The 1999 Monaco GP: Michael Schumacher’s 35th Career Win
The 1999 F1 Season
Michael Schumacher led the 1999 season for the first time after winning the San Marino GP. It was also Michael’s first and Ferrari’s second victory. Eddie was forming an excellent winning compatriot with Michael and was everything that Ferrari could hope for. But it would not be an easy season, because the McLarens still had the technically advanced car, not to mention the defending world champion, Mika Hakkinen, at the helm of affairs.
The Ferraris would be hoping to win the Monaco GP at the back of a strong performance at San Marino. The McLarens would be one of the fastest around. If the reliability problems they had in the first three races were just hiccups, there was a good chance that the race would be McLaren's to win.
While a lot could be said before a race, it would all boil down to the race strategy. After all, the car first off the block at the first turn will continue to keep the lead until it is overtaken in the pits. Fans know the significance of that; Monaco is a track providing zero overtaking opportunities. In that sense, the qualifying mattered the most, and the car on the pole would have done ninety percent of its job for the race day.
Could Ferrari and Michael make it to pole position? Let’s find out.
Did You Know?
Different drivers won the first three races of the 1999 season.
Eddie Irvine won the 1999 Australian GP, Mika Hakkinen won the Brazilian GP, and Michael Schumacher won the San Marino GP.
The 1999 Monaco GP Qualifying
Both the Ferraris and McLarens were well aware of the advantage of taking pole, and both the teams fought tooth and nail for the first position. The other teams were miles off the pace of the two leading constructors – the McLarens and the Ferraris. This difference was visible in the qualifying times as just four-tenths of a second separated the top four cars while the rest of the pack came nearly a second behind the pole position time.
The qualifying was a virtual pole position trading game between the McLarens and the Ferraris, but Michael appeared rock solid to take the pole. He, incidentally, was at the pole for the longest time and just when he looked all set to take it, Mika did the impossible at the dying seconds of the qualifying session.
Take a look at Mika’s three qualifying attempts:
Mika was slipping and sliding all through the first two attempts and was clearly off Michael’s pole time. But once he got his act together and kept the car on the track, the last of his attempt bore fruit. He took pole by one of the closest margins. Michael came in second.
David Coulthard in the other McLaren and Eddie Irvine in the Ferrari completed the top four spots. It appeared to be a race exclusively between the two top teams.
Did You Know?
The 1999 Monaco GP was the last race that Michael won in the 1999 season.
Michael’s accident at the British GP ruled him out for few races, and when he did rejoin, he only tried to help Irvine win the remaining races, and therefore, the championship.
The 1999 Monaco GP – Race Day
McLarens did everything to get their car in front, and now it was just a regulation drive for Mika to take the laurels. Overtaking would be impossible unless Ferrari came up with an exceptional pit strategy for which they were well-known. But then the race’s complexion changed at the turn of the lights. What happened, you ask?
Well, Schumacher shot past Mika in what appeared to be Mika’s slow start, and the same thing happened with Irvine driving past David. At the first corner, the top four cars braked hard to avoid each other, and at the end of the turn it was Michael leading the race followed by Mika, then Eddie from David and then the rest of the pack.
Take a look at the start of the race and the race summary:
The Ferrari set up made the cars faster than the McLaren ones, and that was soon evident in the way that Michael was able to open up quite a lead to Mika in the second place. Irvine, on the other hand, was staying close to Mika and the position stayed so till the thirtieth lap. Mika was unfortunate to run over oil from a car that had blown up, causing him to veer off the track but kept the engine running. By the time the Mika rejoined, Irvine had taken the second spot. Now, both the Ferraris were in the front and Mika in third place. The race ended in that order with Michael clear of Irvine by more than half a minute.
Earlier in the day, David was left stranded with a blown engine, and as such, Ferrari's strong finish bolstered their lead over the McLarens in the second spot. Both Ferrari drivers were in the first two positions in the driver's table followed by Mika in the McLarens. The fourth race of the season gave the Ferrari team a lot to cheer and to feel confident of winning the 1999 championship!
Did You Know?
Barring the first three seasons since Michael debuted, the 1999 season witnessed the least number of wins for Schumacher. He won only two races.
That was lesser than even the three wins that Michael had in the 1996 season when he moved to Ferrari to rebuild the team.
How Did the Season Progress?
Three races after the Monaco GP, Michael Schumacher met with a freak accident in the British GP due to a brake failure. He was left with a fracture and therefore missed few races. Here was the accident.
The 1999 British GP
The rear brakes failure led to the accident which meant that Schumacher’s hopes of fighting the 1999 championship were all but over. After the race, it was understood that Michael had a fracture in the right leg. Schumacher missed the next seven races and came back to help Ferrari win the constructors' championship, and hopefully, Irvine, the drivers’ title.
The 1999 Malaysian GP
Schumacher returned for the penultimate race of the season. He blasted away in the front as the race started but then gave the position to Irvine while held the other two McLarens behind. Here is what happened:
Irvine went on to win the race and was ahead in the championship. He was four points adrift of Mika in the table. The final race of the season would decide the title with Mika still having a chance to take the lead.
The 1999 Japanese GP
This was the final race of the season, and Michael yet again tried to assist the team, but it did not quite work out.
Mika just shot past Michael, and any hopes of holding him back for Irvine was lost at the start. Mika went on to win the race and thus take his second world championship. Irvine had a close shave with destiny, but it was supposed to be Mika's year.
The Ferraris, however, won the constructors' championship ending their near two-decade drought of championships. Was that a turning point for them? Only time would tell!
Back to the Pits
Michael couldn't win the 1999 drivers' world championship, though, he ensured that Ferraris won the constructors' championship after seventeen years. Michael was fit now and was ready to take on the competition for the 2000 season. Mika and the McLaren team would continue to be the title rivals, and it was anybody's guess how things would pan out.
© 2020 S K