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Jos Verstappen

Verstappen's missed chance: What if Jos had replaced Hill?

Jos Verstappen missed out on a chance to drive for Jordan in 1999, replacing Damon Hill.

Article
To news overview © Getty Images/Red Bull Contentpool

In the mid 1990s to early 2000s, Jos Verstappen was regarded as something of a 'comeback kid'. The young Dutch driver, having foundered at Benetton alongside Michael Schumacher, had driven for Simtek, Footwork, Tyrrell and Stewart but failed to make any sort of impression in the largely uncompetitive machinery.

But Verstappen almost earned himself a lifeline in 1999. Jordan's 199 had proven to be something of revelation, winning the French Grand Prix in the hands of Heinz-Harald Frentzen at Magny-Cours. But Damon Hill, the 1996 World Champion, was in the final year of his career and struggled to unlock any form that season.

Having had two disappointing races in Canada and France, Hill began toying with the idea of leaving Formula 1 behind, particularly as Frentzen was flourishing in the other car. Prior to the 1999 British Grand Prix, Jordan began testing other drivers to see if there was a viable option to replace Hill, who had told Jordan about his intention to retire.

Four test days took place at Silverstone, with Jos Verstappen driving on the first two days. Finishing three tenths clear of Jordan's regular test driver Shinji Nakano, Verstappen was just a tenth slower than Hill who drove on the third day.

But Hill managed to find more than another second on the final day of the test, and kept up that momentum into the British Grand Prix. He qualified in sixth, just a tenth behind Frentzen, and finished in fifth place.

On that day, 11 July, 22 years ago today, Hill decided against immediately retiring and to finish out the season.

As a result, Verstappen missed out on the opportunity to slot into the race-winning Jordan 199. That car would win another race later in the season, with Frentzen clinching victory at Monza.

Having not had the opportunity to audition over a race weekend for Jordan, Verstappen was overlooked for a race seat for 2000 to replace Hill. Instead, six weeks after the tests at Silverstone, Jordan signed Jarno Trulli on a two year deal.

However, Verstappen did manage to find a seat for 2000. Returning to F1 fulltime with Arrows that season, the Dutch driver produced his, arguably, best season in Formula 1 and finished 12th in the Driver's Championship with five points.

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