Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Born in Mönchengladbach, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, he was at various times a member of the Williams, Jordan, Sauber, Prost, and Arrows teams, among others; he had 3 career race wins before his retirement from F1.
At the age of 18 he went to the Formula Ford 2000 with his own racecar in 1986. Again he was supported by his father who again was both team boss and mechanic. Heinz-Harald Frentzen naturally had to take care of his car by himself and worked on the technic too. Besides he worked in his father's undertaker company. After two seasons he was Vice Champion of the German Formula Ford in 1987 without participating in all races.
Next station in his life was an engagement in German Formula Opel Lotus in 1988 in the Junior Team of former Formula One driver Jochen Mass. Jochen Mass noticed Frentzen's abilities and chose him as a driver for his team. HHF finished this season as German Formula Opel Lotus Champion. In the same year he participated in the Formula Opel Lotus Euroseries and finished at 6th over-all position.
After that he went to the German Formula 3 Championship in 1989. There he competed against drivers like Michael Schumacher and Karl Wendlinger. Bernie Ecclestone wanted to have a German driver for his Formula One Championship, so the ONS (the German National Motorsports committee) decided to support both Frentzen and Schumacher. The problem was that just one driver could go to the Formula One Championship.
So the ONS decided to give a possibility for testing a Formula One car to that driver who first would take a victory in a Formula 3 race. In the Austrian race at Zeltweg Heinz-Harald Frentzen noticed Michael Schumacher's ambition for getting this Formula One test drive. He felt himself pushed off the track by Schumacher who after that incident won the race.
But Schumacher did not get the Formula One test drive anyway. Karl Wendlinger won the German Formula 3 Championship and Heinz-Harald Frentzen became Vice champion together with Michael Schumacher since they had the same amount of points.
In 1994 Frentzen was given a Formula 1 drive by Peter Sauber in a Mercedes powered car. While his contemporary Schumacher took the Championship the best finish Frentzen managed was a 4th. The following year in Ford powered Sauber he got his first podium finish and ended 9th in the Driver Champioship, enough to get him notice as a up and coming driver. The 1996 Sauber was unreliable with many races ending in retirements and Frentzen dropped back.
1997 should have been Frentzen's breakthrough year as he was signed to the dominant Williams,team . He scored his first win at San Marino but despite qualifying for many races on the front row he had a tendency to drift back in the race and finished second well adrift of team mate Jacques Villeneuve. A view grew in the paddock that while Frentzen could be a racer for a podium finish as soon as this drifted away he would fade in the race. The next year Williams lost the Renault engine and were squeezed by the more competitive Ferrari and Mclaren teams with Frentzen's best result a third in the first race of the season.
In 1999 Frentzen moved to Jordan in a straight swap with Ralf Schumacher and enjoyed probably the best season of his career in the Honda powered car with two race wins including a memorable French Grand Prix and scoring points in the majority of races. Frentzen finished 3rd in the Driver Championship. Despite this some commentators and Eddie Jordan said that Frentzen's laid back attitude may have cost the team even more points.
2000 and 2001 were critical years as Honda was also supplying the BAR team and there was a race between the teams as to who would get a regular engine supply. In 2000 Frentzen managed two podiums that where the best results for the team but they still finished down the grid and behind BAR. Due to lack of sponsorship Jordan had to use one Pay Driver to support the cost of the main race driver, in this case Frentzen. After some low point finishes and then a string of retirement half way through the 2001 season when Jean Alesi became available due to the breakdown of the Prost Team Jordan dropped Frentzen who then moved to Prost.
2002 was a passing year as driver with the Arrows team that also collapsed. 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 final race of the year in the United States.
For 2004, Frentzen moved to the German Deutschen Tourenwagen Masters saloon car series to drive for Opel, encouraged by the success achieved in the series by fellow F1 refugee Jean Alesi. Unfortunately his Opel Vectra was not a particularly competitive car, and he was regularly outpaced by not only the Audi and Mercedes drivers but also by his Opel teammates, eventually finishing the season 14th in the championship standings. However, he remained in the DTM with Opel for the 2005 season.
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