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The 1998 F1 Season
The McLarens were dominating the proceedings way beyond the expectations of the fans and competitors alike. Out of the six races so far, five were won by McLarens, and four of those were Mika's victories. Such a dominating performance by the McLarens team was back in 1988 when Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna were in a league of their own in every race.
The only consolation for Ferrari was the sole Argentine GP victory. The McLarens were way ahead in the constructors' championship while Mika was miles ahead of Schumacher; in fact, Schumacher was third, and David Coulthard in the other McLaren was second. From Ferrari's perspective, the McLaren challenge of the 1998 season was more intense than the Williams one in the 1997 season.
Despite the first few races of the season not going their way, Ferrari had to get back to their winning ways. Besides, Schumacher believed that the Ferrari set-up would suit him in Canada. Could Michael take a victory at Canada defying all odds?
Let's find out.
The 1998 Canadian GP Qualifying
Once the McLaren cars were on track, it was evident that the other cars were way off the pace. For the most part, the provisional pole was changing hands between Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard. Michael Schumacher held the provisional pole at one point but soon lost it to the McLarens.
As the session progressed, it appeared that Mika Hakkinen would be on pole followed by Schumacher until David Coulthard came up with this blistering lap near the end of the session.
Note: The video is not in English, so readers can mute and watch the qualifying run.
David just about edges ahead of Mika by six-hundredth of a second. Michael is also seen doing his final lap behind David, and despite the considerable time deficit in the first sector, he improves his time. However, the improved time would still be good enough for P3 only. The session ended with the McLarens taking the front row and Michael Schumacher right behind them.
The surprise of the session was Giancarlo Fisichella, who was fourth and just six-tenth of a second slower than David. In comparison, every other car behind Fisichella was more than a second off the P1 pace. Fisichella, incidentally, was driving a Benetton, Michael’s erstwhile team.
Now Michael had to focus on getting past the McLarens at the start or during the race. It would undoubtedly be a riveting contest.
Let’s jump on to the race-day.
The 1998 Canadian GP – Race Day
The Canadian GP was full of carnage at the start, not once but twice. The first time Wurz's vehicle flipped over and turned twice before coming to a halt at the first corner. The race was immediately stopped. The second start also saw some drama as there were crashes at the first turn. The lead cars got away, but Mika was caught in traffic.
Take a look at the race summary here:
At the first start, Michael got through smoothly and was right behind David. However, the second start wasn’t as good as Michael had to be content with the third position behind Fisichella. Mika lost ground despite a good start and in no time was at the back of the grid by the second turn. That was a surprise.
The safety car came out due to the accident at the first chicane where David led Michael Schumacher. The Canadian race was sprinkled with disaster after disaster as the safety car came out three times during the race. Incredibly, after the second time the safety car departed, David Coulthard was comfortably leading until his car broke down and he retired. It wasn’t a great day for the McLarens.
The race was sprinkled with incidents like this one where Michael Schumacher rejoined the track taking out Frentzen in the Williams. Have a look here:
Note: The video is not in English. Readers can mute and watch.
This incident once again brought the safety car out, and when the race restarted, Villeneuve made a daring move to take Fisichella in the first position. That move was reminiscent of his attack on Schumacher in the final race at Jerez in 1997. Only in the Canadian GP, Villeneuve couldn’t make the move stick and got into the gravel trap. Ironically, two motorsports authors, who wrote books on Schumacher’s F1 life, had mentioned the same outcome had Schumacher not dashed into Villeneuve in 1997. They studied the footage of the incident at Jerez and felt that if not for the collision, Villeneuve would have run off the track. Anyway, that race was history now.
Michael Schumacher eventually took the lead from Fisichella and despite a 10-second stop-go penalty, could finish the race at the top. Finally, another win for Ferrari and Schumacher!
Back to the Pits
Victories for Schumacher and the Ferrari team were spaced far and wide in the 1998 season. The Canadian GP win was good enough to take Michael into the second spot in the drivers’ standing, but still twelve points behind Mika. Michael had to find more ways to win if he had to aim for the drivers’ championship, realistically.
The Next Win..
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