Australian GP 1998
MARCH 8, 1998
Australian GP, 1998
For a world which was used to Williams-Renault domination, the performance of the two McLaren-Mercedes MP4-13s in Melbourne came as a big shock to the F1 world. Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard qualified side by side on the front row of the grid - split by only four-hundredths of a second - but Michael Schumacher, the nearest challenger, was three-quarters of a second behind in his Ferrari. World Champion Jacques Villeneuve, in the Williams, found himself in fourth place, almost a second slower than the McLarens. The other big surprise in qualifying was Johnny Herbert, who put his Sauber Petronas fifth on the grid.
The race would be even more shocking as the two McLarens pulled away from the field at a rate of three seconds per lap. Schumacher's Ferrari lasted only five laps before he stopped with an engine problem, leaving Villeneuve holding off Giancarlo Fisichella's Benetton, the Italian having pulled off successful overtaking moves on both Herbert and Heinz-Harald Frentzen in the early laps. During the pitstops Fisichella was able to get ahead of Villeneuve but Heinz-Harald Frentzen, in the second Williams, played a better tactical game and emerged ahead of all of them.
In the middle of the race there was a communication problem between McLaren engineers and Hakkinen and the Finn suddenly appeared in the pitlane, thinking he had been called in. He was waved through but by then Coulthard was in the lead. In the closing laps Coulthard was ordered to move over and allow Hakkinen to win. The two had lapped the whole field.
Fisichella was able to pass Frentzen for third but then retired with mechanical failure, leaving Frentzen to finish just ahead of Eddie Irvine's Ferrari which had gambled on a one-stop strategy. Villeneuve finished fifth with Herbert sixth.
|8||9||Damon Hill||Jordan-Mugen Honda||57||10|
|r||5||Giancarlo Fisichella||Benetton-Playlife||43||Rear Wing||7|
|r||10||Ralf Schumacher||Jordan-Mugen Honda||1||Collision||9|