The 1999 European Grand Prix, officially known as the XLIII Warsteiner Grand Prix of Europe, was the fourteenth round of the 1999 FIA Formula One World Championship, held at the Nürburgring in Nürburg, Germany, on the 26 September 1999. The race would see Johnny Herbert claim a shock victory for Stewart-Ford Cosworth, as the major title contenders Mika Häkkinen, Eddie Irvine and Heinz-Harald Frentzen all hit trouble.
Qualifying had seen Frentzen, the outsider for the Championship, claim pole position for Jordan-Mugen-Honda, which was notably strong on power circuits. David Coulthard secured second ahead of his Championship leading teammate Häkkinen, while Irvine could only secure ninth.
The start saw Frentzen make a strong getaway, while Häkkinen managed to squeeze ahead of Coulthard to secure second. However, the race would be instantly interrupted by the Safety Car, as a huge accident tore through the midfield.
The cause was Damon Hill in the #7 Jordan, who slowed dramatically as the field poured into the second corner. Alexander Wurz took instant avoiding action, only to slam into the side of Pedro Diniz, which tipped the Sauber-Petronas into a barrel roll. Diniz duly landed upside down with the roll-hoop of his Sauber torn off the car, resulting in a few anxious moments before the Brazilian could be extracted from the car by the marshals.
When the safety car withdrew Frentzen was left to build a lead over Häkkinen, with Coulthard, Ralf Schumacher, Giancarlo Fisichella and Irvine giving chase. The order would remain fairly stable until lap seventeen, when Irvine finally managed to pass Fisichella for fifth.
At that moment rain began to fall across the circuit, which appeared to distract Coulthard as the Scot suddenly found Schumacher's Williams scything past him. Häkkinen, meanwhile, would opt for an early switch for wet tyres on lap 20, believing the rain was going to stay, while Ferrari brought Irvine in a lap later.
Irvine's stop proved to be a disaster, with the Ferrari team not expecting Irvine in, having been prepared to receive Mika Salo, who had damaged his front wing. Irvine lost a lot of time as he waited for the crew to sort themselves out, with the Brit rejoining in thirteenth, a long way off the leaders.
Things got worse for Irvine a few laps later, for the rain soon blew away and the circuit began to dry, forcing himself and Häkkinen back into the pits. Out front, meanwhile, Schumacher closed in on Frentzen to briefly challenge for the lead, before peeling off to make his scheduled stop on lap 27.
Frentzen and Coulthard stopped a few laps later, rejoining in first and second ahead of Schumacher, while Irvine and Häkkinen were still a long way from the points. However, Frentzen's race to be ended in heart breaking circumstances, his electrical systems failing as he was beginning to ease away from the Scot.
Coulthard hence inherited the lead, although he would be caught out by the return of the rain, and duly slid out of the race on lap 38. Schumacher inherited the lead before making his stop six laps later, handing the lead to Giancarlo Fisichella, only for the Italian to spin out at the exact same place as Coulthard.
Schumacher duly moved back into the lead, although his hopes of a maiden win on home soil were ruined by a puncture, dumping him back down the field. Johnny Herbert hence moved through into the lead, while Luca Badoer in the lowly Minardi-Ford Cosworth was almost up onto the podium, until his gearbox failed late on.
Further retirements would dictate the finishing order as, out front, Herbert slithered across the line to claim victory. Rubens Barrichello, meanwhile, threw everything he had at Jarno Trulli to try and claim second in the closing stages, only for the Italian to resist in the Prost-Peugeot. Schumacher, meanwhile, would finish in a lonely fourth ahead of Häkkinen, while Marc Gené kept just out of reach of Irvine to secure the final point in sixth.
The results meant that Häkkinen left the Nürburgring with a two point lead over Irvine, while Frentzen slipped twelve off the lead. It would also be the last Grand Prix not to feature a Ferrari on the podium until the 2003 Australian Grand Prix, and the Scuderia's last non-score until the 2003 Brazilian Grand Prix.
With Mika Häkkinen throwing away an almost certain victory the Finn had seen his lead in the Championship completely wiped out, although he still led on countback. Indeed, Eddie Irvine had failed to take advantage of Häkkinen's mistake, meaning his sole point in Italy was only enough to bring him level with the Finn on 60 points. Behind, most of the damage had been done by Heinz-Harald Frentzen, who sat just ten points off in third, with David Coulthard twelve off the lead in fourth.
In the Constructors Championship it had been a better day for Ferrari, as they closed the gap to leaders McLaren-Mercedes to six points. The Anglo-German effort themselves still had the advantage, however, with those two set to duel for the title with 48 points left to fight for across the remaining three rounds. Indeed, Jordan-Mugen-Honda were now mathematically out of the fight despite claiming their second win of the campaign, leaving Italy 51 points behind McLaren.
