The 1999 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach marked the arrival – officially – of then-Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver Juan Pablo Montoya to North American racing.
Yes, the Williams test driver/F3000 champion had impressed in his first two starts in Homestead and Motegi, but it was at Long Beach where he really shone through.
In 1999, the Long Beach race was the 25th anniversary of the event, and ran on a one-off course design. An interim design for 1999 featured the introduction of the new aquarium section, where cars turned left off Shoreline Dr. for the first time as opposed to right. Through the section, they’d then rejoin at the old Turn 3 before moving up onto the back straight. The track was revised to its current configuration a year later.
Montoya started fifth but quickly moved up to second, hounding a then first-time pole sitter, Tony Kanaan, in the No. 44 McDonald’s Championship Racing Reynard-Honda. You’ll see that brief bit of action below.
Kanaan ultimately crashed out of the race, which left Montoya to dominate the remainder of the race. With clean pit stops and hitting his marks every time, Montoya held off Dario Franchitti and Bryan Herta to take his first victory in North America.
Interestingly, Franchitti and Herta had finished second and third the year previous to Montoya’s predecessor at CGR, Alex Zanardi.
Fifteen years later, Montoya is back but now driving for Team Penske, while Kanaan, perhaps fittingly, is in the No. 10 Target car. Montoya’s 2014 teammate Helio Castroneves was also in the 1999 race, but struggled to a 19th place finish driving for Hogan Racing in a Lola-Mercedes.
Other notes from those in the 1999 field ahead of this year’s race: Franchitti’s now in an advisory role at Ganassi, Herta, Michael Andretti, Jimmy Vasser own teams (as does Bobby Rahal, who fielded Herta and Max Papis that year), Christian Fittipaldi and Scott Pruett will race Daytona Prototypes in the supporting TUDOR United SportsCar Championship series, Robby Gordon’s SPEED Energy Stadium SUPER Trucks join the docket on Sunday, and last but certainly not least, “the Thrill from West Hill,” Paul Tracy, joins NBCSN’s broadcast team for the first Verizon IndyCar Series race of the year on the network.
The aftermath of the Chinese Grand Prix has centered around Red Bull Racing and its two drivers, Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen.
While one driver – Ricciardo – has garnered praise at every turn for a masterful drive from sixth to first in the second half of the race, the other – Verstappen – has again come under criticism for overzealous driving in the wake of contact with Scuderia Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.
A recap of the past news week for the FIA Formula 1 World Championship, and the attention both Ricciardo and Verstappen have garnered, is below.
Ricciardo Surfaces as Outside Title Contender After Chinese Grand Prix Win
Prior to the Chinese Grand Prix, few would have labelled Ricciardo as a possible title contender, especially in the wake of a mechanical failure in the opening laps of the Bahrain Grand Prix.
However, Sunday’s victory in China not only provided a number of thrills for onlookers, it also gave Ricciardo a major boost of confidence, and he asserted afterwards that he thinks a championship push is possible.
“I really feel like, I’ve said a few times, just give me the chance to be in a title hunt and I really believe I will take it,” Ricciardo said in a piece posted on Crash.net. “I feel like I can capitalize on opportunities and I guess [China] was a good example even with a fat lip I am still pretty fast and pretty good on a Sunday.”
The victory also comes at an interesting time in Ricciardo’s career, as the 2018 season is the final one in his current contract with the Red Bull team. On the market for a new contract, Ricciardo mentioned that he’s seeking a two-year deal with whichever team he signs with.
“I don’t want to sign anything too long because I don’t know where the sport’s going,” Ricciardo said in an interview with The Times newspaper.
He added, “Ideally I’d sign a two-year contract. I think two years I can definitely be comfortable with and then see it from there. That third year will be the rule change so I will probably wait and see what happens then.”
Ricciardo also added that whether or not he returns to Red Bull is entirely down to the team’s performance this year.
“I kind of feel like if they want me to race for them they should contact me, but they haven’t,” he said. “If we win this year then I’m staying with Red Bull. It’s pretty simple. It’s really just about performance at the moment.”
Jos Verstappen Offers Constructive Criticism to Max
Max Verstappen has again come under fire for overzealous driving, and not just from rivals this time.
Perhaps most notably, Max’s father Jos Verstappen, a former Formula 1 driver in his own right, offered his thoughts this past weekend, asserting that Max needs to show more patience and a little better judgment in his overtaking moves.
“The overtake on Vettel really wasn’t on. It wasn’t possible. It was an error of judgement. In some circumstances Max just has to think more,” Jos told Ziggo Sport’s Peptalk, referenced in a Crash.net story.
However, Jos also praised his son’s driving style, noting that he hopes that part doesn’t change.
“I don’t want him to change his driving style. He passed two people at the start. He did that perfectly,” he added. That’s what we all want to see. But we don’t want to see these kinds of actions. He needs to have it under control. He needs to think.”
In addition to receiving a 10-second penalty for the incident, Verstappen also received two penalty points, bringing his total to five. A driver who gets 12 penalty points within a span of 12 months is automatically given a one-race ban.
Rubens Barrichello Recovering from Brain Tumor
Rubens Barrichello has revealed that he was diagnosed with a brain tumor earlier this year after collapsing in the shower.
“Suddenly I felt a sharp pain in my head. It seemed to be exploding, I had to fall on the ground and only after a few minutes I managed to reach my wife Silvana to ask for help. I immediately realized that it was a serious problem,” Barrichello said of the ordeal in an emotional interview.
Barrichello, whose health has appeared to improve in recent weeks, revealed that the recovery process has been nothing short of miraculous.
“I feel like a miracle. (The doctors) told me that only 14 percent of the people who suffered this type of problem then managed to recover completely.”
He added, “I am still going through exams and so on, but I am honestly great and the difficulties in life are the ones who show us how to grow and how to be better.”