On 15 May 1999, the Monaco track was the setting for the fourth race of the season and everyone was expecting another episode in the saga which had dominated Formula 1 since the previous year: Michael Schumacher versus Mika Hakkinen. The German, racing for Scuderia Ferrari, was leading the World Championship ahead of Eddie Irvine, winner of the first race of the season in Australia, and Mika Hakkinen, who had won in Brazil. The San Marino Grand Prix however had been won by Schumacher.
In qualifying, the two rivals outshone the rest of the group. In the end, it was the Finn in the McLaren who took pole position, by just 64 thousandths over the German in the Ferrari. Both of their teammates, David Coulthard and Rubens Barrichello respectively, were next but they were almost half a second off.
At the start, the two F399 Ferraris got away perfectly, each one managing to overtake a McLaren. Schumacher was ahead of Hakkinen, Barichello and Coulthard who was forced to retire on lap 30 with a gearbox failure. On the same lap, Hakkinen had a slide at Mirabeau on oil left by Toranosuke Takagi’s Arrows and lost precious time, handing the second podium place to Irvine.
There were no more twists in the race but the two Ferraris were setting such a fast pace that there were only four cars still in the running: Hakkinen in the McLaren and the other German Heinz-Harald Frentzen in the Jordan. Ferrari had never achieved a one-two finish at Monaco. The fans in the stands were celebrating and predicting a World Championship winning season.
It was also a very special race for Schumacher. It was his 16th victory with Scuderia Ferrari making him the driver with the most wins in the team’s history, overtaking the great Niki Lauda.
On the podium there was an almost unforgiveable protocol error. Raised alongside the German and Finnish flags was that of the Republic of Ireland. However Eddie was born in Newtownards, in Northern Ireland, in the United Kingdom…