Eleven years on from arguably the defining race of his F1 career – yielding his best result, but at the same time denying him what would have been his only triumph – Mika Salo has reflected that he does occasionally regret having surrendered victory to Ferrari team-mate Eddie Irvine in the 1999 German Grand Prix, but it was, he admits, the job he 'had to do'.
Following compatriot Mika Hakkinen's spectacular impact with the barriers due to a high-speed tyre blowout at Hockenheim, Salo inherited the lead in only his second race for the Scuderia
, but with Irvine chasing the championship in Michael Schumacher's injury absence, the Finn dutifully moved aside to let the sister scarlet machine through and henceforth shadowed the Ulsterman all the way to the chequered flag. The latter demonstrated his gratitude by handing the Helsinki native his winner's trophy up on the rostrum afterwards.
Salo was rewarded for his loyalty with four further outings for the Prancing Horse that season prior to Schumacher's return – and indeed, he still competes for Ferrari now, albeit in sportscars – but whilst he ascended the podium once again in front of the adoring tifosi
in the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, he would never reach the top step.
“Of course, there's always a little bit [of regret],” he told Crash.net
, with the 2010 German Grand Prix at the Baden-Württemberg circuit now just around the corner this weekend, “but if I hadn't [moved over], I wouldn't be here now working with Ferrari. I've worked on some other projects with them too. It was my job at the time and I had to do it – I just did my job.”
Looking at the situation currently prevailing in the F1 2010 title battle, meanwhile, Salo – now 43 – tends to agree with a number of other observers that his former employer is gradually slipping out of the equation, leaving a two-way duel between pace-setters Red Bull Racing and championship leaders McLaren-Mercedes.
“Red Bull is quick, but McLaren is catching,” he mused of the performance gap. “It's quite interesting – I was expecting a much more boring season after the first race, but it's looking better now so I hope it stays like this. Lots of drivers have a good chance to win, and the new points-scoring system is very good – it gives a little bit of free-play to everybody.”