F1 Rumors - news ahead of the headlines

7th October, 1999

Anyone want a World Championship?

A look at how the main players are doing everything they can to lose it.

by Lauren Rutherford

From the moment we saw the McLaren roof literally falling in, even before the first race of the season in Melbourne, we should have known it was going to be no ordinary season. It was a fitting beginning to the year, a race full of incidents, smoking Stewarts and second fiddle becoming lead soloist.

Few would have imagined that the three podium sitters would end up in their current positions, Eddie Irvine, so often ridiculed for lack of commitment, is up there fighting for the championship. Heinz-Harald Frentzen, his talent in serious question after those years under the formidable shadow of Jacques Villeneuve, has thrown off all his critics and is right up there as well. And then there's Ralf Schumacher, better known last year for his love of the sand trap than his outstanding race performances, he's now driving out of his skin in the under-powered Williams, with a very strong case for driver of the season. He even had a chance to win at the Nurburgring, but then again, not many drivers did not.

It was thought that 1999 would be a repeat of the previous year, with McLaren and Ferrari leading the way, and Michael Schumacher battling ferociously with Mika Hakkinen. It was all set up for a close end to the season, and it will be, but only one of those 'big two' will be there.

Never before have Formula One fans seen a season where so many people tried so hard to lose the Championship. It will be looked upon as a season of errors, missed chances and unlikely heroes.

The errors came mainly from the McLaren camp, alongside their considerable lack of reliability. McLaren's early season results reflect this. But they worked hard to improve, and they have. Unfortunately, as the reliability came, the mistakes started. A string of extended pit-stops and driver errors summed up their season so far. Mika Hakkinen threw away wins in San Marino and Monza, maybe because the tifosi just got to him. David Coulthard saw that he wouldn't win in Hungary either, knocking him to last place on the very first lap. Mika would probably tell you that team orders should have been brought in then, but it was David again who won in Spa, denying Hakkinen yet another win. It was not, however, Mika's fault that his wheel fell off in Silverstone, or that his team brought him in for wets on a drying track in the European Grand Prix. However, the current World Champion did not win himself many fans by dropping his pace, believing his race was run, when it was obvious to all that points were still to be had. So it has not been a dream season for the Flying Finn. He should have had it wrapped up by now, with his main rival demobilised. He is now leading the championship, and could still win it. And if he does he will be a very relieved boy; if he doesn't, who knows what it will do to him? We've all seen how he reacts to his errors. A disappointment like that could ruin him.

Also in the running is David Coulthard, after his win in Belgium, but his mistake in the rain at the Nurburgring saw an almost certain end to his chances.

Next in the line of mistakes, we come to the Ferrari team. They had been saying before the season started that they would have to be right up with the McLarens from the start. They weren't, but still managed a win, even if most of the team were gutted that it wasn't Michael. It looked as if everything was going Schumacher's way as the McLarens retired again and again, and superb wins in San Marino and Monaco gave him a comfortable 'cushion' between himself and Mika. It all started to go wrong in Canada, with Michael's annual error coming while he was leading convincingly. France was a disaster, with the drivers finishing 5th and 6th. The Dekra-heads (Schumi's army of fans) witnessed their worst nightmare at Silverstone when their hero broke his leg. It was thought that the rest of the season would be a formality for the Silver Arrows, but Eddie Irvine had other ideas. As his team boss, Jean Todt, suffered Schumacher withdrawal symptoms, Eddie got on with the job, winning races and dragging himself up to equal on points at the top of the table. The Italian team suddenly realised that they could win it, and Irvine began to think that this could be his chance. A poor performance at Spa and a missing wheel in Europe could, and should, have cost him dearly, but none of his challengers were able to take advantage of his misfortune.

The fourth man in the frame is one I mentioned earlier, Frentzen. A string of fabulous drives and a couple of wins for the Jordan team saw him put his team-mate, no other than 1996 World Champion Damon Hill, completely in the shade. Many say that it is Heinz-Harald's performances which forced Damon to announce his retirement from the sport. Frentzen was looking good for an equal lead in the championship with 10 points last weekend, but his chances all but disappeared when he accidentally turned off his own ignition.

So the scene is set for an exciting climax. With two races left, who will win it? Will Ferrari improve the car to get Eddie on the pace? Will Mika Hakkinen tie up a title he should have won weeks ago? Or will Heinz-Harald or David Coulthard slip down the inside and take the prize?

Keep watching, it's going to be tense.

Article is written by and copyright (c) 1999 Lauren Rutherford.
Lauren has been a fan of Formula One since she was about 7 years old. She is a huge fan of Michael Schumacher, but totally admires any driver who has made it to Formula One. She loves watching and playing sport, but most of all, loves writing about it.

Views expressed in these articles do not necessarily coincide with the views of the F1 Rumors Team.

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