Mika Hakkinen won the Japanese GP in Suzuka on this day in 1999 and won his second consecutive world championship at the same track where he won his first title one year earlier.
After the controversial Malaysian GP where Michael Schumacher returned after six races due to broken leg and helped Irvine beat Hakkinen, Irvine had four points more than Hakkinen ahead of the last race in Japan, just as Ferrari had four points more than McLaren.
Victory for Hakkinen in Japan was enough for the title even if Irvine was second, but in the case of Schumacher’s victory and Hakkinen’s second place Irvine could finish fourth and win the championship.
Schumacher, as well as in Malaysia, secured pole position (1:37.470), 0.350 seconds ahead of Hakkinen, 0.769 seconds ahead of Coulthard, 1.226 ahead of Frentzen in Jordan and 1.505 seconds ahead of teammate Irvine.
But with a fantastic start from second place, Hakkinen took control of his own destiny and led in 50 out of 53 laps and celebrated five seconds ahead of Schumacher and minute and 35 seconds ahead of Irvine.
Coulthard retired after a hydraulic failure so Ferrari won their first constructors’ title since 1983. First driver’s title will have to wait another year before Schumacher finally wins his first title for Ferrari and third overall.
“Brilliant! What a great English word to express how I feel. It was one of the best races I’ll never forget,” said Hakkinen after winning in Japan.
“Although I think I did a great job, that would not have been possible without all the people at the factory an here in Japan, thanks to everyone and of course my teammate David, West, Mercedes, Mobil, Ilmor, Bridgestone and all other sponsors. my mother and father. Thank you all.”
It was a very strange season in which McLaren had the fastest car in one lap (11 pole position in 16 races for Hakkinen), but the MP4-14 was much more demanding for drivin than its predecessor. This is one of the reasons why Coulthard did not win any pole positions (and he won them in 1998 and 2000 and 2001 and 2002).
Also, the car was unreliable in relation to Ferrari, so Hakkinen retired from leading positions in Australia due to engine failure. In Germany, his tyre spectacularly failed at very high speed while in England his wheel came loose.
Hakkinen spun off his unpredictable car from leading positions in Imola and Monza, and in Austria he was spun by team-mate Coutlhard in first lap who beat him in Belgium and took points off him in the drivers’ championship, as opposed to the support Irvine had from Salo and Schumacher .
Along with Schumacher’s accident in Silverstone and Hakkinen’s mistakes and bad luck, Irvine unexpectedly got his chance for glory. Salo had given him victory in Germany and Schumacher gifted him victory in Malaysia. But still, Irvine was not the one who broke Ferrari’s 20-year wait for the driver’s title. It will be Schumacher who will lift the trophy one year latter at the same track and start the new winning era for Ferrari.
|6.||11||Jean Alesi||Sauber/Petronas||52||1:31:31.101||1 krug|
|7.||17||Johnny Herbert||Stewart/Ford||52||1:31:33.352||1 krug|
|10.||10||Alexander Wurz||Benetton/Playlife||52||1:31:55.310||1 krug|
|11.||12||Pedro Diniz||Sauber/Petronas||52||1:32:16.261||1 krug|
|12.||23||Ricardo Zonta||BAR/Supertec||52||1:32:44.136||1 krug|
|13.||14||Pedro de la Rosa||Arrows||51||1:31:39.478||2 kruga|
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