The 1998 Italian GP: Michael Schumacher’s 33rd Career Win
The 1998 F1 Season
Michael Schumacher was unfortunate to have missed out on the Belgian GP victory. It was a race where Hakkinen retired early, and David Coulthard was way behind when Michael came to lap him. And then a freak accident led to Michael’s retirement.
Here is the incident.
It appeared that neither party was really at fault, but the championship-leading position was lost with that crash. You can read more about the 1998 Belgian GP here.
The past notwithstanding, Michael and Ferrari had to focus on the Italian GP and the two races after that. The championship was not over but close. That meant that both Ferrari and McLaren, Michael and Mika, had everything to fight for in the remainder of the season. With the contest heating up, could Michael bring in the sixth win of the season?
Let’s find out.
Did You Know?
The 1998 Belgian GP loss robbed Michael Schumacher of a potential 10 points, and with that the psychological advantage of leading the championship.
That loss and the Japanese GP would be remembered as the ones that spoiled Michael’s chance at the 1998 title.
The 1998 Italian GP Qualifying
The Ferrari team came out all guns blazing as Michael took provisional pole several times before stamping his authority at the front of the grid. The Ferrari appeared well suited for the circuit as Michael powered on to a sturdy pole position time.
Interestingly, it was not the McLarens fighting for the front row of the grid, but Jacques Villeneuve, the defending champion, in the Williams. Jacques qualified at P2 just two-tenths of a second behind Michael’s Ferrari. That was indeed a great achievement because the Williams team was nowhere in contention to be in the front. Either way, his pace was good enough to relegate Mika and David to third and fourth position, respectively. Eddie Irvine, in the other Ferrari, and Ralf Schumacher, in the Jordan, took the fifth and sixth spots.
Schumacher had done an excellent job and made it easy for himself to shoot at the turn of the lights. Mika and David would be close by, and Jacques was no easy competitor, either. So, Michael had to watch out.
How would the race day turn out?
Let’s find out.
The 1998 Italian GP: Race Day
The start of the 1998 Italian GP was everything that the Ferrari had not expected it to be, while it was everything that the McLarens had dreamed of. At the turn of the lights, Michael had one of the worst starts of the season, as he dropped down to fifth place. Both the McLarens blazed past Schumi and Jacques into the lead.
Mika and David started pulling away, and Michael soon fought back to third place. However, some brake issues prevented Mika from having proper control of the car, and thus the team asked David to pass Mika. David had an impressive run building a lead of nine seconds before his engine blew up. Ironically, Mika and Michael were caught in the oil spill and fought tooth-and-nail for the first position. Michael prevailed.
Take a look:
It was one of the greatest wheel-to-wheel battles; fortunes changed twice in a few seconds. The positions remained so for the rest of the race until lap 44, where Mika started making a remarkable recovery to catch Michael. It looked all set to be a clash of the titans right to the end of the final lap, until Mika’s brake issue resurfaced. Mika spun 360 degrees and then rejoined the track.
Take a look here:
That incident led to Mika slowing down and eventually losing second place to Eddie Irvine. He, finally, finished fourth behind Ralf Schumacher in third place. The final standings meant that Michael and Mika were dead equal on points in the drivers' championship.
The championship was alive and firing again!! And for the Italian fans, Ferraris finished 1-2, a least expected outcome a few hours ago.
Did You Know?
When Mika won the 1998 F1 Championship, he was the first Finn since 1982 to win an F1 world title.
Keke Rosberg was the last Finn to win a championship in 1982.
How Did the 1998 Championship Conclude?
After the Italian GP, the penultimate race in Luxembourg was taken by Mika with Michael coming in a close second. Going into the final race in Japan, Mika led Michael by four points.
The Japanese GP was all that Ferrari had hoped for with Michael qualifying on pole. However, the good news ended there. On race day, Michael stalled on the grid, forcing him to start from the back. That took away the advantage, and McLarens happily grabbed the gift with both hands. Take a look at the Japanese GP race summary.
Michael did carry out an all-familiar assault, gaining about ten positions in just one lap and then powering up to as high as third position. While all seemed fine, Michael had a slow puncture which led to a tyre blow up on lap 30. That was the end of his rivalry for the season, and from thereon, Mika made it home.
Mika Hakkinen was the F1 1998 World Champion!
Back to the Pits
It was a disappointment for Schumacher having come so close to the title and yet being far from winning it. Both the 1997 and 1998 seasons were close contests which did not go Ferrari’s way. But then again, the champion never gave up even once in the 1998 season. No matter what, Michael would return to hunt for the title.
As for 1998, cheers to Mika!
Questions & Answers
© 2020 S K