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11th July 1999

Review of Britain 1999

Triumph and tragedy...

by David Cunliffe

After the tumultuous French GP two weeks ago, the British crowd weren't expecting quite such a dramatic day in the untypically hot and sunny Silverstone weather. Most of them had come to salute Damon Hill, their departing hero, on his last appearance in the British GP. But they also witnessed what was almost certainly the premature end of yet another title challenge by Michael Schumacher.

As the red lights dimmed, there were two stallers on the grid. To give time to clear the start/finish line, the stewards quickly called for the Safety Car. As the field raced down the Hangar Straight to Stowe Corner, some drivers spotted the warnings but others, apparently including Schumacher, were less observant. An as yet unidentified mechanical failure may also have contributed to the severity of his ensuing accident. Whatever the cause, the Ferrari No1 twice almost collected his team-mate and speared straight into the barriers at Stowe at over 100mph, in an accident eerily reminiscent of Senna's fatal crash at Imola.

The impact destroyed the front of the Ferrari, and the crowd fell silent as the best driver of his generation, previously uninjured at the wheel of an F1 car, was unable to exit the cockpit. Once again, that horrible stillness descended on a motor racing crowd until, 10 minutes later, some welcome relief flooded over them as Michael was seen to wave whilst he was stretchered to the ambulance which ferried him to the Silverstone medical centre.

The drivers reassembling on the grid were told that Schumacher was OK and, 40 minutes late, the race was restarted. Once again there was a staller and the Safety Car came out. This time, mercifully, there were no accidents and the race was back under way after a single lap under yellows. Hakkinen took the lead and, making good use of the gap in the grid vacated by his absent team-mate, Irvine grabbed second from Coulthard. Frentzen was fourth, immediately in front of the younger Schumacher sibling, distractedly worrying about his brother's condition. But the crowd's spirits began to rise as Damon Hill looked competitive in the final point scoring position.

Then, until the first round of pitstops, it began to turn processional. Oh well, a third entertaining race on the trot was perhaps too much to ask for. But, wait a minute, Hakkinen's apparently unassailable lead was dissipated as the normally imperturbable McLaren pit crew struggled to replace a rear wheel. Further disaster followed as the wheel detached itself a lap later, hitting the wall at Woodcote and inconveniently depositing itself in the middle of the track. Though he carefully brought his three wheeler back to the pits and had a fourth refitted, that was effectively the end of the Finn's challenge for points and he retired from the race shortly thereafter.

The patriotic crowd now had something to watch - a fight for the honours between the Brits, all four of whom, fleetingly, were in the points. Even better than that, for one glorious lap, during the second round of pitstops, their greatest hero headed the field. They had come, more in hope than expectation, to see "Damon Hill P1" and, fleetingly, it was theirs to behold. No matter that it was only temporary, the crowd went ape and the cheers must have been audible to the surgeons tending his old nemesis's shattered leg leg 20 miles away in Northampton. After Damon stopped for tyres and fuel, he returned to the track in 5th, where he was to finish the race, his best 1999 showing for Jordan. Would that be enough to persuade him to delay his retirement to the end of the season?

The battle between the top No2s, Brits Coulthard and Irvine, gave the crowd more to cheer. Irvine would probably have won had he not overshot his pit, unsighted by the McLaren pit crew he later claimed, on his first stop. The delay allowed Coulthard to take a lead he was then to maintain until the end of the race, except during the second round of stops when Damon had his last, brief moment of glory. Let's not forget Johnny Herbert, the unluckiest Brit of all, who grittily climbed up to sixth, only to be denied a point by a 10s stop/go penalty imposed for passing Alesi whilst the Safety Car was out. The pluckiest drive of the race, however, was by Ralf Schumacher, who drove solidly to third, his highest placing in the the uncompetitive Williams, all the time not knowing how badly injured his brother was.

It may have been some small consolation to the older Schumacher, nursing a right leg broken in two paces in his Northampton General Hospital bed, that Hakkinen failed to score. Greater consolation may have been the fact that the fractures were clean and without complications. But he is unlikely to be back in action for at least two or three races, which will probably be too late to resurrect his 1999 championship hopes. Can Ferrari now switch the whole of its formidable resources behind Eddie Irvine and claim an unlikely Drivers' Championship for the first time in two decades? And who will step into the empty seat alongside him to help maintain their challenge for the constructors' title?

Realistically, the tifosi's hopes were almost certainly shattered along with Schumacher's tibia and fibula. Despite his no score in the British heat, Hakkinen and his McLaren team are looking like increasingly safe bets for consecutive titles...

Pos Driver / Team

Laps

Time/reason





1 D. Coulthard
West McLaren Mercedes
60 1hr 32m 30.144s
2 E. Irvine
Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro
60 +1.829s
3 R. Schumacher
Winfield Williams
60 +27.411s
4 HH. Frentzen
Benson & Hedges Jordan
60 +27.789s
5 D. Hill
B & H Jordan Mugen Honda
60 +38.606s
6 P. Diniz
Red Bull Sauber Petronas
60 +53.643s
7 G. Fisichella
Mild Seven Benetton Playlife
60 +54.614s
8 R. Barrichello
Stewart Ford
60 +1m 08.590s
9 J. Trulli
Gauloises Prost Peugeot
60 +1m 12.045s
10 A. Wurz
Mild Seven Benetton Playlife
60 +1m 12.123s
11 A. Zanardi
Winfield Williams
60 +1m 17.124s
12 J. Herbert
Stewart Ford
60 +1m 17.709s
13 O. Panis
Gauloises Prost Peugeot
60 +1m 20.492s
14 J. Alesi
Red Bull Sauber Petronas
59 -
15 M. Gene
Fondmetal Minardi Ford
58 -
16 T. Takagi
Zepter Arrows
58 -
R R. Zonta
British American Racing
41 Mechanical
R M. Hakkinen
West McLaren Mercedes
35 Suspension
R J. Villeneuve
British American Racing
29 Transmission
R L. Badoer
Fondmetal Minardi Ford
6 Mechanical
R P. de la Rosa
Zepter Arrows
0 Gearbox
R M. Schumacher
Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro
0 Accident

Fastest lap: M Hakkinen 1min 28.309s


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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