The 1998 Hungarian GP: Michael Schumacher’s 32nd Win
The 1998 F1 Season
Having to fight tooth-and-nail with the McLarens, Schumi and Ferrari had to put in that extra bit just to match up to the McLarens; winning against them was a totally different game. Time and again Schumacher showed his brilliance by getting the car first to the chequered flag, but Mika Hakkinen in the McLaren was a beast.
By the time the teams reached Hungary, Mika Hakkinen had 76 points and was 26 points ahead of Michael in the drivers’ standing. It looked another evening poised for a McLaren win with both Mika and David qualifying on the front row. Here is where the seamless working of the Ferrari team, Michael Schumacher and the team strategy shone through.
It was an exciting race.
Let’s find out more about it.
Did You Know?
It took Mika Hakkinen four years to win his first F1 GP since his debut in 1993. The first win was at Jerez in 1997.
But since his first win, Mika went on to quickly win two drivers titles in successive years. He was crowned the winner of the 1998 and 1999 season.
The 1998 Hungarian Grand Prix
Everyone was aware of the speed difference between the McLarens in the front and the second-place Ferrari. Even those that had any doubts about the McLarens’ dominance in the 1998 season would well acknowledge the fact once they saw the McLarens getting away at the start of the Hungarian GP.
Just observe the gap at 0:40 that the McLarens opened up to the rest of the cars; and it is about 100 meters from the start. That gap, in short, showed the superiority of the McLarens over the other cars on the grid. It was only Michael’s Ferrari which kept pace with the McLarens, but he too was unable to get past David Coulthard.
As the race progressed, Ferrari’s team strategy came into play. Schumacher was called in early for a pitstop which, to a certain extent, baffled the McLarens. Schumacher remained low on fuel, and that allowed him to drive a lighter car. The McLarens misread the Ferrari strategy, and brought in their cars too, playing into the hands of the Ferrari. Schumacher put in blazing hot laps which were enough to bring him ahead of both the pitted McLarens. But his job was far from over.
To complete the race, Schumacher would have to stop once more, whereas McLarens could cruise till the end. So, Schumacher had to put in multiple near-qualifying pace laps, and he did just that. Schumacher opened up nearly 30 seconds of a lead and came into the pits for his third and last stop. To the delight of the fans, Schumacher came out a few seconds ahead of David Coulthard in second place.
From there on, it was to hold position and finish. Michael Schumacher did that in style and brought in his thirty-second victory. In doing so, Michael closed the gap to Mika, who had a disastrous race finishing at sixth place. So, Michael ended the race with 70 points just seven points behind the championship leader, Mika Hakkinen.
So, that, in short, was the 1998 Hungarian Grand Prix.
How Good was Schumacher’s Drive?
F1 experts and race pundits across the globe, rank this particular victory to be among the top finishes of Schumacher. It is, definitely, a reminder of the good old days of the Ferrari strategy and Schumacher’s super-human race exploits. So good was this race that it is still compared to the new brand of racers even in 2019.
The races we are talking about is a fan's comparison of Lewis Hamilton's win at the 2019 Hungarian GP to that of Schumacher’s 1998 win. Have a look.
The comparison notwithstanding, it has to be admitted that Schumacher’s track exploits will be discussed for a long time into the future and will be inevitably compared to contemporary racers.
Did You Know?
In 1993, before Schumacher won his first F1 title in 1994, Ron Dennis, the McLaren boss, was heard talking to Schumacher advising him to catch up at some point.
It could have been a precursor to an association, considering McLaren’s top man, Senna, had moved to Williams for the 1994 season.
But as fate would have it, there was never a Schumacher – McLaren association, barring the red-hot rivalry with the team.
Back to the Garage
Talking of Schumacher’s wins is quite an excitement in itself, and having the benefit of hindsight, we know that Schumacher was just about one-third through his winning ways. He still had about sixty-odd wins to follow.
Each of the wins had an exciting story to it, and this was the story of the 1998 Hungarian race. We will be discussing more of Schumacher’s victories soon.
Until then, ciao!
Questions & Answers
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