1998 Formula One season
FIA Formula One World Championship season
At the end of the 1997 season, Renault withdrew as a direct engine supplier from Formula 1. As a result, the two teams running Renault engines were forced to source alternative suppliers. Williams opted to run engines supplied by Mecachrome who were working with Renault to develop the most recent iteration of their RS9 engine rebadged with the Mecachrome name. Benetton sourced a similar rebadged Renault engine from Playlife. Neither Williams or Benetton were competitive to the same level as in previous seasons. Renault themselves would invest in Benetton as of 2000, before buying the team outright in 2002. They would not supply engines to other competing teams again until 2007. The Prost and Jordan teams swapped their engine suppliers from previous season.
The 1998 season saw the introduction of grooved tyres to reduce cornering speeds, a stipulation which would last until the 2009 season. Both McLaren and Benetton switched from Goodyear to Bridgestone tyres, as the Japanese manufacturer expanded to work with six of the 11 teams in their second year competing in the sport. This would result in the two teams who became principal championship protagonists working with different tyre manufacturers.
The season had many rule changes, including the introduction of grooved tyres and making the cars narrower to reduce downforce. It was clear that McLaren had adapted to the new rule changes best, with their drivers locking out the front row of the grid at the opening race of the season in Australia, both more than half a second clear of Michael Schumacher's Ferrari. Mika Häkkinen went on to take victory in controversial circumstances after team-mate David Coulthard moved over to allow him to pass in the closing laps, honouring a gentlemen's agreement that the driver leading at the first corner would win the race. Coulthard went on to finish second. This result was repeated in Brazil, although once again controversy was not far away, this time off the track: a protest was raised about a controversial braking system on the McLaren which was suggested to allow the drivers to brake front and rear wheels independently, contravening the rules. McLaren agreed not to run the system, but remained dominant in the race. With Goodyear making steps forward before Argentina, Michael Schumacher was able to win there and take second at Imola, both slow and twisty circuits. At Spain, however, the fast corners favoured McLaren and again they raced away to another 1–2 finish. A further win for Häkkinen in Monaco gave him a 17 point lead over Coulthard with Schumacher a further 5 points behind.
Schumacher fought back to win the next 3 races, while mistakes and bad luck cost both Häkkinen and Coulthard points. After the British Grand Prix Schumacher had closed the gap to Häkkinen to just 2 points, while Coulthard was 26 points behind his team mate and looking unlikely to be able to fight for the championship. Wins in Austria and Germany for Häkkinen proved that McLaren still had the strongest car, but a strategic master stroke in Hungary allowed Schumacher to take the win and close the gap to Häkkinen to just 7 points.
The start of the Belgian Grand Prix saw one of the worst accidents in F1, with over half the cars on the grid involved, and four drivers unable to take the restart almost an hour later due to lack of spare cars. An action packed race saw Häkkinen spin out at the restart, whilst Schumacher was leading comfortably before crashing into David Coulthard's McLaren whilst trying to lap the Scotsman. This cleared the way for Damon Hill to take Jordan's first win.
Schumacher bounced back to take a surprise victory at the Italian Grand Prix, and with Häkkinen finishing only fourth after brake problems the championship was level with 2 races to go. This result also brought Ferrari back into the constructors world championship, being just 10 points behind. However, Häkkinen managed to beat Schumacher in a straight fight in Luxembourg and win the final race in Japan, clinching his first world championship and the constructors championship for McLaren. Reigning champions Williams had a poor season overall, with only 3 podium finishes. However, in Japan they managed to secure 3rd in the constructors championship, ahead of Jordan and Benetton.
Drivers and constructors
† All engines were 3.0 litre, V10 configuration.
Formula One 1998 race schedule
|1||Australian Grand Prix||8 March||Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit|
|2||Brazilian Grand Prix||29 March||Autódromo José Carlos Pace, São Paulo|
|3||Argentine Grand Prix||12 April||Autódromo Oscar Alfredo Gálvez, Buenos Aires|
|4||San Marino Grand Prix||26 April||Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari, Imola|
|5||Spanish Grand Prix||10 May||Circuit de Catalunya, Barcelona|
|6||Monaco Grand Prix||24 May||Circuit de Monaco, Monte Carlo|
|7||Canadian Grand Prix||7 June||Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Montreal|
|8||French Grand Prix||28 June||Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours, Magny-Cours|
|9||British Grand Prix||12 July||Silverstone Circuit|
|10||Austrian Grand Prix||26 July||A1-Ring, Spielberg, Styria|
|11||German Grand Prix||2 August||Hockenheimring|
|12||Hungarian Grand Prix||16 August||Hungaroring, Budapest|
|13||Belgian Grand Prix||30 August||Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, Spa|
|14||Italian Grand Prix||13 September||Autodromo Nazionale Monza|
|15||Luxembourg Grand Prix||27 September||Nürburgring|
|16||Japanese Grand Prix||1 November||Suzuka Circuit|
Bold – Pole
† Drivers did not finish the Grand Prix, but were classified as they completed over 90% of the race distance.
- Inside F1, Understanding the Sport: Tyres. formula1.com. Retrieved 28 July 2013
- formula1.com – 1998 official driver standings
- formula1.com – 1998 official team standings
- 1998 Formula One Sporting Regulations Retrieved from web.archive.org on 4 June 2012
- 1998 Formula One Technical Regulations Retrieved from web.archive.org on 4 June 2012