In the build-up to this weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix, we are looking back at some classic races from the event’s history. This time, we're looking at the 1999 Austrian Grand Prix, featuring an historic charge from the back of the field to the podium for Mika Hakkinen, and the second of four wins in 1999 for Eddie Irvine in his championship contending year.
1999 Austrian Grand Prix
Coming off of the back of the British Grand Prix in which lead Ferrari driver, Michael Schumacher had broken his leg, it was expected that the two McLaren drivers of Coulthard and Hakkinen would dominate the proceedings in Austria. In qualifying this certainly proved to be the case, securing a front row lockout for the team, with Hakkinen leading the proceedings. Eventual race winner Irvine qualified third but was more than a second off of Hakkinen’s pace.
However on the first lap of the race, the McLarens came together in a 50/50 incident, sending Hakkinen to the back of the field to try and slice through the pack.
The incident left the running order slightly altered from usual, with it being Coulthard leading from Barrichello in the Stewart followed by Irvine. At this point it seemed as if the race was Coulthard’s to lose especially as Barrichello was holding up Irvine behind him. but as the pit stops unfolded, it became clear that Coulthard did not have fantastic pace with the heavy fuel load, and as Barrichello had already pitted, Irvine had a free track to eak out a lead via the pitstop phase, taking advantage of the Bridgestone tyres maintaining performance as a stint went on.
After the pit stop phase, it became a one on one battle between the Ferrari and the Mclaren, with Coulthard seemingly having the better pace as the fuel burnt off and catching Irvine lap by lap.
Further back Hakkinen had made a series of stunning passes on the likes of Fisichella, Villeneuve and Frentzen leaving him to chase down Barrichello for the final spot on the podium on what had looked like a good day for the Stewart team. Hakkinen did eventually pass Barrichello but disappointingly Barrichello then had to retire from fourth place with engine problems after a great drive from the Brazilian.
In the closing laps, Coulthard hounded the Ferrari, looking for any way possible to pass him for the victory on a track that had been made to look easy to overtake on all day by the recovering Hakkinen, but he could just not find a way past, losing out by 0.313 seconds.
In the end it was a great day for Ferrari and Irvine, especially after losing their lead driver at the previous race. The result was made even sweeter as it put him just two points behind Hakkinen in the Drivers Championship. Hakkinen was naturally upset at the way things transpired, especially as it was his teammate he had collided with, but claimed the result to be “acceptable” considering his brilliant recovery, but most certainly six points lost in the championship.