The race took place on 1 August 1999, but the story began 20 days earlier on 11 July at Silverstone at the British Grand Prix. Mika Hakkinen in the McLaren took pole position ahead of Michael Schumacher in the Ferrari. Behind Hakkinen was his teammate David Coulthard, and behind Michael was Eddie Irvine in the other Ferrari.
After a normal enough start, at the end of the Hangar Straight, Michael Schumacher went off the track and into the barriers breaking a leg. It was terrible bad luck and put the German out of the title fight as he missed most of the season. At the next race, the Finn with the same first name as rival Hakkinen, Mika Salo, replaced the German in the number 3 car. It was the first time a Finn had driven for Scuderia Ferrari. Salo had already raced for a few seasons in Formula 1, with Tyrrell and then with BAR who had replaced them on the grid and looked promising and very fast.
Salo made his debut in Austria, where, thanks to a crash between the two McLarens at the third corner, similar to the one between Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel this year, Irvine won in the Ferrari while the Finn was only ninth, providing ammunition to his detractors who had criticised Scuderia Ferrari’s driver choice. The following race, the German Grand Prix was held at Hockenheim, still in its old layout featuring very long straights linked by chicanes which made for a great show.
In qualifying, Hakkinen took pole by just five hundredths of a second ahead of Heinz-Harald Frentzen in the Jordan, while Ferrari were only fourth and fifth with Salo ahead of Irvine, who lost time and confidence going off track on the extremely fast German circuit.
At the start, Salo got away perfectly to be second behind Hakkinen, while Irvine had a bad start which saw him arrive at the first corner in sixth place. David Coulthard in the second McLaren got into Salo’s slipstream which prompted the Finn to show his fighting spirit.
Coulthard however seemed confident and tried to get ahead of the Ferrari. On lap 9, he got into Salo’s slipstream and tried to overtake at the second corner. The Finn in the Ferrari however was far from compliant and closed the door. The cars touched and fortunately, while Coulthard had to pit for a new nose cone, Salo was able to continue. Hakkinen was therefore leading the two Ferraris and Salo was the first of the front runners to stop for a tyre change, followed by Irvine on the following lap. The Scuderia Ferrari mechanics did everything perfectly and at the end of the first round of pit stops, they were still second and third. They got out ahead of Frentzen in the Jordan and were still second and third when everyone had stopped, including Hakkinen.
The Finn in the McLaren was the last to stop and everything went wrong. The mechanics had a problem inserting the fuel line and the stop lasted for over 20 seconds. Hakkinen came back out on track in fourth behind Frentzen, while Salo obeyed team orders and let Irvine take the lead. A few laps later, Hakkinen overtook Frentzen but immediately fell victim to a left rear tyre explosion, which flung him into the barriers, luckily without injury.
At the finish line, Eddie Irvine led Mika Salo in what was the first one-two finish for the Scuderia at Hockenheim. Michael Schumacher was out due to his accident, but the driver from Northern Ireland and Schumacher’s Finnish replacement showed they were up to the job. Eddie led the Drivers’ Championship and Ferrari led the Constructors’.