Malaysian Grand Prix was the penultimate, 15th race of the 1999 F1 championship and Hakkinen was leading Irvine for two points. McLaren was leading the constructors’ championship with 110 points, eight more than Ferrari.
Michael Schumacher broke his leg in the eighth race of the championship at Silverstone and was coming back after six races, at the Malaysian Grand Prix. The Sepang International Circuit was the first Herman Tilke’s circuit in F1 calendar.
Schumacher was brilliant in qualifying and claimed pole position (1: 39.688), 0.947 seconds faster than team mate Irvine and 1.118 with faster than Coulthard in McLaren. Hakkinen was fourth, 0.06 seconds behind team mate Coulthard.
Michael kept the lead in front of Irvine who was slowing Coulthard, Hakkinen and Barrichello. German lets Irvine through in lap four, but then slows down Coulthard and other drivers.
In the fifth lap Coulthard passes Schumacher and chases Irvine, but retires with the fuel pump failure.
Schumacher was again second and continued to slow Hakkinen. Before pitstops, German had to stay in front of Hakkinen and decided to accelerate. McLaren reacted with putting less fuel in Hakkinen’s car to try to get him out ahead of Schumacher.
Their gamble didn’t pay off and Schumacher continued to slow down Hakkinen while his gap to Irvine grew to 20 seconds. Irishman didn’t have sufficient advantage to stay ahead of Hakkinen after their second pitstops, but Ferrari were sure that Finn had to stop too. And so it was and Hakkinen even came behind Herbert in Stewart Ford but overtook him for third place later in the race.
Schumacher slowed once more to give victory n to Irvine who fought for the title and Hakkinen finished third.
Irvine said after the race that Schumacher was ‘not only the best driver number one, but also the best driver number two’.
The two Ferrari F399 were disqualified after the race because of the dimensions of bargeboard (pictured above) and Hakkinen became the world champion again, one race before the end of the cahmpionship. The Finn said he would not want to become a champion in this way and Ferrari successfully appealed the FIA decision and retained their 1-2 victory.
After that, Irvine (70 points) had four points advantage over Hakkinen (66 points) before the title deciding race in Japan. Victory for Hakkinen in Japan would garantee him the title even if Irvine finishes second (they would have same number of points, but Hakkinen would win because he had more victories).
But with Schumacher’s victory and second place for Hakkinen Irvine could finish fourth and still become a world champion.
Schumacher in Japan started with a pole position, but Hakkinen had a great start from the second place and immediately took the lead and never looked back. It was his fifth victory of the season and his second world title after he trimuphed at the same track in 1998.