With the benefit of hindsight, Formula 1’s 1999 Italian Grand Prix was a momentous occasion for Team Silverstone in its Jordan guise.
Victory for Heinz-Harald Frentzen at Monza proved to be his third and final F1 win, and it was also the only victory in the Jordan era to occur in dry conditions.
Not only that but the Mugen brand that powered Jordan took its final win in this race too. But it all could’ve been so different…
For the majority of the weekend, this looked like McLaren and Mika Häkkinen’s race to lose. Frentzen was clinging on in the title race between the Finn and Ferrari’s Eddie Irvine, but it was the McLaren driver on pole position.
Frentzen managed a strong qualifying session to secure P2 on the grid, later saying: “I never managed any of my three runs without a problem, but I don’t know if I could have taken pole. In any case, our qualifying performance is excellent.”
Crucially, Frentzen’s rival Irvine was only P8 on the grid – one place ahead of Frentzen’s team-mate Damon Hill.
At the start, Frentzen fought to keep the two Williams of Alex Zanardi and Ralf Schumacher behind him, while the McLaren of Häkkinen cantered into the distance as mid-pack chaos hindered Irvine further.
Approaching mid-distance, Häkkinen had built up a six-second lead over Frentzen when he got it all wrong at the first corner and spun off into the gravel and became stuck.
Years later, Häkkinen would reveal that he had battled a fever coming into the race weekend, and it was his accidental gear selection of first rather than second that caused his rear wheels to lock and end his race.
That handed the advantage to new leader Frentzen, who continued on his one-stop strategy. After the field had cycled through their stops, Frentzen led from Schumacher and maintained his lead to the finish for a famous victory.
Häkkinen and Irvine’s struggles meant Frentzen closed to within 10 points of the two title contenders and reignited the championship fight, though the McLaren driver would eventually seal the crown.
“This victory is tremendous for me and the team, and I do not have enough words to express how I feel. The championship battle is now really close – I cannot believe it,” said Frentzen. “
“When I saw Mika go off, I thought, ‘bad luck for him, good luck for me!’ We have used every opportunity this year to score points, and today we made use of a fantastic opportunity.”
The 1999 season proved to be one Frentzen’s most impressive campaigns with Monza his second and final win of the campaign.
The Jordan driver ended the season third in the Drivers’ Standings and the likeable German stayed with Jordan until late 2001.
He eventually retired from F1 at the end of 2003 as a three-time Grand Prix winner and 18-time podium finisher.
By: Racing Point