Preview Malaysia 1999
by Jo Howard
Article is written by and copyright (c) 1999 Jo Howard.
The lid of the World Championship has well and truly been blown off with the announcement that Michael Schumacher will race in Malaysia for the first time since Silverstone. The Sepang circuit is new to all the drivers and this is as "equal" as it is ever going to get in Formula One. Only days ago fans were expecting a Hakkinen-Irvine show down and now the odds to not seem to be so much against Ferrari as they have done if Schumacher remains adamant in his desire to race.
In what has been an eventful World Championship could have even more twists in the tail if Schumacher returns the same driver that left the formula One Circuit at Silverstone. For it is quite plain to see that Mika Hakkinen is not the same driver that he was even a few races ago. The Finn is noticeably shattered, his mental strength appears to be sapped. If Schumacher can apply the pressure as he is famed for, or Irvine can worry the Finn, then Ferrari are looking very strong. The Title could be decided this weekend, should Mika gain enough points this weekend. But the situation is rapidly changing. If there were not team orders in the McLaren team, then this latest announcement is sure to have team orders in place.
Before the end of Eddie Irvine's contract we will see the Schumacher-Irvine partnership that have produced so many astounding drives for the fans. Only this time the roles will be reversed- Schumacher will be playing the back up role. Mika Salo has coped admirably given the circumstances with which he gained his drive for Ferrari. Neither Championship is decided. After the disaster at the Nurburgring which saw Ferrari made a laughing stock, they could certainly do with a bit of Schumacher-like regimented discipline to make sure that they don't throw away even more valuable points. Knowing that Schumacher is back to help with testing and things must surely make Eddie Irvine rest a little easier as he draws from the knowledge of his double-world champion team mate. Whether Schumacher returns the same driver or not, the mere presence of him on the race track will give Hakkinen something to worry about and more support to Irvine.
Stewart are entering their penultimate race before the team is renamed Jaguar next season. They will still be on a high after the last race which saw their first ever Grand Prix victory. Rubens Barrichello brought his car home in third position to conclude a satisfactory weekend. Johnny Herbert will be wanting to keep up his performance, whilst Rubens Barrichello will want to end his association with the Stewart team on a good note. They were the most consistent of last weekend and with the fierce championship battle that is going on, they could well benefit again from any mistakes that they make! The Jordan team will be another one who will be attempting to get into the scrap that will be going on between the Ferrari and the McLaren teams. Could Frentzen managed to get among the contenders and upset that battle again? For he is one of the few who have out-qualified Mika Hakkinen this year. Will Malaysia be another one? Damon Hill's Formula One career is drawing to a close, and amongst the speculation he must be hoping that he can end on a high note. The second half of his season has much improved and he will be trying to keep that record improving after the early finish of his last race.
Ralph Schumacher was cruelly robbed of what could have been a win at the last race by a puncture. He will be wanting to make amends for that and show that despite his Williams having a Mecachrome engine, he can still show what a good driver he is. No matter that the inferior engine means that it is unlikely he should finish high-up on the grid, Ralph delights in making all fans expect the unexpected. Team mate Zanardi has had a relatively low-key season in comparison to his team mate and has been plugging away to improve and have consistent results.
The remaining teams will be fighting for the back half of the grid, although some unexpected weather, and a brilliant drive by Panis, could upset the top 10 on the grid. They have been working hard and will experience what, for all, is a new experience. If the race is anything like the last one then they will be fighting it out for the points, which they well deserve to get!
The Championship race is beginning to bubble, but whether it will reach it's climax at the first ever Malaysian Grand Prix remains to be seen. Ferrari and McLaren get ready to do battle again and pray that they won't have any embarrassing events which have beset both teams this season. This race can either decide the crown or take it down to the wire and another nail-biting end to the season. This is definitely one race that you won't want to miss!
Views expressed in these articles do not necessarily coincide with the views of the F1 Rumors Team.