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The 1998 Formula One Season was the 49th season of the Drivers' World Championship and the 40th season of the Constructors' Championship. It began on the March 8 in Australia and ended on the November 1 in Japan.
Despite receiving a contract offer from Sauber for 1998, 1997 Benetton driver Gerhard Bergeropted to retire for Formula One after a fourteen year career in the sport. Berger cited his dislike for new regulations in 1998 which included grooved tyres as the main reason for his retirement.
Sauber's temporary replacement for Gianni Morbidelli in 1997, Norberto Fontanawas not retained for 1998. Fontana came close to signing for Tyrrell in 1998 but lost out to Ricardo Rosset due to a lack of sponsership money. Fontana went on to compete in the Japanese Formula Nippon series for 1998.
1997 Minardi driver Ukyo Katayama retired from Formula One at the end of 1997 after six years in the sport. Tarso Marques, whilst in the running to retain his Minardi seat for 1998 was replaced by Shinji Nakano. Marques would go on to take a sabbatical from racing for 1998.
1997 Sauber driver, Gianni Morbidelli, was forced to retire from Formula One at the end of 1997. Morbidelli's two testing accidents saw severe injuries to his left arm which meant he was no longer able to compete competitively in Formula One. For 1998, Morbidelli moved into the British Touring Car Championship.
Despite wanting to be retained by Tyrrell for 1998, Jos Verstappen was dropped by new owners, British American Tobacco in favour of pay driver Ricardo Rosset. This decision prompted team principal Ken Tyrrell to quit the team before the start of the season. Verstappen became the Benetton test driver for 1998 before making his return with Stewart at the French Grand Prix.
Japanese driver Toranosuke Takagi made his Formula One debut with the Tyrrell team for 1998. Takagi had served as the team's test driver for 1997 and after impressive performances he was promoted to the race seat for 1998. 1997 had seen Takagi compete in the Porsche Supercup and Formula Nippon, where he had taken one race win and four pole positions.
Argentine driver Esteban Tuerowould make his debut at Minardi for 1998. At only 19 years of age, Tuero would become the third youngest driver at the time to start a Formula One race. Tuero's results in Formula Nippon in 1997 as well as his work as a Minardi test driver, impressed Minardi sufficiently to be offered a race drive for 1998.
After being dropped by Benetton, Jean Alesi signed to join the Sauber team for the 1998 season. Alesi had also been discussing a potential drive with Jordan.
Giancarlo Fisichella moved from Jordan to Benetton for 1998. His move to Benetton saw a legal dispute between Benetton and Jordan which saw Benetton have to pay Jordan $2.4 million to buy Fisichella out of his Jordan contract for 1998.
After suffering a miserable season at Arrows in 1997, 1996 world champion Damon Hill signed to join the Jordan team for 1998. Hill had settled to join Jordan after negotiations with McLaren failed. Hill was also discussing potential drives with Sauber and Prost.
After being replaced at Prost in 1997, by his then teammate Jarno Trulli who had substituted for the injured Olivier Panis, Shinji Nakano was forced to look to the back of the grid if he was to stay in F1 for 1998. Despite being offered a testing role by Williams, Nakano preferred to continue racing in 1998 and signed for the backmarker Minardi team.
After entering only one event in 1997 with the Lola team before its premature demise, Ricardo Rossethad signed to join the Tyrrell team for 1998. Britsh American Tobacco signed Rosset purely for his sponsership money, a move that angered team principal Ken Tyrrell who would have preferred to have kept 1997 driver Jos Verstappen. Tyrrell quit the team shortly after Rosset's annoucement as race driver.
After three unsuccessful years at Tyrrell, Mika Salo quit the team to join the Arrows team for 1998. Salo believed Arrows had a better chance of demonstrating his potential than at the failing Tyrrell team.
Benetton's 1997 test driver and replacement for Gerhard Berger in three of the 1997 races, Alexander Wurz had impressed the team with his performances enough to be promoted to race driver for 1998.
After a disappointing run of results in the early half of the year, Stewart driver Jan Magnussen was replaced by Benetton test driver and out of work race driver Jos Verstappen from the French Grand Prix onwards. Magnussen had secured a single point in his final race at Canada, however it was not enough to convince Stewart to replace him, who had been lining Verstappen up as a replacement from as early as the San Marino Grand Prix.