Monaco GP report

Monaco Grand Prix 1998 McLaren show the way At the start of the race, Coulthard was lined up to try and take Hakkinen at the first corner. As the lights went out, Hakkinen made the better start and kept the lead. Just behind was Fisichella,...

Monaco Grand Prix 1998

McLaren show the way

At the start of the race, Coulthard was lined up to try and take Hakkinen at the first corner. As the lights went out, Hakkinen made the better start and kept the lead. Just behind was Fisichella, who kept Schumacher behind him. Tuero had the honour of being the first casualty, going off at Casino Square. The two McLarens, however, were in a different class (yet again) and pulled out a good lead over the Benetton over the coming laps. Coulthard had a little moment at the chicane when he went over, rather than through, the chicane. Dave Richards (the Benetton boss) immediately protested. A couple of laps later, Wurz did the same. Irony of ironies. Thankfully neither driver was penalised, for if they had been then umpteen others would have suffered as well in the race. Behind the top 4, Wurz, Frentzen and Irvine had a good battle, with Mika Salo putting in a superb drive and pushing towards the battle. At the fast end, Hakkinen and Coulthard were setting fastest lap after fastest lap, and by the end of lap 9, Coulthard had 7 seconds over Fisichella. Shortly afterwards Frentzen put his car into the wall at Lowes. Irvine had gone on the inside (in traditional Monaco fashion), the German couldn't turn in enough and found his Williams going into the wall. The Ferrari pit were ready with a new nose - just in case - but in the end it wasn't needed. Panis was the next to join the chicane club, whilst in the Premier League, Coulthard was pushing Hakkinen very hard and pulling in 3/10th per lap. Barrichello was the next driver to retire, pulling into the pits. The next casualty was, horror of horrors, a McLaren! David Coulthard's engine let go in a rather big way at the exit of the tunnel, and went straight on, in much the same way as Hill's did at Monaco 2 years ago. David later reported that the piston was sticking out of the engine.

Lap 19, and Hakkinen had 20 seconds over Fisichella, whilst also up to lap Ralf Schumacher. The two Jordans were having a torrid time, along with the current world champion Villeneuve, circulating outside the top 10. The two Jordans then nearly made it worse. Hill, politely, moved out of the way of those lapping, but Ralf decided to make make a move at the chicane after the tunnel. Result? Ralf goes over the chicane, has to concede the place to avoid a penalty, and no change to the order. Schumacher made his first stop, closely followed by Fisichella. Wurz was now up to second. Magnussen joined Barrichello in the Stewart garage.

Panis, who clearly had enjoyed his earlier trip over the chicane, repeated his little journey. At the front end, the Benetton/Wurz dept of cunning plans was starting to pay off. Wurz had yet to stop, and was slower than the advancing Schumacher. However, such is the nature of Monaco that the German could do nothing about it, and so was unable to make the most of his new tyres. The Wurz plan was costing Michael 2 seconds a lap! On lap 37, Hakkinen made his stop, a beautifully unrushed performance.

Back on the track, Schumacher was starting to lose his rag a little with Wurz, and made a beautiful move on Wurz at Lowes, only for Wurz to retake Schumacher at the next corner, with Schumacher then retaking again towards the entry of the tunnel. It was a beautiful set of moves and a joy to watch. It was a shame that it damaged the rear suspension of the Ferrari, who was into the pits to retire, then unretired after three laps replacing the track rods. Fisichella was now up to second again, and charging well. For Wurz things were not so good. The car, according to Wurz, was not keen on following the curve of the tunnel and hit the armco removing a wheel and wing. The car then plowed straight on into the wall in a rather heavy manner.

Ralf Schumacher was soon into the pits and retiring with a problem at the rear end of the car. It was now lap 49, and Villeneuve had yet to stop. Clearly the Williams team were so rattled with the fuel cap problem, that the solution they had come up with was for the Canadian not to stop until the last possible moment. His tyres were clearly shot, though he was running in 6th at the time (behind Salo), going very loose over the chicane. With the next round of pit stops Salo was now up to a very creditable and worthy fourth place.

Hill and Irvine had a mad moment, followed by Panis and Trulli retiring within a lap of each other, whilst Fisichella appeared to have thrown his second away with a spin at Rascas. He didn't damage the car, kept it going and got going - still in second. The young Italian did wonders for his career in this race. Alesi, who was still in the top 6, was now suffering from some sort of engine problem, and soon it became terminal. Michael Shumacher, running towards the back of the pack, was the next to join the chicane club - as if everyone was making the most of the only place you could run wide on this circuit. On the last lap, with Schumacher some 4 places and a lap down on Diniz (really!) he made a daft move at the chicane and for some reason tried to take him on the inside of the entrance. Thankfully, the German realised his mistake and went off - via the chicane - and Diniz was able to take his 6th place, making Arrows the only team to get both drivers into the top 6, and indeed the top 9!

Hakkinen Fisichella Irvine Salo Villeneuve Diniz Herbert Hill Nakano M Schumacher Takagi Alesi

-- Stephen M Baines

"[The Autosport sticker] started to peel off in the middle of Eau Rouge and it distracted me. In fact it was the first thing to hit the barrier" Tiff Needell - Jaguar XJR-15 Challenge - Interview with Autosport


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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Ralf Schumacher , Mika Salo , Tiff Needell
Teams Ferrari , McLaren , Williams , Benetton , Jordan