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3rd May 1999

Review of San Marino 1999

Tifosi Heaven

by David Cunliffe

An elated Italian crowd left the Imola circuit at the end of a dramatic race, happy to have witnessed the first win of the season by their hero, Michael Schumacher. Though hero No2, Eddie Irvine, failed to finish because of a rare Ferrari engine failure, the Northern Irishman completes a Ferrari 1-2 at the head of the World Championship table with three races gone. The Italian team is also now 18 points clear in the chase for the Constructors' Championship. Arch rivals McLaren took only six points from a stolid second place for David Coulthard, after Mika Hakkinen made an uncharacteristic mistake at the last corner and put his Silver Arrow into the wall, much to delight of the partisan crowd. Once again, Rubens Barrichello had a great race for Stewart-Ford, this time clinching the bottom step of the podium.

After a close battle for pole position on Saturday between Schumacher and the McLarens, the tifosi were anticipating a good race for their man. But the opening laps were a big disappointment as Hakkinen and Coulthard began to open up a sizeable gap over their favourite German. It looked like their least favourite Finn was going to stroll to another easy win. But Hakkinen was trying too hard to extend his lead and, as he came around the last corner for the 17th time, he clipped the kerb hard and lost the back end of his McLaren. The silver car hit the wall hard, but not hard enough to drown out the cheers from the grandstands which must have been audible in Maranello, 50 miles away. But could Schumacher catch and beat the other McLaren?

Coulthard initially seemed to have the measure of Schumacher. But it didn't last long. The Ferrari No1 started to claw back a four second deficit. When the back markers came into play, the gap came right down. Instead of trying to pass on the track, Schumacher took his usual route to the front - via the pits. The race was approaching half distance and the German seemed to be on a one stop strategy. But his pit visit was surprisingly short at only 6.9s. Even more surprising was the way that the Ferrari driver, on a heavier fuel load, was then able to put in the fastest lap of the race so far. Though Coulthard stayed out for several more laps, he was unable to maintain a gap over the Ferrari, and he returned to the track in second place after his own stop.

Schumacher then put in one of those masterful displays of on the edge driving for which he is justifiably famous. At first, it seemed that he was just revelling in the lead and, perhaps, rubbing his rivals' noses in his superiority. But then the light began to dawn. That quick stop - it must have been because the fuel added was too little for the rest of the race. If Schumacher could pull out a big enough gap over Coulthard, he could stop again and still retain the lead. Sure enough, a combination of balls out racing and immaculate strategy by the Ferrari team gave them the win. Coulthard and McLaren were no match for them and had to settle for second.

From sixth on the grid, Rubens Barrichello drove strongly to third. The Brazilian immediately dedicated third place to his much missed mentor, Ayrton Senna, on the fifth anniversary of his countryman's tragic death at the Imola circuit. Fourth place was claimed Damon Hill, team-mate to Senna in that tormented season. Fisichella and Alesi took the final points places for Benetton and Sauber. In another race of high attrition, only nine cars made it to the chequered flag. Unluckiest man of the race was Stewart's Johnny Herbert, whose Ford engine consumed itself with three laps to go. At the time, the Briton was running fifth and looking set for his first finish of the year.

Ferrari were not so unlucky. The team broke a long Imola jinx, winning at the circuit for the first time since 1983. A good omen? Could this finally be the year that the Scuderia wins that elusive Championship? Only thirteen races left until the answer is known. For the moment, the tifosi were just enjoying the day. The Championship can wait...

Pos Driver/Team

Laps

Time/reason





1 M. Schumacher
Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro
62 1hr 33:44.792
2 D. Coulthard
West McLaren Mercedes
62 +4.265s
3 R. Barrichello
Stewart Ford
61 +1 lap
4 D. Hill
B & H Jordan Mugen Honda
61
5 G. Fisichella
Mild Seven Benetton Playlife
61
6 J. Alesi
Red Bull Sauber Petronas
61
7 M. Salo
British American Racing
59
8 L. Badoer
Fondmetal Minardi Ford
59
9 M. Gene
Fondmetal Minardi Ford
59
10 J. Herbert
Stewart Ford
58 Engine
11 A. Zanardi
Winfield Williams
58
R P. Diniz
Red Bull Sauber Petronas
49
R O. Panis
Gauloises Prost Peugeot
48
R E. Irvine
Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro
46 Engine
R H-H. Frentzen
B & H Jordan Mugen Honda
46
R T. Takagi
Zepter Arrows
29
R R. Schumacher
Winfield Williams
28
R M. Hakkinen
West McLaren Mercedes
17 Accident
R P. de la Rosa
Zepter Arrows
5 Accident
R A. Wurz
Mild Seven Benetton Playlife
5 Accident
R J. Trulli
Gauloises Prost Peugeot
0 Spin
R J. Villeneuve
British American Racing
0 Gearbox

Fastest lap: M Schumacher


Article is written by and copyright (c) 1999 David Cunliffe, Warrington, UK - all rights reserved.

David Cunliffe has been following F1 for over twenty years and is a fan of any skillful and sporting driver who's a true racer. He produces a number of F1 related websites.


Interested in reading more by this author?


Articles by David Cunliffe
Review of Japan 1999 - Honours Even
Review of Malaysia 1999 - The Barge-board controversy
Review of Europe 1999 - Tears all round...
Review of Italy 1999 - Tears at Bedtime
Review of Hungary 1999 - McLaren back on top
Review of Germany 1999 - Eddie Assumes the Mantle
Review of Austria 1999 - Motormouth lives up to his own Publicity
Review of Britain 1999 - Triumph and Tragedy
Review of Canada 1999 - Dreams and Nightmares
Review of Spain 1999 - Swings and Roundabouts
Review of Monaco 1999 - Red Whitewash
Review of San Marino 1999 - Tifosi Heaven
Review of Brazil 1999 - The Championship Race is On...
Review of Melbourne 1999 - Eddie Breaks his Duck

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