Buzzing Hornets - 1999 Jordan 199 Mugen Honda
Jordan Grand Prix started back in the early 80’s under former Irish racer Eddie Jordan. Jordan climbed up through the ladder of lower tier of single seater racing before moving up to F1 in 1991. It wasn’t until 1998 that the team won their first ever race in F1 at Spa in an absolutely crazy race which half of the fields crashed out on the first lap and caused the red flag; Hakkinen crashed on the restart and Michael Schumacher crashed into the back of the McLaren driven by David Coulthard and handed the victory to Damon Hill and his teammate Ralf Schumacher for a 1-2 finish.
Coming to the 1999 season, the team had high hopes to compete against the front runners. The new Jordan 199 for the 1999 season is an evolution of the Jordan 198 which claimed Jordan first ever victory in Formula One.
The car’s biggest change was the chassis. The chassis now is a moulded carbon fibre composite structure rather than the carbon-fibre and honeycomb composite structure being used on the predecessor. Some aerodynamics changed with the front wing and a triangular airbox oppose to the more rounded airbox on the 198. The only other change was that Jordan now running with Bridgestone tires to replace Good Year.
The 199 is powered by the Mugen Honda MF-310HD, a V10 natural aspirated engine; replacing the MF-310HC in 1998.
The car was tested by Tomas Enge and Shinji Nakano before its debut in Australia. The team driver lineup was changed with Ralf Schumacher moving to Williams to partner two-time CART Champion Alex Zanardi while Heinz-Harald Frentzen moved from Williams to partner 1996 champion Damon Hill in the vacant seat left by Ralf. Creating a very experienced and exciting duo for the championship.
The season started well with the team in Australia. The car starting to show its potential with Hill and Frentzen qualified well on the grid. While Hill was taken out early, Frentzen took second on his debut for the team with a decent drive. The German did have a shot at the victory if he could had got ahead of Eddie Irvine's Ferrari in the pits.
The next race at Brazil saw Jordan continued their fine form. After a mediocre qualifying, the German again produces a stunning drive to climb up to the podium in third. Hill again has been forced to retire again after making contact with Wurz in the Benetton early in the race.
Third round in San Marino was a mixed result for the team. Although on course for the first double point finish of the season. Frentzen spun after hitting oil on the track left by the Stewart of Barrichello left by earlier which moved Hill up to 4th. Scoring his first point of the season
The next event is at the Principality of F1: Monaco. Frentzen finished a decent 4th while Hill retired his third race of the first four race of the season after retiring on lap 4 after a collision. Frentzen had a race long battle with Barrichello which the Brazilian was pushing too hard and crashing hard into the barrier. Leaving the German to free himself to finish 4th.
After a good start to the season, the team encountered a slump in performance as they didn’t score any points at both Spain and Canada. While Frentzen retired with a halfshaft problem, Hill missed out on a point in 7th at Catalunya.
At Canada, Hill was the victim of the now infamous “Wall of Champions”. Which both Michael Schumacher and Jacques Villenueve also crashed later in the race. Thus creating the name that we know to this day. Cruel luck then strikes Frentzen as he was running in 2nd before crashing out with only four laps left with a break failure. Frentzen was sent spectacularly high after he lost control of his car and hit the barrier, sending the machine airborne for a while before landing down.
Shaking off their disappointment from Spain and Canada. The French GP at Magny Cours was the bright spot of the season for the team. Frentzen smartly utilizing the mix conditions with a one stop strategy after starting from fifth to claim his first victory for the team as well as the team’s second victory after the carnage at Spa nearly a year ago. The German only made one stop for wet tires as all other cars had to pit again for more fuel. Leaving him with the lead as he cruised home to take his win.
Hill was having a nice race down the order before again retiring but this time with an electrical issue. Making it his fifth retirements of the season.
Silverstone and Spielberg also helping Jordan bagging in a decent amount of points where the German had two consecutive 4th place finishes, narrowly missing out on another two podiums for the team. Hill also had a good race with a 5th at his home race before missing on the points in 8th at Austria.
Notably at Austria where Frentzen was in podium contention in Austria when a charging Hakkinen blasting pass the German. Leaving Frentzen defenseless with his Jordan.
At his home race at the Hockenheimring, Frentzen was no match for the charging Ferraris of Irvine and Salo and he this time settled for third, making this his fourth podium of the season. Hill’s dismal season continues as he this time retired with a break failure.
After a string of inconsistent results, Hill bags in 2 more points with two consecutive 6th place finishes at Hungary and the site for his first victory for Jordan a year ago at Spa Francochamps. Frentzen though still dominating his world champion teammate as he finishes 4th and 3th at the two races respectively
After starting from the front row of the grid at the Mecca of Speed in Monza, Frentzen inherited the lead from Hakkinen after the Finn spun off from the lead and from there he drove a controlled drive to his second victory of the season both for him and Jordan. Putting him just a race win behind championship leaders Hakkinen and Irvine.
The European Grand Prix at Nurburgring would be a tough pill to swallow for Jordan. With Hill again retiring after being collected in an incident with Pedro Diniz and Alexander Wurz on the first lap. Frentzen was left unchallenged from the pole. With Hakkinen retired during a race and Irvine only back in 8th. Victory was on their sight with Frentzen emerging ahead of Coulthard after the pit stops, but he suddenly retired from the lead as 10 points went up in smoke with an electrical issues. Making this the team’s first double retirement of the season. Missing the opportunity to make a three way tie for the lead of the championship.
The penultimate round, the inaugural Malaysian Grand Prix, there was still a theoretical chance for the German to become world champion. Frentzen only managed 6th in the race after starting from 14th on the grid. Meaning that his championship challenge was over, a bitter end towards his amazing title charge.
Frentzen ending the year with a 4th at Suzuka while Damon Hill retired his last two races of his career.
At the end of the season, Frentzen finished 3rd in the championship with 54 points, his best ever season in Formula 1 and so as Jordan, who also finished 3rd in the constructor championship with a total of 61 points while Hill finished his last season with a lonely 7 points, 12th in the championship.
The 199 wasn’t the fastest car, but it left quite a mark for Jordan as an unlikely challenger for the 1999 crown. Making it their most successful season for their Formula One adventure. A dark horse in the championship, nobody would even expect Jordan and Frentzen to make it that far to the championship and even challenge the lights of Ferrari and McLaren at the height of their rivalry in Formula One.