ABOUT THIS SEASON
“Did you want to kill me?”, Michael screamed at David Coulthard. The Formula 1-world has never seen him so angry, so outraged.
“I can not remember that I have ever been so angry at someone before“, Michael said later. In 1998 McLaren was clearly the superior team at the beginning of the season but Ferrari improved significantly and Michael was on the verge of challenging Mika Häkkinen’s championship title. The first victory for Ferrari since 1979 was within reach.
Driving in the rain
Next stop Spa-Francorchamps. It was raining, as usual. Shortly after the start occurred a car pile-up. It took a long time to the clear the track. After this break, Michael was leading the race by 30 seconds but he collided with David Coulthard’s McLaren when Coulthard, who was a lap down, slowed in very poor visibility to let Schumacher past. Both cars had to return to the pits and Michael, mad as hell, rushed to McLaren’s garage.
“At that moment I thought that he had done it on purpose – I mean who slows down on the straight?”, Michael asked. That is totally unusual and also dangerous. “David simply stuck to his line and got slower and slower. Nobody does that. I did not expect that – especially not from David Coulthard who is a very experienced pilot“. The weather conditions made it hard for the drivers to estimate distances. “You trust your instinct and chance; you assume that everybody knows what he is doing.”
Ferrari marching on
That is what also Ferrari hoped for before the start of the season. Thanks to new rules, narrower cars and the unpopular grooved tires everything seemed possible again. McLaren Mercedes became Ferrari’s main title competition, also due to better tires. At the season opener in Melbourne McLaren drove in a class of his own, they overtook everybody except Michael, but only because he had already retired because of an engine breakdown. At the second race in Brazil Michael fought hard but in the end he only became third.
The tide turned in Argentina. Michael defeated McLaren for the first time and won, despite a short trip on the gravel shoulder. After two other podium finishes and position 10 in Monaco, Michael won three times in a row and suddenly Mika Häkkinen only had a two point advantage over Michael. In Silverstone Michael served his ten second stop and go penalty on the last lap. Some doubted if this counted as serving the penalty but the win stood.
Furious rally and heartbeat finale
At the fifth GP of the season in Hungary Michael and technical director Ross Brawn delivered a masterly performance of strategy. Brawn realises quite early that Ferrari could not keep up with McLaren if they stick to their two-stop strategy. He changed over to three stops and told Michael via the radio that if this plan should work he had to drive 20 laps in qualifying speed. And it worked out! Michael drove one of his best races. “That was one of my best victories“, said Michael.
Before the season final in Japan Michael was four points behind Mika Häkkinen. On Saturday Michael grabbed pole. But he was under a lot of pressure because first he had to win and second he had to hope that the Finn has problems. But the opposite was the case: At the start of the second opening round Michael’s clutch failed – engine breakdown. He had to start from the end of the field. He fought hard and he managed to become third but on lap 32 he suffered a tyre damage, that was the end. “Life goes on“, said Michael who became vice world champion again, “Now it has to work out in 1999.”
Courtesy by motorsport-magazin.com
1998 Saison Figures
GRAND PRIX WINS
ALL GRAND PRIX
The races of 1998