The 1999 European Grand Prix was a Formula One race held on September 26, 1999 at the Nürburgring in Nürburg, Germany. It was the fourteenth race of the 1999 Formula One season.
Johnny Herbert took a surprise win for Stewart, after being conistently out-scored by his team-mate Rubens Barrichello. Finishing between the two Stewarts was the Prost of Jarno Trulli who finished on the podium for the first time. Rivals such as Heinz-Harald Frentzen, David Coulthard and Giancarlo Fisichella all retired while leading the race.
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On race day the track was dry but the start was delayed when Zanardi and Gené lined up out of sequence on the grid, necessitating another formation lap. As the start was aborted during the start lights' sequence the top five qualifiers and another car actually jumped the start but were not penalised due to the aborting of the start. When the race finally got under way, Frentzen led from Häkkinen, but further back there was trouble at the first corner. Hill's Jordan suffered an electrical failure in the middle of the pack which caused Wurz to swerve into Diniz, sending the Sauber into a barrel roll. The safety car was deployed while Diniz was helped uninjured from his car; a fortunate end result as it was revealed that the Sauber's rollbar had failed when it hit the ground.
The race settled down with the top six Frentzen, Häkkinen, Coulthard, Ralf Schumacher, Fisichella and Irvine. A few laps into the race rain began to fall, and Häkkinen pitted for wet tyres. The rest of the frontrunners stayed out on dry tyres, which proved to be the correct decision as the rain quickly blew over and the track dried. Ralf Schumacher took advantage of the damp track to pass Coulthard, and Irvine passed Fisichella. However, things would quickly turn sour for the Ferrari driver, as he had a disastrous pitstop. Team mate Salo had damaged his wing the previous lap leaving the Ferrari pitcrew unprepared for Irvine. Added to this, the team made a late decision to stay on dry tyres and the pitcrew could only find three of them. Almost half a minute passed before the fourth was put on the car and Irvine was able to rejoin. Soon afterwards, Häkkinen pitted again to change back to dry tyres.
At the front Frentzen and Coulthard continued on dry tyres until their scheduled pit stops which they made together (Schumacher had pitted several laps earlier). Frentzen rejoined ahead of Coulthard, with both comfortably ahead of Schumacher. At this point in the race both Irvine and Häkkinen were well out of the points, meaning that if the order stayed the same Frentzen, Irvine, and Häkkinen would have all been tied for the points lead with two races to go, with Coulthard six points behind them.
What followed was a series of heartbreaking retirements. The first to fall was Frentzen, who ground to a halt at the first corner after his pitstop with the same electrical problem that had befallen his teammate. Coulthard inherited the lead and stayed out front until the rain came back with a vengeance. The Scot chose to stay out on dry tyres while most pitted for wets, which ultimately proved to be a costly mistake, as he slid off the road and out of the race on the 38th lap as the conditions worsened. Within a handful of laps two Championship contenders had seen their hopes of winning the title fall by the wayside. Ralf (still on dry tyres) then inherited the lead which he held until his pitstop six laps later. This allowed Fisichella (also on dries) to take the lead with Ralf in second, as the rain stopped. Meanwhile, Herbert had quietly moved up the order after changing to wet tyres just at the right time.
The heartbreak then reached new levels. On lap 49, Fisichella spun out of the lead like Coulthard before him, giving the lead back to Ralf. But then he too lost the lead (and probable first win) when his right rear tyre punctured, allowing Herbert to take the lead which he would not lose. Further back the Minardis were taking full advantage of the unpredictable nature of the race with Badoer in fourth and Gené in seventh. But with just 13 laps to go, Badoer's gearbox failed, denying the Ferrari test driver his first ever Formula 1 points and leaving him in tears. Gené was promoted to 6th, which became 5th when Jacques Villeneuve's car failed, robbing the BAR team of their first-ever point. Behind him, Irvine and Häkkinen had fought their way back into contention for points, with Irvine holding 6th ahead of Häkkinen. After cruising for most of the race, Häkkinen turned up the pressure, eventually forcing Irvine into a mistake and taking 6th place. At the front Barrichello tried everything to pass Trulli for 2nd and make it a Stewart 1-2, but ultimately had to settle for 3rd. Meanwhile, Häkkinen caught and passed Gené for 5th to earn 2 invaluable points, but the Spaniard held onto 6th ahead of Irvine to give Minardi their first point for four seasons.
It was the only race ever won by the Stewart Grand Prix team, as well as being the only time Stewart had two drivers finish on the podium. It was also the last Grand Prix victory for Johnny Herbert, and the last podium finish for the Prost Grand Prix team. Jackie Stewart considered the race greater than any of his own race wins.
- First and only win for the Stewart team.
- The podium consisted entirely of teams managed by ex-World Champions - Prost's Jarno Trulli split the two Stewarts.
- Jarno Trulli's first podium.
- Johnny Herbert's third and final win.
Standings after raceEdit
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- ↑ Shortened from the scheduled 67 laps
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