Irvine has now taken the lead of the world drivers championship ahead of Hakkinen by 4 points and it looks like Hakkinen will have to win in Japan to take the world championship even if Irvine finishes 2nd as they become equal on points but Hakkinen wins based on the number of wins in a season. But Hakkinen winning in Japan with Michael Schumacher in the Ferrari and Eddie Irvine's expertise of the track would be a very hard task. We will all know in 2 weeks time.

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