The Gran Premio Marlboro de España was the fifth round of the 1998 Formula One Season. The race was dominated by Mika Häkkinen with teammate David Coulthard coming home second with Michael Schumacher in third place.
The biggest news heading into the Spanish Grand Prix was the decision of the FIA to ban the infamous 'x-wing' configurations for the rest of the season. FIA President Max Mosley had previously wanted them banned on aesthetic grounds in Imola but failed to get the unanimous support of the teams. Instead Mosley pushed to have the wings banned due to them being a safety hazard. The FIA believed a head injury could occur in the occurence of one of the wing's disintegrating. The main evidence in support of this was during the Argentine Grand Prix when one of the winglets off Jean Alesi's Sauber had been ripped off by an overhanging air line whilst leaving the pits.
Most of the team's agreed to the terms with little opposition, Eddie Jordan, whose team had believed to got the most from the 'x-wings' stated "I can understand it on the ground of safety and abide by the FIA's ruling of it". His Technical Director Gary Anderson was however less understanding stating "I do not believe these wings have any implications for safety. In my opinion there is nothing about them that could hurt a driver". Anderson was supported in his criticism by Tyrrell Deputy Technical Director Mike Gascoyne, who was attributed the creation of the 'x-wings' during the 1997 season saying "I am not surprised by the ban, but I am disappointed in the manner in which it has been done. Clearly these wings are within the technical regulations, but they have been banned on safety grounds. If they consider them dangerous, then they should look at some other areas as well. For example, the FIA asks us to fit a two kilogram television camera to the top of our cars, which would be more dangerous in a crash. And no mention has been made of the wing mirrors which are made of the same material as the winglets".
Following the testing results at Barcelona on the previous week, McLaren appeared to continue to hold its advantage over the rest of the field. Ferrari had brought in a new exhaust system to help them close the gap to McLaren but Michael Schumacher still felt that they would be less competitive than McLaren in Barcelona, attributing the performance deficit in the Goodyear tyres in comparison to the Bridgestone's stating "We make steps forward all of the time , but this won't be enough to beat McLaren. To achieve that, Goodyear should be doing two steps at a time".
|20||Ricardo Rosset||Tyrrell-Ford||1:26.371||21||1:25.885||22||no time||-|
The first car out on track was the Stewart of Jan Magnussen setting a time of 1:25.031. This time was easily beaten by Mika Häkkinen in the McLaren setting a blistering time of 1:21.123. Johnny Herbert was the next to set a lap-time of 1:23.365. Following Häkkinen's time, teammate David Coulthard exited the pits to complete a relatively slow lap in comparison to his teammate of a 1:21.960.
Giancarlo Fisichella and Rubens Barrichello set strong times to go third and fourth fastest, bumping Herbert's Sauber down to fifth. Williams continued to struggle throughout the Spanish weekend, Heinz-Harald Frentzen only setting a 1:23.729 on his first flying lap to go sixth fastest.
Michael Schumacher also set a slow lap only managing a 1:23.026 to go fourth fastest on his first run. Schumacher who had appeared to be struggling all weekend was then bumped down to fifth as Alexander Wurz went third fastest. Schumacher now stuck behind both the Benetton cars of Wurz and Fisichella. Teammate Eddie Irvine also was struggling only setting a laptime good enough for eighth behind Olivier Panis.
Häkkinen had then exited the pits to begin his second run of the circuit, he immediately began to stamp his authority and despite being slightly held up by the struggling Tyrrell of Ricardo Rosset on his flying lap, Häkkinen set a blistering time of 1:20.664. Meanwhile Jacques Villeneuve set his first lap, setting a dismal 1:23.700 for twelfth fastest. Rosset then began to cause more trouble when he held up Fisichella's second flying lap, Fisichella gesturing angrily to the Brazilian as he drove past. Rosset still having not set a fast time to get outside the 107% qualifying cut with a 1:27.577.
