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14th June 1999

Review of Canada 1999

Dreams and nightmares

by David Cunliffe

Mika Hakkinen had a dream finish in Montreal, claiming his second win in a row. For his main rival, Michael Schumacher, the day ended early in a complete nightmare - the Ferrari No1 made a rare but terminal mistake (he later said he was allowed one major slip each year and this was, hopefully, it). Whilst leading the race and trying to eke out his slender leader over Mika, Michael crashed heavily into the wall at the final chicane. No points for the German, 10 for the Finn. Result: Hakkinen leap-frogged to the top of the Championship table for the first time this year.

The McLaren and Ferrari No2s had a mixed day too. For Eddie Irvine, it started well enough with a solid drive in third place. He ended on the bottom step of the podium too but, after the nightmare in between, that was a dream result for the Northern Irishman, who put in the drive of the race. Whilst others were having their own dramas (more of that below), a bit of needle crept into the battle between Irvine and fellow Brit Coulthard, who had been the butt of some acerbic remarks by Eddie in the Italian press earlier in the week. Coulthard saw more red than that of the Ferrari in front of him when the race restarted after one of a number of Safety Car laps. As DC tried to squeeze his McLaren past the Ferrari, Eddie firmly shut the door, they touched and went grass cutting. This put both cars to the back of the pack from whence Eddie was to make one of the most dramatic come backs seen in recent years.

For DC though, the nightmare continued, firstly with another bout of languishing behind recalcitrant backmarkers, Panis and Badoer (whose persistent failure to observe the blue flags cost them both a 10s stop-go penalty), then with a 10s penalty of his own for speeding in the pitlane. At least he finished, albeit out of the points. Which is more than DC's former team-mate, Damon Hill, did: the ex-World Champion's season from hell continued with yet another non-finish. This time, he couldn't blame the car or anything other than his own mistake. But at least he was in good company, leaving the race by the same route as two other former World Champions. He hit the same bit of wall Michael Schumacher found 14 laps later. This innocuous looking piece of concrete had been on the receiving end of local hero Jacques Villeneuve's Williams after one lap in 1997. He has improved - it took him 34 laps to wreck his BAR against it this year.

Whilst en route to that stunning third place, Irvine provided another of the highlights of this exciting race. He and Johnny Herbert treated us all to an entertaining dice for the lower points places for lap after lap. The plucky little man from Essex firmly but fairly - without weaving once - held off Irvine for well over 5 minutes. Fans of both drivers had their hearts in their mouths fearing it would all end in tears, just like several previous tangles between the two. This time, it ultimately and inevitably ended in a clean(ish) pass by Irvine - one which involved some very last minute braking at the final chicane, a short cut by both over the grass, and a wobble by Irvine towards that same piece of concrete which had been the nemesis of so many others over the weekend. At last Herbert's luck - which all too often has been bad - changed, and he finished for the first time this season to claim a well deserved two points. With team-mate Rubens Barrichello going out early after a first corner melee caused by Jarno Trulli, Johnny's result gave the team's new owners, the men from Ford, another celebration in a weekend which had already seen the announcement that they were buying Stewart-Ford and the 60th birthday party of the previous owner, Jackie Stewart.

The dreamers at the end included Giancarlo Fisichella, whose fine drive to second place gave the faltering Benetton team six much needed points, taking them above arch-rivals Williams in the Constructors' Championship. Both teams are struggling with the out-dated Supertec engine and, embarrassingly, those new to F1 upstarts at BAR are beginning to outshine these once great teams with the same powersource. It was another nightmare day for the Williams team, particularly so for their F1 returnee, Alex Zanardi. After several lurid spins, the personable Italian again failed to finish, and he must by now wish he was still driving a competitive car in CART. He and the team can only dream of 2000 and onwards when BMW come on board with a works engine.

The race had several eerie echoes of the last couple of years in Canada. The 1999 version of the first lap, first corner coming together didn't produce a spectacular barrel roll like Wurz's from last year, but another over-enthusiastic attempt to gain a few places at the start by Jarno Trulli led to both his and Jean Alesi's immediate retirement, and Rubens Barrichello's early end to the race. Just like last year, the numerous accidents brought out the Safety Car (still driven by the talented Ollie Gavin, who at last has a proper driver in F3000 too) several times, bunching up the field and adding to "the show" so beloved by the fans of North America's more artificially staged forms of racing.

Like two years ago, when the race finished early behind the Safety Car after a terrible accident by Olivier Panis, a late race heavy crash brought the Canadian GP to a premature end under "full course yellows". This time it was Heinz-Harald Frentzen who hit the tyre barrier hard, destroying his Jordan, in which he remained for several minutes apparently injured. Mercifully, he was able to extricate himself from the car with only a little assistance, to the relief of the watching millions. After all the excitement, and some spectacular crashes (thankfully, all without serious injury), the race may have drawn to a slightly anti-climactic close, but the spectators had witnessed the best of the year so far.

Formula One desperately needed a race like this after the dull pain in Spain two weeks ago. There were thrills and spills galore and the capacity crowd of 110,000 didn't know where to look next. This was a dream of a race for the spectators, the TV viewers, Bernie Ecclestone and Max Mosley and, last but not least, for the 10 drivers who finished. It also produced a few nightmares in its 69 laps for the other 12 drivers and, though it ended in a subdued atmosphere, with Hakkinen's win and Schumacher's nul points, the results amidst the excitement revitalised the Championship race. More of the same in two weeks time, please!

Pos Driver / Team



1 M. Hakkinen
West McLaren Mercedes
69 1hr 34m 13.665s
2 G. Fisichella
Mild Seven Benetton Playlife
69 +6.238s
3 E. Irvine
Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro
69 +10.845s
4 R. Schumacher
Winfield Williams
69 +30.182s
5 J. Herbert
Stewart Ford
69 +1m 27.208s
6 P. Diniz
Red Bull Sauber Petronas
7 D. Coulthard
West McLaren Mercedes
8 M. Gene
Fondmetal Minardi Ford
9 O. Panis
Gauloises Prost Peugeot
10 L. Badoer
Fondmetal Minardi Ford
11 HH. Frentzen
Benson & Hedges Jordan
65 Accident
R A. Zanardi
Winfield Williams
50 Spin
R T. Takagi
Zepter Arrows
41 Hydraulics
R J. Villeneuve
British American Racing
34 Accident
R M. Schumacher
Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro
29 Accident
R P. de la Rosa
Zepter Arrows
22 Hydraulics
R R. Barrichello
Stewart Ford
15 Accident damage
R D. Hill
B & H Jordan Mugen Honda
14 Accident
R R. Zonta
British American Racing
2 Accident
R A. Wurz
Mild Seven Benetton Playlife
0 Accident
R J. Alesi
Red Bull Sauber Petronas
0 Accident
R J. Trulli
Gauloises Prost Peugeot
0 Accident

Fastest lap: Irvine 1:20.382

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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