The full entry list for the 1999 European Grand Prix is outlined below:
The full qualifying results for the 1999 European Grand Prix are outlined below:
|1||8||Heinz-Harald Frentzen||Jordan-Mugen-Honda||1:19.910||—||205.251 km/h|
|2||2||David Coulthard||McLaren-Mercedes||1:20.176||+0.266s||204.570 km/h|
|3||1||Mika Häkkinen||McLaren-Mercedes||1:20.376||+0.466s||204.061 km/h|
|4||6||Ralf Schumacher||Williams-Supertec||1:20.444||+0.534s||203.888 km/h|
|5||18||Olivier Panis||Prost-Peugeot||1:20.638||+0.728s||203.398 km/h|
|6||9||Giancarlo Fisichella||Benetton-Playlife||1:20.781||+0.871s||203.038 km/h|
|7||7||Damon Hill||Jordan-Mugen-Honda||1:20.818||+0.908s||202.945 km/h|
|8||22||Jacques Villeneuve||BAR-Supertec||1:20.825||+0.915s||202.927 km/h|
|9||4||Eddie Irvine||Ferrari||1:20.842||+0.932s||202.885 km/h|
|10||19||Jarno Trulli||Prost-Peugeot||1:20.965||+1.055s||202.576 km/h|
|11||10||Alexander Wurz||Benetton-Playlife||1:21.144||+1.234s||202.130 km/h|
|12||3||Mika Salo||Ferrari||1:21.314||+1.404s||201.707 km/h|
|13||12||Pedro Diniz||Sauber-Petronas||1:21.345||+1.435s||201.630 km/h|
|14||17||Johnny Herbert||Stewart-Ford Cosworth||1:21.379||+1.469s||201.546 km/h|
|15||16||Rubens Barrichello||Stewart-Ford Cosworth||1:21.490||+1.580s||201.271 km/h|
|16||11||Jean Alesi||Sauber-Petronas||1:21.634||+1.724s||200.916 km/h|
|17||23||Ricardo Zonta||BAR-Supertec||1:22.267||+2.357s||199.370 km/h|
|18||5||Alex Zanardi||Williams-Supertec||1:22.284||+2.374s||199.329 km/h|
|19||20||Luca Badoer||Minardi-Ford Cosworth||1:22.631||+2.721s||198.492 km/h|
|20||21||Marc Gené||Minardi-Ford Cosworth||1:22.760||+2.850s||198.183 km/h|
|21||15||Tora Takagi||Arrows||1:23.401||+3.491s||196.660 km/h|
|22||14||Pedro de la Rosa||Arrows||1:23.698||+3.788s||195.962 km/h|
|107% Time: 1:25.504|
- T Indicates a driver used their test/spare car to set their best time in that session.
- Bold indicates a driver's best/qualifying time.
|______________||Pedro de la Rosa|
On race day the track was dry but the start was delayed when Zanardi and Gené lined up out of sequence on the grid, necessitating another formation lap. As the start was aborted during the start lights' sequence the top five qualifiers and another car actually jumped the start but were not penalised due to the aborting of the start. When the race finally got under way, Frentzen led from Häkkinen, but further back there was trouble at the first corner. Hill's Jordan suffered an electrical failure in the middle of the pack which caused Wurz to swerve into Diniz, sending the Sauber into a barrel roll. The safety car was deployed while Diniz was helped uninjured from his car; a fortunate end result as it was revealed that the Sauber's rollbar had failed when it hit the ground.
The race settled down with the top six Frentzen, Häkkinen, Coulthard, Ralf Schumacher, Fisichella and Irvine. A few laps into the race rain began to fall, and Häkkinen pitted for wet tyres. The rest of the frontrunners stayed out on dry tyres, which proved to be the correct decision as the rain quickly blew over and the track dried. Ralf Schumacher took advantage of the damp track to pass Coulthard, and Irvine passed Fisichella. However, things would quickly turn sour for the Ferrari driver, as he had a disastrous pitstop. Team mate Salo had damaged his wing the previous lap leaving the Ferrari pitcrew unprepared for Irvine. Added to this, the team made a late decision to stay on dry tyres and the pitcrew could only find three of them. Almost half a minute passed before the fourth was put on the car and Irvine was able to rejoin. Soon afterwards, Häkkinen pitted again to change back to dry tyres.
At the front Frentzen and Coulthard continued on dry tyres until their scheduled pit stops which they made together (Schumacher had pitted several laps earlier). Frentzen rejoined ahead of Coulthard, with both comfortably ahead of Schumacher. At this point in the race both Irvine and Häkkinen were well out of the points, meaning that if the order stayed the same Frentzen, Irvine, and Häkkinen would have all been tied for the points lead with two races to go, with Coulthard six points behind them.
