1998 Australian Grand Prix
The 1998 Australian Grand Prix was a Formula One motor race held at the Albert Park street circuit in inner Melbourne on 8 March. It was the 63rd race in the combined history of the Australian Grand Prix that dates back to the 100 Miles Road Race of 1928. It was the first of the sixteen races of the 1998 Formula One season and held over 58 laps of the 5.3 kilometre street circuit and the sixth to be held on the Albert Park venue first used in 1953, or the third since the new circuit first hosted the race in 1996.
The race was dominated by the McLaren-Mercedes team and won by Mika Häkkinen over his team mate David Coulthard in controversial circumstances. WilliamsF1 driver Heinz-Harald Frentzen finished third. The race also represented the first win for Japanese tyre manufacturer Bridgestone in Formula One and the first race since the 1991 Canadian Grand Prix not won by Goodyear.
The McLarens of Mika Häkkinen and David Coulthard made good starts from the front row of the grid, but Ferrari's Michael Schumacher, starting third, also had a good start and tried to overtake second place Coulthard. The Ferrari driver stayed with the McLarens, but retired on lap 6 when his engine failed. This handed third place to the Williams of Jacques Villeneuve, who was being chased by Benetton's Giancarlo Fisichella.
After the first round of pitstops, Villeneuve found himself behind team-mate Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Ferrari's Eddie Irvine and Fisichella. 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 was lapped soon after this by the McLarens, but he still managed to finish in fifth place.
On lap 36 Häkkinen came into the pits unexpectedly, apparently having misheard a call over the radio. He drove straight through the pitlane and rejoined the race without stopping, but lost first place to team-mate Coulthard. In 2007, McLaren boss Ron Dennis claimed that someone had tapped into the team's radio system.:
"We do not and have not manipulated grands prix, unless there were some exceptional circumstances, which occurred in Australia , when someone had tapped into our radio and instructed Mika Häkkinen to enter the pits."
A few laps before the end of the race, Coulthard let Häkkinen past on the front straight. The two had made a pre-race agreement that between the two of them, the driver who led at the first corner would go on to win the race, should he be in the position to do so. David Coulthard and the McLaren team were criticized heavily. The situation surrounding Coulthard allowing Häkkinen through would eventually go to the World Motorsport Council. The verdict was that "any future act prejudicial to the interests of competition should be severely punished in accordance with article 151c of International Sporting Code." "Team orders" continued to be controversial in Formula One and were banned following the events of the 2002 Austrian Grand Prix. Frentzen took third place for Williams. The race was the first win for the tyre manufacturer Bridgestone after they entered Formula One a year earlier.
After the race concluded, the Australian Grand Prix Corporation chairman, Ron Walker, lodged an official complaint to the FIA into how the actions of the McLaren team decided the race for Häkkinen.
Lap 1–23 Mika Häkkinen, Lap 24 David Coulthard, Lap 25–35 Mika Häkkinen, Lap 36–55 David Coulthard, Lap 56–58 Mika Häkkinen.
- Pedro Diniz's car caught fire on the way to the grid.
Standings after Grand Prix
- Note: Only the top five positions are included for both sets of standings.
- The Telegraph (29 May 2007). "FIA inquiry into McLaren order". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 21 April 2010.
- Associated Press. "Hakkinen wins Australian Grand Prix decided by pre-race agreement".
- "Hakkinen wins Grand Prix". Gadsden Times. 8 March 1998. p. D6.
- Tremayne, David (9 March 1998). "Coulthard's selfless act of honour". London: The Independent. Retrieved 23 June 2012.
- "Protest lodged over Hakkinen win". BBC News. 9 March 1998. Retrieved 23 June 2012.
1997 European Grand Prix
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1998 Brazilian Grand Prix
1997 Australian Grand Prix
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1999 Australian Grand Prix