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Victory #120

Melbourne, March 7, 1999
First win for Eddie Irvine
Almost no resistance after drop-out of the McLarens
Shades of Suzuka 1998 for Schumacher
Failure in the steering wheel

Gallery - Melbourne

Jackie Stewart and George Harrison view the new Schlegelmilch book

No-one did expect this but everyone is glad for him: Eddie Irvine took his first win ever in the first race of the 1999 Formula One World Championship at Melbourne; the Australian Grand Prix was the 82nd race in Formula One for the man from Ireland, by the way.

Initially, all signs seemed to indicate a repeat of the overwhelming victory by the McLaren-Mercedes’ of 1998 after Häkkinen and Coulthard had been dominant both in practice and qualifying. In the race, Coulthard dropped out in lap 14 due to problems with his car’s hydraulics, and in lap 23, the race was over for Mika Häkkinen as well for the same reason.

After this problem with Häkkinen’s McLaren had become obvious during the first of the two Safety Car phases which became necessary in the race, the way was open to Eddie Irvine – who had started from 5th position – and the Irishman eventually took the win in his 50th entry for the Scuderia. In the meantime Heinz-Harald Frentzen in his Jordan-Mugen managed to get pretty close to Irvine – especially during a pit-stop performed by both drivers almost simultaneously -, but in the end Eddie had worked out a lead by 1,026 seconds when crossing the finishing line.

And how did Michael Schumacher perform? Well, the fiasco that had botched Schumacher’s final and crucial race in 1998 at Suzuka did somehow repeat: Again, the German suffered trouble when shifting in the pre-start, did not get off his position on the grid in time and was eventually forced to start from the last row – the good 3rd starting position was gone.

The German then started a furious chase for the leading drivers and managed to get up to 4th position. When Schumacher was close to snatching an even better position, his Bridgestone tire blew up – likewise as in Suzuka, the only difference being the fact that Ferrari had then still been on Goodyear tires. The double world-champion had to jog along the track back into the pits to get new tires as well as a new front flap.

This had obviously not yet been enough of trouble: In lap 37, Schumacher pulled slowly into the pitlane to have his steering wheel changed which had shown malfunction right from the start (it had also caused the botched pre-start). But the German had to leave the box again since the mechanics had not yet prepared themselves for the stop. After one more lap on the 5,303 kms long circuit in Melbourne’s Albert Park, Schumacher pulled into the pits for a second time and finally had his steering wheel changed for a new one. From now on, the shifting worked properly and Ferrari’s star could do one fast lap after another. His fastest lap took exactly 1:32,112 min.
1st Eddie Irvine, Ferrari
2nd Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Jordan-Mugen
3rd Ralf Schumacher, Williams-Supertec
4th Giancarlo Fisichella, Benetton-Supertec
5th Rubens Barichello, Stewart-Ford
6th Pedro de la Rosa, Arrows
Schumacher 190, Irvine 191
Schumacher 190, Irvine 191
Text Gregor Schulz
Translation Andreas Birner
Photographs Rainer W. Schlegelmilch
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