It happened today – 17 October

It happened today – 17 October

On 17th October 1999, Eddie Irvine won the Malaysian Grand Prix, a race that went down in history for a couple of reasons. The first one which caused the most fuss, was the F399 deflector affair, when these parts were found to be 10 millimetres over the limit stated in the regulations at the end of a race that had seen the Northern Irish driver and Michael Schumacher cross the line ahead of the rest. The two cars were therefore disqualified and the win went to Mika Hakkinen, who thanks to these ten points, put the world championship to bed, as did McLaren, which was now out of reach of the Scuderia in the Constructors’ classification. Ferrari lodged an appeal which was heard by an FIA tribunal the following Friday. The following day, the decision was announced, upholding the appeal and overturning the disqualification, so that the one-two finish was credited to the Scuderia. That meant Irvine and the team would be back in the fight for the title the following week in Suzuka.

The second outstanding feature of the inaugural Malaysian Grand Prix was that it marked the return of Michael Schumacher, following his accident at Silverstone. Obviously, the German was out of the running in the championship and he put himself at the service of his team-mate, even if he made it very clear which of the two was the quickest. He took pole position, almost a second faster than Irvine in second place. He raced as he pleased, slowing twice to let the Northern Irishman pass: that weekend Michael paid Eddie back with interest for all the times he had helped the German on track.

Two weeks later in Suzuka, Irvine’s dream was extinguished by Hakkinen, but the points won on track at Sepang, then taken away at scrutineering and given back in the tribunal, proved decisive in initiating the Scuderia’s amazing run of six Constructors’ titles.

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