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The 1999 F1 Season
The 1999 season was a mixed bag for the Ferraris as the first two races saw a new dimension to the race outcome. The first race of the season, the Australian GP, went to the Ferraris but it was not Schumacher who took the honours but Eddie Irvine. The Brazilian GP, on the other hand, saw Mika winning ahead of Schumacher. In that sense, Michael was yet to finish on the top spot despite coming close in Brazil.
A Ferrari driver last won the San Marino GP in 1983, and it was more than fifteen years since that feat was achieved. Ferrari appeared strong but then the defending champion, Mika, and the defending constructor, McLaren were continuing to look imposing.
It would be a challenging race for the Ferraris to win, and their super strategizing skills would once again come into play. Would that be enough to allow Schumacher to make it to the front?
Let’s find out.
The 1999 San Marino GP Qualifying
The McLarens dominated the San Marino GP qualifying with an intermittent strong performance by the Ferraris. This was not a session where pole positions were traded often between constructors, but they did trade between teammates. Mika and David put blistering laps for the McLaren team. Michael would occasionally improve over David’s time only to be overtaken by the McLaren marauders.
For Ferraris, Michael did an excellent job, qualifying just two-tenths of a second off Mika’s pole position time. Take a look at one of the practice session runs of Michael Schumacher.
Bet you didn't take your eyes off the screen, and of course, ears off the scream either. What a sound that Ferrari engine made!
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Coming back to the qualifying, Michael's onslaught notwithstanding, David took P2 by just two-hundredth of a second from Mika's time. David's giant-killer lap relegated Michael to P3. Eddie Irvine in the other Ferrari qualified P4 while the surprise addition to the front of the grid was Jacques Villeneuve in his British American Racing (BAR) Supertec at P5.
The race was set for the McLarens unless Michael had something to say about that on race day. So, let's jump to race day and find out how things progressed.
The 1999 San Marino GP – Race Day
The race started without much shuffling among the top four. Mika led from David who led from Michael and Eddie. The only unfortunate one was Jacques with his BAR stuck on the grid. As the race progressed, Mika pulled away cleanly from David, opening up quite a lead. The Ferraris, on the other hand, could not close the gap to David and from the looks of it, it all would boil down to the pit strategy.
The race clearly belonged to Mika, but for his unfortunate crash around the 40 lap mark. The Ferraris were on a two-stop strategy as against McLaren’s one. Michael took the second position away from David after the pitstop. The second position soon turned to first with Mika’s crash, and that was how the race order remained till the end.
As such, Ferrari had their second win in three races with each of its driver taking one win. Since Michael finished second in Brazil, his overall points catapulted him to the top of the driver’s table. The exciting part was that even Eddie came second in the table four points adrift of Michael. Despite the McLarens seeming strong, the season started to tilt towards the Ferraris.
The question, though, was if the Ferraris could continue their performance in the rest of the races. But for now, Michael found himself in an all familiar position – at the top of the table.
Back to the Pits
With a bit of luck, Michael was able to win the San Marino GP, but winning the championship would require the team to do a lot more than that. At the end of the San Marino GP, Ferrari was ahead in the constructors and drivers championship.
Could they maintain the lead? Only time would tell.
The Next Win..
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