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The chase for the lead

Sao Paulo, April 11, 1999

If one would have asked Jean Todt some days prior to the Brazilian Grand Prix if he would be satisfied by a second position, he probably would have answered "Yes!". When the race was over, he eventually was not completely satisfied by the 2nd of Michael Schumacher since a win had been within reach. The McLarens had not been as dominant in the race as in the qualifying (the gap between Schumacher and Häkkinen had been one second!) and were plagued by problems again.

Problems did begin right at the start when Coulthard’s car did not move after the last red light had vanished; Michael Schumacher took the chance, immediately passed the silver car which was stuck on its second grid position and was on 3rd, right behind Barrichello (who had been third on the grid) and Häkkinen.

Brazilian GP - Coulthard’s car did not move after the last red light had vanished

In lap four, Häkkinen got into trouble when he tried to accelerate on a straight but could not change the gears, slowed down for a couple of seconds and had to let pass Barichello and Schumacher.

Brazilian GP - Michael Schumacher 2ndBrazilian GP - Michael Schumacher 2nd

Now the Brazilian in his fabulous Stewart-Ford was in the lead in his home Grand Prix and would for sure have achieved a position on the podium if a technical problem had not stopped him. Well, at this time he had already absolved one pitstop and was on third again, behind Schumacher and Häkkinen.

The race was decided in the pits: Häkkinen’s stop in lap 42 took about two seconds less than Schumacher’s stop three laps earlier, and so the Fin was back on 1st.

Brazilian GP - Today pit stops are today the only chance to pass your competition

Schumacher was able to keep up with Häkkinen’s pace, but never got close enough to snatch a chance to overtake. When the race was flagged off, the gap between him and the winning Häkkinen was only 4,925 seconds.

Brazilian GP - Schumacher and Brawn

While Jean Todt and Ross Brawn were unhappy about the could-be-win that eventually was not, Schumacher felt comfortable with the situation since his target for the day had initially been a 3rd position only.

And what happened to Eddie Irvine who had lead the championship score after his win in Australia? He ended up on fifth position and had fought a duel with Ralf Schumacher in the Williams during the final laps. The man from Ireland could have well ended up on the podium, but an irregular pitstop in lap 56 crushed the hope for a result among the best three. But well, he scored two championship points and could be that defend his lead in the total championship score; this means that Eddie Irvine will be the first Ferrari pilot since Nigel Mansell in 1989 to lead the championship score when the third race of the season will take place at Imola in less than three weeks from now.

Brazilian GP - Mika Hakkinen 1st, Michael Schumacher 2nd, HH Frentzen 3rd

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Friday 2nd Training
Hakkinen McLaren 1:18.881  
Coulthard McLaren +0.471  
Schumacher M. Ferrari +0.740 193
Irvine Ferrari +0.891 191
Fisichella Benetton +1.428  
Barrichello Stewart +1.457  
Saturday 1st Training
Coulthard McLaren 1:17.0351  
Hakkinen McLaren +0.298  
Barrichello Stewart +0.944  
Frentzen Jordan +1.012  
Schumacher M. Ferrari +1.075 193
Hill Jordan +1.38  
Irvine (10) Ferrari +1.647 191
Hakkinen McLaren 1.16.568  
Coulthard McLaren +0.147  
Barrichello Stewart +0.737  
Schumacher Ferrari +1.010 193
Fisichella Benetton +1.242  
Irvine Ferrari +1.275 191
1st Mika Hakkinen, McLaren-Mercedes
2nd Michael Schumacher, Ferrari
3rd Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Jordan-Mugen
4th Ralf Schumacher, Williams-Supertec
5th Eddie Irvine, Ferrari
6th Oliver Panis, Williams-Supertec
Schumacher 193, Irvine 191
Schumacher 193, Irvine 191
Text Gregor Schulz
Translation Andreas Birner
Photographs Rainer W. Schlegelmilch
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