F1 Rumors - news ahead of the headlines

8th October, 1999

Discerning or Deserving?

Who should be the Champion? by Julie Gates

There are two races remaining in the 1999 Formula One season: twenty points and a World Championship are up for the taking. Only fourteen points separate the top four men-who will triumph to taste glory?

Immediate reaction is to expect Mika Hakkinen to win the title. He has the better car; he is supposedly the better driver. He has also catalogued a number of errors this year, ranging from crashing while in the lead or slacking-off, settling for the top six when a podium was in sight. Does this make a worthy World Champion?

While Hakkinen has lost points through McLaren's blunders, he has also lost over twenty points on his own. He certainly is not the driver he was last year despite his dominance in qualifying sessions. If he had last year's form, , he should have won this season's title back in August. This gives Eddie Irvine a chance of becoming Ferrari's first champion since 1979, and it leaves Heinz-Harold Frentzen and David Coulthard with chances to challenge for the illustrious title.

Irvine, the fun-loving Ulsterman, has certainly upped his game this season, but still suffers from slight inconsistency, and has relied heavily on McLaren's misfortunes to help him into contention. Whilst I will accept that "a win is a win," Irvine and Ferrari, like Hakkinen and McLaren, have made many mistakes and people will therefore argue that neither of the top two truly deserve to win this year.

There is, however, Frentzen. He and Ralf Schumacher have been the clear superstars of the 1999 season. While Mika Hakkinen has fallen behind his supremacy of last season, and Eddie Irvine's performance has matched expectations, the two Germans have well surpassed expectations and have proved themselves to even the most discerning critic. Schumacher's drive at Silverstone was quite stunning - he kept all personal feelings regarding his brother's accident at bay to demonstrate sheer professionalism by finishing on the podium. Frentzen, further up the scale, has won two brilliant races and is now in with a shout of the championship.

This brings me to the question: Who is most deserving of the title? In terms of who has made the least mistakes, Frentzen wins hands down. However, on this score, David Coulthard is also within close range. Of course, many will totally disagree with this point, but he has only made one driver error that has cost him the race - his little off at the European Grand Prix while leading the race commandingly. Many will naturally refer to incidents, particularly like that of the Austrian Grand Prix, but a racing accident occurred, and in my opinion that is simply racing.

On the other hand, Mika Hakkinen is a mere shadow of his former self. He crashed at Imola while leading, he crashed at Monza in identical circumstances and his race at Luxembourg was disastrous. His team has also faltered, calling into question whether they are the most deserving of the trophy this year. McLaren has produced a stunning car. It is beautiful to the eye and to the ear, but it has not tasted champagne as much as it should have.

As for Irvine, his team has let him down more than once: they did it at Magny-Cours; they did it at Luxembourg; he did it himself when Coulthard pressured him into a mistake. Of course taking on the number one role was never going to easy and no one can deny he has done a marvellous job, but once again too many errors have occurred and question marks begin to appear.

Jordan, in the capable hands of Frentzen, have been the team of the season. They have out-performed expectations, and are clearly the most improved team from last year. They have both shown incredible reliability and consistency. Indeed, Frentzen's win at Magny-Cours, with a fractured knee, was a mix of mastermind tactics and the German's brilliant performance. He has never finished a race out of the top four and has not made one driver error this year, unless of course you include falling off the track at Imola due to Irvine's engine oil. His car has only failed once, albeit the heartbreak while leading the European Grand Prix. When you think about it, who do you believe honestly deserves the title?

Of course, all teams work extremely hard and they all deserve to win in their own right. To see Minardi win a race, for example, would be a complete gem and whoever ends up as champion has obviously done something right. Nonetheless, McLaren and Ferrari have both made too many errors to be the real World Champions. Being fast isn't what makes champions; it is being reliable, consistent, making little or no errors, and racing fairly.

This is where Jordan and Frentzen fit the bill… perfectly.

Article is written by and copyright © 1999-2001 Julie Gates and The F1 Rumors Site

Julie Gates is happiest watching F1 and writing. Also interested in singing, cars, cinema, reading and going to concerts, she has little spare time to relax, but this is the way she likes it - rather being busy than idle as she can't stand still for five minutes! Totally committed to her career as a Formula One journalist, she is determined to succeed.

Interested in reading more by this author?

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Stewart 1: Jackie Stewart - a profile of the man and the driver
Stewart 2: Stewart Grand Prix - a profile of the teams origins, and baptism of fire in Formula One
Stewart 3: Stewart McTiger - profile of Stewarts recovery from 1998
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