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The Five Best Drives of Heinz-Harald Frentzen

Andrew Szekler writes about the excitement of Formula One racing.

When Heinz-Harald Frentzen arrived in F1, he was touted as a great talent, and according to some people, during their years in sports cars, Frentzen was even faster than Michael Schumacher. Unfortunately for him, he failed to reach the heights his compatriot reached, and the one time he had a car capable of fighting for the world championship, he was left in the dust by Schumacher and Jaques Villeneuve.

Nonetheless, during his ten season F1 career, Frentzen was always one of the better drivers on the grid, and during his best seasons, he was probably among the top 5, if not top 3 of the grid.

1999 Italian GP

Frentzen left Williams at the end of the 1998 season and was probably glad to leave behind the team where he failed to make an impact in the previous two seasons.

His struggles at Williams were followed by a renaissance at Jordan, and Frentzen had by far the best season of his career at Jordan in 1999. Frentzen was usually the best of the rest behind the Ferraris and the McLarens, and sometimes even managed to sneak in between the two.

This was the case in Spa, at the Belgian GP. Frentzen and his teammate easily out-qualified both Ferraris, and were lining up 3rd and 4th on the grid.

Hill, who had a miserable final season to his F1 career in 1999, dropped back during the race and was passed by both Eddie Irvine’s Ferrari and Ralf Schumacher’s Williams, but Frentzen had a much better day and easily finished as the best of the rest behind the two dominant McLarens.

1997 San Marino GP

When Frentzen moved to Williams for the 1997 season, people were expecting great things from him, but his first three Williams races were very disappointing.

Technical failures cost him two-second places in Australia and Argentina, and he had a horrid race in Brazil, where he finished only 9th. He was once again beaten by his teammate Villeneuve in qualifying at the San Marino GP, but he beat Michael Schumacher for the second position.

At the start, Frentzen had a slow start and was passed by Schumacher, while Villeneuve maintained his lead and opened up a small lead in the first stint. Villeneuve jumped first into the pits, he was followed in by Schumacher, and Frentzen stayed out longest from the top three.

After all three of them made their stops, the order changed and it was Frentzen who was leading Schumacher, and Villeneuve dropped back to third. Frentzen opened up a small lead from Schumacher, who was closely followed by Villeneuve. Villeneuve later was forced to retire with a gearbox failure, but his teammate made no mistake and took the win, the first one of his F1 career.

1999 Italian GP

Frentzen had a flying 1999 season, and his excellent form was demonstrated once again at the Italian GP at Monza. Mika Hakkinen was in the class of his own, but Frentzen edged Hakkinen’s teammate and everyone else for the second position on the grid.

The race was very similar to the qualifying, as nobody was able to get anywhere near Mika Hakkinen, who pulled away comfortably from the rest of the field. Frentzen was also relatively comfortable in the second position and was in pole position to capitalise on any mistake from Hakkinen or McLaren, which is exactly what happened when Hakkinen made an error in the first chicane and spun out of the race.

Frentzen took the lead and never looked back, in the end winning the race from a charging Ralf Schumacher, who finished second.

Frentzen's win took him to within 10 points of Hakkinen, and he had an outside chance of even snatching the title if the Finn made more errors in the remaining races of 1999.

2000 German GP

In comparison to their superb 1999 season, both Frentzen and Jordan had a more modest 2000. The team struggled with reliability which cost them many good point-scoring positions in the early part of 2000.

When they arrived in Germany, nobody was expecting a result from them, and Frentzen had a shocking qualifying session which saw him finish in a lowly 17th position.

Jordan decided to go aggressive and put Frentzen on a light fuel load, using which Frentzen charged through the field. By the time the pitstops were beginning, he was already up in the points. The race then was disrupted when a protester broke onto the track and started walking by the side of the track where the cars were screaming at speeds well over 300 kph. The SC was immediately deployed and nullified the huge advantage the McLarens of Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard built up.

After the race was restarted, further incidents brought out the SC again and later it started to rain. Frentzen made good use of the chaos and his wet-weather ability to climb up to the third position with six laps to go. Unfortunately, a gearbox failure ended his race. It was rotten luck for the German, who would have richly deserved to stand on the podium after a superb drive saw him climb from 17th to 3rd.

1999 French GP

The qualifying session of the French GP was held in wet conditions which resulted in a very mixed up grid. Rubens Barrichello took an unlikely pole position in his Steward, while of the title contenders, Michael Schumacher was 5th, and Mika Hakkinen was only 14th.

The race began in dry conditions, but the sky was dark above the track, and some drivers decided to go with wet setups, most notably Michael Schumacher, who was struggling badly in the opening dry phase of the race.

Coulthard, the early leader, was forced to retire with an electrical problem, which allowed Barrichello to retake the lead. Mika Hakkinen, in the meantime, was charging through the field. Had the race stayed dry, he probably would have won it easily, but as it is often the case, ifs and buts count for nothing, and the heavens opened up over Magny-Cours.

Such was the intensity of the rain that the race was neutralised behind the SC and it was Michael Schumacher who took the lead in the wet. Barrichello remained second, Frentzen was also in a good position, and unknown to the others, unlike the rest of the field, Frentzen’s Jordan was fueled to the end of the race.

When Schumacher ran into problems with his steering wheel, Barrichello retook the lead, but he lost it when he went to the pits to be refuelled. Hakkinen passed Frentzen, but he also had to make another stop for fuel, and after his stop, Frentzen was in the lead and he motored home to take the victory, the second of his career and his first in 1999.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2022 Andrew Szekler