Preview Japan 1999
Fast Eddie guns for the title...
Article is written by and copyright (c) 1999 Jo Howard.
by Jo Howard
The Championship race for 1999 is on! The independent court of appeal decided that Ferrari should be reinstated., This means the Italian team have a four point lead in both championships. Suzuka is commonly seen as Eddie Irvine's backyard, especially since his memorable drive there in 1997. Mika Hakkinen was crowned briefly after Malaysia; was that enough to spur him to challenge Ferrari for the title and win?
McLaren were notably disappointed at the outcome of the trial. Ron Dennis considered it a sad day for the sport in general, not just a great loss for his team. A dominance of both McLarens at Suzuka would be a fitting response to the recent events. David Coulthard will have to do what he can to protect Mika Hakkinen whilst helping the Woking team to the championship crown. Mika Hakkinen's objective must surely be to win the Japanese Grand Prix and retain his title.
This is the moment the tifosi have been waiting for. Twenty years since their team last brought home the crown they can taste the prospect of success one more. The return of Michael Schumacher showed ultimate authority and a team which knew that it was only a matter of time. Eddie Irvine, driving with his team-mate for the very last time, must once again give millions of Formula One fans a demonstration of Ferrari magic. Fast Eddie only has to beat Mika Hakkinen to become World Champion. With his knowledge of the track, and the help of Michael Schumacher, Ferrari will be praying only for reliability. If the rejuvenated team gets it right then they do not fear any McLaren response.
Another partnership coming to an end is that of Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Damon Hill. Frentzen, who until recently was in with a chance of the championship, has nothing left to prove. The revitalised German has put behind him the dismal years he spent at Williams. With Jordan getting stronger and a new partner next year, a good result in Japan would provide a suitable end to his season. Damon Hill will likewise want to make his mark at Suzuka, as it will be his swan-song as a driver in Formula One. This is the track where Hill gained the World Championship in 1996, and he holds a special place for this circuit - doing well here is paramount.
The Japanese Grand Prix sees the Stewart team compete for the very last time under their own name. Nest year the Jaguar team will be fighting to keep up such high standards. Although the team has faded in the latter stages of
this season, it has seen the team's first ever victory. Rubens Barrichello and Johnny Herbert drive together for the last time before Barrichello and Irvine swap teams next year. To end the season on a high and get involved with the championship battle will give them momentum to carry through to the new millennium.
Williams say goodbye to the Supertec engine at the end of this race and a BMW unit in it's place. Ralph Schumacher has produced some incredible drives this season, illustrating his growing maturity as a driver. At present, he is locked in a battle with brother Michael for position in the drivers championship - the better placed driver will take the place, though Michael has all the advantages. Team-mate Alex Zanardi is again surrounded by controversy. A points score seems unlikely, considering the nature of the championship battle and the other teams who are fighting for points. A points finish would see an upturn to his season and see an end to present rumours of his impending dismissal.
BAR are completing their first season, having demonstrated their inability to climb the steep learning curve for new incumbents. Their main objective for this race will be to have both drivers finish and score at least one point - failure to do so ensures they end 1999 in last place. Benetton, Sauber and Prost will be fighting to consolidate their seasons and for positions at the latter half of the grid, whilst Minardi and Arrows are locked in their own battles for prestige. These two teams normally hold the back two rows of the grid, although they have been fighting hard to out-qualify each other.
The Japanese Grand Prix could see history being rewritten. It is a parting of company for many teams and drivers and a conclusion to what has truly been an incredible year. Suzuka will see the response of the McLaren and Ferrari teams to the outcome of the trial. This is it, the day of reckoning. Who will emerge the victor to take the millennium crown?
Views expressed in these articles do not necessarily coincide with the views of the F1 Rumors Team.