What followed was a series of heartbreaking retirements. The first to fall was Frentzen, who ground to a halt at the first corner after his pitstop with the same electrical problem that had befallen his teammate. Coulthard inherited the lead and stayed out front until the rain came back with a vengeance. The Scot chose to stay out on dry tyres while most pitted for wets, which ultimately proved to be a costly mistake, as he slid off the road and out of the race on the 38th lap as the conditions worsened. Within a handful of laps two Championship contenders had seen their hopes of winning the title fall by the wayside. Ralf (still on dry tyres) then inherited the lead which he held until his pitstop six laps later. This allowed Fisichella (also on dries) to take the lead with Ralf in second, as the rain stopped. Meanwhile, Herbert had quietly moved up the order after changing to wet tyres just at the right time.
The heartbreak then reached new levels. On lap 49, Fisichella spun out of the lead like Coulthard before him, giving the lead back to Ralf. But then he too lost the lead (and probable first win) when his right rear tyre punctured, allowing Herbert to take the lead which he would not lose. Further back the Minardis were taking full advantage of the unpredictable nature of the race with Badoer in fourth and Gené in seventh. But with just 13 laps to go, Badoer's gearbox failed, denying the Ferrari test driver his first ever Formula 1 points and leaving him in tears. Gené was promoted to 6th, which became 5th when Jacques Villeneuve's car failed, robbing the BAR team of their first-ever point. Behind him, Irvine and Häkkinen had fought their way back into contention for points, with Irvine holding 6th ahead of Häkkinen. After cruising for most of the race, Häkkinen turned up the pressure, eventually forcing Irvine into a mistake and taking 6th place. At the front Barrichello tried everything to pass Trulli for 2nd and make it a Stewart 1-2, but ultimately had to settle for 3rd. Meanwhile, Häkkinen caught and passed Gené for 5th to earn 2 invaluable points, but the Spaniard held onto 6th ahead of Irvine to give Minardi their first point for four seasons.
It was the only race ever won by the Stewart Grand Prix team, as well as being the only time Stewart had two drivers finish on the podium. It was also the last Grand Prix victory for Johnny Herbert, and the last podium finish for the Prost Grand Prix team. Jackie Stewart considered the race greater than any of his own race wins.
The full results for the 1999 European Grand Prix are outlined below:
- T Indicates a driver used their test/spare car.
- * Villeneuve was still classified despite retiring as he had completed 90% of the race distance.
- Second and final pole position for Heinz-Harald Frentzen.
- Jordan secured their second and final pole.
- Third and final career victory for Johnny Herbert.
- Stewart scored their only race victory as a constructor.
- Jarno Trulli secured his maiden podium finish.
- Prost secured their third and final podium.
- Rubens Barrichello claimed the fifth and final podium for Stewart.
- Maiden points finish for Marc Gené.
- Last race until the 2003 Australian Grand Prix not to feature a Ferrari on the podium.
Mika Häkkinen had somehow managed to extend his Championship lead after the chaotic European Grand Prix, leaving the Nürburgring with a two point advantage. Eddie Irvine remained his closest challenger despite having failed to score, with a similar story ensuring that Heinz-Harald Frentzen had also lost ground in third. Indeed, the German, as well as Häkkinen's teammate David Coulthard would slip out of the fight if they failed to finish ahead of the Finn and in the points in Malaysia.
In the Constructors Championship McLaren-Mercedes had eeked out their lead, leaving Germany with an eight point advantage. That meant that the Anglo-German squad could win the Championship in Malaysia if they out-scored second placed Ferrari by eight points, while the Scuderia would likely have to out-score McLaren to keep their title hopes alive. Behind, Jordan-Mugen-Honda were guaranteed third ahead of Williams-Supertec, while Stewart-Ford Cosworth had secured fifth.
Only point scoring drivers and constructors are shown.
Images and Videos:
- 'European GP, 1999', grandprix.com, (Inside F1 Inc., 2014), https://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr644.html, (Accessed 29/08/2019)
- 'Europe 1999: Entrants', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2015), https://www.statsf1.com/en/1999/europe/engages.aspx, (Accessed 29/08/2019)
- 'Europe 1999: Qualifications', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2014), https://www.statsf1.com/en/1999/europe/qualification.aspx, (Accessed 29/08/2019)
- '1999 Warsteiner Grand Prix of Europe - QUALIFYING', formula1.com, (Formula One World Championship Ltd., 2019), https://www.formula1.com/en/results.html/1999/races/700/europe/qualifying-0.html, (Accessed 29/08/2019)
- 'Europe 1999: Result', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), https://www.statsf1.com/en/1999/europe/classement.aspx, (Accessed 29/08/2019)
- '14. Europe 1999', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2014), https://www.statsf1.com/en/1999/europe.aspx, (Accessed 29/08/2019)
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