Whilst Fisichella suffered a wasted lap, teammate Wurz set a strong 1:22.267 further consolidating his third fastest time. Damon Hill then set a competitive time in his Jordan with a 1:22.835 pushing teammate Ralf Schumacher down to sixth. Toranosuke Takagi then suffered a large spin going into turn 3, luckily keeping out of the barriers and making his way out of the gravel trap. Fisichella then managed to bump teammate Wurz down to fourth after losing his previous lap to Rosset.
Rubens Barrichello then set another strong lap for Stewart going seventh fastest with a 1:22.860 demonstrating the improvements in the Stewart team's pace. Wurz then moved back into third ahead of his teammate Fisichella with a 1:21.965.
Frentzen continued to struggle for pace, managing only a thirteenth fastest time moving up from provisional fourteenth, three places behind teammate Villeneuve. Häkkinen then managed to set another dominating lap time of a 1:20.262.
Michael Schumacher had spent much of the session in the pits, adjusting his set-up on a seemingly uncompetitive Ferrari. At the end of the session Schumacher man-handled his car around the track to put his car in third position with 1:21.785. Coulthard whilst faster than all the field bar his teammate remained under pressure unable to beat teammate Häkkinen. The pressure showed as he had a major lock-up trying to beat Häkkinen's time before setting a 1:21.384.
On Damon Hill's final lap, he complained that he was being blocked by Frentzen. Frentzen visibly unhappy with Hill after brake testing him earlier when coming into the pits. Coulthard whilst improving his time to a 1:20.996 still struggled to get close to Häkkinen.
The dying minutes of the session saw very little track action with Esteban Tuero, Toranosuke Takagi and Ricardo Rosset on track. Rosset still desperately trying to make it within the 107% qualifying time. His final time of 1:25.946 failed to be good enough and for the first time in 1998, a driver failed to qualify for the grand prix.
Both Häkkinen and Schumacher attempted to set final flying laps, however they were both forced to abort due to Jacques Villeneuve crashing off the circuit. Coulthard's final flying lap saw him unable to improve on his time to beat Häkkinen. The final bit of action saw Fisichella displacing teammate Wurz from fourth on the grid.
The start saw the two McLaren cars making a clean getaway, Mika Häkkinen immediately began to pull away into the distance. Behind the two McLaren's, the start was much more lively. Michael Schumacher made a dreadful start dropping down to fifth behind teammate Eddie Irvine and Giancarlo Fisichella. Irvine muscling his way ahead of Fisichella forcing the Benetton driver wide whilst going into turn 1. Rubens Barrichello made a strong start to climb to seventh, with Jacques Villeneuve directly behind him in eighth.
Villeneuve's teammate Heinz-Harald Frentzen suffered a dreadul start when he spun off into turn 3 dropping down to twentieth. Ralf Schumacher's Jordan also struggled as he dropped down to eighteenth after a terrible start to the race. Jean Alesi had also dropped down to nineteenth. After the second lap Frentzen entered the pits for a new front wing after sustaining damage following his spin.
After five laps Häkkinen had already been able to consolidate his lead with a six second lead over David Coulthard in second. Ralf Schumacher and Alesi began their climb through the field before getting stuck behind the Tyrrell of Toranosuke Takagi. Further up the field Olivier Panis duelled the other Jordan of Damon Hill for tenth.
Lap 18 saw the first cars arrive into the pits with Panis being the first car to make a move. The same lap Häkkinen began to overtake the first of the backmarkers, now extending his race lead to over 11 seconds ahead of teammate Coulthard. Lap 20 saw Johnny Herbert suffer an enormous lock-up whilst chasing down Jacques Villeneuve, the Briton then peeled into the pits after flatspotting his tyres.
The following lap, both Arrows cars of Pedro Diniz and Mika Salo suffered a bizarre simultaneous engine failure both driver's pulling off the circuit with their cars smoking along the start finish straight. Lap 23 saw Alexander Wurz pit from sixth becoming the first of the front runners to make a stop. Two laps later Irvine and Fisichella, who had been battling for third out on track made their pit-stops. As the two cars left the pits, Irvine's Ferrari maintained position ahead of Fisichella.
