This is part 4 of the European Grand Prix mini history series – years 1999 and 2000.
After one year break European GP returned to calendar in 1999. It was back to Nurburgring and the European GP would stay at this circuit for nine years, till 2007, more as a second German GP thanks to increased interest in F1 in Germany during Schumacher’s era. In 1999 the European GP was the last European race of the calendar. With three races to go Mika Hakkinen (McLaren), Eddie Irvine (Ferrari), Heinz-Harald Frentzen (Jordan) and David Coulthard (McLaren) still had a shot at the title. Michael Schumacher was missing, nursing his broken leg.
Frentzen took pole position ahead of David Coulthard and Mika Hakkinen. Ralf Schumacher (Williams) qualified fourth. Irvine managed only 9th. At the start Frentzen took the lead and Hakkinen jumped ahead of Coulthard. A midfied crash however brought the Safety Car out. After the race resumed Frentzen, Hakkinen, Coulthard, Ralf Schumacher, Fisichella and Irvine were at the top six places. Soon however it started to rain. Hakkinen pitted for wet tyres but the rest of the top six stayed on dry ones. The rain soon stopped and Hakkinen found himself way back down the field. Irvine joined him in the abbys later after his crew could not find the 4th wheel during his pit stop. When the field settled after the pit stops Frentzen had the lead ahead of Coulthard, Ralf Schumacher and Fisichella.
And then the “fun” started. First Frentzen’s car came to stop after his pit stop with electrical failure. Then rain returned, some drivers opted for wets, Coulthard (now the race leader) chose to stay on dry tyres. He spun out of the race on lap 38 … Ralf took the lead for a while, after his pit stop it was Fisichella to P1. By this time the rain was over and Johnny Herbert with luck on his side climbed up the order to 3rd, behind Ralf. The race however still was not over. Soon Fisichella spun off – the 3rd race leader to retire from this race. Ralf looked set to win his first F1 race but the leaders’ bad luck struck one more time. Ralf punctured his tyre and finished the race in 4th. Johnny Herbert in Stewart inherited the lead from Ralf and went on to win this chaotic and exciting race ahead of Jarno Trulli (Prost) and his team mate Rubens Barrichello. This was to be the only race win for Stewart Grand Prix team. Fifth place went to Mark Gene in Minardi, 6th to Mika Hakkinen.
In 2000 the Nurburgring race was held at the early part of the season, this was to become the usual slot on the calendar for the European GP for next few years. Coulthard started from pole position ahead of Schumacher, Hakkinen and Barrichello (now in Ferrari). Hakkinen however had the best start and took the lead from Schumacher, Coulthard and Barrichello. Soon a gap developed behind Schumacher, the leading two started to pull away. When the rain came on lap 11, Schumacher took the lead away from Hakkinen, one lap later Barrichello jumped ahead of Coulthard. Both Ferraris pulled away from the McLarens but things got mixed up after first pit stops. Schumacher came back ahead of Coulthard who pitted earlier, but Hakkinen felt behind his team mate. Barrichello dropped all the way down to 9th. He clawed back few places after Ralf’s pit stop and overtaking Verstappen (Arrows) and Irvine (now with Jaguar) climbing up to 6th. Few laps later Irvine, Verstappen and Ralf collided and were all out.
It was much more quiet at the front. Schumacher and Hakkinen kept pulling away from the rest of the field. They traded positions after Schumacher’s second pit stop but Hakkinen had to pit few laps later himself too. He rejoined back behind Schumacher. Schumacher held his lead and went on to win his home race after missing it a year earlier. Hakkinen finished 2nd ahead of his team mate Coulthard and Rubens Barrichello. Final points went to Fisichella (Benetton) and de la Rosa (Arrows).