It happened today

It happened today – 31 October

On 31st October 1999, the last round of the Formula 1 World Championship, the Japanese Grand Prix, was held at Suzuka. There was still everything to play for after Sepang, and the Court of Appeal decision to overturn the disqualification of the two Ferrari men. Eddie Irvine arrived in Japan with a four point lead over Mika Hakkinen, the same gap Ferrari had over McLaren in the Constructors’. It would not be enough for the Northern Irishman to come second if the Finn won, because Hakkinen had a greater number of wins, so he therefore had to hope for decisive support from Michael Schumacher. In Suzuka, neither the F399 nor the German were as dominant as in Malaysia two weeks earlier. While it’s true the German managed to take pole, but he did not give the impression of being able to crush any opposition as he had done in Sepang. Hakkinen was alongside him, while Eddie had a painful neck after a bad off track excursion towards the end of qualifying and was only fifth. At the start, the Finn immediately took command of the race and never let go all the way to the end. Michael struggled in the first stint and was then slowed by Coulthard when lapping backmarkers, but he was never really in with a chance of getting close to the McLaren. The Scotsman failed to finish, which meant Irvine did get to the podium in his last race with Ferrari, but above all, it gave the Scuderia its ninth Constructors’ title, putting an end to a drought that dated back to 1983.

“Today we have won the Constructors’ title for the first time in 16 years,” said Jean Todt. “Despite Michael missing seven races, the team was able to react in the right way and this title is the result of the work of everyone who has worked so hard here at the track and at Maranello.” Thus began an era of wins that was never equaled in the history of Formula 1. To break the spell in the Drivers’ title, one would have to wait a bit less than a year, again with Suzuka as the setting.