Irvine takes sensational victory

Eddie Irvine took a sensational victory in the Austrian Grand Prix, beating David Coulthard by just 0.3s

Irvine takes sensational victory

Coulthard looked to have the race in his pocket after dominating the opening stages, but Irvine's bold pit strategy allowed him to leap from 3rd to 1st in the course of the stops. The Irishman waited until lap 44 before stopping for his single service, rejoining 3s ahead of Coulthard.

The McLaren driver closed in rapidly in the final few laps as Irvine began to struggle with worn brakes, but there was no way past and the Ferrari took a sensational victory.

The race began in chaotic fashion. David Coulthard looked at passing Mika Hakkinen into the first corner but had to back off to stop Irvine coming through. Coulthard then dived up the inside into turn two and pushed Hakkinen into a spin. As the McLarens came to a halt, Rubens Barrichello slipped through to 2nd, nearly taking the lead. In the background, Mika Salo started his Ferrari career with a collision, sliding into the back of Johnny Herbert and removing the Stewart's rear wing. Salo continued for a few laps but had to pit for a new wing.

Coulthard pulled out a lead of over 13s, but seemed to lack pace in the middle part of the race. When he pitted, Irvine put on an incredible charge, and with his rival stuck in traffic, the Ferrari driver was able to take the lead, having been around 2s quicker than Coulthard for several laps.

After that it was a straight race to the flag. Coulthard closed in quickly but couldn't make it past, despite some determined efforts. Nose-to-tail in the final laps, they finished 0.3s apart.

Hakkinen tore through the field in the first half of the race and put in some incredible passing moves, particularly on Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Rubens Barrichello. He looked capable of catching Irvine and Coulthard but lost out in traffic and settled for a mildly disgruntled 3rd.

Frentzen had a quiet race to 4th after Barrichello suffered a late engine failure. Alex Wurz put in his best drive of 1999, finishing 5th in his home race after a consistent drive. His team mate Giancarlo Fisichella lost 6th with a late gravel trip and then had an engine problem.

The final point went to Pedro Diniz, the two Saubers having flown through the field on a two-stop strategy. The Brazilian moved from 15th to 7th on the first lap in what was probably his best ever F1 performance. His team mate Jean Alesi made up less ground on the first lap but was quicker from then on, also quickly working his way into the points. The Frenchman then retired just before his final stop.

The BARs were struggling all day and both dropped out, while Williams had yet another weekend from hell. Ralf Schumacher spun into the gravel trying to stop Diniz passing him for 6th while Alex Zanardi again retired, possibly after running out of fuel.

The result keeps Ferrari two points clear of McLaren in the Constructors' Championship, with Hakkinen's lead over Irvine down to the same margin, 44 for the Finn, 42 for Irvine.

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