BBC Sport – Ferrari’s Eddie Irvine has won the Australian Grand Prix – the first win in his 82-race Formula One career. German duo Heinz-Harald Frentzen (Jordan) and Ralf Schumacher (Williams) were second and third.
Irvine’s victory ended a long wait for the Northern Ireland-born driver, who made his Formula One debut in Japan in 1993 for Jordan before joining Ferrari four years ago.
Irvine, 33, whose victory means all the four British drivers in Formula One have now won a race, said: “It’s fantastic to win a race for Ferrari. We felt we were going the right way and the current car is the best I’ve ever driven.”
Michael Schumacher, who was due to start in third place, was forced to start from the back of the grid in his Ferrari after he stalled following a delayed start when the two Stewarts of Rubens Barrichello and Johnny Herbert broke down. The setback was a repeat of last season’s finale in Japan, where Schumacher stalled in his decisive race with Hakkinen, which helped his rival to the title.
Barrichello had to start from the pit-lane in a replacement car while Sauber’s Jean Alesi joined Herbert in retirement when he stalled at the restart.
Damon Hill’s 100th career grand prix ended in miserable fashion when he was pushed into the gravel in his Jordan on the opening lap.
Another former world champion, Jacques Villeneuve of Canada, crashed into the wall on the 14th lap after a rear wing collapsed on his brand new British American Racing car.
World Champion Mika Hakkinen (McLaren), who led from pole, had extended his lead to 1.2secs over team-mate David Coulthard by the end of lap five. The McLaren duo looked set to repeat last year’s one-two when they lapped the rest of the field until both were forced out wih mechanical failures.
Irvine who was nearly 13 seconds back, took over the lead with Frentzen in second. Schumacher had charged up to fourth spot, but had to drop back through the field again with a puncture.
Irvine and Frentzen both pitted at the end of lap 34 with the Ferrari driver keeping his lead when he got back onto the circuit, although his rival lost second place to Giancarlo Fisichella.
But the Benetton driver still had to pit and when he did, Irvine was left with a clear advantage of over five seconds from Frentzen.
Michael Schumacher’s incident-packed race continued when he went into the pits, but promptly went back out again without stopping.
The two-time champion crawled to a stop next time round when the steering wheel was changed on the car, although he was then a lap adrift of Irvine.