Lap 26 saw Häkkinen make his stop, briefly relinquishing the lead to teammate Coulthard who had yet to stop. Coulthard would enter the pits one lap later along with Michael Schumacher who was running third. Exiting the pits he had notably held the upper hand over the squabbling pair of Irvine and Fisichella and maintained third position. Fisichella by this time was desperately trying to get past Irvine but to no avail. On lap 28 Fisichella attempted to overtake Irvine around the outside of turn 1, however Irvine would not yield the position and the two collided spinning into the gravel trap and ending both their races. Fisichella was then seen angrily shouting out Irvine after the two exited their cars.
The accident promoted Rubens Barrichello up to fifth and for the first time that season, Stewart were within the points. Barrichello had been keeping the faster Williams of Jacques Villeneuve at bay throughout the day with Johnny Herbert's Sauber right behind the pair.
Frentzen who was labouring in fifteenth became another driver to get stuck behind the notorious Takagi in the Tyrrell, lap 33 saw him nearly run into the back of the Tyrrell driver locking his tyres enormously in an effort not to hit the Japanese driver.
On lap 39 both Michael Schumacher and Esteban Tuero would receive a ten second stop and go penalty for speeding in the pitlane during their first pitstops. The following lap Schumacher came into the pits for his penalty losing third place to Alexander Wurz in the Benetton.
Lap 43 saw Damon Hill spin into the gravel trap at turn 3 whilst chasing down Frentzen's Williams. A lap later race leader Häkkinen came into the pits where a lap later he was followed in by teammate Coulthard. The same lap saw Wurz come into the pits relinquishing third back to Schumacher.
On lap 46 Hill retired with an engine failure, linked to his spin three laps earlier. Meanwhile on the same lap Schumacher came into the pits, he had extended his lead over Wurz to 20 seconds when he came into the pits meaning when he exited the pit-lane he comfortably held third position.
As the race entered the final stages Johnny Herbert began to apply heavy pressure to Villeneuve's Williams but was seemingly unable to find a way past the Canadian. Further down the track, a four way battle for eighth had begun with Jarno Trulli leading Jean Alesi, Ralf Schumacher and Heinz-Harald Frentzen.
Lap 60 saw Panis pull off the circuit with engine failure. With two laps to go Frentzen pulled a hugely daring move up the inside of Ralf Schumacher and Alesi, barely keeping control of his car but managing to take both positions. The same lap Frentzen was able to overtake Trulli when the marshalls mistakenly showed Trulli the blue flags, believing Frentzen's Williams to be a Ferrari. Trulli slowed and incorrectly allowed Frentzen into eighth position.
The race concluded with Häkkinen taking a dominant race win nine seconds ahead of teammate Coulthard. Michael Schumacher finished third 47 seconds adrift of his McLaren championship rivals. Wurz was the last car to finish who had yet to be lapped by Häkkinen. Rubens Barrichello got Stewart's first points of the season with Villeneuve taking the final points position.
The biggest controversy following the race was the accident between Eddie Irvine and Giancarlo Fisichella on lap 28. Fisichella was deemed to be at fault for the collision and was fined £5000 by the FIA. Fisichella however continued to blame Irvine for the incident saying "Eddie was in the same position as me in the previous lap and at the start, but I respect him and did not push him out. I felt I was completely in front. His left front-wheel touched my right rear-wheel, I think it was my corner". Irvine was more philosophical on the matter stating "I think it is right that the FIA take action, to recognise who is at fault, but I feel sorry for Giancarlo as the fine is so steep".
Ferrari were also accused by Benetton Team principal David Richards of intentionally asking Irvine to hold Fisichella up to allow Michael Schumacher to regain third position during the pit-stop phase.
Standings after raceEdit
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