Heinz-Harald Frentzen

Born:
18th May 1967 (Age 52)
Monchengladbach, North Rhine-Westphalia
Nationality:
German
Most recent race (in database):
Biography

When the all-conquering Williams-Renault team faced up to life in opposition to new Formula 1 superstar, Michael Schumacher it turned to Heinz-Harald Frentzen as the man to match his compatriot. World Champion-elect Damon Hill was unceremoniously replaced for 1997 but the promise Frentzen had shown for Sauber was never fully fulfilled.

Mercedes-Benz junior driver

Three seasons in Formula Ford 2000 were followed by the 1988 German Formula Opel title. Frentzen then graduated to national Formula 3 with a Schübel Rennsport Reynard 893-Volkswagen and won more races in 1989 than either Schumacher or Karl Wendlinger. However, he finished runner-up to the Austrian by the narrowest of margins.

With Mercedes-Benz looking for emerging talent for its Sauber-run sports car programme, all three were signed as junior drivers in 1990. They alternated as Jochen Mass’s co-driver and Frentzen finished second at Donington Park. But it was Schumacher that emerged as a Grand Prix driver in 1991. In the shadow of his rival, Frentzen raced in Formula 3000 for four seasons – in the FIA series in 1990 and 1991 before two years in Japan.

Formula 1 with Sauber

His F1 opportunity finally came with Sauber-Mercedes in 1994 and he impressed immediately. Fifth on the grid for his debut in Brazil and a fourth place finish in the French GP were highlights of an impressive rookie campaign. Mercedes engines were replaced by Fords in 1995 and Frentzen enhanced his reputation with a podium finish at Monza before enduring a difficult third season in the category.

Victory and frustration with Williams

It was a shock when news broke that he would replace championship leader Damon Hill in the 1997 Williams line-up, not least to Hill himself. Much was expected of Frentzen in the Williams FW19-Renault and he would have won his debut in the 1997 Australian GP but for a late brake failure. He narrowly beat Schumacher at Imola to score his maiden F1 victory and was runner-up in the final standings behind team-mate Jacques Villeneuve after his old rival was excluded from the championship after the season.

On reflection however, it had been a disappointing campaign that failed to justify expectations. Williams lost its Renault engine supply for 1998 and Frentzen’s reputation was tarnished as the team struggled with its customer Mecachrome units.

So near to the title for Jordan

A move to the emerging Jordan-Mugen concern began with second position in Australia and briefly restored his lustre. 1999 was a championship that no one seemed to want to win. Schumacher broke his leg, Mika Häkkinen made mistakes and Eddie Irvine was ultimately unable to take advantage. But Frentzen was almost faultless and won twice (brilliantly in France). He would have taken the points lead at the Nürburgring but mechanical failure thwarted his efforts. Third in the final standings, Autocourse editor Alan Henry was so impressed that he named him as number one in the publication's end-of-season top 10.

That season was the highlight for both Frentzen and Jordan although he qualified on the front row at Silverstone and finished third in Brazil and the United States during 2000. Team and driver parted company after the 2001 British GP as Frentzen suffered in comparison to team-mate Jarno Trulli’s qualifying pace.

End of the F1 road with Prost, Arrows and back at Sauber

He completed the season with Prost Grand Prix before an ill-fated move to Arrows in 2002. The team folded mid-season and Frentzen returned to Sauber for 2003. Third in the United States GP at Indianapolis, after leading in changeable conditions, was Frentzen’s last result of note in what proved to be his penultimate GP.

Frentzen moved to Opel and the DTM in 2004 and his three seasons in the powerful touring cars included four third-place finishes but no victories. He retired from racing in 2010 to concentrate on running the family undertakers.

Championship seasons

Season Name Starts Poles Podiums Wins Position Points
2006 Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft
Abt Sportsline
10 1 2 0
0% win rate
7th 24
2005 Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft
Team OPC
11 0 2 0
0% win rate
8th 17
2004 Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft
Team Holzer
10 0 0 0
0% win rate
14th 3
2003 F1 World Championship
Red Bull Sauber Petronas
16 0 1 0
0% win rate
11th 13
2002 F1 World Championship
Orange Arrows F1 Team
Sauber Petronas
12 (2) 0 0 0
0% win rate
15th 2
2001 F1 World Championship
Prost Grand Prix
Benson & Hedges Jordan Honda
15 (1) 0 0 0
0% win rate
12th 6
2000 F1 World Championship
Benson & Hedges Jordan Mugen Honda
17 0 2 0
0% win rate
9th 11
1999 F1 World Championship
Benson & Hedges Jordan Mugen Honda
16 1 6 2
13% win rate
3rd 54
1998 F1 World Championship
Winfield Williams
16 0 1 0
0% win rate
7th 17
1997 F1 World Championship
Rothmans Williams Renault
17 1 7 1
6% win rate
2nd 42
1996 F1 World Championship
Red Bull Sauber Ford
16 0 0 0
0% win rate
12th 7
1995 F1 World Championship
Red Bull Sauber Ford
17 0 1 0
0% win rate
9th 15
1994 F1 World Championship
Sauber Mercedes
Broker Sauber Mercedes
15 (1) 0 0 0
0% win rate
13th 7
1993 Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft
AMG Mercedes
0 (1) 0 0 0 0
1992 World Sportscar Championship
Euro Racing
3 0 0 0 15th 16
1991 FIA International F3000 Championship
Vortex Motorsport
9 (1) 0 0 0
0% win rate
14th 5
1990 FIA International F3000 Championship
Eddie Jordan Racing
10 (1) 0 0 0
0% win rate
16th 3
1990 World Sports-Prototype Championship
Team Sauber Mercedes
1 0 1 0 17th 6