Monday, 19 September 2005 19:23
Frentzen progressed to German Formula Opel Lotus in 1988 in the Junior Team of former Formula One driver Jochen Mass, who had been impressed by Frentzen's performances in Formula Ford. Frentzen was champion of the German series in his first year, as well as participating in the Formula Opel Lotus Euroseries (in which he finished 6th). The next step was the German Formula 3 Championship in 1989, where Frentzen competed against many future stars including Michael Schumacher and Karl Wendlinger. At the time, there was a big push by Bernie Ecclestone to have a German driver in the Formula One World Championship, so the ONS (the German National Motorsports committee) decided to support both Frentzen and Schumacher. The ONS put up the reward of a Formula One test to the driver who first would take a victory in a Formula 3 race. This ultimately ended up being Schumacher, in a controversial race at Zeltweg, Austria in which Frentzen claimed Schumacher had forced him off the track. However, Schumacher did not get the Formula One test drive anyway; Karl Wendlinger won the German Formula 3 Championship and Frentzen became joint runner-up with Schumacher (the two finishing on identical points totals).
F1, Sauber & Williams
1997 should have been Frentzen's breakthrough year as he was signed to the dominant Williams-Renault team . He scored his first win at San Marino but the season was disappointing; after the family-atmosphere at Sauber Frentzen found life at Williams difficult, in particular having a troubled relationship with Patrick Head. Despite qualifying for many races on the front row he had a tendency to drift back in the race, usually finishing well behind team mate Jacques Villeneuve. The next year Williams lost the Renault engine and were squeezed out by the more competitive Ferrari and Mclaren teams, with Frentzen's best result a third in the first race of the season.
F1, Jordan & beyond
2000 and 2001 were critical years as Honda also began to supply the BAR team, resulting in a race between the teams as to who would secure the regular engine supply. In 2000 Frentzen managed two podiums, were the best results for the team, but Jordan still finished down the grid and, crucially, behind BAR. After some low points finishes, injury, disagreements about the technical direction of the team ( Frentzen reportedly offered to pay for the changes to fix the car, out of his own pocket )and then a string of retirements half way through the 2001 season, Team Jordan dropped Frentzen and replaced him with Jean Alesi. Frentzen took Alesi's place at the struggling Prost team, and managed to qualify a brilliant 4th at Spa, before the outfit collapsed at the end of the season.
2002 saw Frentzen attempt a few races with the back-of-the-grid Arrows team, before the team went bankrupt. Back with Sauber for 2003, Frentzen managed a mini-renaissance, proving himself more than a match for his highly-rated team mate Nick Heidfeld and even scoring a podium finish in the penultimate race of the year in the United States.
|Last Updated on Monday, 12 June 2006 12:21|